Tyll Eulenspiegel & Kim Seon–dal (Continued)

by Heinz Insu Fenkl

There are numerous human trickster–themed stories in Korean folklore and most of them have a similar structure. Some are also attributed to various pseudo–historical figures in the same way that Tyll Eulenspiegel is said to have been a real person who was born near Brunswick in 1300 and died in Mölln fifty years later.Kim Seon–dal, whose name is the surname "Kim" and the official title "Seon–dal," is often said to have been a real person who lived sometime during the Chosun Dynasty (1392–1910), though stories connected to him are often linked to other local and regional figures

In the story on the previous page, one could easily replace Kim with Tyll. They have the same humble origin, the same concern for their own material well–being, the same preoccupation with food, the same ability to con people by playing to their own self–interest (which is usually hypocritical).There is even a scatological allusion in the name of Kaettong’s mother, in keeping with the popularity of scatological themes in the Eulenspiegel tales (and in both German and Korean folklore in general). One could make a good argument for how Korea’s Kim might actually be derived from Tyll Eulenspiegel based on dates and the likelihood of transmission.

The first book of Tyll Eulenspiegel stories, An Entertaining Book About Till Eulenspiegel from the Land of Brunswick (attributed to Hermann Bote) was published in the early 1500s. The first Jesuit missionary, Father Gregorious de Cespedes, arrived in Korea in 1593 (and though his mission failed terribly, Catholicism did establish itself in Korea by the late 1700s).The Jesuits were very active in translating works both to and from Korean. They also did a great deal of comparative work in folklore and literature for the purpose of better understanding the local language and culture, and so it is not implausible to think that Eulenspiegel stories might have been told to Koreans by Jesuits and then taken on a life of their own, merging with local traditions.