2009 Sejong Writing Competition
Winning Entries :: Essays :: Junior second place
Exploring Families Across the Globe
Shimchong vs Beauty and the Beast
Auguste Napier said,"In each family a story is playing itself out, and each family's story embodies its hope and despair." We could clearly see that in both stories East of the Sun, West of the Moon from Norway and Princess Pari from Korea. By comparing these stories, I am hoping to learn what families are like in two different cultures. Despite the different geography and culture, both stories show that even though there may be hard times, family always comes first.
Even though the stories have a similar theme, they are different in some ways. The father in Princess Pari is motivated by his wish for a son, so he seals his daughter into a stone chest and throws her into the sea. The other father in East of the Sun, West of the Moon, is compelled by the riches the polar bear promises him if he gives up his youngest daughter. This difference may be explained by examining the cultural differences. For example, in Korea, a son might have been more valued than a daughter at that time. In Norway, people might have been very poor and riches were desired.
An additional difference is that in one story, the girl is forced away from home and in the other, the girl has a choice. In Princess Pari, the girl is thrown into the sea and in East of the Sun, West of the Moon, the girl’s father talks her into leaving with the polar bear. This difference may be explained by considering the different roles of the fathers. In Princess Pari, there is a king who is used to telling people what to do and in East of the Sun, West of the Moon, there is a poor merchant who may not have had much power in society. This disparity also shows a difference in how children obey their parents. The stories suggest that in Korea, children might not have had much power to control their futures, but in Norway, children might have had more say in their fate.
Even though there are differences between the tales, there are similarities that may be more important. Differences may show the variety among cultures, but similarities show what societies share with each other. For example, both stories are about young women who sacrifice themselves and are brave. In Princess Pari, the girl shows courage to come back to her father to find medicine and in East of the Sun, West of the Moon, the girl exhibits bravery when she leaves her home to go with the polar bear. In both stories, mettle and sacrifice are valued. These tales demonstrate an important common value: children are expected to put their families first.
Not only do the characters share some similarities, but the style of the stories is also alike. The stories have magical or make-believe elements. In Princess Pari, there is a Dragon King and in East of the Sun, West of the Moon, there are talking polar bears, goblins, and trolls. The popularity of magical stories tells us something about the people who wrote these stories. The people of Norwegian and Korean cultures may have favored make-believe stories because life was filled with many hardships and the magical stories may have given the people hope and joy.
The ultimate similarity can be found if we think about the plot. Both daughters go on a journey to save the father and in both cases, they succeed. In Princess Pari, the girl embarks on an adventure to save the father and she finds the medicine. In East of the Sun, West of the Moon, the girl leaves with the polar bear so her father could have riches and she eventually comes back. Both stories indicate that in these cultures, parents had great faith in their children. People believed that their futures were in the hands of the children, and hope rested with the next generation. This continues all over the world, even today.
Despite the different geography and culture, both stories show that even though there may be hard times, people will do what it takes to do to help their families. The stories show that despite cultural differences, sacrifice for one’s family is a universal value. As the colonel on the popular 70’s television show, M*A*S*H proclaimed, "I don't care how poor a man is; if he has family, he's rich."