2016 Sejong Writing Competition

Winning Entries :: Essays :: Junior third place
Follow Your Own Fortune

As an eighth grader with high school looming before me, I have been overwhelmed with advice and warnings about the best path I will need to follow to get into the right college. I need to be in Girl Scouts and the robotics team. I need to take four or five honors or AP classes every year -- it doesn’t matter if I don’t particularly like the subjects. I have to play an instrument and join a competitive sports team. From the classes I take to even the books I read, there are so many hoops I need to jump through to eventually be happy and successful -- or so everyone around me keeps saying. I am swept away by the pressures of following the same detailed map of the next four years of my life that everyone else follows in order to build up an impressive resumé. It was with this mindset that I sat down to read the folktale “The Goblin’s Club.”

In “The Goblin’s Club,” two brothers each come across a group of goblins with magic clubs. First, the younger brother, a humble woodcutter, goes out into the wood every day to work. One day, he happens to find three acorns and, instead of eating them immediately, he gathers them for his family. The sky begins to darken early, and he is forced to take shelter in a hut for the night. To his surprise, goblins enter the hut sometime later. Naturally, he is frightened and hides. When his stomach grumbles, he is afraid the goblins will hear, so he bites down on an acorn to silence his hunger. To his relief, the goblins are frightened away because they believe the sound is of a beam cracking. The brother then cautiously emerges, and he discovers that they have left behind magical clubs that can make gold and silver. He takes one and uses it to make his family rich and build them a comfortable home. When the second brother hears about his younger brother’s fortune, he too wants this treasure. He greedily listens to the sequence of events that led to the goblin’s club, then sets off to retrace his brother’s steps. He too gathers exactly three acorns, then he eagerly hides in the goblins’ hut, just like his brother did. After the goblins arrive, he bites down on the acorn at the same moment as his brother did, but instead of running off and leaving their clubs, this time the goblins find the second brother and beat him, leaving him to stumble back home with nothing.

The older brother’s problem was that he thought he could get a magical goblin’s club by following the exact steps his younger brother had taken. The older brother did not consider how the younger brother’s heart and also luck played important roles in the outcome. He just saw that his younger brother was now rich, and believed that mechanically following the same sequence of events would lead to riches for himself. Foolishly, he went into the forest, gathered acorns, hid in the hut, waited for goblins, and bit the acorn, inviting the goblins’ wrath. Instead of trying to recreate all the little things that had happened to make his brother rich, the older brother should have simply congratulated his brother, then worked hard to forge his own path to success and happiness.

This folktale conveys an important lesson that is relevant to young people like me today. We think we have to be in all the honors classes, be on the debate team, join a sport, volunteer at the hospital, and play the piano or violin. We do all these things not because we actually care about them, but because that’s what everyone else is doing to “get ahead.” Just as the older brother was convinced that he had to get the acorns, hide in the hut, and then bite the acorn to get the magical goblin’s club, we are convinced that if we do all the "right" things, we can get into a great college, which means we can be a lawyer or a doctor, which means we will be happy. But “The Goblin’s Club” shows us that this mindset of following a set blueprint for success and happiness is flawed. The younger brother did not follow a blueprint to his riches; he had gotten his good fortune just by going about his everyday business as a good, reasonable person. His actions were genuine, not contrived. Instead of seeking other people’s outcomes by imitating their actions, we should just strive to be genuine, good people and, through hard work, we might make our own fortune. The tale’s age-old wisdom encourages me to be more like the younger brother, to follow my own path, focusing not on an end reward, but on staying true to myself.