2017 Sejong Writing Competition

Winning Entries :: Essays :: Junior first place
True Gifts

“Come! I have a gift for you.” Visions of golden swirls printed on lavendar wrapping paper covering a long rectangular box, complete with a glittery pink bow started to form in my head. What could be inside? Did my parents actually buy me what I asked for? Presents are one of the best surprises in life. I look forward with anticipation to ripping off the wrapping paper, hoping to find the hoverboard that was on my wish list. However, the gifts that the brothers in “The Three Gifts” retold by Heinz Insu Fenki receive are not gifts that they expected. On their father’s deathbed, he does not give them weapons for protection or tools to expand the farm. In fact, the inheritance bestowed upon them by their dying father seem like ordinary objects with no purpose or value. The oldest brother receives a millstone, the second brother a gourd and bamboo staff, and the youngest a drum. However, as the story unfolds, we learn valuable life lessons from these brothers’ ability to demonstrate courage, resourcefulness and quick thinking with their simple gifts.

By employing creativity with his gift, the oldest brother displays courage and escapes a frightening situation. After the brothers part ways, the oldest one drags and lifts the millstone up a tree to rest since he was exhausted after a day of walking. When he hears thieves quarreling below, he turns the handle of the millstone which makes a huge grinding sound. The gang of thieves mistake the grinding noise for thunder and run for their lives. In their scramble to flee, they forget their loot. The oldest brother not only survives the thieves, but also gains wealth from the loot they leave behind. Being creative and courageous are critical in dire situations. A prime example is Nick Vujicic, an Australian man who was born without arms or legs. Though Nick had a hard time coping in childhood, he eventually overcame his struggles with his creativity. I am in awe that today he is an author, musician, actor and surfer despite his missing limbs. His life of triumph against all odds has inspired many around the world and reminds me that I can overcome any obstacle that comes my way.

When in danger, the middle brother uses his wits to utilize his gifts to save his life. One dark night with a new moon, the brother unknowingly falls asleep in a graveyard. When a goblin approaches him, the goblin talks to him as if the brother is a skeleton. The second brother is alert and quick to respond matter-of-factly. When the goblin becomes suspicious and claims that “there’s a human smell about ”, the second brother uses his quick wits to respond to the goblin. Instead of admitting that he is not a skeleton, he asks the goblin to feel the gourd as if it is his head and the bamboo shoot as his arm to prove that he is a skeleton. He skillfully maneuvers the conversation when the goblin asks the brother how long he was dead. Not only is he able to save his own life, he later uses his wits to save the life of the daughter of the rich man. As a result, the second brother is rewarded handsomely for his heroic deed. Similarly, the Apollo 13 crew was forced to think quickly when a series of events caused the loss of power and therefore the ability to provide oxygen and water in the spacecraft. When I read about this incident, I was amazed by the ingenuity that Apollo 13 crew demonstrated when the oxygen tank exploded while they were in space. With limited time and resources, the crew worked together to figure out a way to use spare parts on board to build a makeshift tool to remove carbon dioxide from the lunar module. With that crude adapter, they were able to create breathable air for the three astronauts to safely return to earth. Quick thinking for these men made the difference between life and death.

For the youngest brother, it is his persistence and positivity that brings him his fortune. After wandering around aimlessly, the youngest brother ends up in a beautiful forest. Though he could have been overcome with fear or exhaustion, he joyfully starts dancing and beating the drum given to him by his beloved father. Suddenly, he notices a tiger dancing through the forest. The brother’s drumbeat attracted the tiger and the two of them travel from village to village, performing in front of crowds. When word spread about the amazing dancing tiger, the king requests that the brother and tiger perform in the palace. The king is impressed by this extraordinary tiger and offers to buy it for any amount the brother wishes. When the youngest brother steadfastly but politely declines, the king increases his offer. With his shrewd negotiations, the youngest brother becomes the richest of the brothers. Instead of giving up, the youngest brother is determined to find a way to use his gift and eventually becomes prosperous. Being persistent is a common characteristic of many successful people. One of my favorite scientists, Thomas Edison, was known for inventing the light bulb because of his persistence. Though his experiments failed over a thousand times, he never gave up until he found the right filament for a lasting light bulb. Perseverance is essential to achieve big dreams and lofty goals.

Through this Korean folktale, we learn the characteristics we need to succeed in life. Although the brothers inherit what appears to be insignificant gifts, they each become “fabulously rich” in the end because of their bravery, cleverness and determination. “The Three Gifts” as retold by Heinz Insu Fenkl reminds us that while we have no control over the talents given to us at birth or the circumstances we live in, we can turn them into positive outcomes if we use our gifts wisely. The legacy that we leave behind is more important than the gifts we started with.