2017 Sejong Writing Competition

Winning Entries :: Essays :: Junior second place tie
Appreciate What You Have

“The Three Gifts,” a Korean folktale retold by Heinz Insu Fenkl, narrates the story of three poor brothers who try to become wealthy after the death of their penniless father, their only possessions a millstone, a gourd, a bamboo staff, and a drum. The brothers are able to become resourceful with the gifts their father had given them, and in the end are able to become very prosperous men. Also, each brother was able to discover a new trait or ability that perhaps they had never realized. Due to the actions of the brothers, this folktale can be proven to follow the moral to appreciate what you have and make the best out of it, just as the three brothers did. This can be a lesson to people who aren’t grateful for what they have, and need to realize that there are people who may not be as fortunate as them in the world.

For the first few sentences of the story, the author mainly gives a rundown on the brother’s father, and tells the reader how he has no money and could only leave his sons the three gifts he had when he died. Then the author begins to transition over to telling the story of the boys, and how each brother journeys on their own in search of wealth. In the folktale, it is the oldest son who was given the millstone, which he carried on his back, and even though it was not obvious how it would be useful to him, he still kept it with him, despite the pain it was giving him. In the end, he was able to use his father’s gift to cause a noise that sounded like thunder, scaring away a gang of thieves who were fighting over riches they had stolen, and as soon as they left, he came and took all of their loot, and became a very wealthy man. The second son was given the bamboo staff and gourd, which he uses to his advantage when he tricks a goblin into thinking he was a skeleton; and then steals a young woman’s soul. Once the goblin left him, he discovers a house where everyone was mourning the girl whose soul he had stolen. He returns the girl’s soul, and the girl’s father, who is a very rich man, became overjoyed, and the brother took the woman as his wife, and becomes very rich. And last, the youngest brother was given the drum. One day while he was playing it, he came across a dancing tiger, and together, the boy and the tiger journey from village to village together, dancing and singing. Due to his unique performances, the brother is able to make his own living. After that, the King was so impressed that he exchanged 10,000 yang for the tiger, and the youngest boy becomes the richest out of all three brothers. The different ways that the boys used their gifts to become wealthy can show how each brother was able to develop and appreciate what he was given, and that can also help them be more grateful to their father.

In this folktale, I believe that each brother is able to discover something about themselves that they had perhaps never known. For example, the oldest brother seemed to develop creativity, since he is able to come up with the idea to move the millstone in a way that mocks the sound of thunder and scare the thieves away. As for the middle brother, he becomes more clever when he used the gourd and bamboo stick he was given to disguise himself as a skeleton. As for the last brother, it appears that a bit a of passion had formed inside him for playing the drum, especially because the folktale never mentioned him being able to play it. This is a wonderful thing for all of the brothers, because the outcome of developing these traits paid off because the brothers became very profitable men. They also seemed to become more modest; and this is shown when the brothers meet with each other, and instead of boasting about their riches or comparing each other’s wealth, they were overjoyed to see each other and how they had done so well with their father’s simple gifts.

The journey that all of the brothers take can also remind me of some events in history in when people had to make the best out of what they had. For example, I think the actions of the brothers can relate to the time period of the Great Depression in America that occurred from about 1929 to about 1939. This was the time that the stock market crashed and many people were left without jobs. In this time period, people had take what they had and see how they could use it to either find a job or support their family. This relates to what the brothers go through in the folktale, because they also have to take what their father has given them and use it to make a living.

“The Three Gifts” can be used to prompt people to appreciating even the most pathetic things and remembering it’s importance, and this story does a great job of giving examples of this. The moral is a lesson that is not only taught to the brothers, but is meant to teach the reader a lesson as well. After reading this, I was able to take a look around my bedroom, and see that almost every item in that space was a privilege. Even the lamp next to my bed could be a luxury, especially to people that have no electricity. Or the bed I sleep in, when some people sleep on the ground. If people are able to read this folktale and do what I did, we could have a better understanding of what is currently happening in the world. “The Three Gifts” gives a reminder to acknowledge what you have and to treasure it.