One Swallow a Day (Heungbu and Nolbu)

As I learned today, the Korean postal service uses the swallow (jebi, 제비) as its symbol, maybe because it is commonly considered a harbinger of good news.

korea-post-2017-02-28But: One swallow doesn’t a spring make, knew already Aristotle. For Heungbu, on the other hand, a swallow made his day, and all the others. Poor Nolbu, on the other hand… The story of the two brothers Heungbu and Nolbu, in its pansori-version known as Heungbu-ga or Heungbo-ga (흥부가 / 흥보가, please tell me if you know the difference!), is a classic fable about the triumph of altruistic over selfish action (read it in Korean and English, if you haven’t yet – thanks to the unfortunately short-lived blog “Asian Story Translations”). It was also adapted as the very first Korean feature-length puppetry stop-motion movie in 1967 (directed by Gang Tae-ung 강태웅), long before Tim Burton and Wallace and Gromit, as the comment to the movie on Youtube proudly notes.

I didn’t see a swallow today, but a magpie, omen for good luck in Korea and a beautiful thief in Germany (and other places, I suppose). Although the lightness of the day – five years and 330 pages later – might not last, I’m still quite happy, having sent it off, for today, till summer. May the new year begin!

— 28 Feb. 2017 (火)


About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
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