A Korean Fairytale

I am always looking for new ways to experiment with photography. This recent photo shoot was inspired by the Korean folklore "The Fairy and the Woodcutter" (선녀와 나무꾼). I tried to put a contemporary spin on it with models Riley and Eryn along with a talented makeup artist, Hyesoo Sohn (instagram @hyesoosohn). Keep on scrolling down to read the story (funny version taken from!

Location: Lynn Canyon Park, North Vancouver, BC

There was once a poor woodcutter who lived in the mountains with his mother. One day he helped a wounded deer escape from a hunter, and in return for his kindness, the deer, who was actually a mountain spirit, granted him a wish. The man wished for a wife.

The deer told the woodcutter a surefire way to get his wish and outlined specific instructions. The woodcutter was to go to a mountain pond where fairies came down from their home in heaven once a month to bathe, aided by magical clothing that allowed them to fly. He was to steal one fairy’s clothing, stranding her in the pond, then offer to help her. If he brought her home, she would eventually fall in love with him and become his wife. The woodcutter must not reveal the truth about her clothing until she had borne him at least three children.

As ethics have no place in a love (or possession) story, the woodcutter did as ordered, and everything happened as the deer said. Hiding nearby, he watched as a group of fairies flew down from heaven and bathed, and stole one set of clothes. When it was time to return, one fairy couldn’t find her clothing, and her fellow fairies were forced to return to heaven without her.

The pervy woodcutter emerged from hiding to play the hero, offering her regular clothing and shelter. With no way to return home, in time she married him and bore him two children. And the woodcutter was happy. Selfish bastard.

But once a month — on bathing day — his wife would feel homesick and cry for her lost life. And while the woodcutter was a scheming pervy jerk, he wasn’t completely heartless and finally decided that he would tell her the truth, figuring that her love for him would be enough, because they were an otherwise happy family. Let’s just say some people define happiness differently from others.

When he showed her the hidden clothing, the fairy put them on, took up one child in each arm, and flew up to heaven. And the idiot woodcutter was sad. Boo effin’ hoo.

The reason for the deer’s instructions now became clear — if he had waited until they had three children, the fairy would not be able to carry all her children up to heaven, nor would she be able to leave any behind. The deer saw that the man was heartbroken and offered him a solution. Thanks to Mr. Woodcutter’s security breach, ever since the fairy had been stranded on earth the other fairies had ceased bathing in the mountain pool. Instead, once a month they lowered a bucket to draw up water to heaven. It must not be much of a heaven if they’ve got no water up there. Just sayin’. The deer advised the man to get into the bucket, which would draw him up and therefore reunite him with his wife.

He did, and the family reunited. And they were happy.

Alas, his poor old mother had been left alone on earth, and after some time the woodcutter felt bad and wanted to see her one last time before she died. His wife appealed to the king of the heavens, because apparently all incompetent men are given three chances to prove their incompetence. The king offered the woodcutter a way to say his last goodbye, lending him a winged horse that would deliver him home. However, he must not get off the horse or he would be left behind.

The woodcutter did, and his old mother was overjoyed to see her son. She wanted to feed him, as all Korean mothers do, but he told her that he wouldn’t be able to get off the horse. So she offered to bring the bowl of freshly made gruel to him so that he could eat it here before leaving. However, the idiot woodcutter spilled the hot gruel on the horse’s back, and it reared up on its legs, knocking him off its back. The horse returned to heaven and the woodcutter died sad and alone. (And may or may not have turned into a rooster that crows his grief to the skies.)

The end.

What is the moral of this story? I'm not sure (Don't steal chicks' clothes? Or if you're going to do it, then never let her know?) I will probably have to ask my mom about it, although I'm not sure she'll know either. Like many classic fairytales/folktales, not everything ends in a happy ending. The children's version however, ends when the woodcutter makes his way back up to the heavens and the two reunite to live happily ever after. So we'll end it with a happy picture. :)


Thanks, Hyesoo, Eryn, and Riley for participating in my experiment!

Behind the Scenes