Heung Bu and Nol Bu
Region: East Asia, Korea
Author: F.B Smit
Original Language: English, Korean
Translator: Translated by the author
Illustrator: Monse Vallejo, Jiale Kuang
Character: Heung Bu; Nol Bu
Descriptors: bilingual books; brothers; English; greed
Age: 4-12 years old
Heung Bu and Nol Bu by F.B. Smit takes a popular Korean folktale and reimagines it for Western audiences. This captivating mortality tale tells the story of two brothers, Heung Bu and Nol Bu, who have opposite personalities. The younger brother Heung Bu is compassionate and kind, while his older brother Nol Bu is cruel and greedy. When their father falls sick, Nol Bu takes the opportunity to kick his younger brother out of the house. Heung Bu goes on to create a simple life with his new wife and family but is stricken by poverty. Although Heung Bu suffers, he still takes the time to treat others with kindness, even the little swallow with a broken leg who he nurses back to health. The swallow rewards him for his kindness with a mysterious magical seed that grows into a giant pumpkin full of treasures! Older brother Nol Bu becomes envious of his little brother’s fortune and schemes to get his own, but his greed only leads to misfortune. This story teaches children kindness, compassion, and the need to look out for one another because cruelty and greed only lead to negative outcomes. The big-and-bold, cartoony illustrations by Vallejo and Kuang bring to life the traditional Korean countryside and personalities of the characters. The author includes a note at the end of the story about the history of this folktale and which cultural aspects he has altered so that the book is more easily understood by Western audiences.
More About This Book
Reviewed: e-book by Eeyagi Tales (2018). ISBN: 9781732767904 1732767904. 54 p.
Notes: What has been altered from the traditional Korean versions of this tale: F.B. Smit’s version has Heung Bu and Nol Bu start as young children and grow into adults. After finding parental death too shocking for Western audiences, he has removed the death of their father and has him recover to full health by the end of the story. Pumpkins are used in this story rather than gourds which are symbolic “of livelihood and resourcefulness in traditional Korean culture.” The contents of the magic pumpkins have also been changed.
Reviewed by Leah Byrnes