Wednesday, April 5, 2017

D192.2. Transformation: centipede (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

D is a very hefty chapter in the Motif Index: It stands for Magic. And everything magical, from transformations to items with special powers, speaking animals, and the like. You can find such things on the list as "D113.1.1. - Werewolf," "D395 - Transformation: Frog to person," or "D1093. Magic missile" (you're welcome, D&D fans) - and these are just the most mundane of the lot. Kissing a Frog Prince suddenly sounds a lot nicer when you compare it to:

D192.2. Transformation: man to centipede

In the Korean folktale spoiler-tastically titled The Centipede Girl, a poor man, incapable of supporting his family, decides to end his life and jumps from a cliff into a river. However, he does not die: He is rescued by a mysterious, beautiful maiden, who takes him to her luxurious home. The two of them fall in love, and our nameless protagonist spends quite a long time happy in the lavish love-nest.
Eventually, however, he does decide to visit his actual family, to see how they fared since he had left them. To his surprise, he finds them in a brand new home, wearing expensive clothing: Turns out someone had been sending them money regularly since the husband's disappearance. Content with the news and guilt-free (heh), the man decides to return to his gorgeous lover. But.

Picture from here
On the way back, a voice calls out to him from a hollow tree, claiming to be the spirit of his grandfather, and warns him that the beautiful woman is actually a thousand-year-old giant centipede, who has enchanted him with her illusions. The spirit suggests that the man should smoke some tobacco, keep the juices in his mouth, and spit them in the woman's face, to reveal her true nature. 
The man sets out to do exactly that... but when he sees the perfect face of his lover, he changes his mind, and spits the tobacco out the window. The girl cries and thanks him, telling her story: She is the daughter of the Heavenly King, who has been seduced and slandered by a servant. As punishment, the servant was turned into a snake (hence the vindictive voice in the tree), and the girl into a centipede, to spend three years on earth. Her time is up the very next day, and our hero wakes up alone, lying on a bare rock...

So, the point is, she really was a centipede after all.

(Story from Zong In-sob's Folk Tales from Korea)

D55.2.1. Dwarf contracts self to enter nostrils of cannibals
D179.4. Transformation: man to shrimp
D211.2. Transformation: man (woman) to pomegranate
D222. Transformation: man to nut
D251.1. Transformation: man to saucepan
D412.3.1. Transformation: pig-fairy to fish
D415.1.1. Transformation: mantis to hartebeest
D435.1.4. Wax prince animated by serpent becomes human being
D439.6. Fire takes the form of a woman and runs away
D451.3.2. Transformation: coconut to philosopher's stone
D457.14.1. Transformation: ogress's tongue to surfboard
D476.3.2. Bacon changed to iron
D562.2.1. God's urine makes chilly fiery
D991.2. Magic pubic hair
D1023.4. Magic hair of ant's beard
D1359.1.1. Magic olive branch makes woman master in household
D1402.15.1. Magic poem (satire) causes man to melt
D1454.9. Treasure from nose (with sneezing)
D1511.1. Magic carpet cures drunkenness
D1610.3.4. Speaking egg-plant
D1610.6.3. Speaking buttocks
D1641.16. Bananas run and hide when stone is thrown at them


  1. Well, yes, but not a nasty one. And we can only assume that the man's leaving her alone allowed the spell to end, no? If this had been a European folk tale, the man would have revealed her nature and been told the spell now couldn't break, thanks to him. And the wealthy family would be back to their poverty!

  2. Interesting tail. But I want to know more about the dwarf who contracts himself to enter the nostrils of cannibals!
    Ros from Fangirl Stitches

  3. Coconut to philosopher's stone - easily the most useful of the lot :)

    From Madly-in-Verse
    Theme : Arabiana

  4. Well, at least he didn't spit into her face. That's just rude. Also, I now need to discover this pig-fairy that's been turned into a fish. :O

    A to Z 2017: Magical and Medicinal Herbs

  5. My admiration for the writers of folk tales, or should that be the imaginers of folk tales, is really increasing. What outlandish stuff! But I'm glad he didn't spit in her face. That's not a nice thing to do.

    Dapjeongneo and Deppenfahrerbeaugung: Exotic Words with no English Equivalent

  6. Oh... So he was left alone even thought he was a very well behaved folktake character? I'm surprised he wasn't rewarded in some way for not tricking her into revealing herself!

    Believe In Fairy Stories: Theme - Folklore & Fairy Tales

  7. Hello again... I'm back for this year's A-Z. My kids are adopted from Korea, and so when they were little, I would seek out translations of Korean folk tales to read them. I must confess there were a great many that left me completely befuddled. Spitting in her face? Really? Ewwww
    Wendy of the Rock is OFF the Rock
    D = Death and a doo-dad

  8. That seems a little unfair - he was good to her and she just ups and vanishes on him. Of course he abandonned his family first I suppose, although he was suicidal at the time so ...

    Looking at the honourable mentions, if my fire got up, turned into a woman and ran away I would be annoyed ... and cold. ;)
    Tasha's Thinkings - Shapeshifters and Werewolves

  9. oh wow! that was - to put it mildly - strange. so glad that he didn't spit in her face.

    as to the others you listed, my first thought was literally WTF! some of those are just - i can't even describe it. just wow!

    loving every letter. can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.:D

  10. That was one weird list to choose from! I can tell you're having fun with this :)

    "Female Scientists Before Our Time"

  11. I hate centipedes. I wouldn't have gone back of there was any chance she was a gawddang centipede.

  12. Not quite a thousand-year-old one, though. And seemingly quite nice for a centipede. Sounds like bad timing!

  13. That is an interesting tale. I really like it.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

  14. D476.3.2. Bacon changed to iron - sounds like a nightmare to me!

    @dSavannahCreate from
    (not writing for #AtoZ this year)

  15. That is weird folk tale and good choice for your a to z post. I'm not sure how I feel about it. The runner ups are impressive too. WeekendsInMaine

  16. He probably actually woke up with her in the bed but with her as a centipede....

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador

  17. I've never heard that tale before, though I've heard a lot of stories about transformations into other forms. I'd like to hear the story about the olive branch making the woman mistress of the house!

  18. It always bugs me (pun very much intended!) how the victim of seduction/whatever always gets punished too in folktales. But at least he didn't spit in her face too, because ew. lol!

  19. EEEEEk! I hate centipedes! They move so fast with all those little legs. I hope he went back to his family and reconciled and that the stuff didn't disappear. A centipede ugh.

  20. Well, that is quite a weird story. But do I see echoes of Circe's story there?

    The Old Shelter - 1940s Film Noir

  21. So weird! I second the notion that I couldn't have gone back if there were ed even a chance I'd fine a bug! Lol. This index is so weird too-- gotta wonder if the next entry after D1454.9 would be "(without sneezing)" lol!!
    Jamie Lyn Weigt | Writing Dragons Blog | Ato...? 2017 - Dragons in Our Fandoms