Bibliographic Information (best version for telling):
I am using three versions and there is no one version I am using more than the other two. (Well, perhaps I use Laura Simm’s version a tad bit more than the other two.) See the bibliographic information below.


Ethnic Origin:


Running Time:
Approximately 18 mins.


Power Center(s):

1.      A resonance of deep emotion resulting from the birds’ sacrifice. For some this may be sadness, for others it may be a sense of wonder at the magnificence of such a sacrifice – an understanding and appreciation for extraordinary personal convictions and sacrifices. This, to me, is the defining emotion of the story. All other power centers help to lead the listener to this one.

Reason: I chose this power center because when you originally relayed a brief synopsis of this story to me, I was immediately struck by this moment in the story. Because I had such a strong reaction to this even though you were only recounting the basics to me, it became clear to me just how powerful this moment could be when the story was formally  told.

2.      Some sort of discomfort or fear or tension over the snake woman’s control of the man and the possibility of her killing him.  

Reason: I think that the inclusion of really tense moments in this story help draw a greater contrast to the moment of relief when the snake-woman disappears, thus heightening the relief (catharsis) from her disappearance. These contrasts in emotion that I am going for will, I hope, strengthen the emotions themselves.

3.      Great relief after the final toll of the bell and the disappearance of the snake woman.

Reason: There are two reasons for this power center. The first reason is expressed in the preceding power center’s reason. I am interested in drawing out strong emotions from my listeners through the building of one emotion which climaxes into an opposing emotion (possibly a catharsis). The other reason is that this particular moment/power center in the story is very deceptive. Momentarily the listeners will hopefully feel relief only to be squashed immediately after with shock/sadness when the man finds the birds under the bell. So in a way, this power center acts as a catharsis which is in fact only leading them to an “anti-catharsis” at the end of the story.



1.      The artist

2.      The snake woman

3.      The birds



I have broken down the scenes into “sub-scenes” because this helped me to learn the story better since it is a complex story. For the purpose of the cue card, the items marked by Roman numerals are the main sections/scenes of the story.

I.                   Introductory information about the man.

1.      Introduction to the man

2.      The man prepares to leave

3.      Description of the forest in spring

4.      The man paints all morning

II.                The first encounter with a snake

1.      The man sees the nest

2.      He sees the snake and kills the snake

III.             Time passes

1.      The man is summoned by the king

2.      He grows old and then wishes to return to the forest one last time

IV.             The man returns to the forest

1.      Description of the forest in autumn

2.      Forest grows strange and the man gets lost

V.                Enter – the snake woman

1.      The man sees the house

2.      The woman in white serves him

3.      The man sees the first strange reflection in the teapot

4.      The man sees the second strange reflection in the teapot and the snake attacks

5.      The snake talks to the man of her pain and need for vengeance and then releases her grip

VI.             The man is hopeless

1.      He tries to escape

2.      First ring – the snake sits up

3.      Second ring – the snake lurches forward

4.      Third ring – the snake almost kills the man

VII.          The man is saved

1.      Everything vanishes with the final toll of the bell

2.      The man searches for the bell

3.      He finds the bell and the birds




            The artist loves the forest and all the animals in it. One day he saves some eggs from being devoured by a snake. Killing the snake to save the eggs was a great conflict for the man. The man leaves the forest and many years pass. The man has grown old and returns to the forest one last time. The further the man walks into the forest, the stranger it grows until the man is lost in the dark.

            Then he sees a house; and the woman who lives there takes him in. She feeds him and then suddenly turns into a huge snake. She is the mother of the snake the man killed years ago and she is angry. She threatens to kill the man. The man begs her for some opportunity to prove how sorry he is for what he did. The snake-woman tells him that if he can ring the bell in the old ruined temple three times before dawn, she will let him go. He agrees and asks to be released to do this. She says no, that he must ring the bell from the confines of her home.

            The man makes a feeble attempt to escape from the house. The snake laughs at him. He feels miserable because he is certain he will die and never see his family again. Then the bell rings. The snake rises in anger and tries to kill the man before the final toll of the bell. She does not succeed; and with the final toll of the bell, she vanishes.

            The man searches out the bell. He finds the 3 birds that hatched from those eggs he saved long ago. They are dead, having thrust their bodies at the bell to ring it for the man.


Rhymes/Special Phrases/"Flavor":

            There were no special phrases in any of the versions I used that I wanted to bring into my telling.


Audience (why is this story appropriate for the audience? developmental characteristics?):


            This is a wonderful story for adults. It has an exciting mix of intense conflict, deep emotion, suspense, good vs. evil, and heightened catharsis. The story, although linear, is complex which also offers more substance to the adult listener.

            This story is the classic battle of good vs. evil. This is a timeless theme that continues to enthrall audiences if done well. Since each of us have a mix of the good and the bad, the light and the dark, and since as adults, we are more able to recognize this about ourselves than children are, stories about the struggle between good and evil are always compelling. They represent on a larger, more metaphorical scale, the personal, inner struggles we sometimes face in our lives. Whether the listeners are conscious of it or not, there will be some deep, possibly unconscious empathy for the snake-woman. All of us have had something or someone we loved taken from us. Some of us have responded with intense anger as the snake-woman does. All of us have at some point been torn between two evils as the artist is when he sees the snake getting ready to devour the eggs. We have all had to make hard choices. Adults face difficult decisions, loss, joys, dangers, sadness as a regular part of life.

            This story is also appealing to adults because, in a way, it symbolizes a life journey. As a young man, the artist makes a decision that will reap consequences later in his life. The listeners witness the man’s journey not just into the physical world of the forest but also into the emotional world of decisions, joys, danger, and losses.

            Another truly wonderful aspect of this story is that any given moment could have a completely different emotional impact on one listener as opposed to another. For instance, the killing of the first snake could be a cathartic resolution, a relief for some listeners. For others, it could be shocking and unexpectedly abrupt which could increase their tension. The birds’ sacrifice, the gift of their lives to save the artist, could make a listener feel very sad or it could cause the listener to be awed by the magnitude of the “heroism” of the birds. Some listeners may fear for the man as the snake-woman attacks him. Others may feel very tense or comfortable. Still others may sympathize with the snake-woman and would therefore be excited to find out what happens next. All of these possibilities are really dependent upon the individual listener, upon his/her personal history and therefore resulting personality. This story touches upon so many themes that will constitute an adult’s life experience: personal conflict, joy, appreciation of beauty, facing the consequences of one’s actions, resentment, pain and suffering, loss of love, danger, fear of loss, growing old, having children/family, receiving recognition, sadness, gratitude, awe, etc., etc. Because the story reaches out on so many levels and because each adult will have his/her unique reactions to these emotional moments, the story has a richness and depth that defines it as appealing to almost any adult.


Bibliographic information on other versions/variants (at least two)?


In-sob, Zong. “The Pheasants and the Bell.” Folk Tales from Korea. New Jersey: Hollym International Corp. 1982.


Han, Suzanne Crowder. “The Grateful Magpies.” Korean Folk and Fairy Tales. New Jersey: Hollym International Corp. 1982.


Simms, Laura. “The Woodcutter.” Stories-Old as the World, Fresh as the Rain. Connecticut: Weston Woods 1981



Brief comparison of all versions/variants in terms of language, rhythm, "tellability," "flavor," content, etc. Stress the differences in style rather than those of content.


            For a comparison overview please see the attached comparison chart. I have chosen bits and themes from all three versions. The comparison chart outlines those items I have chosen to include in my telling.



Laura Simms

Zong In-Sob

Suzanne Crowder Han



man on his way to take the kwago

birds in a trap – man frees birds

snake is attacking birds – man kills snake*

snake is attacking birds – man kills snake*

time passes until man returns to forest – 25 years

time passes until man returns to forest – 10 years

same trip, later that night

man gets lost*

man gets lost*

man does not get lost

man sees a house*

man sees a house*

man sees a temple

snake-woman says the caged birds belonged to her

snake-woman says the earlier snake was her and thus the man killed her

snake-woman says the earlier snake was her husband

man must ring the bell 12 times before midnight

man must ring the bell once – no specified deadline

man must ring the bell 3 times before midnight*

man must ring bell from the house*

man must ring bell from the house*

man may go to the bell – he can not reach the bell

from the time the snake-woman presents the bell-ringing challenge until the final ring of the bell, she does nothing

once the snake-woman realizes the man can not ring the bell, she begins to attack*

once the snake-woman realizes the man can not ring the bell, she begins to attack*

snake-woman just vanishes with the final toll of the bell*

snake-woman re-transforms into a woman and tells the man that he must be “under Heaven’s protection” and then she vanishes

snake-woman snarls about keeping her promise and disappears*

birds are alive – man nurses them back to health

birds are dead*

birds are dead*


* Items I have chosen to use in my telling



I.                   I have chosen to use Han’s version in that the birds are caged and the earlier snake was not the snake-woman herself. I have chosen to alter it a bit and instead of the earlier snake being her husband, it was her son. I felt that a mother losing her son would be fiercer than a wife losing her husband; especially since it is often the case in the animal kingdom that mothers will fight fiercely to protect their children even against their mates.

II.                I have also chosen Han’s three rings over Simms’ 12 and In-Sob’s single ring. However, I give the man until dawn rather than midnight because I want the man to find the birds in daylight.

III.             I have chosen to have the snake-woman more active after she presents the challenge to the man. In Laura Simms version, there seems to be a dead space during the twelve, long, successive rings where the snake does nothing to ensure she gets her prey. Unlike In-Sob and Han though, I have chosen for the snake to begin attacking once she hears the bell ringing, out of desperation to kill the man before the final ring.

IV.             As I have mentioned on my cue card, I initially went with Simm’s version of the disappearance of the snake woman. I’ve been practicing my story this way for a while; and then it occurred to me this weekend that I really liked Han’s disappearance of the snake woman better. To me it seemed as if the snake-woman had less of a choice and was pulled away in the dark against her will, angry that she had lost and the man had won. I’ve tried to work it in and change the ending of my story but I haven’t quite crafted it in a way which satisfies me. So I thought the more prudent thing would be to go with my earlier ending (Simm’s) and save the inclusion of the snarling, powerless snake-woman for a future telling.

Each version has strengths and weaknesses as far as its tellability is concerned. Some of these are shared by another version and some are unique to just one of the versions.

            Both In-Sob and Simms’ versions require the man (woodcutter) to leave the forest for a period of time. This has its strength in that it allows the snake-woman’s resentment to grow and fester so that the intensity of her anger is more justified.     

Both In-Sob and Han’s versions require the man to actually protect the birds from the snake, thus resulting in the man’s killing of the snake. Again, this provides the snake-woman with more fodder for her anger. The birds weren’t simply set free and therefore she lost just a meal – not something that would warrant the degree of anger the snake-woman displays later in the story. Also, Simms’ version of this moment is more passive than In-Sob’s or Han’s.  The man saving the birds from a vicious predator provides more action and initial conflict and tension. (However, one could argue in favor of having this moment be more passive so that the final battle between the snake-woman and the man stands out more; but as I listened to Simm’s tell the story, I did not feel that the battle stood out more because of the passivity of the bird-freeing scene. However, there are other ways in which Simm’s dulls the story and perhaps this why the battle does not stand out for me. I have discussed this below. )

            Simms’ chooses twelve rings; In-Sob one; and Han chooses three. In Simms’ version, the action, desperation, and fear she has been building suddenly stagnates while the listener waits for twelve long rings. The snake does nothing during this long time. She does not try to head the bell off by swallowing the man early thus preventing her own disappearance and satisfying her need for revenge. All action just stops as the bell rings. Her telling of this moment (literally her oral communication of the story) is also slow without a progression in rhythm or tempo. The rings are pretty much all on one level – flat without any building of anticipation of the final ring.  Also, I find it hard to believe that if the snake-woman were as angry as Simms’ portrays her, she wouldn’t try to kill the man before the final ring of the bell. But perhaps that is one of those magical, idiosyncrasies that seem to appear in many folk tales; however I think the story would be stronger if the rings were fewer or if the snake-woman attacked the man before the final ring or if Simm’s simply varied her voice tone and tempo.

            In-Sob has the bell only ring once. This seems too abrupt, almost resolving the story too easily. Han’s version calls for three rings. Three is neither too abrupt nor too long. The listener neither feels that the resolution came too quickly nor does the listener hang in a limbo of sorts waiting for the twelve rings to run their course. Both In-Sob and Han have the snake-woman attempt to attack the man prior to the final ring of the bell thus bolstering the character of the snake-woman, a creature with a fierce determination to satisfy her need for revenge.

            In-Sob has the snake-woman re-transform herself into a woman with the toll of the bell. Suddenly she is mildly tempered, calmly accepting that she has lost the battle. This is a little out of joint with her previously defined personality. Han has the snake-woman snarling at the man as she vanishes, powerless to stop her disappearance. Han’s choice keeps the snake-woman’s personality in tact. For me, it also heightened the catharsis reached after the final ring of the bell – the image of this snarling, vicious thing being pulled away into the darkness makes the final ring of the bell to appear to come just in the nick of time. (Brian: The more I thought about this, the more I realized that I wanted to include this image of the snake-woman snarling away into the dark; but I decided this so late in my practice and so close to Dec. 3rd, that I have decided it would be best to go with what I have for now and save this idea for future tellings – when I have some more time to really make it work.)

            Simms’ candy-coats the ending by having the man find the birds alive and having him nurse them back to health. It deflates the power of the story. It is also infeasible that two birds who have smashed their bodies against a big metal bell twelve times would live. For me, this threw the whole story off center. It removed a bit of Simms’ credibility because it calls for a greater willing suspension of disbelief than I, as a listener, am willing to give.

            Simms’ creates wonderful moments that flesh her telling out more than In-Sob’s or Han’s. She talks about how the man loves the forest. She develops more of an introduction to the snake-woman by having her feed the man. However she stagnates the action once more in addition to the twelve rings. She has the woodcutter go to sleep after the snake-woman has vanished and before finding the birds. This simply halts the entire story. It’s unnecessary. It adds nothing to the story and actually hinders it by stopping all action at a crucial point in the story.

            Han also fleshes out the relationship between the man and the snake-woman a little more than In-Sob. Han includes more conversation between the man and the snake just as Simms’ does.

            In conclusion, I chose to weave parts of all three stories into my telling. I selected those parts of the three versions that I felt heightened the emotions I wanted my audience to feel.