To recap from the previous article…
A mother and her two sons lived down by a river but they weren’t human - they were frogs. Whenever Mother Frog would ask her sons to do something, they would do the opposite of what she asked of them, much to her own frustration. When she asked them to clean, they would make a mess; when she asked them to eat, they would play. They even croaked backwards and said “gul-gae” instead of “gae-gul!” (“Gae-gul” is the Korean word for the sound frogs make.)
They lived like that for many, many years until finally Mother Frog had grown so old that she was dying. Though her sons had never done what she asked of them, they loved her very much and were very sad to see her dying.
Mother Frog wanted to be buried on top of a nearby hill where it was dry and sunny, but she knew that her boys always did the opposite of what she said. So Mother Frog’s last croaked request of them was to be buried down by the river. The boys loved their mother so very much that they decided to do exactly as she asked them.
So Mother Frog was buried at the edge of the river. Soon after there was a big rainstorm and the boys watched and worried and prayed that the rain wouldn’t swell the river and disturb their mother’s grave. Unfortunately the storm was so great and the river swelled so much that Mother Frog’s body was washed away by the current.
The boys cried and cried, mourning their bad luck but helpless to get her body back as it had completely disappeared down the river. From that time on the boys sat by the edge of the river, crying out in sadness, “Gae-gul! Gae-gul! Gae-gul!”
And that is why to this day frogs sit by rivers and croak - they’re mourning the loss of Mother Frog. In South Korea, naughty children who do not mind their mothers and do what is asked of them are called chung gaeguri, or “green frogs,” after those boys of Mother Frog who never did as they were told and ended up desperately sad for the rest of their lives.