Vibrantly illustrated The Korean Cinderella tells the story of a couple who long for a child, and in their old age are finally granted their wish. The husband planted a pear tree to show their good fortune, and the woman named their precious daughter Pear Blossom. As the seasons pass Pear Blossom blooms, however in the winter “when the branches on the pear tree were still bare sticks, the old woman died” (Climo, para 4). As many Cinderella tales go the father remarries in order to find someone to tend his precious daughter. He goes to the village match maker and brings home Omoni and her daughter Peony – getting himself a wife, a mother, and a sister for Pear Blossom. Little does he realize that his hopes will fade as Omoni and Peony find ways to belittle Pear Blossom, and of course get her to do the work of 10. As the years pass her situation worsens, and as her father bows with age he doesn’t pay attention to how she is mistreated. Neither could he help her as he deteriorated with old age.
Pear Blossom’s fortunes begin to change when she is helped by a frog, sparrow, and a black ox. I actually think the punishments she is meted are worse than the help she receives.
- She is forced to lick up the puddles of water on the floor when the frog jumps out at Peony
- Omoni refuses to feed her when the sparrows peck at Peony
- She is forced to pack a picnic lunch for her stepmother and step sister for the village festival, and sew a pink silk dress for her step sister – although she is forced to wear rags.
The good news is that when the black ox helps her she is then given time to head to the festival. On her way there she crosses the path of a nobleman and feeling flustered she runs leaving, you guessed it, her sandal. She heads to the festival, forgetting about her lost sandal and enjoys the festivities, and the food.
Her stepmother and stepsister see her eating an orange and accuse her of stealing. When the nobleman comes looking for the girl with the sandal they figure she’s going to get what she deserves. Obviously they think she will be arrested, but in the end she truly does get what she deserves. She marries the nobleman and lives happily ever after with pear trees blooming in the yard and sparrows calling out E-wha, which incidentally means “Pear Blossom.”
It is a sweet story, one of filial obligations, and the blessings of doing what you are told, even if mistreated. I love how both the author and illustrator integrate cultural tidbits throughout the book. The prose are written in such a way that that the little ones can grasp the storyline. My daughter loves sitting next to me as I read her this book. She constantly asks questions about the illustrations, which are reminiscent of the tiles found in Korean Temples, and symbols found in Korean culture. The illustrations aided my daughter in understanding the storyline!