The Resourceful Wife
In the last year of Yon-san terrible evils were abroad among the people. Such wickedness as the world had never seen before was perpetrated, of which his Majesty was the evil genius. He even gave orders to his eunuchs and underlings to bring to him any women of special beauty that they might see in the homes of the highest nobility, and whoever pleased him he used as his own. “Never mind objections,” said he, “take them by force and come.” Such were his orders. No one escaped him. He even went so far as to publish abroad that Minister So and So’s wife preferred him to her husband and would like to live always in the Palace. It was the common talk of the city, and people were dumbfounded.
For that reason all hearts forsook him, and because of this he was dethroned, and King Choong-jong reigned in his stead.
In these days of trouble there was a young wife of a certain minister, who was very beautiful in form and face. One day it fell about that she was ordered into the Palace. Other women, when called, would cry and behave as though their lives were forfeited, but this young woman showed not the slightest sign of fear. She dressed and went straight into the Palace. King Yon-san saw her, and ordered her to come close to him. She came, and then in a sudden manner the most terrible odour imaginable was noticeable. The King held his fan before his face, turned aside, spat, and said, “Dear me, I cannot stand this one, take her away,” and so she escaped undefiled.
How it came about was thus: She knew that she was likely to be called at any moment, and so had planned a ruse by which to escape. Two slices of meat she had kept constantly on hand, decayed and foul-smelling, but always ready. She placed these under her arms as she dressed and went into the Palace, and so provided this awful and unaccountable odour.
All that knew of it praised her bravery and sagacity.
Korean Folk Tales, Imps, Ghosts and Faries by Im Bang & Yi Ryuk (Translated by James S. Gale) [Published 1913]