[LARB Review] To Hell and Back: Modernized Myth in Hwang Sok-yong’s “Princess Bari”

Read more at the LA Review of Books

— by Richard M. Cho: In the traditional Korean myth from which Hwang Sok-yong’s recently translated novel, Princess Bari, borrows its title, the seventh daughter of a royal family travels to the netherworld to secure water to save her dying parents. Her parents had had six daughters in a row, and upon seeing that the infant Bari had nothing between her legs they discarded her in the forest to die (hence the name Bari, which roughly translates to “thrown away”). During her travails to attain the life-saving water, she meets and comforts many grief-stricken dead souls. Shamans of Korea call the Princess Bari myth their origin story and revere her as the healer of souls. Hwang situates the folktale in a modern setting and embeds the message of Bari’s quest in the background of the contemporary world, first in North Korea, then in China, and lastly in England…

Image courtesy of Scribe Australia

April 28, 2019


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