For those who are lucky enough to have a sweet childhood, fairy tales told before bedtime by the loving voices of grandparents and parents are a sweet memory of childhood. Nearly every culture nurtures the child’s soul with fairy tales, both to pass on the cultural thread of thousands of generations, and to educate the personality in childhood.
The fairy tale treasure of mankind seems to be endless, with hundreds of cultures and countless telling different motifs, stories, and interpretations of the world. But there is one thing that almost everyone still remembers about those colorful stories even if they fall asleep in the middle, is the 4 magic words “Once upon a time…”.
Not only in Vietnam are there four introductory words that open up that magical world, but also in other languages such as English (Once upon a time) or French (il était une fois) and Japanese (Mukashimukashi). all mean the same thing.
Painting of a tiger holding a pipe in Korean culture.
Only in Korea, that phrase is always accompanied by a unique simile “Old, very old in the time when tigers still smoked…” is a phrase that has penetrated deeply into the minds of Korean children. generations before each fairy tale. Like all idioms in every other language, this phrase contains a lot of Korean thoughts, history, creativity and even satire.
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According to the National Museum of Korea, tigers have a deep cultural imprint in Korean legends. Thanks to the mountainous terrain and valleys, this animal is very popular in the Asian country.
In the folk image, the tiger maintains an interesting duality: both as a guide for heroes on the path of conquest when representing benevolent souls, and sometimes as a fierce enemy for sure. their way.
Furthermore, metaphorically, the cobra represents authority and power over people. For example, they are often depicted in paintings and frescoes with images of guarding the royal tomb. In other words, tigers symbolized the ruling class in ancient society.
On the other hand, tobacco, although it has not been around for too long, is another interesting symbol in Korean culture, often associated with class divisions. Imported here since the 1600s, people at that time believed that smoking was a good treatment for health and became a “national” habit when the elderly, children, anyone could smoke. , according to the Korean Times.
During that period, although smoking was still allowed, the common people were not allowed to smuggle or smoke before a certain celebration, nor were they allowed to smoke in front of people of the higher class.
For that reason, the phrase was born as a folk attack and metaphor for the feudal ruling class being free to smoke, while the commoners looked on with envy.
The smoking tiger motif is especially popular in painting
Over many generations with certain additions of salt, the phrase “Old, very old in the days when tigers still smoked …” gradually became “model literature” starting for more ancient stories. tobacco history. Although its offensive meaning has faded over time, its origins are still clear, a testament to a society that has always wanted to fight for equality.