The Fog Horn (Angae Godong) Chapter 1 - Lighthouse keeper

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Author: Lilac Editor: Lilac

 

Lighthouse keeper

 

***

Dangol [1] it’s here! Dangol!” Screamed the little children, without knowing what they meant.

 

The eighty-year-old shaman seemed to have no energy from traveling far away. She wiped off her sweat with a cotton cloth and headed in front of the lighthouse where the Gutpan [2] was prepared.

 

The lighthouse was on the rocky mountain at the edge of the island. She stayed there for a while, resting her hand on the lighthouse, where the sea breeze had peeled off the paint. Then she turned around and gestured to the musician.

 

As the music began to resonate loudly, the shaman took a glance at the sky. Then she looked at the endless sea.

 

The shaman’s voice began. It was a ritual to soothe the souls of those who died in the sea. Fortunately, the body was found, but it was the fifth death this year alone.

 

The villagers, who don’t even know what the cause was, held several rituals for the sea god. But when it didn’t work, now they prepared a Gut [3] for the dead.

 

The shaman shook Jijeon [4] in her hand weakly as she examined five portraits one by one. It was the beginning of a ritual that might last for hours.

 

“ilssinbongchonjebul jaechon sangsusolppop doje jung baengmana geunsok goneurigo”

 

The shaman continued her voice as if she was chanting. However, her voice was not overshadowed at all by the loud sound of the musical instruments.

 

The villagers sat around her with their eyes closed. Even after that, everyone sat quietly and listened to the shaman’s gut. Believing that it can avoid disasters.

 

Nuri wasn’t there. It was because there was something he had to do. He was in a small garden with a view of rocky mountains.

 

He scooped up one last shovel and placed it on his mother’s grave. Then he turned the shovel upside down and smoothed the grave firmly. It was the best that Nuri could do. It was hard to remove the turf of the grass, as a result his mother’s grave was covered with red dirt, but the last result was satisfying.

 

Nuri threw the shovel and lay down next to his mother’s grave. His clothes were covered in dirt, like someone who played in the dirt.

 

Since he struggled with an old shovel, at first glance, it seemed that Nuri was also buried there.

 

Nuri closed his eyes and listened to the Sinawi [5]

of the exorcism. Even if he was salty, he was glad that he got a coffin. His mother had been sick for a long time and died very quietly. He was asleep together with his mother. However, it was Nuri alone who faced a bright morning.

 

Nuri snorted, as he recalled the chill he felt at not having his mother that morning. He was left alone. It was sad enough to make him cry all the time. Nuri covered his eyes with his wrist. Tears came out of his swollen eyes again. The Gut sound grew a little louder. Nuri remained silent, then went on with his words.

 

“Can you hear that? My mother is a good person, and she tells me to go somewhere nice. Let’s think that way.”

 

Because no one would think that way. Nuri swallowed up his retort. When the day on which the gut was held coincided with his mother’s funeral, no one was with him.

 

The village head always said we were one family, but Nuri’s family was an exception. This was because he was the only Lee clan in Chungdo Island where the Ko and Oh clans lived together.

 

Him and his mother had lived here all their lives, but they have always been outsiders. But it was a relief. Perhaps they felt sorry for the lame man/crippled man who had to carry the coffin without a bier, because the villagers gathered in twos and threes to hold the coffin together before the Gutpan started.

 

Nuri’s mother was a very small and thin person, but when she entered the coffin, she became heavy. As heavy as that four men need to be together. However, as soon as they arrived at the burial site, they all left for Gutpan. Ko Cheol Woong, the son of the village head, looked back, but that did not help. Most of the time he was bossy and snobbish towards young men of his age, but he let down his tail at the mayor’s words. A coward. Nuri knew he would do that.

 

But when he dug the ground by himself, curse words came out of his mouth. No one helped him. Nuri and his mother were always the ones who came out whenever there was a need for help in the village. Of course, he made a living from the wages he received.

 

Nuri wept and dug the ground alone. Dragging his uncomfortable left leg, he dragged the coffin in, and covered it with soil. He wanted to make it round and pretty, but he couldn’t do it alone. It was a steep but low grave.

 

He stopped crying only after his sleeves were all wet. He didn’t cry in front of others. It was only in front of his mother. Nuri believed that it would help both her mother and him survive.

 

He took out the little treasure he had been carrying in his sleeve. It was driftwood. The driftwood cut here and there like a hanger was something Nuri had since he was a child.

 

He didn’t know where he got it or who gave it to him, but this driftwood was always with Nuri. A small piece of wood that fits right into his palm of hand. This was really the only thing left in Nuri’s world. He moved the driftwood around against the blue sky.

 

“If you were a map, how nice it would be if you could show me the way.”

 

Nuri did not know how to live in the future. There was no way to get out of Chungdo. He had no money and was lame/crippled. In fact, he had never even thought of living outside the island

 

The land has always been too far away to be known. It was said that even when the people of the land were in a state of chaos during the war, the people of Chungdo Island here didn’t know. It was that far, so far away.

 

Nuri had no desire to explore the land alone. He liked the sea. He liked the depth and wideness of the endless expanse.

 

Lately, the sea has been getting angry and catching people one by one, but it was not scary.

 

‘The sea is… So the sea is…’

 

There was something indescribable. Nuri wanted to express it in words he knew. However, when he closed his eyes and kept thinking hard, he felt sleepy. Nuri fell asleep under the hot summer sun. The sound of Gut ritual still going on.

 

It was near the end of the Gutpan ritual when Nuri woke up. He got up from the place and glanced at the site where the Gutpan was going on.

 

All the villagers were there. A white cloth hung long, and he saw something made of paper moving on it. The boat made of paper moved as if crossing the Samdocheon Stream [6]

(Buddhism) the Sanzu River (a mythological river in Japanese Buddhist tradition similar to the Hindu Vaitarna or ancient Greek Styx

, and going to the afterlife in this world.

 

Nuri saw the infinite blue sea. Unlike the loud Gut ritual, it was extremely quiet. Nuri kept his eyes at it for a long time, and for a moment, he saw something jump out, run and then disappear.

 

Nuri rubbed his eyes. He couldn’t believe what he just saw. It was a large tail fin which was clearly visible from such a long distance. Even for big fish it was too big. He rubbed his eyes once again. There was nothing in the sea. Nuri saw the calm sea again.

 

“It’s nothing. Nothing.” Nuri muttered like that.

 

Even if it was a big fish he had never seen before, he had no boat to go fishing with. He had never fished before, nor did he know how to handle a net. The places where he worked were mainly rice fields, orchards, and animal farms.

 

Nuri brushed the dirt off his body. Then, using the shovel as his cane, he headed for the rocky mountain. The young people in the village had to help to organise the Gutpan ritual unconditionally. No matter how he had just buried his mother who had just died.

 

All the villagers had to abide by the decision made by the village head. Nuri didn’t miss it either. On the contrary, he had to bow down several times, saying he was grateful for taking the time to bury his mother.

 

By the time Nuri arrived at the lighthouse, the Gutpan ritual was almost over. The old shaman wiped her forehead with a handkerchief made of silk. Her white hairs were neatly tied with a hairpin. Next to her was a girl with pure (snow) white skin who looked about ten years old.

 

“It’s not even Dangolpan, but you worked hard to get here. How can I repay you for this?”

 

“I have to come when someone calls. So many people have already died.”

 

Dangol lost a lot of teeth, so her pronunciation was broken. Because she was old, she couldn’t catch her breath quickly. Still, they said it was a very famous Danggol in Jindo Island. It was said that the village head found her by asking for her while being away from the village for 15 days or so.

 

Nuri watched as Dangol looked up at the sky, her gaze holding some unfathomable emotion. After watching her for a while, Nuri lowered his head, and his eyes met with the girl next to Danggol.

 

At that moment, the girl slowly walked out and stood in front of Nuri. Just as Nuri was about to say something, the girl patted him on the arm. As if to say thank you for working hard.

 

“Well done. She must have gone to a good place.”

 

“…….”

 

“Your mother.”

 

Nuri opened his eyes wide and looked around. Did someone tell this girl about his mother’s death? No, of course not. That’s because no one mourned the death of his mother, who was an outsider.

 

The village head looked at the girl in amazement. Dangol asked her words as if he was used to it.

 

“Is it him?”

 

The girl nodded her head.

 

“This guy must do it. That’s how it ends.”

 

“What does that mean? What does this girl say?…”

 

“Her mother left her to me. She doesn’t want to let her live on the path of a shaman. But what can I do about her blood? She was chosen by ancestor god for ancestor worship and has been living with it.”

 

“You mean a shaman?”

 

The old woman nodded and stood up, approaching Nuri.

 

“Why did you choose this little body?”

 

“That, that bastard is a crippled leg, and he’s an outsider!” Ko Cheol-woong shouted at the top of his lungs.

 

The girl turned around and looked at him angrily. Then she shook her head and looked up at the old lady shaman.

 

“Hey grandma, if he says he doesn’t need him, let’s take him and go.”

 

“Do you care about it so much?”

 

The girl nodded her head. Her eyes were full of conviction. She closed her eyes for a moment and mumbled something. It was a very low man’s voice.

 

“You’re just looking for a way to hell. Blinded by greed, that you don’t even know if the road you are passing is the road of hell.”

 

It was impossible to figure out to whom the words were directed at. But, everyone could tell that they implied misfortune rather than well-wishes. The village head looked at him and went on.

 

“Is Nuri bringing disaster?”

 

The girl opened her eyes triangular and glared at the village chief. The village head clamped his mouth shut, overwhelmed by the energy of the child.

 

The girl tore her gaze away from the village head and looked at Nuri. She spoke in a softer tone.

 

“Even so, you will not be able to avoid it.”

 

The girl tapped Nuri on the sleeve. The piece of driftwood he’d been hiding fell into the palm of her hand, the girl held it tightly in Nuri’s hand and said.

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“Lee, Lee Nuri…”

 

“Nuri, when I go to the shrine, I will preside over your gut for your good. I’ll also perform your mother’s Ssitgimgut [7] , so that she will be safe.

 

“…..”

 

The child, who was fifteen years younger than Nuri, spoke softly in an old man’s voice.

 

“Follow the map with this, That’s your path.”

 

When the girl finished speaking, Dangol spoke to the village head.

 

“Let this boy guard that lighthouse.”

 

The eyes of Nuri and the village head met. There seemed to be a strange, unspeakable emotion stirring in the village head’s eyes. It was like a calm wave, but with a sharp edge like a knife. Nuri averted his gaze first. The girl was still holding onto Nuri’s hand with all her might.

 

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

  • 1. Dangol is a term that refers to a hereditary shaman, or to a follower who has established an exclusive relationship with a shaman.
  • 2. Exorcism site: A place where gut, exorcism, is conducted.
  • 3. Gut (굿, also romanised kut or goot) are the rites performed by Korean shamans, involving offerings and sacrifices to gods, spirits and ancestors.
  • 4. Jijeon refers to paper cut into the shape of bills or coins, used as a shamanic prop that symbolises currency for the dead to use in the underworld.
  • 5. Sinawi, sometimes spelled shinawi, is a traditional Korean music. It is performed improvisationally by a musical ensemble, and traditionally accompanies the rites of Korean shamanism.

  • 6. (Samdocheon) (hanja 三途川)

    (Buddhism) the Sanzu River (a mythological river in Japanese Buddhist tradition similar to the Hindu Vaitarna or ancient Greek Styx

  • 7. Ssitgmgut is rite used to cleanse the spirit of a deceased person. Since ancient times there is a Korean belief that when somebody dies, their body cannot enter the world of the dead because of the impurity of their spirit. The ssitgim-gut washes away this impurity. It is observed mainly in the provinces in the south west of South Korea.
Author's Thoughts

Hello, I hope you are enjoying the novel so far, this is really a great story so give it a try and
Consider buying me a kofi if you enjoyed my translations so far. Thank you!

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