During the reign of the third king in Korea there lived a noble of high
rank and noted family, by name Hong. His title was Ye Cho Pansa. He
had two sons by his wife and one by one of his concubines. The latter
son was very remarkable from his birth to his death, and he it is
who forms the subject of this history.

When Hong Pansa was the father of but two sons, he dreamed by night
on one occasion that he heard the noise of thunder, and looking up he
saw a huge dragon entering his apartment, which seemed too small to
contain the whole of his enormous body. The dream was so startling as
to awaken the sleeper, who at once saw that it was a good omen, and a
token to him of a blessing about to be conferred. He hoped the blessing
might prove to be another son, and went to impart the good news to
his wife. She would not see him, however, as she was offended by his
taking a concubine from the class of “dancing girls.” The great man
was sad, and went away. Within the year, however, a son of marvellous
beauty was born to one concubine, much to the annoyance of his wife
and to himself, for he would have been glad to have the beautiful
boy a full son, and eligible to office. The child was named Kil Tong,
or Hong Kil Tong. He grew fast, and became more and more beautiful. He
learned rapidly, and surprised every one by his remarkable ability. As
he grew up he rebelled at being placed with the slaves, and at not
being allowed to call his parent, father. The other children laughed
and jeered at him, and made life very miserable. He refused longer to
study of the duties of children to their parents. He upset his table in
school, and declared he was going to be a soldier. One bright moonlight
night Hong Pansa saw his son in the court-yard practising the arts of
the soldier, and he asked him what it meant. Kil Tong answered that
he was fitting himself to become a man that people should respect and
fear. He said he knew that heaven had made all things for the use of
men, if they found themselves capable of using them, and that the laws
of men were only made to assist a few that could not otherwise do as
they would; but that he was not inclined to submit to any such tyranny,
but would become a great man in spite of his evil surroundings. “This
is a most remarkable boy,” mused Hong Pansa. “What a pity that he is
not my proper and legitimate son, that he might be an honor to my
name. As it is, I fear he will cause me serious trouble.” He urged
the boy to go to bed and sleep, but Kil Tong said it was useless,
that if he went to bed he would think of his troubles till the tears
washed sleep away from his eyes, and caused him to get up.

The wife of Hong Pansa and his other concubine (the dancing girl),
seeing how much their lord and master thought of Kil Tong, grew to hate
the latter intensely, and began to lay plans for ridding themselves
of him. They called some mootang, or sorceresses, and explained to
them that their happiness was disturbed by this son of a rival, and
that peace could only be restored to their hearts by the death of
this youth. The witches laughed and said: “Never mind. There is an
old woman who lives by the east gate, tell her to come and prejudice
the father. She can do it, and he will then look after his son.”

The old hag came as requested. Hong Pansa was then in the women’s
apartments, telling them of the wonderful boy, much to their
annoyance. A visitor was announced, and the old woman made a low
bow outside. Hong Pansa asked her what her business was, and she
stated that she had heard of his wonderful son, and came to see him,
to foretell what his future was to be.

Kil Tong came as called, and on seeing him the hag bowed and said:
“Send out all of the people.” She then stated: “This will be a
very great man; if not a king, he will be greater than the king,
and will avenge his early wrongs by killing all his family.” At this
the father called to her to stop, and enjoined strict secrecy upon
her. He sent Kil Tong at once to a strong room, and had him locked
in for safe keeping.

The boy was very sad at this new state of affairs, but as his father
let him have books, he got down to hard study, and learned the Chinese
works on astronomy. He could not see his mother, and his unnatural
father was too afraid to come near him. He made up his mind, however,
that as soon as he could get out he would go to some far off country,
where he was not known, and make his true power felt.

Meanwhile, the unnatural father was kept in a state of continual
excitement by his wicked concubine, who was bent on the destruction
of the son of her rival, and kept constantly before her master the
great dangers that would come to him from being the parent of such a
man as Kil Tong was destined to be, if allowed to live. She showed him
that such power as the boy was destined to possess, would eventually
result in his overthrowal, and with him his father’s house would be
in disgrace, and, doubtless, would be abolished. While if this did
not happen, the son was sure to kill his family, so that, in either
case, it was the father’s clear duty to prevent any further trouble
by putting the boy out of the way. Hong Pansa was finally persuaded
that his concubine was right, and sent for the assassins to come and
kill his son. But a spirit filled the father with disease, and he
told the men to stay their work. Medicines failed to cure the disease,
and the mootang women were called in by the concubine. They beat their
drums and danced about the room, conjuring the spirit to leave, but it
would not obey. At last they said, at the suggestion of the concubine,
that Kil Tong was the cause of the disorder, and that with his death
the spirit would cease troubling the father.

Again the assassins were sent for, and came with their swords,
accompanied by the old hag from the east gate. While they were
meditating on the death of Kil Tong, he was musing on the unjust
laws of men who allowed sons to be born of concubines, but denied
them rights that were enjoyed by other men.

While thus musing in the darkness of the night, he heard a crow
caw three times and fly away. “This means something ill to me,”
thought he; and just then his window was thrown open, and in stepped
the assassins. They made at the boy, but he was not there. In their
rage they wounded each other, and killed the old woman who was their
guide. To their amazement the room had disappeared, and they were
surrounded by high mountains. A mighty storm arose, and rocks flew
through the air. They could not escape, and, in their terror, were
about to give up, when music was heard, and a boy came riding by on
a donkey, playing a flute. He took away their weapons, and showed
himself to be Kil Tong. He promised not to kill them, as they begged
for their lives, but only on condition that they should never try to
kill another man. He told them that he would know if the promise was
broken, and, in that event, he would instantly kill them.

Kil Tong went by night to see his father, who thought him a spirit,
and was very much afraid. He gave his father medicine, which instantly
cured him; and sending for his mother, bade her good-by, and started
for an unknown country.

His father was very glad that the boy had escaped, and lost his
affection for his wicked concubine. But the latter, with her mistress,
was very angry, and tried in vain to devise some means to accomplish
their evil purposes.

Kil Tong, free at last, journeyed to the south, and began to ascend
the lonely mountains. Tigers were abundant, but he feared them not,
and they seemed to avoid molesting him. After many days, he found
himself high up on a barren peak enveloped by the clouds, and enjoyed
the remoteness of the place, and the absence of men and obnoxious
laws. He now felt himself a free man, and the equal of any, while
he knew that heaven was smiling upon him and giving him powers not
accorded to other men.

Through the clouds at some distance he thought he espied a huge
stone door in the bare wall of rock. Going up to it, he found it to
be indeed a movable door, and, opening it, he stepped inside, when,
to his amazement, he found himself in an open plain, surrounded by
high and inaccessible mountains. He saw before him over two hundred
good houses, and many men, who, when they had somewhat recovered
from their own surprise, came rushing upon him, apparently with evil
intent. Laying hold upon him they asked him who he was, and why he
came trespassing upon their ground. He said: “I am surprised to find
myself in the presence of men. I am but the son of a concubine, and
men, with their laws, are obnoxious to me. Therefore, I thought to
get away from man entirely, and, for that reason, I wandered alone
into these wild regions. But who are you, and why do you live in this
lone spot? Perhaps we may have a kindred feeling.”

“We are called thieves,” was answered; “but we only despoil the hated
official class of some of their ill-gotten gains. We are willing to
help the poor unbeknown, but no man can enter our stronghold and depart
alive, unless he has become one of us. To do so, however, he must prove
himself to be strong in body and mind. If you can pass the examination
and wish to join our party, well and good; otherwise you die.”

This suited Kil Tong immensely, and he consented to the
conditions. They gave him various trials of strength, but he chose his
own. Going up to a huge rock on which several men were seated, he laid
hold of it and hurled it to some distance, to the dismay of the men,
who fell from their seat, and to the surprised delight of all. He was
at once installed a member, and a feast was ordered. The contract
was sealed by mingling blood from the lips of all the members with
blood similarly supplied by Kil Tong. He was then given a prominent
seat and served to wine and food.

Kil Tong soon became desirous of giving to his comrades some
manifestation of his courage. An opportunity presently offered. He
heard the men bemoaning their inability to despoil a large and strong
Buddhist temple not far distant. As was the rule, this temple in the
mountains was well patronized by officials, who made it a place of
retirement for pleasure and debauch, and in return the lazy, licentious
priests were allowed to collect tribute from the poor people about,
till they had become rich and powerful. The several attempts made
by the robber band had proved unsuccessful, by virtue of the number
and vigilance of the priests, together with the strength of their
enclosure. Kil Tong agreed to assist them to accomplish their design
or perish in the attempt, and such was their faith in him that they
readily agreed to his plans.

On a given day Kil Tong, dressed in the red gown of a youth, just
betrothed, covered himself with the dust of travel, and mounted on a
donkey, with one robber disguised as a servant, made his way to the
temple. He asked on arrival to be shown to the head priest, to whom
he stated that he was the son of Hong Pansa, that his noble father
having heard of the greatness of this temple, and the wisdom of its
many priests, had decided to send him with a letter, which he produced,
to be educated among their numbers. He also stated that a train of one
hundred ponies loaded with rice had been sent as a present from his
father to the priest, and he expected they would arrive before dark,
as they did not wish to stop alone in the mountains, even though
every pony was attended by a groom, who was armed for defense. The
priests were delighted, and having read the letter, they never for
a moment suspected that all was not right. A great feast was ordered
in honor of their noble scholar, and all sat down before the tables,
which were filled so high that one could hardly see his neighbor on the
opposite side. They had scarcely seated themselves and indulged in the
generous wine, when it was announced that the train of ponies laden
with rice had arrived. Servants were sent to look after the tribute,
and the eating and drinking went on. Suddenly Kil Tong clapped his
hand, over his cheek with a cry of pain, which drew the attention of
all. When, to the great mortification of the priests, he produced from
his mouth a pebble, previously introduced on the sly, and exclaimed:
“Is it to feed on stones that my father sent me to this place? What
do you mean by setting such rice before a gentleman?”

The priests were filled with mortification and dismay, and bowed
their shaven heads to the floor in humiliation. When at a sign from
Kil Tong, a portion of the robbers, who had entered the court as
grooms to the ponies, seized the bending priests and bound them as
they were. The latter shouted for help, but the other robbers, who
had been concealed in the bags, which were supposed to contain rice,
seized the servants, while others were loading the ponies with jewels,
rice, cash and whatever of value they could lay hands upon.

An old priest who was attending to the fires, seeing the uproar,
made off quietly to the yamen near by and called for soldiers. The
soldiers were sent after some delay, and Kil Tong, disguised as
a priest, called to them to follow him down a by-path after the
robbers. While he conveyed the soldiers over this rough path,
the robbers made good their escape by the main road, and were soon
joined in their stronghold by their youthful leader, who had left the
soldiers groping helplessly in the dark among the rocks and trees in
a direction opposite that taken by the robbers.

The priests soon found out that they had lost almost all their riches,
and were at no loss in determining how the skilful affair had been
planned and carried out. Kil Tong’s name was noised abroad, and it
was soon known that he was heading a band of robbers, who, through
his assistance, were able to do many marvellous things. The robber
band were delighted at the success of his first undertaking, and made
him their chief, with the consent of all. After sufficient time had
elapsed for the full enjoyment of their last and greatest success,
Kil Tong planned a new raid.

The Governor of a neighboring province was noted for his overbearing
ways and the heavy burdens that he laid upon his subjects. He was
very rich, but universally hated, and Kil Tong decided to avenge the
people and humiliate the Governor, knowing that his work would be
appreciated by the people, as were indeed his acts at the temple. He
instructed his band to proceed singly to the Governor’s city–the
local capital–at the time of a fair, when their coming would not
cause comment. At a given time a portion of them were to set fire
to a lot of straw-thatched huts outside the city gates, while the
others repaired in a body to the Governor’s yamen. They did so. The
Governor was borne in his chair to a place where he could witness the
conflagration, which also drew away the most of the inhabitants. The
robbers bound the remaining servants, and while some were securing
money, jewels, and weapons, Kil Tong wrote on the walls: “The wicked
Governor that robs the people is relieved of his ill-gotten gains by
Kil Tong–the people’s avenger.”

Again the thieves made good their escape, and Kil Tong’s name
became known everywhere. The Governor offered a great reward for his
capture, but no one seemed desirous of encountering a robber of such
boldness. At last the King offered a reward after consulting with his
officers. When one of them said he would capture the thief alone,
the King was astonished at his boldness and courage, and bade him
be off and make the attempt. The officer was called the Pochang;
he had charge of the prisons, and was a man of great courage.

The Pochang started on his search, disguised as a traveller. He took
a donkey and servant, and after travelling many days he put up at
a little inn, at the same time that another man on a donkey rode
up. The latter was Kil Tong in disguise, and he soon entered into
conversation with the man, whose mission was known to him.

“I goo,” said Kil Tong, as he sat down to eat, “this is a dangerous
country. I have just been chased by the robber Kil Tong till the life
is about gone out of me.”

“Kil Tong, did you say?” remarked Pochang. “I wish he would chase
me. I am anxious to see the man of whom we hear so much.”

“Well, if you see him once you will be satisfied,” replied Kil Tong.

“Why?” asked the Pochang. “Is he such a fearful-looking man as to
frighten one by his aspect alone?”

“No; on the contrary he looks much as do ordinary mortals. But we
know he is different, you see.”

“Exactly,” said the Pochang. “That is just the trouble. You are
afraid of him before you see him. Just let me get a glimpse of him,
and matters will be different, I think.”

“Well,” said Kil Tong, “you can be easily pleased, if that is all,
for I dare say if you go back into the mountains here you will see him,
and get acquainted with him too.”

“That is good. Will you show me the place?”

“Not I. I have seen enough of him to please me. I can tell you where
to go, however, if you persist in your curiosity,” said the robber.

“Agreed!” exclaimed the officer. “Let us be off at once lest he
escapes. And if you succeed in showing him to me, I will reward you
for your work and protect you from the thief.”

After some objection by Kil Tong, who appeared to be reluctant to
go, and insisted on at least finishing his dinner, they started
off, with their servants, into the mountains. Night overtook them,
much to the apparent dismay of the guide, who pretended to be very
anxious to give up the quest. At length, however, they came to the
stone door, which was open. Having entered the robber’s stronghold,
the door closed behind them, and the guide disappeared, leaving the
dismayed officer surrounded by the thieves. His courage had now left
him, and he regretted his rashness. The robbers bound him securely
and led him past their miniature city into an enclosure surrounded
by houses which, by their bright colors, seemed to be the abode of
royalty. He was conveyed into a large audience-chamber occupying the
most extensive building of the collection, and there, on a sort of
throne, in royal style, sat his guide. The Pochang saw his mistake,
and fell on his face, begging for mercy. Kil Tong upbraided him
for his impudence and arrogance and promised to let him off this
time. Wine was brought, and all partook of it. That given to the
officer was drugged, and he fell into a stupor soon after drinking
it. While in this condition he was put into a bag and conveyed in a
marvellous manner to a high mountain overlooking the capital. Here
he found himself upon recovering from the effects of his potion;
and not daring to face his sovereign with such a fabulous tale, he
cast himself down from the high mountain, and was picked up dead, by
passers-by, in the morning. Almost at the same time that His Majesty
received word of the death of his officer, and was marvelling at the
audacity of the murderer in bringing the body almost to the palace
doors, came simultaneous reports of great depredations in each of the
eight provinces. The trouble was in each case attributed to Kil Tong,
and the fact that he was reported as being in eight far removed places
at the same time caused great consternation.

Official orders were issued to each of the eight governors to catch
and bring to the city, at once, the robber Kil Tong. These orders were
so well obeyed that upon a certain day soon after, a guard came from
each province bringing Kil Tong, and there in a line stood eight men
alike in every respect.

The King on inquiry found that Kil Tong was the son of Hong Pansa,
and the father was ordered into the royal presence. He came with his
legitimate son, and bowed his head in shame to the ground. When asked
what he meant by having a son who would cause such general misery
and distress, he swooned away, and would have died had not one of the
Kil Tongs produced some medicine which cured him. The son, however,
acted as spokesman, and informed the King that Kil Tong was but the
son of his father’s slave, that he was utterly incorrigible, and had
fled from home when a mere boy. When asked to decide as to which was
his true son, the father stated that his son had a scar on the left
thigh. Instantly each of the eight men pulled up the baggy trousers and
displayed a scar. The guard was commanded to remove the men and kill
all of them; but when they attempted to do so the life had disappeared,
and the men were found to be only figures in straw and wax.

Soon after this a letter was seen posted on the Palace gate, announcing
that if the government would confer upon Kil Tong the rank of Pansa,
as held by his father, and thus remove from him the stigma attaching
to him as the son of a slave, he would stop his depredations. This
proposition could not be entertained at first, but one of the counsel
suggested that it might offer a solution of the vexed question, and
they could yet be spared the disgrace of having an officer with such
a record. For, as he proposed, men could be so stationed that when
the newly-appointed officer came to make his bow before His Majesty,
they could fall upon him and kill him before he arose. This plan
was greeted with applause, and a decree was issued conferring the
desired rank; proclamations to that effect being posted in public
places, so that the news would reach Kil Tong. It did reach him,
and he soon appeared at the city gate. A great crowd attended him
as he rode to the Palace gates; but knowing the plans laid for him,
as he passed through the gates and came near enough to be seen of the
King, he was caught up in a cloud and borne away amid strange music;
wholly discomfiting his enemies.

Some time after this occurrence the King was walking with a few eunuchs
and attendants in the royal gardens. It was evening time, but the full
moon furnished ample light. The atmosphere was tempered just to suit;
it was neither cold nor warm, while it lacked nothing of the bracing
character of a Korean autumn. The leaves were blood-red on the maples;
the heavy cloak of climbing vines that enshrouded the great wall near
by was also beautifully colored. These effects could even be seen
by the bright moonlight, and seated on a hill-side the royal party
were enjoying the tranquillity of the scene, when all were astonished
by the sound of a flute played by some one up above them. Looking up
among the tree-tops a man was seen descending toward them, seated upon
the back of a gracefully moving stork. The King imagined it must be
some heavenly being, and ordered the chief eunuch to make some proper
salutation. But before this could be done, a voice was heard saying:
“Fear not, O King. I am simply Hong Pansa [Kil Tong’s new title]. I
have come to make my obeisance before your august presence and be
confirmed in my rank.”

This he did, and no one attempted to molest him; seeing which, the
King, feeling that it was useless longer to attempt to destroy a man
who could read the unspoken thoughts of men, said:

“Why do you persist in troubling the country? I have removed from
you now the stigma attached to your birth. What more will you have?”

“I wish,” said Kil Tong, with due humility, “to go to a distant land,
and settle down to the pursuit of peace and happiness. If I may be
granted three thousand bags of rice I will gladly go and trouble you
no longer.”

“But how will you transport such an enormous quantity of rice?” asked
the King.

“That can be arranged,” said Kil Tong. “If I may be but granted the
order, I will remove the rice at daybreak.”

The order was given. Kil Tong went away as he came, and in the early
morning a fleet of junks appeared off the royal granaries, took on
the rice, and made away before the people were well aware of their

Kil Tong now sailed for an island off the west coast. He found one
uninhabited, and with his few followers he stored his riches, and
brought many articles of value from his former hiding-places. His
people he taught to till the soil, and all went well on the little
island till the master made a trip to a neighboring island, which was
famous for its deadly mineral poison,–a thing much prized for tipping
the arrows with. Kil Tong wanted to get some of this poison, and made
a visit to the island. While passing through the settled districts he
casually noticed that many copies of a proclamation were posted up,
offering a large reward to any one who would succeed in restoring
to her father a young lady who had been stolen by a band of savage
people who lived in the mountains.

Kil Tong journeyed on all day, and at night he found himself high up
in the wild mountain regions, where the poison was abundant. Gazing
about in making some preparations for passing the night in this place,
he saw a light, and following it, he came to a house built below him
on a ledge of rocks, and in an almost inaccessible position. He could
see the interior of a large hall, where were gathered many hairy,
shaggy-looking men, eating, drinking, and smoking. One old fellow, who
seemed to be chief, was tormenting a young lady by trying to tear away
her veil and expose her to the gaze of the barbarians assembled. Kil
Tong could not stand this sight, and, taking a poisoned arrow,
he sent it direct for the heart of the villain, but the distance
was so great that he missed his mark sufficiently to only wound the
arm. All were amazed, and in the confusion the girl escaped, and Kil
Tong concealed himself for the night. He was seen next day by some
of the savage band, who caught him, and demanded who he was and why
he was found in the mountains. He answered that he was a physician,
and had come up there to collect a certain rare medicine only known
to exist in those mountains.

The robbers seemed rejoiced, and explained that their chief had been
wounded by an arrow from the clouds, and asked him if he could cure
him. Kil Tong was taken in and allowed to examine the chief, when he
agreed to cure him within three days. Hastily mixing up some of the
fresh poison, he put it into the wound, and the chief died almost at
once. Great was the uproar when the death became known. All rushed at
the doctor, and would have killed him, but Kil Tong, finding his own
powers inadequate, summoned to his aid his old friends the spirits
(quay sin), and swords flashed in the air, striking off heads at
every blow, and not ceasing till the whole band lay weltering in
their own blood.

Bursting open a door, Kil Tong saw two women sitting with covered
faces, and supposing them to be of the same strange people, he was
about to dispatch them on the spot, when one of them threw aside her
veil and implored for mercy. Then it was that Kil Tong recognized the
maiden whom he had rescued the previous evening. She was marvellously
beautiful, and already he was deeply smitten with her maidenly
charms. Her voice seemed like that of an angel of peace sent to quiet
the hearts of rough men. As she modestly begged for her life, she told
the story of her capture by the robbers, and how she had been dragged
away to their den, and was only saved from insult by the interposition
of some heavenly being, who had in pity smote the arm of her tormentor.

Great was Kil Tong’s joy at being able to explain his own part in the
matter, and the maiden heart, already won by the manly beauty of her
rescuer, now overflowed with gratitude and love. Remembering herself,
however, she quickly veiled her face, but the mischief had been done;
each had seen the other, and they could henceforth know no peace,
except in each other’s presence.

The proclamations had made but little impression upon Kil Tong,
and it was not till the lady had told her story that he remembered
reading them. He at once took steps to remove the beautiful girl
and her companion in distress, and not knowing but that other of the
savages might return, he did not dare to make search for a chair and
bearers, but mounting donkeys the little party set out for the home
of the distressed parents, which they reached safely in due time. The
father’s delight knew no bounds. He was a subject of Korea’s King, yet
he possessed this island and ruled its people in his own right. And
calling his subjects, he explained to them publicly the wonderful
works of the stranger, to whom he betrothed his daughter, and to whom
he gave his official position.

The people indulged in all manner of gay festivities in honor of the
return of the lost daughter of their chief; in respect to the bravery
of Kil Tong; and to celebrate his advent as their ruler.

In due season the marriage ceremonies were celebrated, and the
impatient lovers were given to each other’s embrace. Their lives
were full of happiness and prosperity. Other outlying islands were
united under Kil Tong’s rule, and no desire or ambition remained
ungratified. Yet there came a time when the husband grew sad, and
tears swelled the heart of the young wife as she tried in vain to
comfort him. He explained at last that he had a presentiment that his
father was either dead or dying, and that it was his duty to go and
mourn at the grave. With anguish at the thought of parting, the wife
urged him to go. Taking a junk laden with handsome marble slabs for
the grave and statuary to surround it, and followed by junks bearing
three thousand bags of rice, he set out for the capital. Arriving,
he cut off his hair, and repaired to his old home, where a servant
admitted him on the supposition that he was a priest. He found his
father was no more; but the body yet remained, because a suitable
place could not be found for the burial. Thinking him to be a priest,
Kil Tong was allowed to select the spot, and the burial took place
with due ceremony. Then it was that the son revealed himself, and
took his place with the mourners. The stone images and monuments
were erected upon the nicely sodded grounds. Kil Tong sent the rice
he had brought, to the government granaries in return for the King’s
loan to him, and regretted that mourning would prevent his paying his
respects to his King; he set out for his home with his true mother
and his father’s legal wife. The latter did not survive long after
the death of her husband, but the poor slave-mother of the bright
boy was spared many years to enjoy the peace and quiet of her son’s
bright home, and to be ministered to by her dutiful, loving children
and their numerous offspring.