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"Nam-I and the Taffy Vendor" by Oh Young-soo

#Books on Demand l 2020-07-14

Books on Demand

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A fat bee flew in from nowhere and buzzed around Nam-I’s face.


Then the bee landed on the front of her top and started crawling up the blouse. 

The taffy vendor, with his eyes glued to the bee, jumped forward and struck the insect on her breasts with his palm. 


Flustered, Nam-I’s ears grew red and took a step backward, letting the bee fall into the vendor’s hand. 


With an angry buzz, it stung the young man’s palm. 


The sight of him shaking off the bee and blowing his palm in pain amused Nam-I so much that she covered her mouth with the back of her hand and giggled. 


The vendor watched Nam-I with half of his face contorted in pain and half smiling. As he watched the girl, the first thought that entered his mind was that her canine teeth were adorable. 


이 때 난데없이 굵다란 벌 한 마리가 날아와

남이의 얼굴 주위를 잉잉 날아돌더니

남이 저고리 앞섶에 붙어 가슴패기로 기어오르고 있다.

조마조마 보고 있던 엿장수는 한 걸음에 뛰어들어 손바닥으로 벌을 딱 덮어 눌렀다.

남이는 당황하면서도 귀 언저리를 붉히고 한 걸음 뒤로 물러서자,

이번엔 그만 엿장수의 손바닥을 쏘아 버렸다.

엿장수가 쥐었던 손을 펴 불며 털며 하는 꼴이 남이는 어떻게나 우스웠던지 

그만 손등으로 입을 가리고 킥킥하고 웃어 버렸다.

엿장수는 반은 울상, 반은 웃는 상, 남이를 바라보는데 남이의 송곳니가 무척 예뻐 보였다.



So, the rubber shoes that the children traded for taffy sticks appeared to have helped to kindle a new romantic relationship between the two young people. 



The taffy vendor always came around and, once there, refused to go anywhere else. On some days he was all smiles and on those days he generously passed out taffy sticks to children. But on the days when he remained glum and silent like a deaf person, the children couldn’t even get a lick of taffy. 


These days, he applied a heavy amount of grease on his long, unkempt hair before struggling to comb it back. He would also wear a jade-colored vest made of artificial silk. 


“Look at you! Did you get married or something?”


When nosy village matrons made such comments, the taffy vendor would smile sheepishly and turn his broad face sideways to avoid their stare. 


엿장수는 한결같이 왔고, 와서는 갈 줄을 몰랐다.

어떤 날을 싱글벙글 웃었고, 웃는 날은 애들에게 엿을 나눠 주었으나

벙어리처럼 덤덤히 앉았다가 가는 날은 엿 맛을 못 보았다.

그렇기에 아이들은 엿장수가 오면 

옆판보다 먼저 엿장수 눈치부터 보는 버릇이 생겼다.


요즘은 더 텁수룩한 머리에다가 기름 칠갑을 해 가지고는

억지로 빗어 넘기고 또 옥색 인조견 조끼도 입었다.

“엿장수 요새 장가갔는가 베?”

낯익은 동네 아낙네들이 이런 얘기라도 할라치면

엿장수는 수줍게도 씩 웃으며 그 펑퍼짐한 얼굴을 모로 돌리곤 했다.



Interview by literature critic Jeon So-yeong

The author never says that Nam-I and the taffy vendor are enamored with each other. He uses other peripheral features to illustrate their feelings. For instance, when their romance begins to develop, the author uses nature to describe their emotional states, like how the weather was nice, how heat rose up from the ground, and the flowers blossoming in full. Their feelings for each other are likened to nature. 




Oh Young-soo (Feb. 11, 1909~May 15, 1979)

: Debuted with short story “Wild Grapes”

Won the 1st Korean Literature Association in 1955, etc.

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