DAME SAMSHIN, THE CHILDBIRTH HELPER
translation by E. Henry
A long time ago the king of the Eastern Sea took the daughter of the king of the Western Sea as a
The Eastern Sea king and his wife lived in perfect conjugal harmony, but they had one worry—as
they passed the age of thirty and approached the age of forty, they had no child.
Wishing to seek a child, the couple made their way to Kuang-eum Sa, a famous temple, and offered
up a hundred and one prayers. Some time after that a child was born to them—it proved to be a most
attractive little girl.
The sea king and his wife were good-natured so they didn’t know any (child-rearing) skills. The
treasured daughter they had obtained was so cute that even if she were to be thrust into their eyes, they
would feel no pain. [an idiom; means: “she could do no wrong in their eyes.”]
And because they raised the child whom they thought so cute by saying yes to everything, the child
came to grow up without manners. She behaved thoughtlessly to elders, and did nothing that was seemly.
At the age of one, she struck her mother’s breasts; at the age of two, she jumped up at her father and
pulled on his beard. And not only that—at the age of three she scattered grain about in the courtyard for
fun; at the age of four, she perpetrated unfilial acts against the family’s ancestors; and at the age of five
she quarreled with the family’s relatives, treating them like enemies.
Due to his daughter, the sea king was afflicted with headaches. The older she got the more were her
offenses; it was impossible simply to ignore them.
And so, having no other recourse, the sea king considered killing his daughter, but because his wife
wept at this, he wavered.
“She is still our beloved flesh and blood—so how can we subject her to death? It would be preferable
to drive the girl away to some distant place.”
Because he felt ill at ease about the matter, the sea king accepted his wife’s suggestion. So it occurred
to him to have craftsmen make a great cast iron box in which he would place his daughter; then he would
launch the box on the ocean water.
When the cast iron box had been made, the sea king summoned his daughter and spoke to her.
“Get into the box at once.”
Astonished, the sea king’s daughter looked back at her mother.
“Mother, Am I to get into the box?”
The mother replied.
“Once the cast iron box is launched into the oceans’s waters, it will reach the human world.”
“If I go to the human world, what shall I do to eat and live? I don’t know how to farm, nor do I know
how to carry on a business.”
“Don’t worry. There is no Samshin in the human world to help people with childbirth, so if you do
that work, you’ll be able to feed yourself.”
“What must one do to give birth to children?”
“Babies are born through the bodies of their mothers, but before this, it is necessary to mix the blood
of the father and the mother. If this is done, in ten months time, bone and flesh will come into being…