The Rabbit’s Liver (Mr. Rabbit and the Dragon King) : Korean folktale

Long ago, the Dragon King, who lives under the Southern Sea, was very sick. Doctors told him the only cure his illness was the liver of a rabbit. Dragon King called all of his advisers; however whales, fishes, squids and lobsters all were afraid of going to the surface. Finally a turtle volunteered, and so it was he who went in search of the rabbit. He came up to a sandy beach, where he found a furry white animal hopping by on its hind legs.

“Excuse me, dear sir,” said the turtle, “but might you be a rabbit.”

“Why, yes, I am,” answered the rabbit. “Why do you ask?”

“I have been sent by His Majesty, the Dragon King. He has sent me to invite a creature of your description to come and be his guest in his wonderful palace under the sea.”

“I would love to visit,” said the rabbit. “But I can’t swim.

 “Oh, do not worry,” said the turtle. “I will take you down on my back.

So the rabbit sat on the turtle’s back and they swam down into the Southern Sea. When they reached the Dragon palace, it didn’t take long for the rabbit to learn that he had been tricked.

“I regret that I must eat your liver to regain my health,” said the Dragon King.

At first the rabbit was terribly scared, but he was clever, and he thought quickly. “Your Majesty,” he said, bowing humbly, “I would like nothing better than to be the one who cures you. But I’m afraid my liver is a very valuable organ, and so I do not travel with it. If I had only known you would be needing it, I would have brought it with me. But at the moment it is safely hidden in a secret place in the forest. Please, Your Majesty, if you will have the turtle take me back to the surface, I will gladly return with my liver. It will be an honor to sacrifice myself for you.”

The Dragon King was very impressed by rabbit’s devotion, and so he gave him permission to return to the world of land to get his liver. The turtle took him back. When they reached back, the rabbit quickly hopped off the turtle’s back and said, “Thank you for the ride … you don’t really believe I keep my liver hidden in the forest, do you?”

“What?” said the turtle. “You mean, you lied to us?”

“Did you think I was really going to let your stupid Dragon King cut me open and take my liver? Ha!” And the clever rabbit hopped off into the forest.

Source: “Korean Folk Tales; in the old, old days, when tigers smoked tobacco pipes” Translated by Heinz Insu Fenkl, Published by