Hanna and the Glass Turtle

Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Hanna. She lived with her family in a humble little apartment, but their home was warm and filled with laughter.

One day, Hanna was playing hide-and-seek with the other children in the neighborhood when she wandered too far and discovered a mysterious glass turtle in a part of the city she had never been before. It glowed cheerfully in many colors and gave a pleasing tinkle! when it shook. Delighted, Hanna ran back home to show her family her strange new toy.

She had just reached the door when a wart-covered goblin came riding down the hall on a dark cloud and roared: “Give me the turtle or I’ll curse you!”

haesoo visual
Drawing by Haesoo Kim

Hanna became angry. Who was this rude ugly creature? She kicked the goblin’s warty shin and drove him away.

As the goblin retreated, he screamed, “Bibbity bobbity boo! A curse I place on you!”

A flash! A tremble! Then all was quiet, and the goblin was nowhere to be seen. Hanna skipped inside her home, believing all was well.

The next day, a terrible storm shook the city. Howling winds tore buildings from the ground while lightning burned whole streets and black rain pounded dents into the roofs. The goblin had sent the calamitous spirit Eeju to torment Hanna!

Eeju was the incarnation of movement and chaos and had a body made of gray whirlwinds. With its cursed breath, the evil spirit blew Hanna and her family to an unfamiliar place on the other side of the world. There, it continued to buffet them from place to place, never allowing them to settle down.

For seven years, Eeju forced Hanna to move again and again, but she never despaired of finding her home. One night, she dreamt that the glass turtle came alive and spoke to her.

“I am the guardian of Happiness and Good Luck,” it said. “You protected me from the evil goblin, and for your kindness, I will tell you how to defeat the spirit Eeju and protect your home.”

It beckoned to the girl. “Eeju is a wayward spirit and easily swayed. Find something of yours to hold Eeju’s interest and put it in the spirit’s core. Go now while the spirit sleeps!”

Hanna awoke with the turtle’s words still echoing in her ears. She got up and found the stormy spirit snoring in a tree outside her house. She dug into her pockets and found only a goose feather. Shrugging, she tossed it into the swirling mass of wind that contained the spirit’s core, and went back to bed.

The turtle had spoken true! The flighty spirit turned its interest away from Hanna and turned to geese. To this day, if you look up at a certain time each year, you can see Eeju chasing flocks of geese across the sky.

But, the trouble was not yet over. The goblin had another servant, the vexing spirit Bukkubukku, and he sent this evil spirit to play dastardly tricks on Hanna. Bukkubukku was a spirit of silence, and it tied up Hanna’s tongue so that she could not speak.

Once more, Hanna dreamt that the turtle spoke to her.

“Bukkubukku is a cowardly spirit, and it only bothers those who fear it. You must write an amazing story to show the spirit Bukkubukku that you are not afraid.”

Now, Hanna could no longer speak, but she could read and she could write. For many years, the girl toiled and wrote pages and pages of stories, until at last, she wrote the most beautiful story. She placed the story in front of the spirit, and freed from Bukkubukku’s spell, she declared, “I am not afraid of you, evil spirit!” Bukkubukku took one look at the story and fled in fear of the brazen girl.

The third spirit was the biggest and baddest of them all. It came with creeping terror and spread its phantom tendrils all around Hanna. It was the notorious spirit Mooncha, which had a love for eating human beings. It had a gigantic bloody eyeball and an awful gaping mouth with stinky gums and rotten teeth, and grew hair that dripped with flaming oil. This evil spirit waited by Hanna’s bed and whispered horrible, cruel things to her as she drifted to sleep.

While listening to Mooncha’s whispers one night, Hanna fell asleep and dreamt again of the turtle. This time it said, “You have looked after me all this time, and I am grateful for that. This will be the last time we see each other, but I will leave you with one last hint. Try talking to the spirit Mooncha, for it is a lonely spirit, and can change if you show it kindness.” The turtle faded away, and Hanna awoke.

She turned to the ghastly face and said, “You always talk about me. What about you? Where are you from?”

The spirit blinked its eye in surprise. “Y-you weren’t supposed to talk to me,” it protested.

“I want to know,” she pressed.

From that night on, Hanna asked the evil spirit thousands of questions. They talked about all sorts of things, from the most trivial to their deepest darkest secrets. Hanna began to care for the spirit; she gave it eyedrops to soothe its tired eye and brushed its teeth. She cooked for it, washed its hair, and most importantly, gave it the attention it desired. Eventually, the odd pair – evil spirit and young girl – became good friends.

Seeing his faithful servants fail in their tasks infuriated the goblin. He decided to try once more to take the magic glass turtle from Hanna.

He rode in on his black cloud again and swooped at the girl! But, the spirit Mooncha had warned her and she was prepared. The goblin grabbed here, reached there, but Hanna ducked and dodged the goblin’s writhing hands.

But alas! The turtle slipped out of Hanna’s grip in a moment of haste and fell to the floor. Crash! It exploded into a million glass pieces. From within the shattered body of the turtle, out flew Happiness and Good Luck in small multi-colored bubbles.

Now, it so happens that these bubbles sometimes bump into people and give them good fortune at fateful moments. Knowing this, the goblin tries to steal all the bubbles for his own, but Hanna always battles with him to make the thief release these bubbles back into the world.

You may have felt these small packets of happiness at one time or another. One day, the goblin might go after you to try and take your happiness and good luck away! But just remember the story of how Hanna defeated the evil spirits, and you will be safe.



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