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10. Sapsarees in Folktales

Particularly, the Sapsaree story that involves Minister Hee Hwang, who lived in the village of Bang-chon, portrays the tough temperament of Sapsarees and is very interesting. We can tell by the village's name, Bang-chon, which means the village of Sapsaree, that the village must have had a deep connection to the Sapsarees. Minister Hwang 's glare was so intense that, with just a single glare from his eyes, the minister could frighten and kill any weak hearted people or animal that dared to look at him. During the minister's old age, he took a Sapsaree and glared at it with all his might, but the dog did not budge at all. After this, the minister was said to have lamented over his closeness to death. Whether it was the minister's old age or the Sapsaree's powerful temperament that the Sapsaree did not budge, Sapsarees are clearly not of the ordinary.

One can notice the frequent appearance of Lion Dogs in Chosun Dynasty's dictionary of Chinese characters. Because the people at that time never had a chance to see a lion, they substituted a Sapsaree for a lion, and, consequently, gave the nickname "Lion Dog" to Sapsarees. The Sapsaree's appearance might have been a big factor in this nomenclature, but its temperament and nature were powerful enough that the people placed Sapsarees as the king of dogs. Besides "lion dogs," Sapsarees had other names such as "Shin-sun," which means a Taoist hermit with supernatural powers, and "Sun-bang." People may have thought that the Sapsaree's ability to identify its master despite eyes covered by hair and their dumb appearance, was interesting. When a white-coated Sapsaree would run with the wind, people may have compared it to a do-sa, or an ascetic, dwlling in the mountains.

There is a story about a Sapsaree that saved its master from a grim reaper. Long ago, there was an old man who raised a large yellow Sapsaree and, one day, because the Sapsaree kept on barking, the old man told his son to take the dog and eat it. The night before the Sapsaree's scheduled death, the Sapsaree said this touching statement to a dog next-door: "Until now, it was I who protected the master from the grim reaper, but, because the master does not like to hear my noise anymore, it seems that both my master's and my fate are over now." With the death of the Sapsaree that blocked the grim reaper, the old man ends up dying. Whether the Sapsarees can really see ghosts or drive away evil spirits, these stories of good-luck dogs that are believed to have brought fortune to one's household clearly speaks of the long-lasting trustworthiness of Sapsarees.

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