The pansori Sugungga is an adaptation of "A Tale of Rabbit and Turtle."
Sugungga is considered to be more exciting and farcical than the other pansoris because of its personification of animals. The satire is more frank and humorous. It has serious parts as well in the characters of the king and loyal retainers. Therefore Sugungga is regarded as the "small Jeokbyeokga;" so Pansori singers sing those parts earnestly. Sugungga is based on the story of the Dragon King of the Southern Sea, a terrapin, and a wily rabbit. This story is believed to have stemmed from a tale about a terrapin and a rabbit in the early period of the Silla Dynasty. The theme of this story is the relationship of subject to king.
The Dragon King of the Southern Sea is suffering from an ailment that can be cured only with the liver of a rabbit. The king thereupon summons all the ministers to look for the liver of a rabbit on the ground. The terrapin volunteers his service to journey to a forest and return with a rabbit.
The terrapin succeeds in doing this by luring the rabbit with the wonderful prospects of living in the palace. The rabbit, after discovering his danger at the palace, coaxes the King into allowing him to return to the forest by explaining that his liver was so much in demand that it finally became necessary to conceal it in a secret place and that he had, therefore, come without it.
Upon hearing this, the Dragon King of the Southern Sea grants the rabbit permission to go back to the forest with the terrapin after the rabbit promises that he will return with his liver. Once in the forest, the rabbit ridicules the King's and terrapin's stupidity and is never seen again. But the rabbit is also actually quite moved by the terrapin's faithfulness to the King.
The highlight of the song is the rabbit coaxing the king. This scene depicts conflicts between prey and predator vividly, exciting the audience. After that the king is deceived by the rabbit, and the rabbit curses out the terrapin. This widely known part is an example of deoneum by master singer of pansori, Dal Yeum-gye. As the rabbit overcomes the crisis and feels relieved, so does the audience. The common people who lived a hard life under the feudal system might have gained wisdom from the rabbit.
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