Once upon a time, a poor old man called Bogo lived with his wife, Cho, in a village in Korea. The couple always was grateful for their many gifts.
Bogo was grateful for the sun that shone down upon him as he chopped firewood in the forest; Cho was grateful for the beautiful fabrics she used to make clothing for the villagers. They loved each other, and also loved their little cottage. If they had any regret, it was only that they had long wished to have a child, but that wish had never come true. Still, they did not dwell upon their sadness.
One day their wealthy neighbor came to fetch the clothes he had ordered from Cho. “They are good,” he said, “but I want more,” for the neighbor was a greedy man. He always wanted more than he had. He wanted more children, more clothes, more money, and he never seem satisfied with the gifts he had.
When he was gone, the old man shook his head. “It is too bad that such a man cannot appreciate his life,” he said. He kissed Cho goodbye and set off for work.
Selecting a tree to fell, he raised his ax, but suddenly he heard the most beautiful song come floating down from above. When he looked up, he spied a bright blue bird with feathers that gleamed in the wintry sunshine. “What a magnificent creature you are,” he said to the bird, “and what a lovely voice.” The bird began to sing still more melodically, and then fluttered its wings and flew from its branch, hovering just out of Bogo’s reach.
The old man could not take his eyes off the creature, so when it flew away, he followed it deep into the forest. After a while, Bogo realized he had no idea where he was.
But mesmerized by the bird’s song, he could not help but follow it, and so on he went. At long last, they reached a flowing stream with water bluer than any water Bogo had ever seen. The water flowed over the rocks in the stream bed, and as it flowed, it seemed to sing. The old man, as if enchanted, walked to the edge of the stream, bent down, cupped his hands and drank.
“Oh my heavens,” he said, for the water tasted well than anything he had ever tasted.
Now some people, tasting something so marvelous, would never stop drinking, but not Bogo. He felt so grateful for the simple taste of a few gulps of water that he sat back to enjoy the way it had quenched his thirst. Then he closed his eyes and lay down for a moment, and before he knew what was happening, he was fast asleep.
When Bogo awoke, the sky was filled with the deep golds and pinks of a glorious sunset. He rubbed his eyes. “I must have slept for hours,” he said, and sprang to his feet, never noticing that he no longer felt the aches and pains he had felt for so many years in his tired limbs. He began to run and felt so full of energy that he ran faster than he ever had. Though he had been lost, now he seemed to know the way back home as if he were running in a dream.
When he walked into the house, Cho gasped. “What’s happened to you?” she exclaimed. When Bogo looked in a mirror, he saw that he had turned into his youthful self again. No wonder he felt so full of vigor and strength!
“I have found the pool of youth,” he said. “I’ll take you there.” The next morning at dawn, they walked together deep into the forest. Without any difficulty, Bogo found his way to the pool.
Cho knelt beside the pool and took a few sips of the water. Then she sighed. “How delicious,” she murmured, and closing her eyes, fell asleep.
A few hours later, she awoke, and sure enough, she too had become young again. They ran home, side by side, so grateful for their limber stride that they said prayers of thanks all the way home.
Now when their rich, greedy neighbor saw them, he was amazed. “How did you become so young again?” he asked, and Bogo and Cho told him of the pool of youth. The neighbor begged to know how to find it.
The couple, always generous, happily gave their neighbor the directions to reach the pool. Without even a thank-you, the rich man raced into the forest.
When he had not returned by the next morning, Bogo and Cho grew worried. “What if he has slipped and fallen?” Cho asked. “We must go see if he needs help,” Bogo agreed. So they put aside their work and walked together to the pool.
As they neared the pool, they heard what they thought was the crying of a baby. “What can that be?” they asked, and they hurried along the path.
When they reached the pool, they saw a tiny baby boy, wrapped in the clothes their rich neighbor had been wearing when he departed to find the pool of youth.
Suddenly they understood. The rich man had taken not just a few gulps. He was so greedy that he had drunk and drunk from the pool, and so he had grown younger and younger. Now he was only a baby.
Naturally, the kind couple took the baby home, and that evening they said their thanks for the child they would now raise as their son.