Jagnhwa Hongreyeon Jeon and A Tale of Two Sisters – Cinderella by another name.

A Tale of Two Sisters

A Tale of Two Sisters may be a Korean Horror at it’s finest.  Not as gory as some of it, but very psychological with an interesting twist.  Apparently, The Uninvited was an American remake of this film.   I never saw The Uninvited. 

It is based on a story called Jagnhwa Hongreyeon Jeon.  The Story of Rose Flower and Red Lotus.  A Tale of Two Sisters is similar and yet very different form this story.  But what is really interesting are the parallels with Western Fairy Tales, such as the evil nature of Stepmothers, only, as in many Eastern Folk Tales, the main female characters die and are only able to find justice after haunting and tormenting those who were responsible. 

It starts out much like Cinderella, where a man and woman have two daughters who are loved.  Prior to the birth of each girl, the mother had a dream about each one.  The mother dies when they are young.  The father remarries and the stepmother provides him with more children.  In this case she has three sons who will inherit.  The stepmother is cruel to the children from the first marriage and begrudges them anything spent on their upkeep. 

When the father arranges for his oldest daughter’s (Rose Flower’s) marriage, he orders the stepmother to plan the wedding.  (parallel to Cinderella going to the ball) Not wanting to spend any money on the daughter, the stepmother tricks everyone into thinking Rose Flower had a miscarriage, accusing her of unchaste behavior.   Rose Flower flees the house and Stepmother sends First Son to push Rose Flower into the pond where she drowns.

Karma, to steal a point from another culture, is fast.   A tiger comes out of the nearby forest and attacks First Son, taking one leg and one arm.  (sounds a bit like the part where Cinderella’s Stepmother cuts off the toes and heals of her own daughters to make the glass slipper fit)

Now, the Stepmother is even more hateful towards the younger sister, Red Lotus, who follows Rose Flower by dying in the pond in order to escape the unbearable treatment.

After this, Rose Flower and Red Lotus haunt and kill the mayor and anyone who becomes the mayor.  I’m going to make a guess here because it makes no sense that they would be killing the mayor.  Not knowing the civic structure of Korea during the Joseon period, and since it goes from 1392 to 1897, that structure probably changed several times.  I would make an educated guess that the Mayor was responsible for investigating and punishing crimes.   Since Rose Flower’s murder was thought to be a suicide, it was never investigated and this could by why their ghosts fixated on the Mayor rather than the family.

A young man comes to the village to be the new mayor.  He is aware of the deaths but refuses to be intimidated.  So when the ghosts come to him, he asks them who they are, why they are doing these things, and what do they want.  They tell him the story of what happened to them.  And ask him to examine the ‘miscarried fetus’ that the Stepmother used to condemn Rose Flower.

The young mayor summons the Father, Stepmother, and First Son and exhumes the ‘fetus’.  Examining it, he proves it to be a skinned rat.  The Stepmother and First Son are sentenced to death and the Father allowed to go free.  The abuse the Stepmother inflicted had always been hidden from Father so it was believed he knew nothing of this plot against his daughter.

Father marries a third time.  And this time the father dreams about his first children, who want to come back to him, and his new wife becomes pregnant and delivers twin daughters who he names after the first two daughters.  The new family lives happily ever after. 

I have no idea what happened to Stepmother’s second and third sons.  The only English version I can find of this story is on Wikipedia.  Everything else leads to the movies based on this story.  I cannot find a good date for when the folk tale first turns up and I can’t find out what happened to the other sons.


Of course, this leads me back to the movie, A Tale of Two Sister.  Like a lot of Korean Horror movies, it is told partly in this time and partly in flash backs.  Near the end, it becomes more difficult to tell what is what and sometimes the Western viewer is lost and confused by the ending. 

In a Tale of Two Sisters, the girl’s names mean Flower and Lotus but the language itself seems to have changed a lot.  The movie starts near the end of the tale; the girls come back from a psych ward after their mother’s death.  Their mother had been ill for a long time.  So the father hired a nurse to help tend to her.  The nurse wasn’t very nice to the girls.  Father became attracted to the nurse and one of the daughters sees them.  She runs to her mother who comforts her.  Not long after, the same daughter goes to see her mother again and finds that the mother has killed herself by tying a noose to the wardrobe and letting her weight bear down and asphyxiate herself. 

The daughters, once they come home again, keep trying to convince the father of what a bad woman the nurse was.  As the flashbacks get more frequent, the rest of the back story is revealed and to discuss anymore of it is to reveal the twist.

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