Primary Source

The Squirt Gun

Drawing of a boy squirting another in the face with a water gun.


Published in 1946 for an audience of affluent, book-buying families in Seoul, Grapes and Beads realistically describes the daily lives of children in the poorer countryside with affection and respect. These interlocking stories feature a neighborhood group of young girls and boys, and include traditional Korean gender roles, foodways, games, and clothing.  In “Squirt Gun,” author Hyŏn Tŏk shows how a conflict between two little boys, Giddong and No-ma, reflects a larger problem of economic inequality, as well as the power of a child’s own personal resilience and imagination. “Courage” also examines conflict between Giddong and No-ma.

This source is included as part of the Korean Colonial-Era Children’s Literature Source Collection.


물딱총 기동이는 물딱총을 가졌습니다. 대야에다 물을 떼다놓고 꾸욱 뽑아올려 듬뿍 물을 재가지고는 찌익찌익 아무데고 물을 뿜습니 다. 담벼락을 적십니다. 석가래를 적십니다. 공중을 대고 놓아 판장 넘어로 남의집 장독에다 물을 끼얹습니다. 그리고 기동이는 막 삐깁니다. 사실 그럴만도 합니다. 높드란 버드나무 위까지 물은 튀어올라갑니다. 나뭇가지에 한눈을 팔고 앉았던 까치도 깜짝 놀라 푸드득 날아갑니다. 게까지 물이 올라 갈줄은 까치 그놈도 뜻밖이던게지요. 골목안 아이들은 모두 신기해합니다. 둘레에 모여서서 그 놀라 운 힘에 입들을 버립니다. 그렇지 않던 기동이가 퍽 잘난사람으 로 보입니다. 그리고 기동이도 자기가 아니면 할수없는 재주를 부리는듯 뻐기는것입니다. “너이들은 팔매를 치고 난 물딱총으로 하구, 누가 멀리 가나 내기해, 내기해” 그리고 기동이는, “뎀벼, 뎀벼” 연해 큰소리를 치며 노마를 쳐다봅니다. 어서 덤비라는것이지 요. 그러나 노마는 대들지않습니다. 팔매를 쳐서 이긴대짜 별 신 통할게 없습니다. 물딱총은 물딱총 같은것 끼리 서루 내기를 해 야 재미스럽지 않겠습니까. 기동이는 여전히 큰소립니다. “뎀벼, 뎀비라니깐, 어림 없구나” 그리고 골목밖 큰길을 향해 찌익찌익. 그야 물딱총만 가졌으면 노만들 하지 못할 재주가 아닐텐데 노마는 입에 손구락을 물고 물끄럼이 바라보기만 합니다. 그러나

“나두 좀…” “뭐” “나두좀 해보자” 노마는 손을 내미는거지만 기동이는, “물떠 오면 주지” 그래 노마는 자기집 부엌에 가서 어머니 몰래 물 한대야를 떠 내왔습니다. 그러나 기동이는 시침이를 뗍니다. 연방 쭈욱 빨아올려다가는 찌익, 그러는대로 대야의 물은 줄어듭니다. 노마는 주기만 기다 리고 있다가는 안되겠습니다. “너, 물떠오믄 준댔지” “이번 한번만 하구” 그러나 한번만 한번만으로 또 대야의 물을 거진 다 말리는것입 니다. 물은 자꾸 줄어듭니다. 마침내 노마는 기동이 앞을 가루

막습니다. “너, 물 떠오면 준댔지” “이번 꼭 한번만하구, 정말야” 그리고 천천이 뽑아올려 듬뿍 물을 재가지고는 일어스더니, 갑 자기, “에따 받아라” 노마 얼굴에다 대고 찌익. 그만 노마는 물벼락을 맞고 어이 어 이 웁니다. 어머니가 들창으로 내다 보시더니 신을 끌며 나와, 노마를 이끌 어 가십니다. “그런 나쁜애하고는 당초에 놀지말랬지. 이게 무슨 꼴이냐” 치맛자락으로 노마 얼굴을 씻기고 혼자 마당에서 놀라고 발판 을 내주십니다. 전에도 노마는 그걸 가루 타고 자동차라고 뿡뿡 뿡뿡하며 놀던것입니다. 그러나 지금은 그건 거들떠보지도 않고 “나두, 물딱총 사줘. 기동이는 그것가지고 막 뻐기는데 난 없구 흥” “그애는 있는집 아이니까 그렇지. 어떻게 없는집 자식이 남과 똑 같이 하니” 아무리 조른대야 소용 없는 노마네집 형편입니다. 그러나 노마 는 새로운 설움으로 울음이 나오고, 그 눈물 어린 눈으로 보면 부 지깽이도 빨랫방망이도 기둥까지도 모두 물딱총으로 보이고, 노마 는 차츰 어떻게 하면 물딱총을 만들수 있을가, 울음을 그치고 곰 곰히 생각해 봅니다.


Giddong has a squirt gun. Put water in a basin, fill the squirt gun with plenty of water, and shoot it out anywhere.
Wet the wall.
Wet the rafters.
Giddong squirts water midair and soaks the neighbors’ jangdok [Traditional Korean jar for storage or fermenting] right over the wall.
And Giddong boasts of his glory all around. This is understandable, however. A jet of water shoots up to the top of the willow tree. A magpie resting on a willow branch takes flight, surprised. The magpie probably did not guess the water would ever reach so far.

All the neighbor children in the alley are fascinated. They gather around and open their mouths in amazement at the gun’s power. Giddong did not look cool before, but he looks pretty cool now. And Giddong is boasting as if he is the only one with an amazing skill.

“You guys throw stones, and I’ll shoot with my water gun, and we’ll make a bet who goes farther. Make a bet!”

Giddong shouts “Fight with me! Fight with me!” while looking at No-ma. He wants No-ma to accept the challenge. But No-ma does not. He thinks there is nothing wonderful about winning with squirt gun against throwing stones.

It would be more fun for a squirt gun to compete against a squirt gun and bet against each other.

Giddong is still shouting.
“Fight with me! Fight with me, you wimp!
And he squirts streams of water to the main street outside the alley. If No-ma also had a squirt gun, he also would be able to do the same, but now he just bites his finger and watches.
And then . . .
“Can I...”
“Can I try it out?”
No-ma holds out his hand, and Giddong says,“I’ll let you try if you get me some water.”
So No-ma sneakily gets a bowl of water behind his mother’s back from the kitchen in his house.
Giddong plays innocent. He keeps pumping the water up and squirts it out of his gun as the water in the bowl shrinks. No-ma feels that he cannot wait any longer for Giddong to let him try the gun.
“You said I can try it out if I got you some water.”
“Just one more time.”
But Giddong keeps saying just one more time, just one more time, while using up the whole bowl. The water grows less and less.

Finally, No-ma steps in front of Giddong.
“You said that I can try it out if I got you some water.”
“Just this one more time, really.”
Giddong slowly, slowly pumps up water into his squirt gun, stands up, and suddenly,
“Here. Catch!”
Giddong squirts water right into No-ma’s face. No-ma is splashed with water and cries loudly.

No-ma’s mother, who was watching through a small window, comes out, pulling on her shoes, and leads Noma away.
“I told you not to play with a bad child like him. Look what you have gotten yourself into!”

She wipes No-ma’s face with her skirt and gives him the balpan [mat or shoe rack by the door] to play with in the yard by himself. No-ma had played with it before, riding it and pretending it was a car, honk honk! But he does not even give the balpan a glance now.
“Buy me a squirt gun too. Giddong is showing off with his and I don’t have one!”
“That is because Giddong is from a rich family. How could the poor act the same as the rich?”

It is no use pestering a poor family to give a child what they can’t. But tears come to No-ma’s eyes because his sorrow is new. To his tearful eyes, poker sticks, laundry bats, and even the posts of the house all look like squirt guns.  

But gradually, No-ma stops crying and begins to wonder how to make his own squirt gun.



Translated by Yonghan Tag, DongKyo Oh, Gloria Chun, Sojeong Lee, and Professor SangMee Oh.

From Hyŏn Tŏk, P'odo wa kusŭl, 1946, p. 3-5

How to Cite This Source

"The Squirt Gun," in World History Commons, [accessed May 27, 2024]