Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Richard Rutt on Jack London's Korea-related fiction

As noted at the Marmot's Hole, Richard Rutt, an Anglican priest and scholar-missionary who served in Korea from 1954-1974, has passed away. His life is remembered by Brother Anthony here.

I've come across pieces written by him several times while searching through old Korea Times articles, and thought I'd post one here. I've written about the exploits of the three foreign correspondents who made it into Korea at the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War before in the following posts:

Part 1: From Japan to Korea
Part 2: In Seoul and Chemulpo
Part 3: Along the coast of Korea
Part 4: R.L. Dunn article about Jack London in Korea

Jack London would go on to write several pieces of fiction influenced by his time in Korea, including the short story "A Nose For The King", written in 1904 and based on a story told to him by a Korean. There is also a chapter in his 1915 novel The Star Rover which is set in Korea. Below is a piece Richard Rutt wrote about this chapter in the October 19, 1970 edition of the Korea Times:

It's not difficult to get a sense of his knowledge about Korea, being able as he was to pinpoint which books London based his story on and to even point to specific instances of odd Romanization by Homer Hulbert as the origin of certain characters' names. London did in fact leave something behind from his experience in Korea - 100 or more pages of his war correspondence. Unfortunately, this wasn't easily available until 1970 - the same year Rutt wrote the above article - when the book Jack London Reports was published. Had he had access to those writings, I'm sure the influence of London's experiences in Korea would have been clearer (James Card looks at that influence briefly here). As it stands, Rutt's article is still the best I've read looking at specific Korean influences on the story.

The chapter of the Star Rover with the Korea-related story can be read here.

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