Great Flood

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer CheonHyesook(千惠淑)
Date of update 2019-02-11

This legend narrates the story of a great flood in ancient times, which drowns the entire world except for a single mountain peak and two siblings, who wed and become the ancestors of mankind.

A long, long time ago, a great flood turned the entire world into a vast sea, leaving only a brother and sister on a single mountain peak. When the world was drained of all the water, the siblings came down the mountain, but there was no one left. The siblings, worried that this would be the end of mankind, each climbed two mountain peaks that stood close to each other, and the sister rolled down the bedstone (female stone) of a millstone, and the brother rolled down the runner stone (male stone), and the two stones came together in the valley. (Or in another version, they set fire to pine branches and smoke entwined in mid-air.) The siblings viewed this as a sign from the heavens and wed. With this marriage, humanity continued and the siblings became the progenitors of mankind.

Some variations of this tale feature the siblings as progenitors of a specific family; in some the incest motif is taken out and a man appears, carried by a tiger, and weds the sister. Some mountain name origin tales are variations of this legend, the great flood providing the opportunity for the creation of a new nature, as in the narrative formula that goes, “ after the flood, only ___ of the mountain peak remained, which gave the name ___ Mountain. ” The volume units doe and mal ref lected on the Chinese-character names of the mountain, as in Mt. Seungbong and Mt. Dubong.

Some geographical names reflect the use of boats during the Great Flood: Gori (Hook) Peak is said to have been used to tie boats during the flood; and Baeneomijae, which means Boat Crossing Pass. In traditional geomancy, geographical features that resemble sailing boats are called haeng juhyeongguk and villages with such features are believed to have survived the Great Flood, with relics of dock posts. Muneomijae (Water Crossing Pass), a mountain pass near Mt. Gyeryong in Gongju, South Chungcheong Province, is associated with the belief that a future flood will open a whole new world.

In some variations, an old woman’s predictions are ignored, bringing about a collapse, which, along with the above types, make up a category of apocalypse-by-flood legends that result in the creation of a new universe, which in some cases are combined with motifs of place name origin or sibling marriage. Apocalypse-by-f lood legends involve catastrophes like great rains, floods or tidal waves, but there are always survivors and mountains and trees that remain, resulting in a new name for the mountain, which is reborn as a place for new life and a new history, created by the survivors. The surviving siblings ’marriage gives birth to mankind as we know it today, or a specific clan, which signifies the beginning of a new order. The flood, in other words, does not symbolize extinction but mythological rebirth. Flood legends that focus on the apocalypse emphasize human corruption, which brings about the destruction, but even in these cases, there are always survivors. Legends of future floods, on the other hand, reflect the rejection of the current state of the world and the longing for a new one. In conclusion, flood legends, despite their f ragmented narrative tradition, are references that reflect the archetype of Korean apocalypse myths and creation myths.

Great Flood

Great Flood
Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer CheonHyesook(千惠淑)
Date of update 2019-02-11

This legend narrates the story of a great flood in ancient times, which drowns the entire world except for a single mountain peak and two siblings, who wed and become the ancestors of mankind. A long, long time ago, a great flood turned the entire world into a vast sea, leaving only a brother and sister on a single mountain peak. When the world was drained of all the water, the siblings came down the mountain, but there was no one left. The siblings, worried that this would be the end of mankind, each climbed two mountain peaks that stood close to each other, and the sister rolled down the bedstone (female stone) of a millstone, and the brother rolled down the runner stone (male stone), and the two stones came together in the valley. (Or in another version, they set fire to pine branches and smoke entwined in mid-air.) The siblings viewed this as a sign from the heavens and wed. With this marriage, humanity continued and the siblings became the progenitors of mankind. Some variations of this tale feature the siblings as progenitors of a specific family; in some the incest motif is taken out and a man appears, carried by a tiger, and weds the sister. Some mountain name origin tales are variations of this legend, the great flood providing the opportunity for the creation of a new nature, as in the narrative formula that goes, “ after the flood, only ___ of the mountain peak remained, which gave the name ___ Mountain. ” The volume units doe and mal ref lected on the Chinese-character names of the mountain, as in Mt. Seungbong and Mt. Dubong. Some geographical names reflect the use of boats during the Great Flood: Gori (Hook) Peak is said to have been used to tie boats during the flood; and Baeneomijae, which means Boat Crossing Pass. In traditional geomancy, geographical features that resemble sailing boats are called haeng juhyeongguk and villages with such features are believed to have survived the Great Flood, with relics of dock posts. Muneomijae (Water Crossing Pass), a mountain pass near Mt. Gyeryong in Gongju, South Chungcheong Province, is associated with the belief that a future flood will open a whole new world. In some variations, an old woman’s predictions are ignored, bringing about a collapse, which, along with the above types, make up a category of apocalypse-by-flood legends that result in the creation of a new universe, which in some cases are combined with motifs of place name origin or sibling marriage. Apocalypse-by-f lood legends involve catastrophes like great rains, floods or tidal waves, but there are always survivors and mountains and trees that remain, resulting in a new name for the mountain, which is reborn as a place for new life and a new history, created by the survivors. The surviving siblings ’marriage gives birth to mankind as we know it today, or a specific clan, which signifies the beginning of a new order. The flood, in other words, does not symbolize extinction but mythological rebirth. Flood legends that focus on the apocalypse emphasize human corruption, which brings about the destruction, but even in these cases, there are always survivors. Legends of future floods, on the other hand, reflect the rejection of the current state of the world and the longing for a new one. In conclusion, flood legends, despite their f ragmented narrative tradition, are references that reflect the archetype of Korean apocalypse myths and creation myths.