The legend“ Yongssaum ”narrates the story of a man who was asked by a dragon that lived in a pond to help in a dragon fight, and in return for assisting the dragon’s victory, was given a wide plain. The earliest remaining record of this legend is the“ Tale of Dojo (grandfather of Joseon’s founder Yi Seong-gye), included in Yongbieocheonga (Songs of Dragons Flying to Heaven). Other versions include the legends of Jeokji and Gonggeomji in Donggukyeojiseungnam ( Augmented Survey of the Geography of the Eastern Kingdom); and the story of Yi Bu-pyeong in Joseoneupji (Village Records of Joseon), similar to the“ Yugeumi Plain ”tale.
A long time ago, in the village of Yongjeong in Jangyeon, Hwanghae Province, lived a man with the last name Kim, also referred to as the Archer for he was good with arrows. One day Kim had a dream in which Yellow Dragon (Hwangnyong) of the village’s Dragon Pond (Yongso) appeared and told him that Blue Dragon (Cheongnyong) of the West Sea was trying to take away the pond where it had been living for hundreds of years, and asked Kim to shoot the Blue Dragon the following day when the two of them engaged in battle. Kim went to the pond the following day, but he was too frightened as he watched the two dragons fighting and could not shoot his arrow. In his dream the following night, Yellow Dragon again appeared and pleaded for help. Kim went the following morning to the pond and again found the two dragons entangled in a fight, and this time Kim shot and killed Blue Dragon. That night in his dream, Yellow Dragon appeared and said that to repay the favor, it wanted to give Kim the pond water, so that he could turn the wide stretch of waste land in the village into a rice field. Kim began to build an irrigation system with the villagers, when one day during a thunderstorm, lightning struck the mountain that blocked Dragon Pond and the plain, leaving a big cave. Water from Dragon Pond poured through the cave, turning the dry, wide plain into a rice field, measuring thousands of jeongbo. Thus the pond came to be named Yongso (Dragon Pond); the irrigated plain Yongjeongbeol (Dragon Spring Plain); the village Yongjeong (Dragon Spring); and the county Yongyeon (Dragon Lake).
The narrative is transmitted around the country in different variations, the plot shifting according to the result of the protagonist’s engaging in the dragon battle, divided largely into the plot where he is rewarded with good fortune, and one where he fails and the battles is lost. In“ Tale of Dojo, ” in Yongbieocheonga, Dojo shoots Black Dragon (Heungnyong) at the request of White Dragon (Baengnyong), who predicts that Dojo’s descendents will achieve great success, which later materializes as his grandson Yi Seong-gye’s founding of the kingdom of Joseon. The progenitor of the Cheongju Han clan also assists a dragon in a fight and acquires a plain, where he starts the village Daemeori in Chungju, North Chungcheong Province. An example of the type that ends in failure is the legend of Yongdang Pond, transmitted in the village of Wongu in Yeongdeok, North Gyeongsang Province, in which the protagonist makes a mistake that results in the victory of the opponent dragon, and ends in his death and the fall of his family. Variations are also observed in the protagonist’s means of battle, including arrow, sword, and shouting.The two dragons generally battle over the pond or to qualify for heavenly ascension, but in some variations, including the tale of the pond Gonggeomji from Sangju, North Gyeongsang Province, a wife dragon and a concubine dragon fight over the husband dragon. The character of the human protagonist has shifted from heroes like an ancestor of a dynastic progenitor, clan progenitor and renowned archer to a rich man or a servant, which reflects that the mythological significance of the tale has faded over time.
The dragon fight narrative depicts the power struggle between dragon gods (yongsin) to gain control over a region. Its origins lie in the mythological narrative of heroic beings acquiring land by helping a deity engaged in battle and starting a village or kingdom, which over time turned into local legends about place name origins, reflecting the desire of ordinary farmers to own land. The depiction of the dragon as the giver of land is due to the folk worship of dragons as farming gods.