Solar and Lunar Eclipse(日食、月食)
The legend“ Ilsik, Wolsik” is a cosmological creation narrative that tells the story of how bulgae (fire dogs) from the Dark World caused the phenomena of solar and lunar eclipses.
The section titled “Bulgae ” from Hanguguiseolhwa (Folk Tales From Korea) narrates the story as follows:
A long time ago among the many heavenly kingdoms was Gamangnara (Dark World), whose king, concerned about the darkness surrounding his kingdom, ordered a fierce fire dog that belonged to one of his subjects to steal the sun and the moon. The fire dog tried to carry the sun in his mouth, but it was too hot and the dog could not hold on to it, and gave up. The failed attempt made the king angry, and he ordered a more ferocious dog the steal the moon. But when the dog tried to carry the moon in its mouth, the moon was so cold that its mouth froze. The dog tried many more times to bite the moon with its teeth, but in the end gave up and came back. The king did not give up, however, and continued to send more fire dogs, but they all failed each time. It is believed that during a solar or lunar eclipse, the dark sections are where the fire dogs from Gamaknara are biting the sun or the moon.
Bulgae, literally meaning fire dogs, refer to “strong and fierce dogs, ” or in some recorded versions, to“ hairy dogs, ” which are likely to be the indigenous Korean dog breed sapsari, the name meaning“ ghost-chasing dog.” Dogs have long had a presence in Korean culture, starting from the tomb murals of Goguryeo, representing unrelenting strength. The challenge of the fire dogs in this legend speak for the people’s yearning for liberation from the king of the Dark World—in other words, the progressive spirit of the Korean people in pursuit of cosmic glory.