Legends of Natural Creation
This category of legends narrates the origins of nature and natural phenomena of the world, including the sun, moon and stars; terrestrial features like mountains, rivers, ponds, rocks and caves; the sea, islands and bays; flora and fauna. It also includes tales of origins of geographical features.
Some of the most widely observed narratives of natural creation include those of mountains or islands that floated from one location to another, or of mountains that survived a great flood. There are also many tales of the natural creation that involve the giant goddess Magohalmi (Grandmother Mago), whose immense body inspired the mythological imagination about mountains or rocks formed from rocks or mud that she was carrying, or about rivers formed by her urine. These narratives can be categorized as creation myths, but over time the significance of their divine elements has diminished, and are seen as closer to legends of the bizarre, rather than the supernatural. “Yeono and Seo” also contains mythemes related to the creation of the sun and the moon, but is categorized as a legend about the origins of the place name Yeongilhyeon, centering on the event of restoring the sun and moon in the kingdom of Silla. The same applies to the narratives “The Island That Floated” and “The Mountain That Walked, ” which are related to mythological events like the creation of the earth and sky or the great flood.
In the course of oral transmission, these legends took on additional elements of playful imagination or social meaning. Mt. Gyeongju in Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province, is believed to have been created when Magohalmi set out from Gyeongju, carrying a mountain, which fell on its current location when the rope tore. Another similar example is the legend of Ulsan Rock, which, while headed to Seorak, stopped in its current location upon the completion of Mt. Seorak. These two tales evolved into variations with an added motif of villagers from two neighboring regions fighting over the location of the mountain. Another variation features a woman who sees the mountain floating in the river and stops it with her laundry beater, which blocks the waterway and results in the decline of the village.
This variation is observed across the country and reflects a negative social image of women. The female character depicted as an agent not of creation but of interruption of creation is in similar vein as the negation of the sanctity of the creator goddess Magohalmi.
Legends of natural creation, in other words, can be viewed as universe creation mythology, which have lost their divine aspects and reestablished as local legends in the course of oral transmission, but still possessing universal mythemes, including the great floor, mountain moving, and creator goddess.