Myth of Seok Talhae(昔脱解神话)

Myth of Seok Talhae

Headword

석탈해신화 ( 昔脱解神话 , Seoktalhaesinhw )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Mythology

Writer LeeJiyoung(李志映)

“Seoktalhaesinhwa”is the myth of Talhae, the fourth king of the kingdom of Silla and the progenitor of the royal family Seok. The narrative, rich in detail, has the archetypal structure of the biographical heroic chronicle, the most universal structure found in hero myths around the world.

The myth can be summarized as follows, based on the narrative as described in the“Records of the Talhae Dynasty”section of Samgungnyusa:

During the reign of King Namhae, Ajineuiseon, who was the fisherwoman for King Hyeokgeose, saw one day on the seas of Ajinpo a flock of magpies crowing as they flew over the water. The old woman thought this strange and looked closer, to find a boat carrying a large chest. The old woman opened the chest and found a boy with noble looks, along with many treasures and two slaves. She looked after the boy for seven days, after which the boy said, “I am from Yongseongguk (Dragon Fortress Kingdom). The queen gave birth to me, but I was born in an egg and abandoned, which is how I have arrived here.”Upon finishing these words, the boy took his cane and his two slaves to Mt. Toham, where he dug a stone tomb and stayed for seven days. He found a place to live in the fortress on the mountain, and headed to the house that belonged to the high minister Hogong (Gourd Duke). Devising a scheme, the boy buried a whetstone and a piece of charcoal by the house, and the following morning, went to the house and claimed that his family had lived in the house for many generations. He brought charges against Hogong, saying, “I am a blacksmith and while I was away someone else took over my house. You will find proof if you dig up the land around the house.” When the authorities dug up the land and found the whetstone and charcoal, they were convinced and the boy took possession of the house. This boy’s name was Talhae. King Namhae, upon learning of Talhae’s wisdom, took him in as his eldest son-in-law.

As Talhae descended Dongak (Eastern Peak, an alternative name for Mt. Toham), Talhae ordered Baekeui (White Garment), one of his slaves, to fetch water, and Baekeui, while fetching water from the well Yonaejeong, took a sip first, and the bowl stuck to his lips and could not be pulled off. Only when Talhae reprimanded him and Baekeui repented, did the bowl fall off. Baekeui never again deceived Talhae after this incident. Talhae succeeded the throne following King Norye and died after reigning for twenty-three years. His funeral was held on the hills of Socheongu, and later, Talhae reappeared as a spirit, and at his words, the late king’s bones were dug up to be buried anew. The bones were immense, the size of those of a man of great strength, and the bones were ground to be made into a statue, which was placed in the palace. Again Talhae’s spirit appeared and at his words the statue was enshrined on Dongak and was worshipped throughout the kingdom as Dongaksin, the god of Dongak.

The myth of Talhae, set against the backdrop of the sea, shows that in Korean mythology not only the celestial but the marine environment was depicted as a divine and supernatural sphere. Details in the tale about Talhae’s origins indicate the possibility that a group from the fishery culture of Northeast Siberia were brought by sea currents down along the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula to the Gyeongju area, bringing with them advanced technology of the Bronze or Iron Age.

That Talhae referred to himself as a“blacksmith”indicates that he was the leader of a group that brought with them the new technology of the Iron Age. Considering that in Siberian culture blacksmiths were closely connected to shamans for they possessed sorcery powers using metal, tools and weaponry, and that King Namhae, who was the second king of Silla, played the role of chachaung, a shamanic figure, it is likely that Talhae was a blacksmith-shaman king, or yamuwang.

The practice of digging out Talhae’s bones to hold a second funeral can be interpreted as a form of ancestral worship, and of worshipping ancestral bones, which was part of the belief that bones contained the spirit of the dead.

Myth of Seok Talhae

Myth of Seok Talhae
Headword

석탈해신화 ( 昔脱解神话 , Seoktalhaesinhw )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Mythology

Writer LeeJiyoung(李志映)

“Seoktalhaesinhwa”is the myth of Talhae, the fourth king of the kingdom of Silla and the progenitor of the royal family Seok. The narrative, rich in detail, has the archetypal structure of the biographical heroic chronicle, the most universal structure found in hero myths around the world.

The myth can be summarized as follows, based on the narrative as described in the“Records of the Talhae Dynasty”section of Samgungnyusa:

During the reign of King Namhae, Ajineuiseon, who was the fisherwoman for King Hyeokgeose, saw one day on the seas of Ajinpo a flock of magpies crowing as they flew over the water. The old woman thought this strange and looked closer, to find a boat carrying a large chest. The old woman opened the chest and found a boy with noble looks, along with many treasures and two slaves. She looked after the boy for seven days, after which the boy said, “I am from Yongseongguk (Dragon Fortress Kingdom). The queen gave birth to me, but I was born in an egg and abandoned, which is how I have arrived here.”Upon finishing these words, the boy took his cane and his two slaves to Mt. Toham, where he dug a stone tomb and stayed for seven days. He found a place to live in the fortress on the mountain, and headed to the house that belonged to the high minister Hogong (Gourd Duke). Devising a scheme, the boy buried a whetstone and a piece of charcoal by the house, and the following morning, went to the house and claimed that his family had lived in the house for many generations. He brought charges against Hogong, saying, “I am a blacksmith and while I was away someone else took over my house. You will find proof if you dig up the land around the house.” When the authorities dug up the land and found the whetstone and charcoal, they were convinced and the boy took possession of the house. This boy’s name was Talhae. King Namhae, upon learning of Talhae’s wisdom, took him in as his eldest son-in-law.

As Talhae descended Dongak (Eastern Peak, an alternative name for Mt. Toham), Talhae ordered Baekeui (White Garment), one of his slaves, to fetch water, and Baekeui, while fetching water from the well Yonaejeong, took a sip first, and the bowl stuck to his lips and could not be pulled off. Only when Talhae reprimanded him and Baekeui repented, did the bowl fall off. Baekeui never again deceived Talhae after this incident. Talhae succeeded the throne following King Norye and died after reigning for twenty-three years. His funeral was held on the hills of Socheongu, and later, Talhae reappeared as a spirit, and at his words, the late king’s bones were dug up to be buried anew. The bones were immense, the size of those of a man of great strength, and the bones were ground to be made into a statue, which was placed in the palace. Again Talhae’s spirit appeared and at his words the statue was enshrined on Dongak and was worshipped throughout the kingdom as Dongaksin, the god of Dongak.

The myth of Talhae, set against the backdrop of the sea, shows that in Korean mythology not only the celestial but the marine environment was depicted as a divine and supernatural sphere. Details in the tale about Talhae’s origins indicate the possibility that a group from the fishery culture of Northeast Siberia were brought by sea currents down along the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula to the Gyeongju area, bringing with them advanced technology of the Bronze or Iron Age.

That Talhae referred to himself as a“blacksmith”indicates that he was the leader of a group that brought with them the new technology of the Iron Age. Considering that in Siberian culture blacksmiths were closely connected to shamans for they possessed sorcery powers using metal, tools and weaponry, and that King Namhae, who was the second king of Silla, played the role of chachaung, a shamanic figure, it is likely that Talhae was a blacksmith-shaman king, or yamuwang.

The practice of digging out Talhae’s bones to hold a second funeral can be interpreted as a form of ancestral worship, and of worshipping ancestral bones, which was part of the belief that bones contained the spirit of the dead.