Husband Yeono and Wife Seo(延乌郎细乌女)

Husband Yeono and Wife Seo

Headword

연오랑세오녀 ( 延乌郎细乌女 , Yeonorangseonyeo )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer SongHyosub(宋孝燮)

The legend “Yeonorangseonyeo” is the story of Yeono and Seo, husband and wife of Silla, whose departure to Japan resulted in the loss of sunlight and moonlight in Silla, restored by a ritual offering Seo’s silk.

This tale was documented in the anthology Suijeon (Tales of the Bizarre) in the 11th century, but the oldest remaining version is the one included in the chapter “Giyi (Records of Marvels)” in Samgungnyusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) from 13th century. The legend is also recorded in the collection Pirwonjapgi (Miscellaneous Writings) from the 15th century.

In Silla lived Yeono and his wife Seo, and one day while Yeono was working on the sea, he was carried by a rock to Japan, where people believed that he was a divine being and enthroned him. Seo went looking for her husband and upon finding his shoe on the rock, she rode it and it took her to Japan where her arrival was reported to the king and Seo was made queen of Japan. After the couple’s departure, Silla lost the light from the sun and the moon. An official who examined the phenomenon reported that it was due to the move of the energy of the sun and the moon from Silla to Japan, and attempted to bring back Yeono and Seo, but Yeono declined, saying that they were in Japan by heavenly order, and that the problem would be solved if silk fabric woven by Seo was taken to Silla for a ritual. When the Silla court did as told, light was restored to the sun and the moon. The silk fabric was designated as state treasure and kept in a royal cellar named Gwibigo, and the ritual venue was named Yeongilhyeon, or Dogiya.

A Japanese variation of this tale, titled, “Amenohiboko, ” is documented in many books including Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan), Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) and others. The version in Nihon Shoki records that Silla’s prince Amenohiboko came to Japan bringing seven treasures including the bead hahu tono tama, which the people of Tajima believed to be divine objects. The Kojiki version takes on a more concrete mythological structure: In Silla, a woman of lowly status was sleeping in a swamp when sunlight shone on her genitals, which resulted in her giving birth to a red bead. A man of lowly status, upon witnessing this, pleaded with her to give him the bead, but Silla’s prince Amenohiboko took it away from him. The bead turned into a beautiful woman and the prince made her his wife, but the prince soon treated her unkindly, and the wife took a boat to Japan. The prince followed her and did not reach Japan, instead settling in Tajima, where he married another woman. The connection between this narrative and the legend of Yeono and Seo can be found in the name Amenohiboko, with its reference to the sun; in the plot where both husband and wife cross the sea to Japan; and in he fact that both couples settle down in Japan.

Previous research on this legend has focused on its traits as mythology of solar and lunar arrangement; as a narrative of the migration of the sun god; and as a symbolic narrative of exchange between Korea and Japan. The existence of a similar narrative in Japan has resulted in research proving that the Japanese sun god and goddess are Yeono and Seo, which serves as proof of influence between the mythologies of Korea and Japan. This theory can also be applied to interpretations of the narrative centering on the migratory pattern of the sun god or the sun and moon god. An example is the interpretation that the legend is a symbolic depiction of mass immigration from Silla’s Yeongil region to Japan and the resulting transmission of sun god worship. This is supported by the association of the names of the ritual venue, Yeongilhyeon and Dogiya, with words that means “sunrise.” There has also been research focusing on the procedures of ancient celestial god worship rituals, based on the interpretation that Yeono and Seo were not only deities but also officiants of celestial worship rituals. The use of Seo’s silk in the ritual shows the process of accepting silk as a divine object through metonymy, an example of the development of religious worship objects.

As the only remaining legend about ancient Korea-Japan relations, the narrative can also be read as a historical text, with motifs borrowed from creation myths used as symbols.

Husband Yeono and Wife Seo

Husband Yeono and Wife Seo
Headword

연오랑세오녀 ( 延乌郎细乌女 , Yeonorangseonyeo )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer SongHyosub(宋孝燮)

The legend “Yeonorangseonyeo” is the story of Yeono and Seo, husband and wife of Silla, whose departure to Japan resulted in the loss of sunlight and moonlight in Silla, restored by a ritual offering Seo’s silk.

This tale was documented in the anthology Suijeon (Tales of the Bizarre) in the 11th century, but the oldest remaining version is the one included in the chapter “Giyi (Records of Marvels)” in Samgungnyusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) from 13th century. The legend is also recorded in the collection Pirwonjapgi (Miscellaneous Writings) from the 15th century.

In Silla lived Yeono and his wife Seo, and one day while Yeono was working on the sea, he was carried by a rock to Japan, where people believed that he was a divine being and enthroned him. Seo went looking for her husband and upon finding his shoe on the rock, she rode it and it took her to Japan where her arrival was reported to the king and Seo was made queen of Japan. After the couple’s departure, Silla lost the light from the sun and the moon. An official who examined the phenomenon reported that it was due to the move of the energy of the sun and the moon from Silla to Japan, and attempted to bring back Yeono and Seo, but Yeono declined, saying that they were in Japan by heavenly order, and that the problem would be solved if silk fabric woven by Seo was taken to Silla for a ritual. When the Silla court did as told, light was restored to the sun and the moon. The silk fabric was designated as state treasure and kept in a royal cellar named Gwibigo, and the ritual venue was named Yeongilhyeon, or Dogiya.

A Japanese variation of this tale, titled, “Amenohiboko, ” is documented in many books including Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan), Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) and others. The version in Nihon Shoki records that Silla’s prince Amenohiboko came to Japan bringing seven treasures including the bead hahu tono tama, which the people of Tajima believed to be divine objects. The Kojiki version takes on a more concrete mythological structure: In Silla, a woman of lowly status was sleeping in a swamp when sunlight shone on her genitals, which resulted in her giving birth to a red bead. A man of lowly status, upon witnessing this, pleaded with her to give him the bead, but Silla’s prince Amenohiboko took it away from him. The bead turned into a beautiful woman and the prince made her his wife, but the prince soon treated her unkindly, and the wife took a boat to Japan. The prince followed her and did not reach Japan, instead settling in Tajima, where he married another woman. The connection between this narrative and the legend of Yeono and Seo can be found in the name Amenohiboko, with its reference to the sun; in the plot where both husband and wife cross the sea to Japan; and in he fact that both couples settle down in Japan.

Previous research on this legend has focused on its traits as mythology of solar and lunar arrangement; as a narrative of the migration of the sun god; and as a symbolic narrative of exchange between Korea and Japan. The existence of a similar narrative in Japan has resulted in research proving that the Japanese sun god and goddess are Yeono and Seo, which serves as proof of influence between the mythologies of Korea and Japan. This theory can also be applied to interpretations of the narrative centering on the migratory pattern of the sun god or the sun and moon god. An example is the interpretation that the legend is a symbolic depiction of mass immigration from Silla’s Yeongil region to Japan and the resulting transmission of sun god worship. This is supported by the association of the names of the ritual venue, Yeongilhyeon and Dogiya, with words that means “sunrise.” There has also been research focusing on the procedures of ancient celestial god worship rituals, based on the interpretation that Yeono and Seo were not only deities but also officiants of celestial worship rituals. The use of Seo’s silk in the ritual shows the process of accepting silk as a divine object through metonymy, an example of the development of religious worship objects.

As the only remaining legend about ancient Korea-Japan relations, the narrative can also be read as a historical text, with motifs borrowed from creation myths used as symbols.