Mt. Chiak(雉岳山)

Mt. Chiak

Headword

치악산 ( 雉岳山 , Chiaksan )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer SeoDaeseok(徐大錫)

The legend of Chiaksan explains the origin of Mt.Chiak in Wonseong, Gangwon Province, borrowing the plot structure of the animal-returns-favor narrative (boeundam).

A long time ago, a young man from the country set out to Seoul for his state examinations and came across Mt. Jeokak in Gangwon Province. He heard the shrill cry of a pheasant (or magpie) and saw two birds about to be eaten by a serpent, its body wrapped around them. (Or in some variations, he sees a magpie nest on a large tree, inside which are baby birds, and a serpent is crawling up the tree toward the nest.) The young man shot the snake with his bow and arrow and saved the birds. He continued on his journey until night fell and he began looking for a place to sleep, when he found a house and asked if he could lodge for the night. A woman showed him to his room, and the young man, tired after a long day, fell into a deep sleep, but he woke feeling breathless, to find a huge serpent wrapped tight around his body and about to swallow him. The serpent said to him, “I am the wife of the serpent you killed today and I shall eat you up to seek revenge. If you want to live, toll the bell three times, and I shall release you.” As soon as the serpent said these words, the sound of bells ringing was heard, three times in a row. The serpent, looking glad, released the young man and disappeared (or turned into a dragon ascended to the heavens). At daybreak, the young man went searching in the direction of the bell sounds, and found a bell tower, at the bottom of which were the two pheasants (magpies) that had begged him to save their baby birds. The young man realized that the birds had died while tolling the bell to repay his favor, and gave up his plans for public office, building a temple in the mountain and spending the rest of his life there, praying for the soul of the birds that had died for him. Since then, the names of the mountain has been changed from Mt. Jeokak to Mt. Chiak. The temple that the young man founded is today called Sangwonsa (or the young man passed the state exam and became known as virtuous public official.

Over twenty different versions of this legend from across the country have been recorded, which vary greatly in many details including the identity of the protagonist; species of bird; tool used for killing the serpent; what becomes of the female serpent; from where the bell sound came; and what became of the protagonist.

This legend is a typical narrative of an animal returning a favor owed to a human. In this case, the two birds sacrifice themselves to repay a human who saved their lives. The narrative focuses on sanctity and the Buddhist concept of redemption, in the way the birds, born to lead their lives in the air, sacrificed themselves to end the violent bloodshed and purify this world and its ways of the strong preying on the weak, to bring peace and reconciliation.

Mt. Chiak

Mt. Chiak
Headword

치악산 ( 雉岳山 , Chiaksan )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer SeoDaeseok(徐大錫)

The legend of Chiaksan explains the origin of Mt.Chiak in Wonseong, Gangwon Province, borrowing the plot structure of the animal-returns-favor narrative (boeundam).

A long time ago, a young man from the country set out to Seoul for his state examinations and came across Mt. Jeokak in Gangwon Province. He heard the shrill cry of a pheasant (or magpie) and saw two birds about to be eaten by a serpent, its body wrapped around them. (Or in some variations, he sees a magpie nest on a large tree, inside which are baby birds, and a serpent is crawling up the tree toward the nest.) The young man shot the snake with his bow and arrow and saved the birds. He continued on his journey until night fell and he began looking for a place to sleep, when he found a house and asked if he could lodge for the night. A woman showed him to his room, and the young man, tired after a long day, fell into a deep sleep, but he woke feeling breathless, to find a huge serpent wrapped tight around his body and about to swallow him. The serpent said to him, “I am the wife of the serpent you killed today and I shall eat you up to seek revenge. If you want to live, toll the bell three times, and I shall release you.” As soon as the serpent said these words, the sound of bells ringing was heard, three times in a row. The serpent, looking glad, released the young man and disappeared (or turned into a dragon ascended to the heavens). At daybreak, the young man went searching in the direction of the bell sounds, and found a bell tower, at the bottom of which were the two pheasants (magpies) that had begged him to save their baby birds. The young man realized that the birds had died while tolling the bell to repay his favor, and gave up his plans for public office, building a temple in the mountain and spending the rest of his life there, praying for the soul of the birds that had died for him. Since then, the names of the mountain has been changed from Mt. Jeokak to Mt. Chiak. The temple that the young man founded is today called Sangwonsa (or the young man passed the state exam and became known as virtuous public official.

Over twenty different versions of this legend from across the country have been recorded, which vary greatly in many details including the identity of the protagonist; species of bird; tool used for killing the serpent; what becomes of the female serpent; from where the bell sound came; and what became of the protagonist.

This legend is a typical narrative of an animal returning a favor owed to a human. In this case, the two birds sacrifice themselves to repay a human who saved their lives. The narrative focuses on sanctity and the Buddhist concept of redemption, in the way the birds, born to lead their lives in the air, sacrificed themselves to end the violent bloodshed and purify this world and its ways of the strong preying on the weak, to bring peace and reconciliation.