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Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper

The legend of Bukduchilseong narrates the origin of the constellation Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper (Ursa Major). A widow was leading a difficult life raising seven sons, returning home in the dewy hours of early morning. Her seven sons learned that their mother returned each morning after visiting a widower and decided that they would go to the stream that their mother had to cross to come home each morning and be her bridge by crouching in the stream. As their mother crossed the stream, s

Korean Folk Literature

Triplets Stars

The legend of Samtaeseong narrates the origin of the Triplets Stars constellation (Orion), located northeast of Bukduchilseong (Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper, Ursa Major). A long time ago, by the swamps of Heungnyongdam (Black Dragon Lake), there lived triplets who had been born after the death of their father. They each set out in search of mentors and returned after ten years of academic and talent development. Then one day wild winds blew with roaring rain, and the sun disappeared. The t

Korean Folk Literature

Myth of Three Surnames

The myth“Samseongsinhwa”from Jeju Island narrates the emergence and settlement of the three clans, with the names Go, Yang and Bu, reflecting the historical experience of Tamna, the island’s name in ancient times. According to old records, a long time ago at a time when there were no humans or things, three divine men emerged from the earth: The biggest man was Yang Eul-na; the second biggest Go Eul-na; and the third Bu Eul-na. The three men crossed the desolate plains and hunted animals, eating

Korean Folk Literature

Song of the Creation of the Universe

“ Changsega ”is a creation myth performed as part of shamanic rituals by Kim Ssangdoli, a shaman from Hamheung of Hamgyeong Province. Kim’s performance of this song was recorded in 1923 by folk scholar Son Jin-tae and included in his 1930 book Chōsen shinka ihen: The sky and the earth were one and unseparated, and one day the sky swelled up like a cauldron lid, forming cracks, upon which Mireuk (Maitreya) erected copper columns on four corners of the earth, thereby separating it from the sky. At

Korean Folk Literature

Origin of Celestial King

“Cheonjiwangbonpuri”is a creation myth from Jeju Island, performed as part of the shamanic ritual segment Chogamje (Song of First Invitation), the most basic procedure in all rituals on the island, from simple hand-rubbing rituals (binyeom) to grand rituals (keungut). The version of the song as recited by shaman Bak Bong-chun is as follows: Sumyeongmangja was an ill-behaved and malicious man, and treated Cheonjiwang (Celestial King) in a rude manner. Greatly infuriated, the deity led ten thousan

Korean Folk Literature

Wild Insam and Isimi

This tale narrates the story of a woodsman who discovers wild insam, finds himself in a predicament when his neighbor betrays him, and is rescued by a monster serpent. A long time ago, a woodsman went to the mountain in the cold of winter to chop wood and at the bottom of a cliff found a big batch of dongsam, or little boy insam, the roots of centuries- old wild ginseng that resemble a boy. He was unable to climb down the steep cliff and returned home, where he told a neighbor, who agreed to hel

Korean Folk Literature

Shapeshifting Tale

Byeonsindam, or shapeshifting tales, feature as agents of the events that unfold in the narrative humans or other creatures or objects that transform into different creatures or objects, of or against one’s will. A majority of Korean shapeshifting tales are about non-human creatures or objects that transform into humans. Most common are snakes, toads, centipedes, and foxes and tigers are also frequently featured. The shamanic myth “Sasinchilseongbonpuri (Origin of Snake God Seven Stars)” of Jeju

Korean Folk Literature
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