The Nine-Headed Monster of Korean Folklore

 

[Image (1) 0: 22] & [ Image (2) 0:42]

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One of the earliest figures in Korean Folklore, the nine-headed monster is a big humanoid with nine heads and a tail. Along with superhuman strength and endurance, he has regeneration so powerful that he can even regrow his heads, or reattach them[1].

Though this folktale has many variations, the most common narrative is that a warrior journeys to the underground kingdom to rescue a princess[2] from the monster.

However, he is no match for his adversary at the beginning and has to train himself underground in addition to drinking a holy water to gain boosted strength. The princess helps him by providing food and shelter. She cleverly entices the monster to drink an excessive amount of rice wine before the final duel to weaken him.

The warrior attempts to cut off all nine heads one by one to kill the foe, but they regrow or reattach faster than he can cut. Though drunk, the giant is virtually invulnerable. Luckily, the princess had discovered a weakness. She throws hot ash on the wounds to prevent regeneration[3].

Working together, the pair separates all immortal heads from the body and buries them before departing to the surface.[4] Overjoyed by his daughter’s safe return, the king allows the warrior to marry the princess.

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Reference

 

[왓섭! 공포 라디오]. (2016, October 11). [요괴 백과] 한국의 요괴들 #2 [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yfAN7oPhBU

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End-notes

[1] This tale is ancient and resembles Hercules’s hunt for the Hydra in Greek mythology.

[2] or a daughter of a wealthy merchant

[3]   In Hercules’s case, the nephew burned the Hydra’s necks with a torch to prevent regrowth after his uncle decapitated them.

[4] The tales are still different in that one monster is a humanoid while the other is a serpent.

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Gandalf & Shadowfax: A Majestic Pair

Gandalf Summons Shadowfax in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

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Gandalf & Shadowfax in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy

The horse was featured prominently in the Two Towers and the Return of the King as Gandalf the White’s mount and the Best Horse of Rohan. He was named after the coat of silver-grey.

Being called Gandalf’s “friend”, the Lord of All Horses provided a distinct advantage for the wizard in the quest to save the Middle Earth., enabling him to battle powerful enemies confidently and arrive in time when his aid is needed. Shadowfax was both a reward and an ally for the White Rider (See Chapter 5 of the Two Towers). 

The pair’s relationship mirrors that of the Monk and the Dragon Horse (as discussed in the previous blog post) in Journey to the West in that the Rider depended on  his horse to reach his goal.  Furthermore, Both Gandalf and Xuanzang wree sages in their respective stories, despite their different cultural backgrounds.

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Reference 

Tolkien, J. R. R., (2012). Lord of the Rings: Two Towers. London: Harper Collins.

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Tribute to Kyle Centre

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The Banner

Located by Barnet Highway, Kyle Centre serves as a nexus of recreation in Port Moody, aptly named City of Arts. Flaunting its age, building’s s drab, gray rectangular exterior stimulates the imaginative minds of local children, who usually attend the Arts Centre next door in comical ways. Once a little girl exclaimed, “that looks like daddy’s lunch box!” and her mother responded, “yes the colour is the same.”

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The Lobby

Aside from its exterior,  the place deviates far from dull as the wood-smelling interior houses many different rooms for long-running creative activities.  A receptionist sitting in the room next to the door welcomes visitor and a brown shelf full of attractive brochures stands right next. The space’s friendly, vibrant spirit comes from both a long history and numerous dedicated patrons. The most versatile and persistent crowd of all call themselves the  writers’ group and fill the lounge with humorous discussion every season

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A Note to Readers

This is my tribute to the place where I write  all my posts.

 

A Day of Stage Fright: Reading My Work in Public

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     Presenting an excerpt from my article in our upcoming anthology, New Beginnings, at Port Moody’s Gallery Bistro was a frightening endeavor. My medicine for panic was practice. I did practice as many time as I could on the week before. I even dreamed about the day as both good and bad. My classmates at Port Moody Writers’ class may wonder why I was under so much pressure, given that I did the same thing many times in front of them.

I am a nervous one by birth. I sometimes wonder why I like telling stories so much while having a fearful heart. I stepped out of my comfort zone that day and it paid off.  My mother was there. It was the first time she had watched me reading my own work in front of a crowd.

“Son, I video-recorded the whole thing on my phone.”

“I hope you enjoyed it.”

“I sure did. This was a fun event.”

That day was a stepping stone for me as a writer.

I still have miles to go.

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Author’s Note

Please click New Beginnings to find out about our upcoming anthology in Port Moody, BC, Canada

Korean Monster: the Myodusa (Cat Headed Snake)

The Myodusa (Cat-Headed Snake) of Korean Folklore

The Myodusa is one of the two prominent serpentine monsters in Korean folklore, the other being the Imoogi. This creature is generally described as a very large snake with a cat’s head.  According to some variations of the lore, the snake also has very colourful markings throughout its body.

A curious trait of the Myodusa is that it commands the respect of all birds, as if it is their King. When it leaves the nest (usually in a very deep cave). Nearby flocks take flight around the creature.  Unlike so many legendary serpents, the Myodusa is friendly to humans and even eats food given by humans without harming them. It breathes a blue smoke that heals injuries and cures diseases, so some people intentionally search for it.

Despite its friendly nature, a skilled archer shoots and kills the Myodusa in one variation of the legend because some people worshiped it as a God.  The archer thought this could bring many negative consequences.

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Note to Readers

The title is linked to a Korean YouTube Video that features a list of legendary Korean monsters. I am going to feature all of the prominent monsters on my blogs.

South Korean Urban Legend: The Jangsan Tiger

 

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The Jangsan Tiger is an urban legend in South Korea, rumored to originate from Jangsan, a mountain in the city of Busan.  The Jangsan Tiger has two rows of fine, sharp teeth and beautiful white fur covers the creature’s entire body. Its posture is like that of a crouching tiger or a large hunting dog.  It is very swift and travels through mountains with incredibly ease. It is said to be a man-eater, and makes a sound like a woman’s wail or a stream of water to lure people. However, this creature is unlikely to exist for real, given South Korea’s small land mass and long history of poaching.

Curiously, there is a similarly named creature, called the Queenland Tiger in Australia. It is a cyrptid and not to be confused with the Tasmanian Tiger. Unlike the Jangsan Tiger, there is a possibility that this creature is real, given Queenland’s vast wilderness and considerable animal population.

The word tiger still inspires fear in Korea. This fear has created the story of the Jangsan Tiger. In Australia, a cryptid gained that name because of its alleged feline characteristics. Whether or not, they are real doesn’t seem to affect people’s interest in them. This shows that urban legends, especially ones that introduce monsters, are powerfully appealing.

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Note to My Readers

I have recently found several YouTube Channels/Private Radio shows that specialize in this subject matter, including one created by a Korean voice actor/radio host. In the linked video he narrates a story about the Jangsan Tiger. The video includes  several illustrations of the creature, so I have decided to include it in my blog post.

The Jangsan Tiger illustrations in the Video

(1): 1:22 (2): 2:12 (3): 3:03 (4): 4:05 (5): 5:06 (6): 8:30

Korean Traditional Monster (2): Boolgasal

An Image of Boolgasal

The most popular among Korean traditional monsters, Boolgasal (Also known as Boolgasari) has clawed feet, sharp teeth, a long nose, a bushy tail. Its whole body is as hard as steel. This monster has numerous variations, and its origin often differs from one story to another. This article focuses on the most well-known description and backstories.

Boolgasal is born when the previous Boolgasal dies or disappears. In another story, it is created by a monk, Sharman, or an artisan with holy magic to fight off evil and save people. Boolgasal eats iron and grows to be a colossal monster. Thanks to its armored body, this legendary creature is impervious to harm and able to stop an army alone.

The name can be translated in two ways: (1) Bool – not, Ga – possible, Sal- to kill = Immortal and (2) Bool- fire, Ga- possible, Sal- to kill = Possible to kill with fire.

When Boolgasal is a villain that causes harm by eating iron and destroying things, people usually kill it with fire, and when it is a hero that punishes evil, it is literally immortal. It can even breathe fire in some stories.

The third variation is to mix all these traits to make Boolgasal an anti-hero, a monstrous savior that helps others to make up for the harm it has caused.

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Author’s Note

This post is based on a Korean blog post about Boolgasal:

Legendary Immortal Creature, Boolgasari

Asian Relics of Interest: Sword of Four Tigers in Korea

This entry is a shortened and translated version of the corresponding article in a Korean Wiki.

Sword of Four Tigers is a type of Joseon Dynasty sword imbued with a ritualistic significance.  Kings gifted this sword to only the closest royal relatives and  the most devoted subjects. In “(寅)” is a letter that represents  the character of tiger of the zodiac.  This is a holy sword that was crafted under the strongest spirit of tiger. It has been said that a master sword smith  always purified  his mind and body at least six months before starting to forge it.

A year of tiger comes every twelve years  and  a month of tiger is always fixed to the first month of the lunar calendar. Furthermore, a zodiac animal is assigned to correspond to each day of a month so a day of  tiger comes every twelve days. Lastly, the hours of tiger is always 3 AM to 5 AM. Swordsmiths who were tasked to make these swords had to meet the above conditions, so  each person usually made only one throughout his life.

Because the forging of the four tigers sword is initially limited to two hours, it’s been speculated by historians that a swordsmith  poured melted iron and shaped it into a blade during that time and spent countless hours thereafter for additional details. It should be noted that the sword was more for the honor and status of its owner than an active combat. Most noticeably, the blade is engraved with the twenty-eight stars that represent East, West, South, and North. Koreans in the past believed that the power of the sword was because it received four-fold energy of the tiger during its creation. It was a charm that could dispel evil energy and drive away bad luck as well as malicious spirits.

Today, remaining four tigers swords are highly appreciated  for their cultural and artistic values. To Korea’s dismay, many of these swords were taken out  of their homeland by foreigners during and after the fall of Joseon Dynasty. Only  a limited number remain in the nation and  they are usually under the care of the National Museum of Korea. The Knife gallery in Seoul also has one.

According to speculation, the rest have been destroyed or are in private collections in foreign nations popular and expansive due to their scarcity and beauty. In the Armed Forces of the Republic of Korea, a colonel promoted to brigadier general has been awarded  Samjeonggeom (modeled after Saingeom by President since 2007. Since this one is for a military ceremony, it has no sharpened blade.

In Korean fiction, Heroes use this holy sword  often to slay demons.

Korean Monster: Singiwonyo

A Korean Youtuber’s Video about Various Korean Monsters:

Jump to 18:22 To See Singiwonyo

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Singiwonyo 1 is a female ghost in Korean folklore and a rape victim. Her story is set in Pyeongando, one of the regions in Korean Peninsula, during the early period of Joseon Dynasty (16th century).

A diplomat, Joguangwon, happened to spend a night in a guest house on his way to China. Regional folks had warned him not to spend the night there because a vengeful ghost had killed all previous guests. He did not heed the warning, viewing it as superstitious.

At midnight, a freezing wind entered the room and several dismembered, pale body parts tumbled to the floor out of thin air. As if alive, these body parts crawled and reassembled together to form a beautiful young, naked woman. Her deathly pallor brightened to pearly white under the moonlight.

Unlike those before him, the guest composed himself, demanding to know why the creature killed the lodgers. The woman curtsied, explaining that she had not intended to harm them. They merely got scared to death before she could tell her story. Then Jo allowed her to tell her story.

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She was once a local courtesan who had resisted a local official2 ’s attempt to rape her. Angered, the criminal stripped, gagged, and pushed her under two heavy boulders and they crushed her to death. Weeping, the dead woman begged her only listener to seek justice for her and disappeared.
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Next morning, the diplomat found the rapist. He saw him beat him to death as punishment. He also retrieved the courtesan’s crushed, dismembered parts to give the victim a proper burial before leaving the region.

Though his diplomatic mission to China was long, Jo completed it safely, gaining a lofty reputation. Many people believed it was his reward for appeasing the ghost3.

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End Notes

1 Stretching, storytelling courtesan who is a sorrowful monster” 

2 In another version of this story, the rapist is a manservant.

3 This is a typical ending for a protagonist who helps a mournful ghost in Korean folklore and sometimes omitted.

 

Working with Barriers in a Theatre

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The Door to the Stage: A Barrier

 

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With My Team of Actors with Disabilities

 

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With My Guest of Honor, Fiona York

 

As a person with disability, playing a role in the play The Ridiculous Darkness was daunting. My team encountered many issues as we worked on the play. My biggest setback was the theatre’s accessibility.

While it had an elevator, the only automated door was in front of the building. The theatre had many heavy wooden doors. Someone had to hold a door open for me every time I came in and out of the stage. A cast-mate hurt his foot while doing so and I wondered how many people would come to see the show and find the building inaccessible. The situation frustrated me. Automated doors should be mandatory for all buildings.

When my adapted yoga class came to see a performance, they had difficulty with accessing the space. My friends had seats on the top row, and they had to get there by the elevator or up the narrow and dark stairway. The group had to separate to find their seats and then regroup at the end. The traffic in the theatre made this even more challenging. After the show, one of the group pointed out that dimly lit walkways and only one elevator are potential fire hazards in a big theatre. An accessible walkway would have made it much easier.

I, on the other hand, had little time to think about the inaccessibility because of work.  The stage staff and other actors opened the doors and removed any obstacles on the stage. By the end of the first week, my frustration turned to grudging acceptance. Focusing on the goal of being a good actor instead of dwelling on what obstacles, I overcame physical barriers in a theatre with other people’s help, and my determination to make the project successful grew.

Living with disabilities is often about dealing with the stress that daily barriers cause you. My brief time as an actor taught me that relying on other people, who share the same goal, is a way to deal with that very real and unpleasant struggle.

 

Acknowledgement

Many Thanks to the Kyle Centre Creative Writing Group in Port Moody and Jordan Cripps of Connectra and Daniel Arnold of Alley Theatre for their help and support.