Hello! Welcome to Story Time With Desserts_24! :)
For today's story time, we'll be looking at the founding myth of Korea! Here is my re-telling of the myth of the Bear Woman (Ungnyeo)! Enjoy~
Once upon a time, there was a heavenly prince named, Hwanung, the son of the Heavenly King, Hwanin. Bored of his time in heaven as the divine prince, Hwanung wished to go down to the earth and live among the valleys and mountains that were still relatively close to the heavens. He wanted to rule a kingdom of his own. After much heated debate with his father, Hwanung was granted permission to descend onto the earth with his entourage of 3,000 followers onto Mt. Taebaek (also Baekdu Mountain). While ruling his newfound kingdom with his group of 3,000 and with the assistance of the Rain, Cloud, and Wind gods, Hwanung came across a bear and a tiger living in the cave of Mt. Taebaek.
The two animals, longing to become human, had prayed day and night to the newly descended, heavenly prince. Hearing their prayers, Hwanung ventured into the cave and proposed a deal with them, while giving the two animals divine mugwort and twenty bulbs of garlic.
"If you can withstand 100 days eating only this garlic and mugwort while avoiding the sun in this cave, I will grant you the chance to become humans."
Grateful of his divine proposal, the two animals stayed within the cave, avoiding sunlight and only eating the mugwort and garlic that the divine prince provided them with. All was well, until the 20th day. Overcome with hunger pains, the tiger spat out the garlic and mugwort before running out of the cave impatiently, in search of meat. The tiger would rather fill its stomach instead of relying only on some plants for survival! Sitting alone in the dark, dank cave, the bear continued to persist in its agreement with Hwanung, staying inside the cave while avoiding the sun and eating mugwort and garlic— despite the tiger's abrupt departure. The bear was determined to become human no matter what!
Noticing that only the bear was left within the cave, Hwanung transformed the beast into a beautiful woman after 21 days. Unable to hide her gratitude, the bear, now named, Ungnyeo, showered Hwanung with gifts and offerings at the sandalwood tree that was located next to her cave. Time passed, and the beautiful bear-woman began to feel lonely and depressed as she had no companion next to her to share her joys of her newfound life. Again, the bear prayed and prayed to Hwanung, asking him for a child she could call as her own.
Moved by her prayers, Hwanung again descended upon her— however, this time, it was to take the beautiful woman as his bride. The happily married couple, then gave birth to a son, who they named Dangun Wanggeom. This child later became the founder of Gojoseon (now, Korea); a symbol of the unification of the sky and the earth…
Interesting, huh? :D I hope you enjoyed this short re-telling of the myth of Ungnyeo (and Dangun)! See you all tomorrow with Chapter 5~ Bye!! :)