What is Gumiho? 구미호는 뭐예요?

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Legend of Gumiho

Have you ever heard of the folklore or the legend of the Korean gumiho (kumiho)? The word '구미호 (gumiho)' is literally translated as 'nine-tailed fox'. 

Where is the Legend of Gumiho Recorded?

Picture of a page from Gyuwonsahwa
Image resource from Wikipedia

The National Library of Korea owns a text called 규원사화 (Gyuwonsahwa) which is considered to have been written in 1675 by an author who calls himself 북애자 (Buk Ae-Ja). The Gyuwonsahwa consists of 5 sections: Prologue and Epilogue, Jopangi, Taesigi, Dangungi, and Imgeum.

It is mentioned by the author that the contents in the Prologue and Epilogue are based on Yi Myeong's 진역유기(Jinyeokyugi) which is a late Goryeo Dynasty text which in turn is based on Jodaegi which is a Balhae historical text. These two texts are no longer surviving but the Jodaegi is mentioned in the Annals of Joseon Dynasty during King Sejo's reign.

Jopangi describes Hwan-in, Hwanung, and the division of heaven, earth, and the origins of life and humans. 

Taesigi describes the rule of shinshi, a semi-legendary ancient Korea before Gojoseon, and other legendary god-like sages who ruled over humanity for 11,000 years. 

Dangungi describes the Dangun Joseon which lasted 1205 years and was ruled by several kings.

Imgeum consists of rulers of Gyuwon Sahwa. 

So, where exactly is the record of gumiho mentioned? It is penned in Dangungi. "At this time, a divine beast appeared in the Qing Dynasty, and the beast with bright white hair and nine tails put a book in its mouth and revealed its auspiciousness."

What Does Legend Tell Us About the Gumiho?

Image of a nine-tailed fox.
Image resource from Wikipedia

Legend tells us that this nine-tailed fox can shapeshift into a beautiful woman, seduce a man, and get married. It has a strong desire to become a human and so it is said that if the gumiho can live her life together with her husband for a hundred days without revealing her true identity, she can become a true human being. However, with only one day left, the gumiho is discovered and has to leave her husband.

It is also said that the nine-tailed fox has a small blue marble that symbolizes the gumiho's power. In some of the stories that have come out, it has been said that the gumiho can use this marble to steal human spirits.

Where Can You See the Legend of Gumiho in Media?

I have listed some K-dramas that have storylines that revolve around a gumiho(s). There are many more out there, ones that I have not personally watched and ones that are much harder to find to stream, but the ones I have listed are pretty easily found on streaming platforms like Viki and Netflix. 

My Roommate is a Gumiho (2021)

My Roommate is a Gumiho
Image resource from Asian Wiki

Tale of the Nine-Tailed Fox (2020)

Tale of the Nine-Tailed Fox
Image resource from Asian Wiki

My Girlfriend is Gumiho (2010)

My Girlfriend is a Gumiho
Image resource from Asian Wiki

Gu Family Book (2013)

Gu Family Book
Image resource from Asian Wiki

What do you think about this Korean myth? Have you heard about gumiho before?



Works Cited

Wikipedia - Fox Spirit

Wikipedia - Gyuwon Sahwa

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