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Solmundae Halmang

by Hea-Kyoung Koh, Ph.D.
The Cosmogonic Goddess of Cheju, Solmundae Halmang.

The goddess Solmundae Halmang (Grandmother) is the creator of the islands, mountains, valleys, hills, and rivers on Cheju Island, Korea. Physically she is a giantess: the highest mountain on Cheju Island (Hanla Mountain is over 6,000 feet in elevation) reaches below her elbow, and the deepest river reaches near her ankle. Her diarrhea turned into 360 heights and her urine created the channel. She is the land itself, and her presence is marked over the entire Island.

There are various tales about her:

Solmundae Halmang had difficulty finding clothes because of her giant size. She proposed to the inhabitants of Cheju that if they made her underwear she would build them a bridge to the mainland. However, her underwear required one hundred tong (the unit to measure fabric) of silk but when all the silk was gathered there were only ninety-nine tong and unfortunately the clothes were not made for the goddess. Thus, the bridge building had to be stopped. The vestige of the bridge exists on the shore of Chochon.

In the time of Solmundae, once after eating millet porridge, the Grandmother had diarrhea which created 360 mountains on Cheju.

Once upon a time, Udo (an auxiliary island) was not a separate island. One day when the Grandmother started to urinate and her powerful urine cut the land, which drifted in the majestic urine and became Udo. The chasm filled with her urine between the two pieces of land was so deep that whales and seals could live in it.

One day Solmundae Halmang and Solmundae Halubang (Grandfather) were so hungry that they went out fishing in Sopchikochi. When they arrived on the beach the Grandfather took off his trousers and jumped into the ocean between Songsan and Udo where the current was turbulent and the fish were abundant. As he started to churn the ocean all the fish rushed to the other side of the ocean where the Grandmother opened her legs as widely as possible and swallowed all of them into her vagina.

The Grandmother used to boast about her gigantic height. She tested whether there was any water on Cheju deep enough to cover her height. The water in Yongso was said to be quite deep but it barely reached around her ankles and the lake in Hongli reached her knee. At last, when she tried to test the depth of Mulchangoli she was drowned because the water in Mulchangoli was bottomless and so she sank down into the ocean.


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