Solmundae Halmang

Contributed by Hea-Kyoung Koh, Ph.D.

The cosmogonic goddess of Jeju (Cheju), Solmundae Halmang.

The goddess Solmundae Halmang, or Grandmother, is the creator of the islands, mountains, valleys, hills, and rivers on Jeju Island, Korea. Physically she is a giantess: the highest mountain on Jeju Island (Hanla Mountain, which is over 6,000 feet in elevation) reaches below her elbow, and the deepest river reaches near her ankle. Her diarrhea turned into 360 hills or mountains 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 Solmundae Halmang.

Solmundae Halmang had difficulty finding clothes because of her giant size. She proposed to the inhabitants of Jeju 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, Grandmother had diarrhea which created 360 mountains on Jeju.

Once upon a time, Udo (an auxiliary island) was not a separate island. One day when Grandmother had to urinate, her powerful urine cut the land, which drifted away in the majestic urine and became Udo. The chasm between the two islands — filled with her urine — 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, 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 Grandmother opened her legs as widely as possible and swallowed all of them into her vagina.

Grandmother used to boast about her gigantic height. She tested whether there was any water on Jeju 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 drowned because the water in Mulchangoli was bottomless and she sank into the ocean.