Bear Woman- Korea's First Woman Traditional Story

Bear Woman- Korea's First Woman Traditional Story


Have you ever wondered how this amazing and lovely country (Korea) came to life? Well, this legend has all the details about it, lets check it out!

Background of the Legend

It is said that a tiger and a bear shared a cave and begged for human transformation to the divine ruler Hwanung, Son of Heaven and Hwanin's son. Their pleas were heard by Hwanung who as a task handed them 20 garlic cloves, a bundle of mugwort (name given to several aromatic flowering plants), and the instruction to keep out of the sun and consume just this food for 100 days.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

After around 20 days, the tiger fled the cave because of hunger, but the bear stayed, which gave her the opportunity to be changed into a woman after 21 days, becoming known as “Ungnyeo” the bear woman.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Ungnyeo expressed his gratitude to Hwanung by giving him gifts but later became depressed at not having a husband and started praying under a sacred betula tree to be granted a kid.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

When Hwanung heard her prayers, he was moved to tears and decided to marry her, and soon after, she gave birth to Dangun, who would later start the Korean nation, known today as Gaecheonjeol (National Foundation Day)

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Dangun inherited the energy of Heaven from Hwanung and the energy of the earth from Ungnyeo, and he was as brave and wise as can be. He later took ten thousand people with and set off to find a new nation. While riding his horse he stopped at a place where the energy was bright, and established his kingdom there, which he named Joseon. Dagun ruled Joseon well and won respect of all people, and after ruling for 1500 years, he became a mountain spirit.

What all this means? Interpretation

The Cheonsin (Sky God) and Jisin (Land God) are typically assigned to the founder's paternal and maternal blood lines, respectively, in the foundation myth of the ancient Korean country. As a result, Ungnyeo is thought of as a particular kind of totem that Dangun's mother lineage has deified.

There are religious overtones to the bear itself, the uterus that generates goods in farming culture is symbolized by the bear, who is also known as the god of the land. As a result, bears are typically perceived as female, just as Ungnyeo is interoreted as a goddess.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

It is associated with totemism academically in terms of mythical elements, the most popular theory at the moment is that of Lee Byung-do. Simply defined, Hwan-woong is the one who relocated from somewhere else, while Ungnyeo represents the indigenous tribe that worshiped the bear totem, while the tiger represents the indigenous tribe that worshiped the tiger totem.

Together, they represent the power that was revered. While the tribe that revered the bear totem successfully integrated to build a modern society, the tiger tribe was unable to coexist with the new power under Hwanung. This might also be taken to mean that Heavenly Son and Mother God's beliefs are included.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Lee Hwa made the assumption that "the tiger symbolizes the tribe that hunted, and the bear represents the tribe that cultivated." In mythical terms, the tiger tribe was driven back as a result of an alliance between the incoming forces and the bear tribe.

Additionally, it is asserted that mugwort and garlic may have been the ordinances issued by the new authorities or the agents sent by them. Or, it may be seen as having ceremonial significance, taking into account the fact that mugwort and garlic are said to ward off bugs and evil spirits in folklore.

Theory 2

Another hypothesis holds that the requirement to consume only mugwort and garlic represents the lack of food experienced when allowing the Hwanung clan to immigrate on a wide scale. The bear clan gave the Hwanung clan food to eat, and through the use of excellent agricultural machinery and farming techniques, the original farming, which would have required nearly 100 days, was completed in 21 days. The tiger clan was unable to overcome the Hwanung clan's eating habits and chased them away. Marriage exchanges between the Hwanung clan and the bear clan occurred as their ties got stronger, giving rise to the notion that Dangun.

Legends and myths are a way to learn more about the history, culture and commons of a country in a more entertaining way, and it is amazing all the details you get from them, we hope you have enjoyed and learned more about Korea with this amazing myth.


About the author: Suji was studying in London in the year 2019 and, although being separated from her family, her passion for Korea was growing. She noticed that a lot of her close friends loved Korean culture, food, music, and dramas and gradually started to fall in love with Korea, but there weren't many opportunities to actually "experience" this wonderful nation!

Suji was aware of what she needed to do to introduce Korea to her friends' lives and, conceivably, to those of everyone else who was curious about a piece of Daehan Min-guk.

Back to blog

Leave a comment


Craving some more? How about with Korean snacks!

Yes, you, you hit the right spot! Treat yourself to a box filled with unique snacks, exclusive K-pop merch, and K-beauty essentials, all sourced directly from Korea. Relish the thrill of exploring Korea each month and feel its heartbeat closer than ever!