Tag Archives: seduction

Siren Legend

Genre: Folk Narrative – Legend


“When I was younger, I heard this legend about a warrior who lived in Scotland during the height of the medieval wars. Despite his skill in battle, the warrior was lonely and wanted a woman to love.

“One day, in the midst of a battle, this beautiful woman appeared at the crest of a hill and began walking across the field, somehow making it through unscathed. The warrior was immediately entranced by her and felt like he was hallucinating. Even though it was foggy and cold, the woman wore no clothing, and the warrior longed to discover what was hidden beneath her long, dark hair.

“When the woman finally made it to him, the warrior no longer cared about the battle happening around him: he only had eyes for this beautiful, mysterious woman. Her eyes were as blue as the sea, and when she opened her lips to speak, inviting him to follow her down to the beach, he found himself powerless and unable to resist. She led the way out of the battlefield and down to the ocean, where each step into the water seemed to make her even more beautiful.

“But by the time the warrior realized that there was something dangerous to her beauty, it was too late: the water transformed the irresistible woman into a creature of the sea. She dragged the warrior into the ocean, and despite his strength, he was unable to fight back. The woman, who in her true form was a siren, drowned the warrior and feasted on his remains before disappearing back into the sea to wait for the next man she would make her meal.”


“My great-uncle was a big storyteller, and he was really into mythology about all sorts of creatures and stuff from different cultures. He spent a year living in Scotland after college, and while he was there, he heard this story from a local tour guide. I’m sure the story I ended up hearing was different from the one he originally heard because he likes to embellish things and give stories his own flair. But I think this was kind of his way of warning me not to be stupid and leave everything behind for a girl just because I think she’s beautiful.”


I agree with the informant’s interpretation of the legend – that it is a warning to not become entranced by a woman just because of her attractiveness. There is also an undertone of a warning to not leave behind your life when something suddenly appears to be better – similar to the idea that “the grass is greener on the other side.”

I also think that it is interesting to consider the dilution of this legend from an original Scottish form to what seems to likely be Americanized. In Scottish mythology, the “equivalent” of what here is called a siren is really a selkie. The main difference between the two is sirens are sometimes considered synonymous with mermaids and are known to entrance men through magical song, while selkies are shapeshifters with a human and seal form. Both are typically depicted as seductive in their human forms, though selkies are considered to have more of a dual nature, while sirens primarily lean toward violence.


The Informant:

He is in his early 50s and works as an engineer. Born in Incheon, South Korea, he immigrated to the United States after he married my mother in 1991. He heard the story of the gumiho when he was in high school from his friends.

The Story:

구미호는 여우야. 꼬리가 아홉개있는 여우.

미 는 꼬리라는 의미고, 구 는 아홉이고, 호는 여우같다.

구미호는 어느날 자기를 사랑하는 총각을 만나면 여자로 변신을해. 그리고 여자로 그 남자한테가서 꼬시 는 거야. 납자가 사랑을헤서 반하고 구미호는 자기 집으로 대려가. 거기서 맛있는 음식을주고 따뜻한 이불을깔고 술 도줘. 그 총각이 잠을들면 그의 심장을 뜯어 먹어서 이젠 평생 사람으로 살수 있는거야. 

구미호는 사람은 아니고 귀신이지. 그리고 꼬리는 항상보여. 여우든 여자든 꼬리는 항상 나타나. 그래서 어떤 모습이든 숨기려고해 아니면 잡히니까.

The gumiho is a fox with nine-tails. Mi means tail, Gu means nine, and Ho to be sly like a fox.

It only approaches bachelors and tries to seduce them. When the gumiho meets a man who truly loves her, the gumiho transforms into the figure of a woman. The man falls for her beauty and she leads him to her lair, at which she prepares a warm bed, nice food, and serves alcohol. When the man falls asleep, she then rips out his heart and eats it. She does this to become permanently human.

The gumiho is a form of ghost. It can either be in fox or human form. Whichever form it appears in, the tails are always visible and so it tries to hide it.

The Analysis:

The gumiho tale is often told to young, unmarried men – bachelors – in Korea. From my insight, it is told as a warning to men to be wary of women in general. She may appear to be perfect and pretty, but inside they are all foxes, sly with unknown intentions. This is the first story in which I have heard the gumiho eating a man’s heart, not liver. This signifies that she takes over his life, as he dies but it lives on as a human woman.