The Sun and the Moon

AB is from Seattle, Washington and is an Electrical Engineering major at USC. He is a first generation Korean American. He lived in Korea from 1 to 4 years old, so Korean was technically his first language even though he was born in the United States.

“Once upon a time there was a poor family consisting of a mother, son, and daughter. So the mother made money by working for other families. One day she was working for a rich family and took some rice cakes when she was leaving in order to feed her children. On her way back home, a tiger started following her and he was hungry. So he asked the mother for a rice cake. Because the mother didn’t want to be eaten, she gave the tiger a rice cake, but the tiger kept following her. And he kept asking for more rice cakes. Eventually the mother ran out of rice cakes and the tiger ate her, and then the tiger took the mother’s clothes, and disguised as the mother, he approached the house of the son and daughter. He’s at the house and knocks on the door and asks them to let him in, but the boy and the girl say “Your voice doesn’t sound like our mother” so they say “show us your hands” so the tiger shows them his claws and they say “your hands are dark and hairy. Our mother’s hands are white.” So the tiger goes and covers his hands in flour and shows them his hands again and they let the tiger in. He goes in and says he’ll go and make them dinner now, then the boy and the girl notice the tiger’s tail and realize it’s a tiger, so they run out of the house out of fear of being eaten and climb a tree. And then the tiger starts chasing them but doesn’t know where they are when he gets outside, so he starts running around until he sees the reflection of the children in a well, and says “Aha! You’re in the well!” but the boy says “No, we’re in the tree!” And then the tiger’s like “How did you get up there?” and the boy lied to him saying “We used oil,” so the tiger went and got oil and tried to climb the tree but slipped and fell down. And the girl started laughing at the tiger and while she was laughing she basically suggested that the tiger should use an axe instead. So the tiger went and got an axe and started chopping grooves into the tree to use as a ladder to climb up. So the tiger’s climbing up and the children are freaking out because they’re about to be eaten so they pray to God, and then a rope came down from the sky and they climb the rope. After they climb the rope, the tiger gets to the top of the tree but the children are gone. So he also prays to God asking him to “send down the rope if you want me to catch the children” so another rope falls from the sky and the tiger starts climbing the rope, but it’s a rotten rope so the rope breaks and the tiger falls back down to earth. Meanwhile, the children climb up to the skies and the boy becomes the sun and the girl becomes the moon, but then the moon says she is scared of the night, so instead the boy becomes the moon and the girl becomes the sun. The end.”

My informant said he originally heard this story sometime during his childhood, probably from a children’s book. When he first heard it he was quite confused but found it pretty funny and random.

I thought this myth was pretty random and humorous. It reminded me of the story of Little Red Riding Hood. I asked my informant if in Korean culture the sun is referred to as a female and the moon a male, but he said he wasn’t sure. If that is the case, then it would contrast to the Western notion that the moon is related to females and the sun to males.