Bulgasari, Again…

In the comments section of a recent post, Hiram asked what the word Bulgasari meant.

I offered a few possible explanations, but I just happened on another one and it was pretty fascinating. I posted a comment there, but figured it might be missed, so I’m devoting a new post to the information.

I was looking through a book of Korean poems translated into English, and in “On Genesis”, by Kim Kwanshik, there’s a reference to a Bulgasari that lived in “[t]he capital city of Songdo”, which the footnote explains was “a fictitious monster believed to devour metals.”

I wish I could find a book with listings of mythical creatures from Korean legends and lore: a kind of Korean “Monster Manual” or something. That would be quite fascinating. What did people think a Bulgasari looked like? How did it move about? Could it speak?

Ah well… perhaps I’ll stumble on that as well, if I keep reading books of poems.

Two classes to go, and only three altogether until my holiday begins!

7 thoughts on “Bulgasari, Again…

  1. Bulgasari (不可死理?) literally means “something never dies (like starfish)” But Koreans also use it as some phenomena you couldn’t understand rationally. For example, pyramid in Egypt is one of the bulgasaris in the world histoy. UFO is a bulgasari…

    I am not sure about the poem and the city of Songdo though. Could you post the poem?

  2. June: Well, I’m glad that the explanation of “Bulgasari” that my girlfriend gave me was still accurate by your account, June. That’s what I posted in the comment to Hiram. But what of this other metal-eater? I’ve never heard anyone even mention such a creature in any story or myth!

    As for posting it… Um, it’s pretty long, on the order of two pages! But if I get to my office early enough this morning, I’ll type the relevant bit in.

    If not today, it’ll have to be next week, as I’m visiting a friend for a few days.

    In any case, he’s just talking about ancient mysterious things, but he goes on about “The bulgasari in Songdo.” I almost skipped over it thinking it was just a mysterious thing, but the footnote grabbed my attention.

    Ali: thanks for the link, I’ll go have a look!

  3. Here is a link to that article of Wyatt’s. Interesting, and I learned something neat about the Magical Lions called “Haetae” (I think I knew of them as Foo Lions before, in AD&D), but there was alas nothing about a magical metal-eating critter. But I am sure someone has documented this kind of obscure thing, somewhere. I really do want to know of the more obscure critters of myth and lore… ah well.

  4. Hehe… we must track down the North Korean film mentioned below… Apparently it was released in the South in 2000, one of the first NK films to be given a general release!:

    Bulgasari [“Pul-ga-sa-ri”] Directed by Shinn Sang-okk. From North Korea (produced in 1985). The Koryo-era government begins confiscating metal tools so as to forge weapons and put down a peasant rebellion. Blacksmith and village elder Tak-sae refuses to cooperate, claiming that a metal-eating monster named Bulgasari has consumed all the tools. He is thrown into prison, where he molds a small doll of rice before dying. The doll arrives home with his body, and when Tak-sae’s daughter accidentally spills some blood on the doll, it comes to life as the monster Bulgasari. Starring Chang Sun-hee, Lee Jong-kuk, and Satsuma Keihachiro. Distributed by Koryo Media. 95 min.

  5. Good grief, a Rice Golem that eats metal! I really *do* want to see that movie, Bulgasari.

    A few North Korean movies played at the JIFF (Jeonju International Film Festival) this year but they were at impossible times for me. Ah well… perhaps I will be able to find a DVD collection sometime? Surely there must be at least that much interest in them?

  6. Wow, if you Google Pulgasari with a ‘p’ you get way better links! And pictures! And DVDs! I can’t believe this was directed by Shin Sang-Ok (director kidnapped by NK).

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