Top 5 Wednesday – Mythical Creatures of Canada and Korea (and examples in media)

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes in which you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic.

This week’s topic is “favourite monsters/mythological creatures” and I found myself struggling. Not because I couldn’t find any favourites, but because there are way too many of them out there. Stick a pin in any random spot in any random country and chances are they’ll have some mythological creature that’s unique to the region.

So I decided to get a little more specific and feature some monsters that are native to Korea and Canada (because–*waves*–Korean-Canadian here). And by “Canada” I mean its various First Nations tribes.

 

Wendigo

wendigo

Rooted in Algonquian mythology, Wendigos (or Windigos) are said to roam the forests of Canada and parts of northern U.S. either as a spirit or a physical monster (accounts seem to vary). Physically, it’s been described a rotting, emancipated werewolf-esque creature with preternatural speed and senses. Reeking of death and decay, the Wendigo is built to stalk and hunt humans. Its hunger is insatiable and no matter how much it feeds it remains in a state of perpetual starvation.

As a spirit, it can possess people and render them to a state of mindless hunger. Greedy people and people who have practiced cannibalism seem to be its most susceptible victims.

Books:

The Curse of the Wendigo (Monstrumologist 2) by Rick Yancey

This book remains my favourite Wendigo story to date. With trademark lyricism, Yancey captures the visceral horror of Wendigos and the isolation of the Canadian wilderness so well.

 

Inmyeonjo

inmyeonjo.jpg

Inmyeonjo (인면조) is, simply put, a long-necked bird with the face of a human. And I absolutely hated the thing when I was a kid. The paleness of it combined with the period headdress made for some jarring nightmare fuel. But despite the sheer weirdness of its appearance, it’s a relatively benign creature, one whose existence is meant to bridge the sky with the land. After all, the South Korean Olympic committee included it in the PyeongChang opening ceremony as a symbol of peace and harmony.

 

Kumiho

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All you K-drama fans will be familiar with the kumiho/gumiho from the 2010 series My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox. Kumiho, which translates literally to “nine-tailed fox,” is an ancient fox spirit that can shapeshift into human form–most often a beautiful, seductive young woman. Much of East Asian folklore (and culture as a whole) is tightly intertwined, with big sibling China being the main influencer, so kumiho has its counterparts in kitsune (Japan) and huli jing (China).

The most notable difference is that kumihos carry a marble (size of a candy) containing the entirety of the foxes’ strength and knowledge. And a human can gain all that knowledge by swallowing the marble whole.

The other distinction is that while kitsune and hli jing are portrayed as mostly chaotic-neutral spirits–with tricks being the extent of their malevolence–kumihos are said to have a taste for human flesh. Male human flesh, in particular. With hearts and livers being their preferred delicacy. In some tales, the kumiho is able to shed its monstrous form and become fully human if it can resist the lure of flesh for 1000 days. This last bit I find fascinating because it really underscores the influence of Buddhism–the idea that our goal in life is to reach a higher state of being.

Books:

➽ The Fox Sister (webcomic)

A gorgeous comic set in 1968 Seoul. There are only 4 chapters out right now and it’s currently on hiatus, but it’s so worth taking a look.

➽ Foxfire, Foxfire (short story) by Yoon Ha Lee

I need to set an altar to Yoon Ha because he’s writing all the Korean speculative fic I need in my life. There’s currently a surge of mainstream Asian SFF (especially in YA), but Korean speculative stories remain curiously absent. At this point I’m tempted to just write one myself.

 

Qalupalik

Qalupalik02

Originating from Inuit lore, Qalupalik is described as a humanoid sea creature that steals away disobedient children who stray a little to the water’s edge.

The interesting thing is that she doesn’t eat the children she captures but hides them away in her secret lair. Which seems…oddly anticlimactic and begs the question of what the heck happens to the kids afterward (do they drown and get arranged in the qaluplaik’s underwater cave like dolls?) but hey, it’s a story meant to keep children from misbehaving, not the The Silmarillion.

Books:

A Promise is a Promise by Robert Munsch:

Munsch is a national treasure and I’m pretty sure this book is where I first heard of the Qalupalik.

 

Dokkaebi

h.jpgThese guys are present in pretty much every Korean folktale. Dokkaebi are powerful horned goblins who carry around spiked clubs and other such magical objects. Unlike the ambivalence of Inmyeonjo and the violence of kumiho, dokkaebi are mostly just…goofy (in their action, at least. Their traditional appearance is red and hulking and rather quite scary). They seem to enjoy messing with humans as much as they like helping them, and they’re known to challenge hapless travelers to wrestling matches.

I’ve yet to encounter them in western literature, but a google image search for “dokkaebi” gave me a wall of Rainbox Six Siege results, which is how I learned that they have a new playable Korean character whose nickname is “Dokkaebi.” So that’s pretty neat!

flourish

Have you ever encountered these in any media? And what are some of your favourite mythical creatures from your country?

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39 thoughts on “Top 5 Wednesday – Mythical Creatures of Canada and Korea (and examples in media)

  1. sjhigbee says:

    What a fascinating list! I’ve only ever encountered the first one – the Wendigo and the most memorable outing was in Kevin Hearn’s The Iron Druid godpunk series which managed to rope in many gods from different pantheons, including Jesus…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Norrie says:

    Love this list! The book recommendations are really cool.
    Do you know the video game The Secret World? One of my favourites. It had a whole area infested with wendigo 😀 The whole game is filled with mythical creatures ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tammy says:

    I have not heard of any of these except the Wendigo. Clearly I need to be reading more folklore, these are so cool! I love how different countries have similar versions of the same monsters.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Camile Souza says:

    I’ve only seen representations of Wendigo (Supernatural tv show), and the japanese Kitsune (Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa). That was a really interesting list. I made one with more well known creatures, but I’ve also been meaning to do one just for myths of my country (Brazil) this month. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. waytoofantasy says:

    I love this list. I love K-dramas, but I’ve been on the wagon for about a year now, haha (I’m in K-drama addict recovery I guess, lol). Everyone loves My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox but I could never get into that one for some reason! I’m contrary I guess, lol. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. PerfectlyTolerable says:

    The only one I have heard of from your list is the Wendigo and that is because there was at least one Supernatural episode where they hunt them. I don’t really know which mythical creatures are from the US and which ones we adopted from other cultures but I love dragons ❤ Especially the ones that coexist with humans and aren't just mindless beasts!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. @lynnsbooks says:

    What a fantastic post. I don’t want to give away spoilers but Seanan McGuire’s Boneyard or Alma Katsu’s Hunger could fit in with one of these.
    KUMIHO – I suppose this is similar to Kitsune? In which case Generation V by ML Brennan is a great example – and Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye series also has a Kitsune – but I can’t say more about that!
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  8. auroralibrialis says:

    This is such a cool list, Kathy! I love it 💕 I hope someone (you?) writes some SFF about Kumihos, cause they’re my new favorite mythological creatures! I’ve read Ninefox Gambit, but I didn’t know they mythology behind the ninefox thing. The first time I heard about a Wendigo was on Charmed. It was on season 1, so the special effects were a mess and it was far from scary. It sounds really creepy now though! My favorite mythological creatures from Norway are Huldra, a beautiful woman with a cow’s tale who lives underground in the woods and enchants men, and Nøkken, a shape-shifting water spirit who lures people so they drown.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Oh I love the sound of those!! Thanks for sharing, Aurora! ❤ And it's interesting (but not too surprising, I guess) that beautiful female mythical creatures in every mythology always seem to enchant/lure the men. And I searched up "Charmed Wendigo" on google image and that was not AT ALL what I was expecting. He looks like he's wearing a halloween mask xD

      And there's an upcoming YA fantasy called Ten Thousand Rivers that's actually set IN Korea and written by a Korean-Canadian (*squeal*), and I'm super excited for that!! We have to wait until 2020, though…

      Like

  9. Gerry@TheBookNookUK says:

    I’m loving your choices Kathy! I also chose the Wendigo because I think there’s something so creepy and fascinating about them. I haven’t heard of the others but they are wonderful editions and I’m loving that so many people are sharing creatures of their heritage and culture. I’m like a kid in a sweetshop with all this knowledge.

    I think my favourite is the Qalupalik because I’m fascinated by water dwelling creatures but I’m also curious… what *do* they do with the children? I like how so many cultures have ‘stay away from the water, children’ stories which are probably just to prevent drowning but we just needed to add in extra terror. Unless it’s all real of course…

    Like

  10. Geekteller says:

    Great article, I loved reading about creature and mythological creatures. I only heard about Wendingos, but the rest seem interesting, too, especially the Korean creatures. Do you have any book recommendations on Asian mythology (easier to read, not academical ones)? I would love to read more about it! Thanks!

    Like

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