Arang’s father, a magistrate from Seoul, was dispatched to the Miryang Region during the reign of King Myeongjong (1545–1567). He brought his only daughter with him. The position came with a completely furnished and staffed home.
Arang loved to go moon-gazing at Youngnamru Pavillion. A respectable young lady could not go out alone: the female servant assigned as her chaperone conspired with another who wished to rape Arang. So one night, the chaperon slipped away, leaving Arang gazing at the moon. When the man attempted his assault, Arang fought back and was stabbed to death. The servants hid her body in a bamboo grove, then returned home, claiming that Arang had been kidnapped or had eloped. (Different versions of this extremely popular Korean legend exist.)
No ransom demand was ever made. No word of Arang surfaced. Her father searched but eventually, assuming that she had eloped with a stranger, resigned his position in shame. Heartbroken, he returned to Seoul. Every man hired to fill his position died within twenty-four hours of taking office. Rumors of a curse spread. Eventually no one wanted the job: the position was left unfilled.
Another version of Arang’s tale (but not the official version) describes her as a maid killed by her employer’s son when she resisted rape.
One day a civil servant napping at the Youngnamru Pavillion, the scene of the crime, dreamed of a woman in white who told him, “Finally, I have met the man who can avenge me.” She explained that she had appeared to each new deputy, hoping that he would avenge her, but instead all had dropped dead of fright. There was no curse. The ghost meant no harm. All the menwere just so terrified of her, their hearts literally stopped. Or at least so she claimed.
The civil servant asked Arang to identify her murderer, but she just waved a red flag and disappeared. When he awoke, he asked for and received the position vacated by Arang’s father. The first thing he did was obtain a list of all his employees, including household staff. Noting that one man was named “Red Flag,” he had him interrogated. Eventually the servants confessed. Arang’s body was found, the knife still in her breast. Proper funeral rites were arranged. The magistrate who avenged her lived and prospered.
Arang is invoked to protect young or vulnerable women and to punish rapists. She may also be invoked to encourage malefactors to confess their crimes.
The 2007 Korean horror movie, Arang, does not retell the traditional legend but takes inspiration from the old story.
Sacred site: Local people deemed it wise to build a shrine for Arang. The Arang Pavillion (Arangkat) stands on a bluff overlooking the Miryang River. It once stood within a bamboo grove, but the grove has been largely cleared away.
Sacred dates: Rituals to honor and propitiate Arang are held annually on the sixteenth day of the fourth lunar month.
Offerings: Fruit; wine; incense; candles; and pilgrimages to her shrine
See also: Ghost; Mae Nak; Oiwa; Okiku
From the Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.
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