Monday 11 September 2023

Book Review: An Illustrated Guide to Korean Mythology by Choi Won-oh (Folklore & Mythology)

Title: An Illustrated Guide to Korean Mythology
Author: Choi Won-oh
Publisher: BRILL/Global Oriental
Publication Date: 2028
Pages: 320
Format: eBook
Genre: Folklore & Mythology
Source: Read via Scribd

This highly engaging volume by one of Korea's leading scholars of comparative mythology - the the first study of its kind in English - provides a valuable introduction to centuries-old beliefs, myths and folk tales relating to Cosmology and Flood, Birth and Agriculture, Messengers of the Underworld, Shamans, Disease, Good Fortune, Love and Family, Gods of Village Shrines, and Heroes. Containing thirty traditional stories, the book is fully illustrated throughout and contains a wide variety of Korean art, including rare shamanist paintings, as well as the work of some contemporary Korean artists. All the stories, based on Korean oral tradition, have been retold by the author according to their main plot and meaning because the original texts' songs by shamans, containing many obsolete words and obscure idioms, are not easily understood today. The original title and source, including text notes, are provided at the end of each story. The author's Introduction sets out the historical background and significance of the myths that appear here. He also provides full details of each of the Korean gods and their roles in mythology. While being a welcome addition to the literature on Korean culture for the non-specialist, An Illustrated Guide to Korean Mythology also provides an invaluable reference source for scholars and researchers in the fields of East Asian Mythology and Anthropology, as well as Korean History, Religion and Literature.


An Illustrated Guide to Korean Mythology was an interesting and well presented book. There was a general introduction before the collection of stories began, and in between the tales were some excellent illustrations. Definitely worth a look for anyone interested in Korean mythology, especially as a good proportion of the tales were ones I hadn't read in the frequently found folklore collections. I am giving this book 4.5 stars.

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