Let’s Meet the Gumiho (구미호)

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구미호’s (Gumiho) or nine-tail foxes exist in the lore of Korea, China, and Japan. It is said that if a fox lives for a thousand years, it will become a gumiho. These foxes have nine tails which give them supernatural powers. One of these powers is the ability to take on the form of a beautiful woman. (And every now and then men.) They are also thought to be endowed with special supernatural knowledge.

Now, in the case of Korean gumihos, it is commonly said that what they really want is to become human. The way that they can become human is to marry a human man and keep their identity as a gumiho hidden for a hundred days. If they manage that, they will become a real human.

Other stories say that gumihos hold ‘dragon stones’ in their mouths. These dragon stones can give people the power to understand heaven and earth. If the gumiho passes this stone back and forth between her mouth and a persons (usually a man’s). After a while, his life force is taken from him. Alternatively, some men are able to gain special knowledge.

Obviously a fox with nine tails, magic powers, special knowledge, and a dragon stone isn’t afraid of too much, but due to all the years they spend living as foxes, it is said that gumihos still fear hunters, hunting dogs, and wolves. Amazingly enough, every now and then a dog or wolf manages to kill a gumiho in folktales.

Gumihos like to eat people’s livers. The reason for this is that according to Asian wisdom, the liver is of the element wood. Wood is the element that binds the five elements, water, fire, gold, and earth, together. So it has the ability to give them strength, which they need because despite all of their knowledge and powers, they tend to be a little wimpy. Hence the getting killed by dogs.


Sources:

  1. Namu Wiki Encyclopedia 구미호: https://namu.wiki/w/%EA%B5%AC%EB%AF%B8%ED%98%B8
  2. Wiki Suin Encyclopedia: https://ko.wikifur.com/wiki/%EA%B5%AC%EB%AF%B8%ED%98%B8
  3. Encyclopedia of Korean Culture: https://encykorea.aks.ac.kr/Contents/Item/E0036434
  4. Korean Wiki Encyclopedia: https://ko.wikipedia.org/wiki/%EA%B5%AC%EB%AF%B8%ED%98%B8

Author: Miranda New

Wife, mom, teacher, writer, expat. A little bit of this, a little bit of that.

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