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Seok T'alhae

by Charles La Shure
Fourth king of Shilla. T'alhae was born to the queen of King Hamdal in Wanha, and was said to have hatched from an egg. This was unheard of at the time, and the king's advisors warned him that it was a bad omen. He put T'alhae in a large chest with various precious stones and set him on a ship. The ship was immediately met by a red dragon who guarded the ship until it reached Shilla.

T'alhae surveyed the land for a place to live, and he came to admire the house of a man named Ho. He went down to the house in secret and buried some charcoal and a whetstone. The nest day he went to Ho and accused him of taking his ancestor's land. When questioned by the police, T'alhae said that his ancestors were blacksmiths, and they could find proof of this by digging up the yard. The charcoal and whetstone were found, and so T'alhae took Ho's house. King Namhae of Shilla saw this and realized that T'alhae was a man of great ingenuity. He gave his first daughter to him in marriage, and T'alhae became the fourth king of Shilla after Namhae's son Yuri.

T'alhae also appears in the Kaya legend of King Suro. This legend claims that T'alhae went first to Kaya and challenged King Suro for the throne, and they tested each other in metamorphosis magic (see also the story of Habaek). T'alhae first changed into a falcon, but Suro changed into an eagle. Then T'alhae changed into a sparrow, but Suro changed into a sparrow-hawk. T'alhae changed back to human form and bowed before the king. He acknowledged the king's mercy in not killing him while he had the chance, and departed Kaya on a ship that had arrived from China. The two legends, of course, do not correspond.


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