In the year 914 (during the Later Three Kingdoms period of Korea), a general named Wang Geon was on his way to strike the kingdom of Later Baekje. He noticed a strange, colourful cloud in the sky and when he went there to investigate, he found a maiden washing clothes by a well. He approached her and asked for some water. The maiden politely accepted and went to fetch a gourd of water, placed a willow tree leaf in it then handed it to Wang Geon. Curiously, he asked:
“What is the reason for putting a leaf in the water?”
“You appeared to be very thirsty so I was worried that you would gulp down the water too quickly and upset your stomach.”
He was touched by her consideration and wisdom and fell in love with her, so he asked her hand in marriage before leaving the town.
In 918, Wang Geon became the first king of Goryeo after successfully unifying the three kingdoms of the Korean peninsula. The maiden is now known as Empress Janghwa; that is the story of how a girl became an empress from a simple act of kindness and tenderness.
The unicorn is pictured as a white stallion with a single, prominent horn on its forehead. It is still loved and is one of the most well-known mythical creatures. As with any mythical beasts, there are interesting stories related to the unicorn.
The horn is the source of the unicorn’s strength – the infinite fountain of magical power that grants the unicorn unmatched strength and speed. If it meets an enemy it either sprints and disappears, or uses its large weapon to impale even the hardest armour. This makes it extremely hard to capture.
Medieval people believed the horn of the unicorn to be a highly valuable magic ingredient, with extremely potent cleansing properties that could purify even lakes and seas. But as the only way to attain the horn is to capture a unicorn, it was an extremely rare commodity.
To catch a unicorn, one must know its most important (yet not well-known in the modern age) trait. Although they are wild beasts with a savage temper, they calm down like lamb in front of one group of people – virgin maidens. If it detects even the faintest scent of a virgin, it rushes towards her and places its head on her lap, soundly falling asleep. Due to this characteristic, it is often portrayed as a symbol of purity and chastity, and also Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.
According to notes written by Leonardo Da Vinci himself, hunters used this trick to capture unicorns that would fall asleep on a virgin’s lap (whom they brought with them to aide in the hunt). Even a mighty beast has a weakness that can be exploited.
On a side note, it is also written that if the unicorn senses that the maiden is not a virgin, it would instantly use its large weapon to impale her until death.