Aerange
(Everyone knows the Arirang song. Everyone joins in its refrain. Improvised
verses are added " ad infinitum". It is acted in the theaters. Cinemas now show
it in various forms, and gramophone records blare it forth. The story is a sad
one, and oppression gave birth to its popularity.)

In Miryang (Kyongsang-namdo Province) lived the lovely young daughter of the
Country Magistrate, a girl in the flower of her maidenhood. A page in humble position
in her father's household had fallen in love with the young beauty and had long
desired her. Hopeless that he might ever gain her for his lawful wife, he bribed the
girl's old nurse to lure her one moonlight night to a pleasure pavilion at a beautiful
spot.

While the girl was engrossed in the view the old nurse slipped away, and the young
page came out of the nearby bamboo grove and importuned the maiden to yield
herself to his desires of love. She spurned and repulsed him and fought fiercely to
defend her virtue and honor even with death in view, as the youth drew his dagger. He
stabbed her and hid the disheveled and bleeding body in the bamboo grove. It was
only next morning, long after sunrise, that Aerang was missed by her parents, and a
distracted search yielded no result.

After some time the sad father, the Magistrate, was recalled to Seoul, and a new
official replaced him. This new Magistrate was found dead in his room the morning
after his arrival, and to his successor the same fate came. Wild rumors were heard that
the ghost of Aerang had killed the terror-stricken Magistrates. No official was willing
to fill the post until a bold young noble requested the position to solve the mystery.

As he sat at night quietly smoking his long pipe, a sudden wind blew and the fearsome
apparition came into the room. Overcoming his trembling nerves, he demanded who
this was, and why this visit. The disheveled figure approached the new Magistrate with
the dagger still planted in her breast. In her hand were three red flags displayed to
attract his attention. The figure quietly remained until the Magistrate signified by
nodding his head that he understood her message. All night long the Magistrate
pondered to decipher the hidden meaning of the red color, the flag and the number
three. Next morning he called his lieutenant and inquired whether he knew any person
named Hong(red) Ki(flag) Sam(three). This person was well known to the whole office
staff and, when summoned before the Magistrate, immediately confessed to the crime
and showed the spot where the body was buried. Here it was found still fresh and
undecayed.

In appeasement of the spirit and in memory of her valorous death, the people of
Miryang erected a pavilion and stone tablet which still tells the story of her virtues and
life.

The name of "Aerange" has been converted to "Arirang" and the idea of her
sacrifice has been lost and turned so that the theme of the popular song is the
desire of an unhappy woman that her lover should not desert her.


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