Oral Literature Oral literature of Jeju has been passed down through word of mouth among the inhabitants of the island. Myths about numerous gods, legends and folktales about peculiar natural sights and eccentric characters, and folk songs about the joys and struggles of life all tell the story of the Jeju people. Jeju Literature is rooted in this tradition. The people of Jeju enjoy oral literature and find in it, consolation from life, along with amusement. Today, it is recognized as a cultural archetype that shows the identity of Jeju, and is now being reinterpreted as a genre of art that goes beyond literature.
Jeju is sometimes called the 'Island of Myths,' as myths come from the island. 'Bonpuri,' which means to interpret the origin of god, comes from shamanism and comes in different forms. Ilbanshin bonpuri refers to stories gods of natural and human events, Dangshin bonpuri refers to the stories of guardians of each village, and Josang bonpuri refers to the stories of gods each household worships. In most stories, the heroes usually become gods after facing hardship and adversity. Bonpuri shows us the interpretation of the origin of gods and nature, along with the long-standing values and imagination of Jeju society such as societal norms. Jeju bonpuri has been passed down continuously through oral tradition and this is the essence of the oral literature of Jejudo. They are kept alive through chants still used during shamanist exorcisms and their value is recognized globally. They are also the origin of various stories and the source of inspiration for many writers.
Folk songs of Jeju are imbued with the sentiment of the Jeju people. Anybody can enjoy the people's songs of labor, moments of amusement, and ritual processes. Lee Jae Hyun (1287-1367), a literary figure during the Goryeo Dynasty, even recorded the songs that were sung in the households of Jeju in the form poems in his book Soakbu, proving that the folk songs of Jeju were a point of interest for scholars. Detailed scenes of labor and experiences of the Jeju people are expressed in the songs, cheerfulness during play is enthusiastically expressed, and the joy and sorrows of the less fortunate are bared naturally. Jeju folk songs are colorful oral literature unique to Jeju in that they are stories of the life of the Jeju people passed down in the Jeju language and voice.
Most Jeju folk songs that were sung to lessen the boredom and hardship of labor involving farming, material, and livestock were labor songs. Songs about farming include songs such as The Sound of Feet and The Sound of Weeding, and songs about fishing include songs such as The Sound of Haenyo Oars and The Sound of Chasing Anchovies, and songs about milling grain include songs such as The Sound of Grind Stones and The Sound of Millstones. Songs for joy during times of hardship include Odoltogi, Neyeongnayoung, Yongcheongum, and Sacheonchomok.
The values of the Jeju people on the many facets of life are reflected through legends and folktales. Boulders of peculiar form, spring water sprouting the ground, and volcanic cones that are present everywhere are explained through mystical events and human relationships. Strongmen with incredible strength and the unusual behaviors of eccentric characters with special abilities determine the fortunes of humans based on power of the earth. Not only that, historic events such as Sambyeolcho are reinterpreted and passed down through legends and folktales. The legends and folktales of Jeju are instilled with the inherent desire of the Jeju people. Stories such as the one where Seolmundae Grandmother was asked to lay a bridge from the mainland express the longing to escape the island. Some stories wish for heroes such as strongmen with wings to save the people from hardship. The legends and folktales of Jeju, along with Jeju Mythology, reflect the community culture of Jeju and serve as a valuable cultural resource.