Chilwol-chilsuk: A Love Story

Once upon a time, in a land beyond the stars, there lived a lovely princess called Chiknyo. She was a very skillful weaver and no one in the land could weave more beautiful or sturdier fabrics than her. That was why she was called Chiknyo, meaning Weaving Maiden. Her father, The King, was very proud that Chiknyo was uncommonly diligent and he would often watch her as she worked at her loom. One day, the King was struck by her beauty, and realized that she was no longer a little girl but a lovely young woman and decided that it was time for her to marry.

The King called a meeting of his advisors to consult about eligible bachelors for Chiknyo. After several days, one of his closest advisors announced that he had found the perfect match in a neighboring kingdom. “He is a prince”, explained the King’s advisor. “But he is also a herder. That is why he is called Kyunu. A herder and a weaver, there could not be a better match.”

All of the advisors agreed, so the King sent a court official to the neighboring kingdom to arrange a marriage between Kyonu and Chiknyo. The neighboring King was delighted with the offer for he also had been looking for the perfect wife for his son. After both Kings’ emissaries met several times, a date was selected for the wedding and everyone in the two kingdoms began preparing for the royal wedding. Kyonu and Chiknyo were counseled by their parents about how to be an exemplary couple. Finally, Kyonu and Chiknyo were married and there wasn’t a happier or harder working couple anywhere.

However, Kyonu and Chiknyo began to neglect their duties. They would lie in each other’s arms and count the stars or run hand-in-hand through the meadows. Chiknyo’s loom became dusty and Kyonu’s cows wandered about freely, even into the palace flower gardens. Their subjects began to worry because Chiknyo’s father was a stern ruler and did not tolerate idleness.

When the King heard that Kyonu and Chiknyo were neglecting their work, he was sad and angry. He sent word that they should appear in court. When Kyonu and Chiknyo knelt before him, he said in a stern voice, “I want you out of my sight. I can’t bear to look at the two of you. You disobeyed your King. I told you to work hard and not neglect your duties and you would always be happy. But you have spent your time together only playing. By being irresponsible, you have set a bad example for your countrymen. Apparently, your irresponsibility comes from living together. So you will now live apart. Kyonu, you will live in the east, and Chiknyo, you will live in the west.”

“Oh, My Lord. Please forgive us. We made a mistake,” cried Kyonu. “Please don’t make us live apart. We will change. We will work hard. Please forgive us.” With tears streaming down her face, Chiknyo pleaded, “Oh, Father, please don’t make us live apart. I will do whatever you say but please don’t make me live without my husband.” But, the King was unmoved. He banished Kyonu to a remote kingdom in the east to tend cows, and Chiknyo was sent to a remote kingdom in the west to weave. The two wept so much that the King took pity on them and said they could meet once a year — on the seventh day of the seventh moon — alongside the Silvery River.

In the east, Kyonu tended his cows, but he could not concentrate on his work. He passed the time thinking about his blissful days with Chiknyo, staring at the western heaven where she lived and counting the days until they could be together. In the west, Chiknyo spent her days working at her loom but her eyes were on the eastern heaven where Kyonu lived.

Finally, a year passed and it was time for Kyonu and Chiknyo to meet at the Silvery River. With racing hearts, each set out on their long journey. But, when they arrived, they were greatly disappointed for the Silvery River was so wide that they could hardly see each other or talk. There was no bridge or boat they could use to cross. They started to weep so bitterly that Kyonu’s and Chiknyo’s tears fell as rain and began to flood the earth.

As the flood waters rose, the birds and animals on earth feared for their lives and homes and came together to figure out how to stop the torrents of tears. “If this rain is to stop,” grunted a bear, “Kyonu and Chiknyo must be able to meet face to face.” “Yes,” agreed the rabbit, “but the Silvery River is so vast, how can they get across?” An owl said, “There should be a bridge…let’s build one.” “But how can we?” roared a tiger, “the Silvery River is too high.” “I know,” cried a magpie, “my fellow magpies and I can do it with the help of our cousins the crows.” “Yes, a great idea,” said a crow, “let’s do this!”

The sky became black as all the magpies and crows on earth flew off toward the Silvery River. With their wings spread wide, the birds formed a bridge. When Kyonu and Chiknyo realized what the birds had done, they stopped crying and rushed across the feathery bridge. They held each other all night and talked about their happy life together and how much they missed each other. As dawn began to break, they shed a few tears and parted as they each returned to their posts in the east and west.

Since that time, on the seventh day of the seventh moon, magpies and crows have not been seen on earth. However, on the next day, magpies and crows can be seen with noticeably fewer head-feathers, as Kyonu and Chiknyo stepped lightly on their heads to cross the Silvery River. And, there is always a light sprinkling of rain in the early morning from the tears Kyonu and Chiknyo shed as they part for another year’s separation.

In the West, Kyonu and Chiknyo are known as the brightly shining stars Altair and Vega, and they shine on each end of the Silvery River, which is known as the Milky Way.