One common characteristic of various proverbs is the difficulty, almost impossibility, of determining their origin. Let’s take for example “the early bird catches the worm.” We can certainly date it back to the time when people mastered language and through it formulated their thoughts, but that is too broad of a scope. Similarly, we are unable to determine even approximately the place of the first utterance; we only know that someone somewhere was the first. And although the exact wording of the sentence across different nations or cultures may not have been word for word the same, the point remains.

For comparison, the English say: “early bird, catches the worm,” the French: “l’avenir appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt” (the future belongs to those who rise early), while in the Czech Republic, it’s enough just to hop somewhere (word by word translate sounds like “morning bird further jumps”). Naturally, there are also nations that do not have any similar variant of the proverb simply because early rising and subsequent work from dawn are normal to them. After all, why comment on the obvious?

The authors of the aforementioned proverbs will likely remain forbidden for eternity*, but fortunately, we can determine the origin of this proverb quite accurately: “Where the delegation alights, there the sun bestows its smile.”

From the perspective of ethnographic-linguistic science studying proverbs (paremiology), this is considered a pivotal moment in the 3rd millennium of our era because at the time when proverbs were created, paremiology did not yet exist, and later, new proverbs ceased to be created. Linguists thus had no choice for centuries but to study the same established ones. Until now.

Life isn’t fair, success isn’t always deserved, but today’s linguists deserve the intergenerational wait. Chance brought us to the proverb: “Where the delegation alights, there the sun bestows its smile,” but that’s just how it goes.

It is connected to a legend about a delegation consisting of two people, a man and a woman. Today widely spread mainly in the southern part of Japan, also in South Korea, Nepal and Taiwan. It tells of two foreigners who appeared exotic in those regions. The woman is said to be of smaller stature, with freckles on her face and a wide smile. The man is very tall, with a beard and a scar across his head. He doesn’t smile much. Originally, nobody paid attention to them, but as time passed, the delegation visited more countries, and in each one, people encountered them in various parts, sometimes even non-touristic ones. Locals couldn’t help but notice a certain pattern and start passing this information on.

The delegation always brought the sun with them, at least metaphorically, if not the actual one in the sky. Everyone liked to meet, communicate, trade with them, while knowing that neither of the pair would exceed the limit when their stay would become unpleasant. They came from somewhere, with the sun, stayed for a while, and then disappeared somewhere unknown.

Just a legend? Perhaps, but every legend stems from a real foundation. The delegation consisting of two people, a woman and a man, did indeed exist, traveling through Asian countries, and where they landed, the sun did indeed smile.


*currently, eternity is approximately 4 billion 430 million and 800 thousand years away from us, in that long, the Sun is supposed to extinguish, not that it matters much; it will first go through the phase of a red giant and scorch the Earth.