Tag Archive | loyalty

On True Friendship

Chuck & Wilson _Castaway

Chuck & Wilson in Castaway

“True friendship holds the other accountable and treats the other with consideration.” – Lohr.

This means that consequently gestures have to be reciprocal, or it’s no friendship at all.

Gordie Chris Teddy Vern _Stand By Me

Gordie, Chris, Teddy & Vern in Stand By Me

However, there’s no general rule because situations are all different from each other. The giving and the giving-up between two friends could be of dissimilar criteria, and it’s only the persons involved who know and see and feel if there has been ‘accountabilities’ and ‘considerations’ going on in the relationship.

Dirkie & Fifi _Lost In the Desert

Dirkie & Fifi(?) in Lost In the Desert

That’s why ‘true friendship’ is labelled as a ‘treasure’ by many — because it’s not a-dime-a-dozen thing, it’s something rarely come across, and when one finds it one must recognize its value. Moreover, true friendships are tested by time, and circumstances. If it’s only a one-sided accountability-and-consideration then one must look at one’s heart for the truth of the matter, and pray for guidance on what to do.

the guys at Ying Kai _ Hana Kimi _Taiwan

The lovable guys at Ying Kai in Hana Kimi -Taiwan

Just like what Antoine de Saint-Exupery said: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

 

Ursula Janet Andrea _Ladies in Lavender

Ursula, Janet, Andrea in Ladies in Lavender

If a person has found even just 1 true friend then it deserves rejoicing. It means two hearts have recognized that invisible thing, and two persons have come to treasure each other.

♥   Salamat to the films from where I got the shots from.

To the ones who are celebrating it, Happy New Year to you!  🙂 ♥

sithandra & aeon _friends

Sithandra & Aeon, in Aeonflux.

garth and violet

Violet & Garth, in Ultraviolet.

Cha Tae-sik and Somi, in Ahjussi (The Man From Nowhere)

Cha Tae-sik and Somi, in Ahjussi (The Man From Nowhere)

Cheol-su, the werewolf brother

A Werewolf Boy - 2012 South Korean movie

Song Joong-Ki in A Werewolf Boy, a 2012 South Korean movie

A Werewolf Boy - playing   (1) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (2) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (3) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (4) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (5) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (6) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (7) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (8) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (9) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (10) Cheol-su's playmates A Werewolf Boy - playing   (11) Cheol-su, Suni & kids feed paper to goats A Werewolf Boy - the call of dinner   (1) A Werewolf Boy - the call of dinner   (2) A Werewolf Boy - the call of dinner   (3) A Werewolf Boy - the call of dinner   (4) A Werewolf Boy - the call of dinner   (5) A Werewolf Boy - the call of dinner   (6) A Werewolf Boy - the call of dinner   (7)There’s something wrong about this movie.

A stinking-to-heaven animal-like human is taken as part of the family in the shortest time imaginable.

The family consists of a middle-aged, pretty, smart, bubbly, kind, warm, loving, simple, responsible, very busy widow, a pretty teen-aged daughter, and just as pretty elementary-school younger daughter.

The animal-like human transforms, after a thorough wash, into a tall and handsome young man about the age of the older daughter. He fell asleep sitting as the mother was scrubbing his back, suds and all, in the spacious bathroom. They have become mother and son after just hours of being acquainted.

He later is named Cheol-su by mom, something she liked doing since she had regretted that she had not borne a son to her husband, who wanted one so much.

Cheol-su wolfs down, literally, food at the dinner table. He lived with wolves, presumably, after all. Despite so, he is always expected to eat with everyone, as family should. And, as is expected, other members of the family adjust to him. They calmly guard over their bowls and plates against him, thereby everyone gets to eat, too.

Cheol-su is very smart. He cannot produce the word-sounds but he understands whatever is told him. This way he is just like a deaf-mute member of the family, very sensitive to facial expressions and body language. Thus, 98% of the time we have a werewolf boy who is docile, clean, sweet, nice to be around, goes along and plays with the kids, listens and looks at everything, absorbing, learning.

We have, what is, a very handsome and smart asexual young man. After learning from Suni, the older daughter, not to wolf down food, we have a virile man with whom no threat stemming from any passion whatsoever can be associated with — he will not rape, nor assault, nor even verbally abuse any-one around him, not his family, not his neighbors, not the kids, not the animals, not even the plants.

This is not a movie about a werewolf. This is a movie about how love can be so comfy and warm and giving between people who have just come to know each other. Among strangers. Among neighbors. In the family. In a small remote village with wide open spaces. This movie just bubbles over with natural warmth and generous welcoming. True loving. Only one nasty presence is here, and he is so misplaced that he’s almost like a caricature. He, however, represents what to many of us the real world is. Violent. Unreasonable. Selfish. Egoistic. Arrogant.

This movie to me is so painful and so painfully beautiful that I feel I shouldn’t talk much about it lest I do it a disservice. Besides, I don’t quite know where to start talking about it. The science involved here is hazy, but with genetic engineering it could be possible. This aspect of the story did not receive much attention anyway. What’s concrete is that Cheol-su is there, breathing, living, loving. He just loves and loves like an ever-flowing stream, clear and calm, and that’s all that matters.

I hate the way time, and everyone, forgot Cheol-su. I hate the way he was deprived of so many things that we all have: circle of friends, company, a family relationship that’s always beside you. What’s even more poignant for me is that Cheol-su has no perception of having been deprived. He is like a plant, a full-grown tree, stationed in a tiny spot on earth and content with the rain and the sunshine that come his way. He thrives all by himself. He keeps his love and learns of things associated with this love: he teaches himself to read, write, and speak. Just that. He has no ambitions beyond that.

I hate the way a story caged a Cheol-su inside a story. But I really have no idea, as of now, what I could do for Cheol-su. If there’s something I can do for him at all then I would really do it. Right now. I really hate it that he’s there stuck playing with no-one but not seeing his loneliness. I hate it that I can see him like that, but he himself doesn’t have any idea of what it’s like to be able to see him like that, to know about him, knowing that he doesn’t perceive the pain of having been left alone.

I really wish that Cheol-su has not existed at all. However, if he did not, I wouldn’t have known that love can be like this.

I will never ever forget this movie. There are only about two other like it for me: Lost in the Desert (1969/1970), and The Fall (2006).

Why I prefer Ye Soya and Buyoung over Soseono, Eun Go over Choyeong, and Yihwa over Jiwoo

🙂 updated 16th April 2014 ❤

(…still pending further editing and illustrations upload… The author of this essay is very grateful to all sites that have made available in the net all the illustrations shown here.)

Maybe it’s just me. There could be others like me out there who sometimes don’t go along with the crowd. I am seriously meditating on how to talk about the similarity between Kiha and Eun Go, both bad girls, but also wronged by circumstances. Both are characters of serious depth that the producers/writers have to ruin because of necessity. Kiha is simply superb though rationally I go with Sujini. Equally irrationally I go with Eun Go, all the way. I guess it’s not the fundamentalist-morals that I’m looking at here. That’s why I choose Yihwa, too. There’s got to be some X-factor, and I want to try hard to get my hands on it. If I can. I’ll try my best to be coherent.

The dramas mentioned here are primarily these three: Jumong, Gye Baek, Freeze. Though there are illustrations I hope they’re not spoilers—I don’t have summaries here. Then, in passing there’s, some more, some minimal: Dongyi, Yisan, Return of the Condor Heroes 2006, Damo, Kingdom of the Winds, Jang Geum, Crime Squad (Detectives in Trouble), The Legend (Taewang Sasingi), Mandate of Heaven (The Fugitive of Joseon), one very precious movie of 1997, Gattaca, and a couple of unforgettable series, The Thorn Birds and Highlander.

I must confess, though, that I have not seen that much Korean dramas. I watched what I already have only because of the actors/actresses appearing in them, and I don’t have a lot on my list. As a rule I find dramas emotionally exhausting to engage in. It so happens that there are characters that can cause me to engage more with life, even with the weighing of values, and these characters I do treasure. I believe that the soul of collective humanity can be discerned in the mass media, like a sort of a gauge. This essay isn’t that serious, though. This is just an indulgence.

A favorite character Chae Ohk I can’t include in the billing here because she doesn’t have a rival in her story. Same with Miss Long, the famous gugu who doesn’t age—the many girls surrounding Guo’er can’t really compete with her. As to Yeon, well, I like the character Hye Ap better. Much much better. And who would seriously want to rival with Jo Minjoo? She doesn’t care about such things. She doesn’t even know much about falling in love (as Sae Hyuk points out to her). She simply suspects she’s sick of some mysterious ailment.

Pictures zoom in when clicked on. A million thanks to the makers of these dramas. Here we go.

The King of Goguryeo, Jumong, and the queen, Soseono

The King of Goguryeo, Jumong, and the queen, Soseono

Soseono is Jumong’s number 1 supporter. She was never aggressive towards either Buyoung or Soya. She’s filial, pretty, smart, pro-active, generous, loyal to, and loves, Jumong, very much. The sacrifices she made for Jumong cannot be quantified. But somehow I find myself happier for Jumong when he had Buyoung with him, and then Soya later. For me Soseono has a flavor of just another Jumong but in female form, a character who manages to accomplish magnificent feats by will, someone who must be projected as larger than life on screen.

"Best friends" Eun Go and Queen Sa Taek chatting.

“Best friends” Eun Go and Queen Sa Taek chatting.

Eun Go, similar to Soseono, is filial, pretty, smart, pro-active, generous, loyal to, and loves, Gye Baek, very much. The sacrifices she made for Gye Baek cannot be quantified. Eun Go and Soseono are both rich merchants in their own right, with families influential to the crown. On the other hand, Choyeong is similar to Buyoung. They are both without riches, power and influence. They’re both commoners, servant/slave in fact. But since I side with Buyoung rather than Soseono, and with Eun Go rather than Choyeong, then it’s not the social standing that I’m looking at.

Jumong catches up with Buyoung after missing her for a year.

Jumong catches up with Buyoung after missing her for almost a year, he says.

However, Jumong really pursued Buyoung. Whereas, Gye Baek gave personal attention to Choyeong only at the remaining 6 episodes of the series. It seems like Choyeong had to be kept in the series so that Gye Baek will have a respectable wife at the end of the story. Just like Wootae had to be there so that there’d be an acceptable husband for Soseono. This shows that Eun Go did not really need a female bodyguard, just like Soseono didn’t. If history hadn’t called for a wife for Gye Baek then Choyeong’s role is dispensable. The same with Wootae, as history calls for Soseono to marry someone before Jumong and she must have two sons by him. The difference between Choyeong and Wootae, however, is that early on in the story Wootae was already a bulwark to Soseono, a silent devotee. Like Seongyon’s Daesu, Da-in’s Domun, and Dongyi’s Orabeoni. Choyeong, on the other hand, just seemed to be there to provide a contrast to Eun Go’s regal demeanor.

If Soseono was pressured into leaving Jumong’s side, so was Eun Go. Both needed to survive. Granting that Soseono did not know that Jumong did not die and that marrying Wootae a.s.a.p. was the only solution. Granting that Eun Go had to choose, between staying alive — or die but remaining as Gye Baek’s. Soseono was initially sarcastic to Jumong. So was Eun Go to Gye Baek. When Jumong met her he was in the role of a good-for-nothing jerk. When Gye Baek met her he was the son of a drunkard. My preference, therefore, does not lie in these factors.

Jumong happy to get Buyoung

Jumong and Buyoung. It could have been them.

I think it’s the factor of emotions coming from Jumong and Gye Baek whenever they direct them to Buyoung, Ye Soya, and Eun Go that caused me to prefer them over Soseono and Choyeong. jumong presents buyoung to the threeIt’s comparable to how Dam Duk treats Sujini. The viewer somehow knows that Dam Duk wants Sujini there, with him, in that scene. Like, it’s always clear to the viewer that regardless of Hwangbo Yoon’s mood at the moment his main concern is Chae Ohk’s welfare. Even Officer Park Sae Hyuk’s treatment of Jo Minjoo is (more) exciting despite that he is almost always care-less of her, and with a dynamite of an ex-wife-still-in-love-with-him to boot. Jumong makes everyone happyI have the impresson that Jumong’s bland treatment of Soseono after their marriage is comparable to Gye Baek’s of Choyeong. Jumong values her but there’s a space surrounding him that she’s not allowed to enter. He keeps hoping that Ye Soya is still alive. Gye Baek values her because she’s there for him after Eun Go, has given him precious children, but she’s more like a friend than an inspiration.

Gye Baek has invested so much of his self with Eun Go. His investment in her is almost the same as Yoon’s in Ohk—it’s a lifetime’s investment and this kind doesn’t simply get blown off by the wind. It has roots. Although, Jumong’s in Soseono’s seems to be greater than in Soya’s, but a mere sense-of-duty shouldn’t have been able to sustain 18 years of painful hoping. Soya, after all, is Yuri’s mother. Though not as great as being a co-founder of Goguryeo as Soseono is, Ye Soya had no preparation whatsoever for the life she had to lead after leaving her village plus after marrying Jumong plus after escaping from the palace. She did not have the safety nets Soseono had but still she had to bring up the king’s firstborn, Yeohwa’s and the great Haemosu’s only grandchild.

Of course it was all bliss between Jumong and Soseono before Soya came into his life. They were an ideal couple. But did Jumong suddenly just up and killed his feelings for Soseono when she married Wootae? However, they eventually got married, too. That was opportunity enough for reviving the feelings. But these feelings that should have been revived between ex-lovers that got married anyway were referred to only at Soseono’s departure-meeting with Jumong, when she told him of her decision to uproot her clan and settle somewhere else away from his kingdom. That’s the only affectionate scene between them in their 15 years of marriage. There were no affectionate expressions anymore involving Jumong and Soseono in between the events of his mother’s death plus loss-of-Soya-Yuri up to the coming back of these two in his life. It’s as if Soseono is just there because she’s the deserving queen of the new kingdom, and that a heartfelt scene from Jumong had to be presented at her departure to justify that Soseono is billed as the main romantic interest of the hero in this drama series.

There was more engagement on Jumong’s part at that time Buyoung was still with him, even at the period overlapping with Soseono’s presence. He was a funny dork in his pursuit of Buyoung at the time when she was a temple acolyte. Buyoung, though having severely suffered because of him, still treated his fatal wound. Buyoung was his intermediary between his hide-out and the world-out-there during the time he was with Haemosu. Even though he was stripped of his princely status, thus left helpless in the dangerous world outside the palace, he still exerted his best for Buyoung’s redemption from slavery. That meant being patient, daily risking Buyoung’s safety, and saving up a huge sum through his own sweat. When he was kicked out of his comfortable world, seemingly abandoned even by his mother, it was Buyoung who constantly reminded him that he is a prince of Buyeo, someone with worth. So she prods him to take care of himself. She had nothing but she did not grasp at the chance to have an easier life with Ohyi. There was only Jumong for her. In fairness, when Buyoung was in danger Jumong went ballistic and thankfully succeeded in rescuing her, finally redeeming himself in everyone’s eyes over the matter with Buyoung, whom the series had to discard in preparation for the places Soseono and Soya had to take in the storyline.

Buyoung’s value lies in that she is the fulcrum on which the brotherhood Jumong-Mari-Ohyi-Hyeopbo solidified. These three became witnesses to Jumong’s personal journey from Buyoung to Soseono to Yesoya to Yuri. Also, the problem involving Buyoung was Jumong’s baptism into how to fight for survival in the political arena involving the two other princes. Prince Youngpo, who knows about her connection to Jumong, got her kidnapped a second time, to use her against Jumong in the race for the crown. The character Buyoung was taken out from the series at the 23rd episode. In preparation for that, Jumong frees her then from the burden of guilt by confiding in her that he’s really at the crossroads, what with his recent discovery of his true parentage and the responsibility he does not feel equal to, and so she’s not to be blamed at all. Buyoung resolves everything by leaving, refusing Ohyi’s offer, and providing a perspective as to why Ohyi remained unmarried till the end.

12. Jumong traces Buyoung and goes to get her, alone

Jumong traces Buyoung and goes to get her

13. Jumong singlehandedly rescues Buyoung

Jumong singlehandedly rescues Buyoung

14. Jumong takes away Buyoung

Buyoung is safe for now

15. Jumong takes away Buyoung..

Success for now

16. Jumong has Buyoung

The prince rescues the slave

17. jumong surprises the three

Jumong surprises the three

18. Jumong happy to get Buyoung for all

Simply relieved and happy, Buyoung with Jumong

19. Jumong asks forgiveness for jeopardizing everyone

Jumong asks forgiveness for jeopardizing their brotherhood

20. Jumong and the sworn brothers make Buyoung happy

Precious Buyoung-rescue effect: brotherhood solidified

12. Buyoung was a pawn in the power struggle

Buyoung was a pawn in the power struggle.

13. Start of Younpo_s series of machinations _Ep_23

Youngpo’s evilness emerges. Ep.23.

14. Jumong_s reaction.

Jumong is on his way to mastering self control.

15. Youngpo gauding Jumong. Ep_23

Youngpo underestimates Jumong.

16. The value of Buyoung.

The value of Buyoung.

17. Heopbo again articulates their feelings.

Hyeopbo again articulates their feelings.

18. The self-effacing Buyoung caught in the chaos.

The self-effacing Buyoung caught in the chaos.

19. Of course Buyoung would rather sacrifice herself.

Of course Buyoung would rather sacrifice herself.

20. Soseono is jealous that Jumong withdraws from the competition because of Buyoung.

Jealous Soseono learning why Jumong withdrew.

21. Buyoung is freed.

Buyoung is indeed freed.

22. Buyoung is freed.

Disbelief at Jumong’s capitulation.

23. Jumong caught in the trap.

Jumong was caught in the trap.

24. Jumong and the guys caught in the trap.

Buyoung was not the only factor, though.

25. Heopbo articulates their feelings. Again.

Frustrating for everyone nonetheless.

26. Of course Buyoung would rather sacrifice herself. _1

Buyoung’s heavy burden.

27. Soseono overhears the 4s conversation.

Soseono overhears the four.

28. The self-effacing Buyoung.

Buyoung owns up to responsibility.

29. Jumong ever nice to Buyoung.

Jumong is ever nice to Buyoung.

30. Jumong ever nice to Buyoung.

Jumong frees Buyoung of guilt.

31. Ohyi proposes to Buyoung.

Ohyi proposes to Buyoung.

32. All in favor of Ohyi and Buyoung.

All are in favor of Ohyi for Buyoung.

33. Buyoung says goodbye to the series with a letter for Jumong, which he reads in sight of everyone.

Buyoung says goodbye with a letter for Jumong, which he reads here.

34. Buyoung is not allowed to love Jumong.

Buyoung is not allowed to love Jumong in the first place. Chincha.

35. Buyoung resolves her part of the story.

Buyoung resolves her part of the story by leaving.

 

Jumong  embraces  Buyoung_ep_11

Jumong and Buyoung. Ep-11.

Jumong embraces Buyoung_ep_11

Jumong kisses Buyoung’s forehead.

Jumong Buyoung under the open sky_ep_11

Jumong hugs Buyoung under the open sky.

Last glimpse of Buyoung_ep_23

Buyoung wishes Jumong farewell as she and her siblings walk away, along the mountain path

For me three of among the most touching scenes in Jumong were when he hugged Buyoung under the open sky, when the ‘brothers’ knelt together in a covenant after Buyoung’s first rescue, and in her last scene where she turned around on the mountain path to silently say goodbye to Jumong for ever. She is among my favorite characters and this little discussion on her is a tribute.

Of course Soseono got Haemosu’s ring, the one Yeohwa gave to Jumong. That’s very symbolic, like Seongyon inheriting Dongyi’s ring through Geum before he died. Of course Soseono got to save Jumong’s life, fishing him out of the quicksand with the help of Wootae. That establishes a very strong connection between him and her. Soseono stakes her reputation and her business in her support of the fledgeling Jumong. She hands out her wealth to make a grand palace for him. Soseono goes to battle side by side with him. She supplies Jumong’s battle needs. She decimates assassins for him. She even banishes her relatives for him. She welcomes and protects Yuri and Ye Soya on their return to Jumong. She is never the capricious queen. She metes out justice and does not permit those closest to her to play out on power. She protects her sons from going over to the dark side. She can govern in place of Jumong. She is almost perfect.

Jumong’s and Ye Soya’s meeting was also “magical”, to borrow King Sukjong’s description of his first meeting with Dongyi and then with Geum — in the sense that it was similar to his parents’ meeting. Jumong and Haemosu were severely wounded unknowns and were treated back to life by pretty clan-chief daughters who live beside the river. But although this treating-back-to-life theme is romantic it didn’t  endear Yeon at all to me for Muhyul. Instead, I felt that it’s Deojin and Yeon who should have been together — that scene where Yeon was sitting weak and still in prison and Deojin could only bottle up his anguish at the sight, while Park Wan-kyu’s For As Long As I Live starts to play softly, was really as touching as could be and made me embrace Deojin the way I embraced Kiha.

That Jumong and Soya were “fated” to be together as seen in how their meeting mirrored that of Haemosu and Yeohwa is again seen when images of escaping Yeohwa-with-baby-Jumong were flashed during escaping Soya-with-baby-Yuri. Although Jumong was definitely “going home” to Soseono, after being wounded in battle and abandoned to be swept away by the river, but now his buddies having searched for and saved him, and Soya as well, there was no instance where he neglects Soya. It’s heartwarming how he repeatedly rescues her against that very aggressive traitor orabeoni. It’s heartwarming how he introduces her to his mother. It’s heartwarming how Yeohwa welcomes Soya with understanding and enthusiasm—and she does not compare her with Soseono at all. It’s heartwarming how the king appreciates her and thinks fondly of her father. It’s like making it clear for all to see right from the start that Soya and Jumong are together. All interactions between them, from the first to the last, are harmonious, peaceful.

Jumong is visibly at rest and at home with Ye Soya—he made her a part of him and refused to sever their tie from the first day they met until he found her again. This is absolutely not the case with Choyeong and Gye Baek. He was indifferent to her until the time that the series had to marry them off. Choyeong was extremely rude to him and was disproportionately envious of his and Eun Go’s bond—hardly a respecting-the-person-Gye-Baek foundation material. Even the muddled Jo Minjoo gave this respecting-the-person to the more muddled Sae Hyuk the first time they crossed paths, when he crossed the road at the wrong time.

When Gye Baek had to be exiled off with Choyeong and the rest of the gang the series informed us of Eun Go’s “permission”. She accidentally overhears Choyeong’s confession of love to Gye Baek and so she “has to let him go”, towards a life without her. That’s why it was a relief for me when it wasn’t only Choyeong’s face present at Gye Baek’s last breath—more importantly his children were there. Children are representatives of “new life” and I had to give that to Gye Baek after he “died” when he lost Eun Go. The poor puppy of a victimized clean-hearted general has to be made to smile at his final scene. It is a must.

Although the buddies empathized with Soseono at Jumong’s marriage to Soya, they had nothing against the marriage itself. Daeso and Seolran were malicious in suggesting it, to hurt both Soseono and Jumong, but it served to “settle” the ex-couple, that eventually became a ‘couple’ again. Soseono becomes a good wife to Wootae the valiant, a good mother to their two sons, and a strong clan leader. Jumong devotes himself to Goguryeo, to his parents’ dream, and to reclaiming his family. With these being settled Jumong and Soseono became partners for the mutual benefit of their constituents. Their partnership was now on the business side and it showed thoughout the series. On the positve side of it, none can say that Soseono was unfaithful to Wootae nor that Jumong was unfaithful to Soya, even until the three boys have finally grown up. When Soseono was gently breaking the news to her two boys over Yuri’s sudden appearance, the three’s affection for Wootae was clearly put across in the dialogue. Soseono reminds them that their father gave them their names, Biryu and Onjo, and so they must live up to their parents’ wish for them, to be generous and welcoming.

It’s as if Wootae was to Soseono as Choyeong was to Gye Baek—second choice spouses with children to cement the connection. But even seen from this angle Wootae’s character still has much more substance than Choyeong’s. Wootae was a pillar to Soseono and I cried with Soseono when he died. Gye Baek’s future wife, on the other hand, could might as well have been anyone he met during his exile, just so the series could provide a family for him to… well… we already know what to, at the ending…

When Jumong was parted from Soya the hope of having her by his side again did not leave him. His constant passionate partner in this hope is Ohyi, the brother-friend who was the most mad at him over Buyoung. In fact, Ohyi later got to slap Daeso’s wife for her treatment of Soya at the palace. The hope intensified at Soya’s pregnancy, and then at Yuri’s birth. Perhaps this hope has the foundation on Haemosu’s instruction for him to not fail to protect “the one by his side”—which for Haemosu was Yeohwa, and now for Jumong it means the three: mother, wife, and child. That scene where Soya reads Jumong’s letter for Yeohwa and her is among the sweetest expressions of love I have come across.

It is these scenes, minuscule as they are, that solidifies my stand that Soya was not only there to serve as a mother for Yuri. Jumong felt more than duty towards Ye Soya. She healed him of his broken heart. She, in turn, didn’t feel insecure over the partnership of Jumong and Soseono. She gives to him whatever it takes for her to support his dream—for his parents and for the people—and this is her strength, that she gives even though she has nothing herself, and does not ask for anything in return. Yeohwa successfully transferred her strong will to her, to survive, but unlike Yeohwa she had nothing and no one to lean on to. Her only purpose for living was to bide for the right time to bring Yuri to Jumong.

Hyeopbo said the pain of losing mother and son has never left Jumong for one day.  There were no more affectionate scenes between Soseono and Jumong after she got married to Wootae, that is, when Ye Soya appeared in the series. Sure, Jumong never abandoned his support for Soseono (and it’s heartwarming how he and Wootae appeared to be “friends”, never rivals), but it always had the flavor of “business”. Whereas with Soya and Yuri, even after his mother was gone, it was always deep-seated feelings, one that Soseono isn’t allowed to share. Jumong’s angst over his beloved three is shared only with his brother-friends: Mopalmo, Musong, Ohyi, Mari, Hyeopbo. There was that sweet scene among them drinking at a feast table, together with the later three Jaesa-Moogul-Mukguh, where Jumong was teased about being happy to see Soya again. Ah, that gave me a high. Then following that scene we are shown that Jumong sleeps at Soya’s chamber, like regular husband and wife and not monarchs who sleep separately, with Jumong mulling over a crucial decision over leaving Buyeo for ever while from time to time glancing at his peacefully sleeping pregnant puyin (wife).

Soseono may have loved Wootae the way Jumong loved Soya, but here’s the argument: Jumong did not transfer to Soseono the place he reserved for Soya in his heart even after he and Soseono got married, even after everyone else believed that his first wife and son are dead. He may have continued to love Soseono but she was not allowed to enter the home in his heart where Soya and Yuri are. Soseono was not able to take over that home in the same way that I suspect Choyeong wasn’t able to take over Eun Go — Gye Baek simply had to come to her prison cell and give her encouragement as he was about to go into battle. Despite everything that happened Gye Baek does not abandon Eun Go in the end. Eun Go did not deserve this faithfulness from him the way Chae Ohk deserved it from Hwangbo Yoon. As he himself said it to her, her sin is unforgiveable. Yet he stood by her side. Chae Ohk, on the other hand, got it relatively easier with Yoon.

It was horrific how Seolran, Daeso’s wife, treated the pregnant Soya. It was magnificent how both mother and child survived that treatment. It was magnificent how the pampered clan-chief’s-daughter Soya managed to rear a Yuri up worthy of a Jumong-son. It’s anti-climactic how Soya and Jumong across the crowd locked eyes for the briefest moment, during the contest-fight of Yuri and Biryu, and then she had to disappear fast — just because she does not want to give him problems. Still, he searched for her. It’s painful how he and Ohyi just didn’t give up on the search until Yuri was 18 years old. Sure Soseono gave so much to Jumong, but she was never alone in it. She had her clan, her family, her wealth, her self-confidence, her brains. Soya had only the innocent Yuri and nothing else. They did not have a safe place to stay, were always in hiding. Soya’s health just kept on worsening. They were ostracized because Yuri had no father to speak of to the world. The only treasures that Soya can give to Yuri were love, an upright upbringing, and literacy.

The most intense emotions coming out of Jumong’s face in the entire series were in these scenes: his first meeting with Yuri, finding Soya again, and witnessing the blacksmiths’ quarters burn while thinking that Yuri was inside. Seeing how Song Il Gook does not tend to over-react, these three scenes are not superfluous. These events deserve such emotions from Jumong. Soseono cried for Wootae but Jumong sobbed his heart out for Ye Soya and Yuri.

Granting, Jumong was really in pain over Soseono’s departure. That was intense, too. Still, it was because she chose to go. She could have stayed. King Sukjong had 3 wives all at once. Yisan had 3 also. Everyone in the kingdom wanted her to stay — and Soya has told her in their touching conversation that she will gladly depart from the palace once she gets strong enough. However, Soseono chose to be a mother first before being a queen. As I said, she’s almost perfect. It would break her heart to see her son Biryu wrestling over the crown with Yuri, whom Jumong clearly favors. However, Jumong has flatly stated to her that he wants Soya to stay with him for keeps. Meaning, keeping Soya with him was a priority. Soseono’s planned departure had no leverage on his giving up on how to treat Soya in the palace. He found her again and he intends to take care of her, as he should have always been doing, and as payback for the years she had to sacrifice herself, and Yuri’s childhood, for his and Soseono’s sakes.

Maybe it’s this constancy of intentions between Jumong and Ye Soya that makes them endearing to me. On the other hand, there was a time when Soseono was calculating her choices, between Daeso and Jumong. Sujini was money-greedy, yes, but her attachment to Dam Duk was without calculations even after he ridicules her and even after she discovers that he’s the prince, and then long after that until she decides to get as far away from him as possible. Chae Ohk and Hwangbo Yoon fought out their commitments to each other until the very end, amidst navigations along totally blind alleys. Yoon and Ohk momentarily let go of the reigns but they got right on back again — they simply couldn’t abandon each other. Whereas, Jumong and Soseono started out with calculating profits in mind and ended up with a political partnership, with just a bland friendship to show after the initial closeness.

Eun Go and Gye Baek, on the other hand, still managed to hug until the 29th episode — a military general doesn’t hug the queen unless he’s sure that it’s the right thing to do, which tells the viewers that in 29 out of the 36 episodes the bond between GyeBaek and Eun Go has remained. Until the very end there is only Gye Baek for Eun Go, a fact she made clear to him at their last conversation in the series, where she tells him that he’s the source of both her joy and her pain. Ui Ja did not come close to this — in fact she came to hate him. Gye Baek, too, has also told him that he will never forget how he separated, snatched away, Eun Go from from him, and that he refrained from revenge for the sake of Baekje.

If Eun Go had indeed “let go” of Gye Baek in the years they were turning into an adults then she could have married Ui Ja long before Gae Baek reappeared in their lives. Ui Ja’s in love with her and princes usually marry at a very young age (though, there’s the issue of the Crown Prince to look at, and I don’t know the mechanics on this, because when Geum was married off — before he was teen-aged at that — it was understood that he’s to live outside the palace as he’s not the crown prince). Eun Go stuck with Ui Ja for the sake of the joint revenge and of cleansing the country of corrupt nobles. When Gye Baek reappeared she’s all bent on protecting him. Ui Ja was with Eun Go in this, but it turned out later that Eun Go had to protect Gye Baek from Ui Ja even.

However, the story distorts: Eun Go exposed Gye Baek to danger when she gave out to Silla information on his battle plans. Whew. This part is very hard for me to accept. Chae Ohk’s and Jang Sung Baek’s saranghae to each other, in the cave, and Yoon’s engagement to Nan Hui, were easier for me to accept than this. In fairness, Eun Go could not forgive her own self for this. Fortunately she did an about-turn (there are so many U-turns in this drama and I haven’t fully pegged them out yet; it actually turns out that her trip to the “other side” was a self-appointed mission to avenge Baekje). She came back to Baekje, to pay out her sins, to give a very valuable information about the enemies’ plans, to give to Ui Ja the responsibility of meting out her death, to make it clear to Gye Baek that she does care more for the people than for her life.

Theirs is an ending sadder than Dam Duk and Kiha’s. Dam Duk got to walk towards Kiha’s direction at least. But still here’s the argument: Choyeong never got the passion that Gye Baek has always shown towards Eun Go. I’m still on my way to counting the number of hugs and handclasps Eun Go and Gye Baek made on the entire series — I think it exceeds those of Gou’er and his gugu-teacher-wife Miss Long’s (Return of the Condor Heroes 2006). Until Choyeong jumped on Ui Ja (and so deverved death) and spoke of her love for Gye Baek on her supposedly death bed, there has always been Eun Go for Gye Baek. It’s not that I’m against girls declaring of their love first — Jo Minjoo did this to Officer Park while dangling from a building (Crime Squad) — it’s just that it seems to turn out like, otoke, Gye Baek with Choyeong and the rest of the gang are exiled together and so it’s quite normal that they end up together. Although, I’m thinking of how come Min Jung Ho didn’t get married at all after his end-of-the-line separation from Jang Geum (maybe there are no girls there where he was exiled?).

As I reasoned out in another post Eun Go and Gae Baek had to be separated because he had to kill his wife (and kids) in the end, and this is not supposed to be Eun Go because she’s supposed to be a powerful political villain — all according to some historical account out there. Notwithstanding, the Gye Baek-Eun Go relationship is a main thread in the series and is intricately woven into Ui Ja’s life. It’s a major factor in this weak king’s decision making. It’s his downfall. He just had to separate Eun Go from Gae Baek, and he succeeded. I lament for my favorite pair. Theirs was not a perfectly magical bond even right at the start. Eun Go’s will is in fact stronger than Sa Taek Bi’s and so the gently-reared Gye Baek is no match for her during arguments. But Eun Go, just by her own volition, willingly lets her heart melt towards Gye Baek and not for the reason that at that time he was already adolescent-crazy over her. She just ups and decides to take care of his needs and supports him in her own way regardless of consequences to her. She simply decided to embrace him despite her adoptive clan’s objections. (I need to check again if General Mu Jin was the major factor in this).

It is endearing to consider that Gye Baek and Eun Go held on to each other despite years of separation (first while yet teen-agers and for ten years, and second for seven years after Eun Go’s survival-marriage to Ui Ja), and despite the distance of their social status. Eun Go is a very rich merchant and the best friend-turned-adopted sister of the queen. Gye Baek grew up with a one-armed drunkard of a father and waits on tables for a living. But Eun Go cooks twice for Gye Baek in the series. She rolls up her sleeves and helps him clean his old house. She launders for him at the stream. What’s big is that she spends her wedding night with him instead of with Ui Ja her husband. Then, even before she knows when she might meet Gye Baek again after years of separation, she makes winter clothing for him and carries it along with her for the chance of handing it over to him — and she was already Ui Ja’s concubine all this time.

At least three times in the series Gye Baek urges Eun Go to run away with him. But Eun Go is always held back by one thing or another. Foremost of this is the thought that once she gives in to Gye Baek he will never have the chance to fulfill his father’s dream, to rid the people of suffering, which is primarily due to the corruption of the powerful nobles. The two hyungnim-advisors, Seong Chung and Heung Su, were subsequently instrumental in showing to him this very point that Eun Go keeps on arguing with him about, that it’s his power as the General Gye Baek that makes things possible for him to accomplish. If Eun Go should be accused of being power hungry, I’d say that she’s not. I’d say that she was honest to Seong Chung when she told him, before she had him killed, that she will become a nun once Prince Hyo her son “ascends the throne”.

Ye Soya and Eun Go were similar in that they were both left to fend for themselves. They had none to depend on. It went on like this for Soya until Jumong found them again. It went on like this for Eun Go until Ui Ja decided to get out from his pretend-coma. But whereas Soya remained the angel, Eun Go went all out and really schemed, lying through her teeth and justifying her crime. Still, she went back to Gye Baek’s side like the way Chae Ohk went back to Hwangbo Yoon’s side. That’s the main point.

Many say that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Dam Duk became indifferent to Kiha (which makes me sympathize with her despite my happiness over the DamDuk-Sujini pair). Eun Go eventually hated Ui Ja, though I’m not happy about the way she shamelessly manipulates him, which incidentally is a strong expression of her indifference to whatever will be the effect on him.  Nevertheless, Ui Ja deserves contempt. But Gye Baek did not become indifferent to nor hated Eun Go. He was about to face an impossible battle but, and despite of Eun Go’s depression, he still goes out of his way and talks gently to her. I find it redemptive how both had the chance to wish the best for each other during that final meeting they had. If history did not insist that Gye Baek had a family it would have been Eun Go’s face he sees with his last breath at the battlefield. If history didn’t insist that Gye Baek has to have a wife, he and Eun Go were almost like Chae Ohk and Yoon — circumstances pry them apart but they keep gravitating back towards each other. Their bond is simply strong, and elastic.

Yihwa and Joongwon, 300 years ago.

Yihwa, Joongwon, 300 years ago.

Aha. This gives me now a concrete line of reasoning for preferring Yihwa over Jiwoo for Joongwon (Freeze). For 300 years Yihwa and he had been together. Why in the first place did he risk his life in rescuing her that first time they met? There must have been something in there between them. It was just Yihwa who knows of the monster in him. If he wanted to end everything so badly then he perfectly knew the very way to do it. It wasn’t a great unknown and could easily be done. Jerome Eugene Morrow did it the neatest way possible (self-immolation, in Gattaca). Yihwa would have already been there, at the other side of life and at rest, had he not interfered. But Joongwon had to brood it out all the while knowing that he has Yihwa to watch over his back. For 300 years this couple had together perfected sophistication that there was nothing left novel about life. Yihwa goes through it carelessly, breaking hearts along the way. Joongwon was dead bored with the material aspect of life that he has become a minimalist. With this same perennial boredom, his self-loathing could not be shaken off also. We had to be led to 300 years after their meeting so that we’d be able to witness two resolved vampires dying.

Jiwoo and her very lovable boyfriend.

Jiwoo and her sweet boyfriend

I wonder how many loves Connor MacLeod had over his 500+ years of life (The Highlander, with Christopher Lambert). He did love each one of them. With Joongwon we are informed of only Jiwoo, and her mother who was the most beloved mortal to him. Though this “little girl”, as Yihwa refers to her, was just a child when they first met, Meggie was also a child when she met Ralph de Bricassart (The Thorn Birds, 1983 TV series). But Meggie’s “What else have I ever done but pay for the great sin of loving Ralph de Bricassart?” could not possibly become Jiwoo’s line because she has another boyfriend, and he is so lovable and is of her generation. Besides, she has reconciled with her now very sober and loving father. The discovery that she and her mother had the same lovers should have been more shocking to her than losing Joongwon “in an accident”, or finding out that he’s a blood-imbibing living-dead.  After all she worked really hard at seducing him, all the while believing that their parents were lovers, which to her puts a right-ness into it. Besides, Jiwoo would have been just a redemption for her mother, in view that he really was happy with “that little girl” but that he had to “hide” from her then so as not to endanger her to that which happened to his sister. “Declaring” himself to Jiwoo is tantamount to healing his pain with “that little girl”. Facing up his monster-ness to a valued mortal is tantamount to healing his pain over his sister. It’s like owning up to responsibility, a matter of integrity and honor.

This scene in Episode 5 confirmed my intuitive preference for the Joongwon-Yihwa couple. Joongwon gently gathers Yihwa to him.

I have no concrete reason in the lines of my arguments above why I root for Park Sae Hyuk and Jo Minjoo, because they can, after all, survive without each other. However, although Sae Hyuk and Eun Young, his ex-wife who was misinformed and manipulated by her father just to separate the two, still cared for each other…he stopped himself from even touching her shoulder.

Sae Hyuk refrains from touching his ex-wife. Ep.11. Sae Hyuk refrains from touching his ex-wife. Ep.11.a Sae Hyuk refrains from touching his ex-wife. Ep.11.b Sae Hyuk refrains from touching his ex-wife. Ep.11.c

She was mourning over their daughter Hye In but Sae Hyuk did not want to be misunderstood. He has decided to keep his distance from her and a simple touch would be a misstep. This non-act from Park Sae Hyuk’s banished my fear over his bond with Jo Minjoo, hazy as it may be till the end. The significance lies in this: that at that same time Jo Minjoo stayed where he left her earlier, and waiting for him to come back to the restaurant like he said he would.

But Joongwon gave it to Yihwa. He collects her close in a gesture that looks like they have always been at home with it. He relates more than just concern in this act. It’s similar to how Yoon or Sung Baek would touch Ohk’s face. Yihwa clears him of blame. He acts as her pillar now. They have always had this understanding between them. This is their most restful stance in their shared long lives. Granting that they were both starved at this time, still we were already shown that there is a way out of that starvation. This “coming together” has more than just physical hunger for a reason. And so I ask myself, what about Jiwoo and her mother? Where do their values lie for Joongwon? I’d say they were bursts of life in a long-dead existence, and so they are precious. Life is always precious. Love is always precious.

Joongwon has always cared for Yihwa. I can’t push that it’s the “infatuation” type, but “being there” all the time nonetheless, else he could have abandoned her long ago. The impression is that he doesn’t let her into it because we have to be shown the brooding side of him. He was just broody over the long years of constancy in their lives but he was not contemptuous of Yihwa. If any, he has taken her for granted. But he depends on her. The series is clear about this. She is literally his lifeblood. Joongwon can barely manage without her.

Dam Duk does not die by Jumong's sword.

Sujini catches Dam Duk before he falls flat on the temple floor. She sees him open his eyes again after Kiha stabbed him with Jumong’s sword.

Although Sujini is not a “lifeblood” to Dam Duk (just nearly), Joongwon is just like Dam Duk who doesn’t explicitly inform Sujini of her value to him (until he finds her again), because maybe that’s how the “ideal” goes. Maybe it’s a “male” thing. I don’t know. And the reason why Yihwa has stayed alive?—because he is alive. Ah. So like Yoon and Ohk. Except Yoon and Ohk are articulate about this to each other — surprise!

Joongwon is clear about how he blames Yihwa for his condition. What we have in the end is therefore a closure, a coming into full circle. He rescued her and she is happy she met him, and she tells him so. She stuck with him till the end, owning up the responsibility of reviving him into a life of struggle. Yihwa’s life, in essence, was already complete at his arrival into her life. She was just only waiting out until he is healed of the damage she caused him, until finally we have two multiple-lifetime companions meeting up with the heavens in smiling anticipation.

If my arguments have not been logical at all then I rest my case. Perception being relative cannot be over-emphasized. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Etc. 🙂

added 16.April.2014.

Good evening. How are you? Welcome again. At last I can put some of Lady Ye Soya’s captures here. Instead of including just her I decided to get some also from Episode 54. In here Jumong has been invited by King Geumwa back to Buyeo. Jumong arrives with the king’s personal bodyguard and the Damul’s six leaders under General Jumong: Mari, Hyeopbo, Ohyi, Jessa, Mugol, and Mukgo. This is the first time Jumong sets foot again inside the palace after that attempt to get out Yeohwa and Soya in Episode 50, that time when Yeohwa couldn’t go because she was so sick and already pregnant Soya met Jumong at the temple where he broke off half of the short sword for her to keep for their child as proof of his fatherhood.

Jumong ep 54 the Damul leaders visit BuyeoHere is General Jumong of the Damul Army and his officers, plus the king’s bodyguard, ascending the stairs to the main royal hall, to greet his foster father the king who is waiting for him there.

After greeting the king the 6 companions are ushered into a room for refreshments, to be warmly welcomed as guests of the king’s adopted son. Jumong shortly goes to his mother’s house, where his pregnant wife waits with her for him.

The 7 men are already relaxed with their banter, food, and wine. The king’s bodyguard was originally at the head of the table but he gets called out by a messenger. In a little while General Jumong arrives. They continue with the merriment at this small banquet, one they never had together because of their life as founders of Damul. Then Jumong gets teased by Hyeopbo, who in turn gets teased by Mari and Ohyi, as the other three just laugh along.

When the royal bodyguard went out it was to meet a general of Buyeo. The secret talk was about eradicating Jumong for the sake of Buyeo, which is the Prime Minister’s action-response for King Geumwa’s wish for a peaceful Buyeo. Jumong and the king has talked about this surprising change of heart in Geumwa’s case. Discouraged, he talks to his mother about this in her chambers. Her consistent response to him is that his duty is to carry out his father Haemosu’s dream, which is to gather their displaced and suffering people and re-form their lost nation against the might of the Han.

Jumong has to decide once and for all, of whether to continue with his father’s dream and disappoint his foster father, or to please Geumwa and to abandon everything that his family and many loyal friends and supporters have worked so hard for. He retires to Soya’s chambers. He now wears his sleeping robes and pregnant Soya is already resting though without her blankets on. Thus in this scene there is only Jumong’s face to look at, at the change from deliberation to an arrival at a decision after taking into consideration everything, including the risks to their unborn child.

The following day Jumong and Soya head for their mother’s house, to speak of his decision to leave Buyeo. As they round a corner they are seen by Soseono and her father from a distance. The father and daughter wish to speak with the king today, and so they have entered the palace. Jumong and Soya seem to be in a conversation as they walk. As is proper, Soya shows deference to her husband while in public, by walking slightly behind him. This might be just for the camera angle here, or it may not be so in Korea, but in Japan this is certainly the norm, and thus this is how I take it here to be, too.

Yeohwa fully agrees with him, as expected. She suggests to Soya that she leaves with her husband. This, I think, is one of those unfortunate decisions made by this family — but otherwise the ensuing drama out of this decision wouldn’t have materialized, which is, the losing and the finding of Jumong’s family. Soya should have said “yes” to her mother-in-law’s suggestion but since they have no idea of the brewing evil plan against Jumong the ladies decided for the common sense that the baby’s birth can be more attended to while Soya is in the safety of the palace, in the company of the soon-to-be grandmother of the baby. Though they knew that King Geumwa will be disappointed by Jumong’s decision still they had the confidence that no mishap will ensure, especially that Jumong’s decision is what Geumwa had hoped to accomplish also since in his youth together with Jumong’s father.

Jumong, though primarily a narration about a hero’s life, has many subplots that are in themselves complete stories. There’s the life of Geumwa and his troubled family, of Soseono’s growth into a mother and a strong leader, of the tragedy that is Ye Soya since her tribe was betrayed by one of their own, of the happy-sad love triangle that is Haemosu-Yeohwa-Geumwa, of Wootae’s life as a servant’s son who became the master’s son-in-law as well as the leader’s husband, of Daeso’s triumphs and failures both in his public and personal lives, of Youngpo’s misadventures, of Yuri’s coming out into his own… Jumong isn’t called a drama for nothing, and it has stayed as one of the best.

For the Love of Lee Seo Jin: A Look Into Gye Baek and Eun Go

This is a personal take on the sad love story between General Gye Baek and Royal Consort/Queen Eun Go. First, let me say that all statements here are based on my impressions on the 2011 sageuk (S. Korean historical drama) series Gye Baek, which has my favorites Lee Seo Jin and Song Ji Hyo. Because normally I avoid delving into love stories (where I would say the plots are more often than not “nonsensical” and “mushy”), I won’t focus on the “mushy” side of their relationship. Instead I would try my best to look at the dynamics of how Gye Baek and Eun Go separated. The factual historical information on this great general’s life is said to be very little. I will be paying attention to their story as portrayed by the actors, looking at their faces while in dialogue, while keeping in mind also what little information available to me. (“Gye Baek” can also be presented as “Gye-baek” or “Gyebaek”, and is likewise with the Romanization of Korean names.)

As of March 2013 Wikipedia has this information on Gye Baek:   “The Baekje Dynasty flourished for six centuries from 18 BCE until it was defeated by Silla in 660. Baekje was established in the southwest corner of the Korean peninsula, close to the site of present-day Seoul by Onjo, the third son of King Dongmyeong, the first king of Goguryeo. It expanded southward and set up a trading relationship with China. …  In 660, Baekje was invaded by a force of 50,000 from Silla, supported by 144,000 Tang soldiers. Gyebaek, with only 5,000 troops under his command, met them in the battlefield of Hwangsanbeol. Before entering departing to the battlefield, Gyebaek reportedly killed his wife and children to boost the fallen morale and patriotism of his army, and to prevent the thought of them to influence his actions or to cause him to falter in battle.

His forces won four initial battles, causing severe casualties to Silla forces. However, in the end, exhausted and surrounded, Gyebaek’s army would be outnumbered and overwhelmed. Baekje’s forces would be all annihilated in battle, alongside with their leader Gyebaek.  … Baekje was destroyed after 678 years of rule, shortly after Gyebaek’s defeat and death at Hwangsanbeol.

As Neo-Confucian philosophy became more influential in the later Korean Dynasties, Gyebaek was recognized by historians and scholars are exemplifying the Confucian ideals of patriotism and devotion to his King and praised as such. Although not much else is known about Gyebaek’s life, his actions leading up to his last battle are well known to many Koreans.”

Yesterday I had a post on Gye Baek, looking a bit at how the happy days between Gye Baek and Eun Go were. This series is 36 episodes, which makes it 36 hours. I haven’t seen all the episodes but what I did was to hunt for those that will inform on my favorite characters’ story. So far I feel I have seen enough to make a statement on it—which basically is this: now I understand how they must separate, with Gye Baek having a wife, with Eun Go going the dark path.

The main point of the entire series is that Gye Baek has to be presented as a great and honorable hero. He must be protected from blemishes in the face that he is a man with lots of blood in his hands. Next, Eun Go must be portrayed as evil (I can’t retrieve now where I got this idea from, but somewhere in the net I read that history remembers her as someone evil. Chincha.) Finally, Gye Baek has to have a wife and children, because history says he killed them before going to his final battle. Also, since Gye Baek has to be “honorable”, it has to be portrayed so that he had valued his family despite what he did to them—and hence, jumping to the end episode here, it was portrayed that it was his wife who pressured him into such a grimy decision.

When I saw General Lee Seung Gye in “The Great Seer” I understood that a military man, very indispensable as he is to the monarchy, is nothing but a servant—meaning, he doesn’t own his life, his thoughts, his actions. He is not expected to be educated, is assumed to be rough-mannered, and is distanced from politics. Eun Go and Gye Baek had to be separated because she is the king’s wife, so the angle of them staying together is out—Gye Baek can’t be a criminal by way of taking for himself the king’s consort. King Ui Ja had always wanted her—when I saw “Dae Jang Geum” I understood that, as Min Jung Ho said, no-one can separate a king from the woman he wants (though Ui Ja was just the Crown Prince here). On the aside, Gye Baek did decide to take Eun Go away from the palace. Hand in hand they left Eun Go’s prison cell and it would have been possible for them to happily live ever after, hidden in the hills, had not Eun Go fainted and was found out to be with child assumed to be the future king’s.

❤ Here are some snapshots leading to this “separation”, after the bullet-ed quasi-descriptions to the events comprising them. This is in Episode 24, which at the start looks like the wedding night of Eun Go and Ui Ja. Eun Go had frozen in bed and Ui Ja had given up forcing her, otherwise it would have been rape.

  • Eun Go leaves the palace and seeks out Gye Baek. They share their anguish at Eun Go’s wedding. Eun Go asks him why he’s so heartbroken.
  • Gye Baek speaks to her of his heart.
  • She tries to give him a reason for keeping on. At this point both actually believed that Ui Ja was a savior. At the earlier episodes Eun Go had been caught in a situation involving her relatives and she’s expected to receive the death sentence. Ui Ja supposedly “saves” her by claiming that she’s carrying his child, and so becomes “immune” to punishment, so to speak.
  • The main point in their dialogue is that Baekje is more important than both their personal problems. Eun Go has no choice but to capitulate to Ui Ja’s plan if she has to stay alive. She hopes to stay alive until the day she can be with Gye Baek again.
  • He protests, saying he’s not strong enough…
  • It seems that Eun Go sleeps over because we see on Gye Baek’s waking up he is covered with Eun Go’s robe and Eun Go has left him with hot food. We see here Gye Baek still holding Eun Go’s white robe as he rushes to the door to look for her outside. We see also the breakfast Eun Go has lovingly prepared for him.
  • He’s disheartened that she’s left, she’s nowhere to be seen. Unknown to him she’s crying her heart out behind a tree.
  • She goes back to her husband, the ever jealous Ui Ja.

Picture galleries zoom in, and thumbnails enlarge, when clicked on. Thank you to the makers of Gye Baek.

 

Gye Baek Eun Go ep24_11  The king has Eun Go imprisoned at the Crown Princess’ instigation, that her pregnancy was just a made-up story (indeed). Gye Baek is enraged. He breaks her out of her cell, and she calmly lets him take her by the hand. Gye Baek Eun Go ep24_12But Ui Ja is there, alas.

I’m not sure if Eun Go here has decided to sacrifice herself so as not to jeopardize Gye Baek’s safety, and so proceeded to “faint” (Sa Taek Bi did this trick on everyone). Gye Baek Eun Go ep24_13She falls down while still holding Gye Baek’s hand. He’s surprised, throws off his sword, goes down and holds her. Or, that she did faint, because the next scene shows the doctor assuring both her “men” that she’s pregnant (the real thing now).

♦  ♦        ♦  ♦        ♦  ♦

The next captures show how the couple said goodbye to each other right before Gye Baek rides off. Immediately after that is a fading away of Eun Go’s face, followed by the scenes of their meeting again after the 7 years they were apart.

  • Both accept the separation while in full belief that Ui Ja has done his best in looking out for them.  Gye Baek leaves the castle. Eun Go appears and pays her respects to him as he was riding out. She solemnly bows. They communicate without speaking, giving each other tiny smiles of assurances. He goes out to the open world, among the mountains and fields, and the rough men of the ranks. She is left behind in the closed world of political machinations.
  • Eun Go’s face fades out and is slowly replaced by the next scene, which is a jump to 7 years later.
  • Gye Baek, who has grown in stature in front of the men’s eyes, projects an indifference to Eun Go when they meet again. Eun Go in turn has presumably grown more “calloused” amidst the power struggle in the palace. However, both still love each other as strongly as ever. This is Episode 25 now. Eun Go and Gye Baek meet by chance. By this time both still believe that Ui Ja has always been straight with them. As Eun Go hurries to leave the tent Gye Baek softly asks her if she’s happy.
  • She is sarcastic of her situation, and so musters an honest answer, that she’s still alive, at least.
  • He, however, laments her answer. He tells her that she should be happy, and that as for him he has forgotten “everything”…
  • It hurts her to hear him say that he has “forgotten everything”. But she rationalizes things, and tells him that he’s right…
  • However, he had only been fooling himself, because he has not forgotten everything. He staggers in pain as Eun Go leaves the tent.
  • He then sees the yellow parcel on the table, opens it, finds a letter, and reads of Eun Go’s feelings…
  • As he reads her letter we are shown how Eun Go herself made the clothes for him …
  • The letter finishes with “I hope that you’ll be safe in the war. This is my wish for you. (signed) Eun Go”…  The letter devastates him and releases much pent-up emotions. He clutches at his chest and cries…

Alas eventually Eun Go discovers that Ui Ja manipulated situations years ago to the effect that she will consequently be trapped into choosing to stay with him and leave Gye Baek —this for the sake of Gye Baek also, of course, since Ui Ja knows very well that Gye Baek is her weakness — Eun Go seems to be consistent in looking out for Gye Baek’s welfare till the end, and even her “betrayal” of him was not done in cold blood on her part but was a consequence of palace politics.

In contrast, Gye Baek had actually betrayed Eun Go in not telling her back then about the issue with her blood relatives, which resulted in the annihilation of her clan. She is enraged, nearly killing the witness to the whole thing, and starts to totally freeze her heart towards Ui Ja. (I have skipped the episodes that dwell on this issue and so I don’t have the details to them yet.) She musters her protective powers onto Gye Baek now, in her quest for justice for her relatives and the survival of her little son. The bottom line of the plot that we now find ourselves in is that Ui Ja wants to go to war with Silla, whereas Gye Baek does not. Eun Go has figured out that Gye Baek must go, then proceeds to tell this to him, finishing her rationale with: “and so that I can return to your side”…   …which totally offsets his composure… he believes that he and Eun Go would be betraying the king if they become a couple again for the reason that (aside from the obvious adultery) he thinks Ui Ja once saved Eun Go’s life…   …by this time Gye Baek has no idea at all of what Eun Go has discovered about Ui Ja’s betrayal of them…She carries the burden alone…

King Ui Ja has constantly been making a fool of himself in front of his military officers. The last one was by riding off alone and falling from his horse, hitting his head against a rock, and had to be sneaked back into the palace to prevent public alarm. Eun Go is going desperate with her powerlessness to protect her son, whom the queen wants kicked out of the palace in favor of hers. From “Dong Yi” I learned that this “fight” for the position of Crown Prince can have fatal consequences, and so I can understand Eun Go’s position a bit. She is bitter against Ui Ja, she is heartbroken over Gye Baek, and now the intensely jealous queen is not leaving her and her son alone. How does a woman survive amidst all these? Ahh, Gye Baek, she thinks of him. She encourages him to take the position of “Great General” and so be the commander-in-chief in behalf of the comatose king. However, she also needs to ask for help from him, for the sake of her son’s safety (Prince Hyo). When they meet secretly Eun Go lets out a hint why she is in the middle of all this mess…which makes him seriously go out and find things out for himself…

… Gye Baek finds out the ugly truth, that the reason he and Eun Go got separated was nothing but a big lie … but Ui Ja was still in a coma… Gye Baek could only look at him frustratingly in a silent confrontation…

He next confronts the two hyungnim-advisors (who had already known about the whole thing since forever !!!) and expresses his intense disappointment over their bonding with Ui Ja, which he now sees as a sham… once again he loses the reason for going on with life…     After mulling it over some drinks outside the palace, where he heard common people talking about him, he makes a decision and seeks out Eun Go. (He had already made it clear that he doesn’t want to mess with politics.) He tells her that she can’t leave the king. In effect he says that he can’t help her. He tells her that in order for him to survive he must give himself to the people, to Baekje, just like what Eun Go told him all those many years before, that Gye Baek didn’t lose her to Ui Ja but to Baekje, to the people. Gye Baek Eun Go ep28_03He returns the necklace. She accepts it. She now feels abandoned again. Her defenses rise, and like the fighter that she always has been since a child, she lets anger rise within her—she must help herself and survive or her son will suffer… Gye Baek Eun Go ep28_04From this point onwards Eun Go musters her tactical prowess in her lone struggle for survival, which also entangles her and buries her deep in intrigues. …but he has made his choice… and she’s trapped in the palace life… and they go separate ways…

Gye Baek Eun Go ep35_02

Gye Baek defends Eun Go

Jumping to the last episodes, 35 and 36, and seeing how their last meetings went…  By this time it has been found out that the queen (Eun Go) herself gave out military tactics to Silla in exchange for Tang’s acknowledgement of hers and her son’s positions. This has resulted into the death of 8,000 soldiers plus the assassination of one of the hyungnim-advisors. She has gone to Silla, on a reason and which is not to flee, but upon knowing of the planned attack against Baekje she hurries back home in order to deliver this crucial information. Only Gye Baek defends her credibility and pushes for the postponement of the queen’s punishment…

The king (Ui Ja) does visit her in prison (not shown here), to ask why she returned. She answers that she wants to die by his hands. She says she didn’t return to ask for pardon but to make it so that her death eases the anger of the people against the royal family, thereby uplifting the overall morale and enabling the people to defend the country against the coming attackers (of hundreds of thousands of troops combined). Ui Ja tells her that he can’t protect her… (whereas Gye Baek will try to!!!)…

The pictures here show Gye Baek visiting her before he goes off to war. This is his second visit after that first one when he came to tell her that her punishment has been postponed. They had a bit of an argument then, because he felt frustrated that she opposes his defense of her against the royal court (with the help of the other hyungnim-advisor), frustrated that she wants to die the soonest possible time, and she’s frustrated that she can’t do it… …Gye Baek actually wants to save her… he hopes that after the war when things have turned out fine (meaning, he hopes to be successful, which is a healthy state of mind all together) he’ll work out for her pardon… and he encourages her to persevere… For the last time Eun Go opens to him her heart… that she wishes that no-one else had to undergo the things she had, and that she has always loved him…

He responds very kindly, but I can’t be sure how much of his love for her is still there… for sure, he is sincerely touched by her words… (on the other hand, making Gye Baek appear kind towards Eun Go like this in spite of her terrible crime could just be a plot-devise to preserve the image of noble-ness of Gye Baek. For me, though, since this couple has been given importance in this story then this last scene of theirs together says that Eun Go has remained important to Gye Baek until the very end, whether he admits it to himself or not… the way he turned around to respond to her for the last time is so pregnant with meaning, and he looks sad, and he is very still like he’s had a shock, which makes me recall how he cried in the tent after reading Eun Go’s letter telling of the clothes she made for him … if it was only pity that he felt for her then that should have been emphasized, but it was not…)     She bows her head to him, just like she had done before their 7 years’ parting, and he slowly turns around, to head for battle…

Gye Baek Eun Go ep36_05    …this is a snapshot of the general in the battlefield, facing the enemy troops, and we’re now very near the end of the story…   …Gye Baek Eun Go ep36_06where we see Eun Go standing alone on a cliff somewhere far from the battlefield, preparing to face death on such a seemingly very fine day … perhaps the panoramic scene is symbolic of the hope she has of leading a suffer-free life in the/her next “lifetime” where no filial duties would trap her, no trusted friend would betray her, and perhaps meet Gye Baek again — and this time at last be with him, “by his side”, living in that idyllic village of the outcasts where they started to really open their hearts to each other… her face is sad but hopeful, not crumpled with bitterness or regret, but merely “accepting”, and she looks at the sky, which seems like she is looking forward to “freedom”…  …whereas, on another scene is a still of Ui Ja sitting on the throne stone shock in the face of his fallen kingdom (ahhh… he deserved that, I thought to myself…)

I find myself crying at the end of my narration here. To think of the deaths Eun Go has caused should disable me to do so. But to look at the face of the woman above, side by side with her smile to Gye Baek telling him how she dreams to live in that ideal village (Episode 14), makes me suspect myself as just being biased towards my favorite pair (Eun Go and Gye Baek). Lady Choi (of “Dae Jang Geum”) also had that “teary-eyed sorry and tired” face in the end but I didn’t feel ambivalent towards her as I do towards Eun Go.

If only Ui Ja didn’t betray the two they would have lived a happy life together. If only their prison-break was successful they could have lived like Jang Geum and Min Jung Ho, on the run but happy. If only history didn’t demand that Gye Baek kills his family then the story could have run just as well without having to marry him off. If he didn’t have a wife then there wouldn’t have been that last scene with his family, implying that he loves Eun Go less. If he didn’t have a wife then the last scene with Eun Go would suffice as a renewed declaration of their living bond (Sujini and Dam Duk of “The Legend” didn’t even talk properly before they parted, but their actions sufficed). If he didn’t have a wife, and he came back safe from the war, Eun Go could have had a chance at pardon, exile maybe, and he could have gone with her… If only Eun Go wasn’t smart to start with in the first place, then she also wouldn’t have dreamt big for Gye Baek…

Gye Baek and Eun Go did dream of living a simple life together. Several times there were chances for them to run away, but it always fails. In her own way Eun Go’s passion for the people of Baekje is just as strong as Gye Baek’s and that’s why she toughens herself up in order to handle politics — even the two hyungnim-advisors agree with her in this. In contrast, Gye Baek’s getting married and living away from the capital has a touch of escapism. He was too much of a general, a subordinate of the crown, that he couldn’t put his faith in Eun Go who consistently puts herself in line at his defense. The character “Eun Go” is a tough one, always caught between damned-if-she-does and damned-if-she-doesn’t.

Now that I have assured myself that there are acceptable justifications as to why/how my favorite pair here separated I can calmly proceed to enjoy the entire story at a later time, when my schedule allows. I have to watch the entire series within a short span of time to get a clearer view of the consequent issues in the story. But I would still find that end part, of him killing his own family, difficult to handle, with the added burden of not wanting him as happy with another woman as he was with Eun Go.

My favorite Jumuchi of “The Legend” is, alas, a villain here, just as he was in “Shadowless Sword”. Jumong’s mom looks too gentle-soft to be a hardcore villain. Song Ji Hyo, though (obviously) looking washed-out in some parts (like Episode 24) looks to all the thinking-angel out to protect, the hurt-villain out to defend her interests, and in the end also the repentant-human who wants rest. Both kings are decidedly pathetic (that’s why the kingdom fell in the first place) but the actors are very convincing. As a military-general-character LeeSeoJin-GyeBaek isn’t as rough-behaving as JiJinHee-LeeSungGye (in The Great Seer)but their characters before their joining the military scene in their respective stories are comparable —they were as convincingly “manly” as anyone can be. The series has successfully projected “General Gye Baek” the historical hero as a very admirable character, upright and true—though I suspect that this is a very tall idealization.

Alas, I don’t get many Lee Seo Jin smiles here, just like in Damo. It doesn’t matter—I still like him to the max.

Thanks a million to the translators.

last edited 1 May 2014

A Frozen Flower: a look at a story of how an honest love triangle turns into a struggle on personhood

1.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Han Baek gets caught

Han Baek, who was eloping with a palace maid, gets caught by his brother guards.

Hello everyone 🙂 Today is Mach 1, 2014 and I am set to put captures for this post. I don’t have spare time actually, meaning I’m stealing this opportunity hahaha, but I’ve noticed that many people drop by to look over this post. I therefore felt compelled to fix things up a bit here primarily for my peace of mind. I’ve never intended to leave this post bare of illustrations and so now that Ms. Song Ji Hyo is in a new drama, Emergency Couple, I thought it’s as good a time as any to put an effort here once and for all. This update also marks the time that I squealed of delight after finding out that these favorites of mine are connected by close friendship: Jo In Sung, Song Joong Ki, Lee Kwang Soo, and Song Ji Hyo. Also, Joo Jin Mo is currently doing Empress Ki (which I’ll have to tackle in a separate post another time, by the major reasons that it has the cast of Damo plus another favorite of mine, Ji Chang Wook 🙂 This post is just a little expression of support for professionals from whom I have benefited much by way of insight acquisition. The fonts in pink are links to my other two posts that have more to say on this.

2.  Frozen Flower 2008 _finding a way to save Han Baek

Hong Lim was very carefully trying to find a way to save Han Baek from being punished with death.

Many have commented a dislike over the sexual element in this film. I do not have any comment against them, and they are perfectly qualified to hold such opinions. For myself I would not want a minor younger than, say, 21 years old to view this film. That’s just a general gauge of how old an individual could be before s/he can handle well themes that s/he may have not experienced personally, such as homosexual relations and betrayal of close bonds. I believe that age is not a good marker for so-called maturity because there are youngsters who are able to process such “adult” issues with admirable capability, and there are adults who cannot see the forest because they’re focused on the individual trees.

My liking for this film does not reflect the entirety or the summary of my personal convictions, the major part of which I have not even put tabs on.

3.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Hong Lim's view of the queen singing Gashiri

How the queen looks to Hong Lim as she sings Gashiri.

That is, because although I am not familiar with so-called lesbians, indeed I am very much familiar with the male counterpart, the so-called gays. But, well, these are just labels so just so there are terms that can be used for discussions and conversations. I’m sure the issues involved go way much much deeper and wider than what is promoted in popular media. What I know is that, as a Filipino who grew up in a rural setting, I have not been so much isolated by norms and religion as to condemn per se that homosexuals will go to hell. I have a handsome cousin who leans towards the feminine of traits and although I had a catastrophic fight with him decades ago over that issue I have become a big fan of his right now, even after decades of separation and even not having seen him even once since then. I also had high school classmates, dearly beloved, whom we all respect sincerely despite their deviation from the accepted norms of manliness.

3a.  Frozen Flower 2008 _royal guards behind the thrones

The king and queen of Goryo seated on their thrones, the chief guard behind the queen, the sub-chief guard behind the king.

Now, for the issue on physical sexual relations with the same genders, that is a field that I personally withhold abstract speculations from because I hold the conviction that God is not trapped within conventions and norms. My gay friends love God as much as I do, and my case rests there for now.

Finally, I wanted to pretty up this post as an expression of appreciation to the three actors who made the film a success: Song Ji Hyo, Joo Jin Mo, and Jo In Sung. This is not to add pressure to their already stressful lives. I just want to say that, if ever I were a friend of any of them, to take good care of their personal health especially the emotional aspect, and that this film established my respect for them as persons. They are beautiful people and I wish them the happiness that they can identify as their own, one which is not dependent on wealth, fame, or reputation. This wish also goes for everyone in the world. I wish happiness for all of us. Kampei! 🙂  Thanks a million for dropping by and for allowing me to share some of my thoughts with you. The screen captures enlarge when clicked on. Peace ❤

… below now was the original post

4.  Frozen Flower 2008 _a fever ignites the trio's frozen state

The queen acquires a fever after the procreation ceremony. The king tends to her.

This king in our story, in ancient Goryeo, is like a god. He can do what he wants. His servants are his property. He has a retinue of eunuchs at his beck and call, all of them at a bent position in his presence. They never stand straight in his company.

This king bows down to only one person, to the emperor of Yuan whom we don’t see in the story. We see only a princess of Yuan, she who had been sent to the palace to be the king’s bride about a decade ago.

Though this king does not have a complete autonomy, still his word is law in his kingdom. This is what we understand when a violator was spared of beheading as per the king’s order.

4a.  Frozen Flower 2008 _first inkling of betrayal & jealousy

The first time that Hong Lim hides something from the king.

The king in his youth gathered 36 children to himself and reared them in the palace next to him to be his trusted companions. Their body, mind, and will were trained for only one purpose: to protect him and to always be available only for him.

At one session the king asks the seated children who the best warrior in the kingdom is. Of all the answers given to him his eyes particularly shone at one boy’s answer, that it is one who willingly gives up his life for the king. Thus the love affair between this king and this bodyguard began. The king cares for all the children but his affection begins to be centered to only one, on Hong Lim.

Hong Lim becomes the respected chief of the 36 bodyguards (though one, the sub-chief, does not show proper respect by remaining seated while the others stand up and bow as Hong Lim enters their quarters).

5.  Frozen Flower 2008 _there is now the problem of how Hong Lim & the queen can reach each other

Hong Lim and the queen are starting to realize that they want the communication line between them kept open.

In their close ties he is also “hyungnim”, big brother. When one of them, Han Baek, falls in love and tries to run away with one of the queen’s maids Hong Lim takes advantage of his closeness with the king to beg for Han Baek’s life. The crime entails beheading. It is a desertion of the king, a betrayal, treason (i.e., the guards are forbidden private lives). However, the king relents. Han Baek is returned to his comrades, who are greatly relieved. They hug him. They thank their chief. There is genuine affection amongst them. They are merely the king’s objects but as persons they are family. When the sub-chief sneers at Hong Lim’s accomplishment Hong Lim gives this justification: that Han Baek is one of them and hence could not possibly be left in the lurch for just a one-time offense, though this is not to be a precedence for further violations. Hong Lim subjugates the resentful sub-chief, defending the king’s honor from such snide remarks. Hong Lim is loyal to his brothers as well as to his king.

6.  Frozen Flower 2008 _resignation on her face

The queen here could be trying to find her way through the helpless situation, as she slightly tilts her head back to where Hong Lim could be situated by now.

The first hint of disaster manifests when Hong Lim glances at the queen on the king’s comment on her perfume-locket, during that beautiful spring day as the royal couple was relaxing outside the palace grounds. Hong Lim’s existence is supposedly solely for the king, for the king’s wishes and wants, to protect, please, and lay one’s life to at any time. This had been his mindset ever since he first came to the palace. This is what he has been programmed to live according to. The king’s pleasure and contentment is supposedly his pleasure and contentment as well, and nothing else. Would there have been in him an element of jealousy at the king’s interest in the queen? Or perhaps just an interest at what the king is interested in?

The day before the picnic, after the Han Baek incident, we see Hong Lim gently combing the king’s hair. The king asks Hong Lim if he would do that, too, run away and leave the palace in case something similar happens to him. Hong Lim replies that he doesn’t think he could, because the king is in the palace. This, then, is the king’s fear: that Hong Lim will desert him.

7.  Frozen Flower 2008 _resignation on his face

Hong Lim deliberates on whether to persist on reaching out to her. Does he or does he not give her the locket?

During the picnic the king smilingly insists to the queen on “that song of Goryeo that you usually sing”, saying that he’d like to hear her sing to them. He even solicits Hong Lim’s support in this request. (Here is an incident where the three of them are in harmony.) The surprised and flattered queen shyly obliges. We see a king who is not icy towards his queen. We could say that they are good friends, that they are comfortable with each other.

8.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the second daring act _he gives her a gift

The gamble. He gives her his second gift. She receives it.

Hong Lim, whether because of the beautiful voice or of the lovely song, glances at the queen again. From his view behind the king he can see her left profile. He has now glanced at the queen long enough to be established in the plot that he is able to later recall what the potpourri-locket looks like. However, was he already drawn a long time ago to the queen’s beauty? He and his brothers would have been blind if they did not appreciate their queen’s looks at all. But the queen sings beautifully. Perhaps it is only this that he appreciates at that point. However, her song’s theme alludes to the incident with Han Baek’s attempt to run away. We see the king covering his emotions by a sip of drink. (He insisted on her singing and he got a reminder of his fear. What a day.)

9.  Frozen Flower 2008 _a small gift but a big decision

She wonders at the developments, of how she has come to look at him with favor, of what to do with the gift.

Naturally, the king being outside of the palace’s protection, assassins take an attempt on him. The issue involved has something to do with the political struggle between the king and his court with the influence of Yuan on one side and the absence of an heir on the other. Yuan describes this as a “political instability”. Several members of the court, including the queen’s visiting older brother, became implicated at the attempt of the few in this assassination. At the first whiz of arrows the king lunges to his right and covers the queen with his body. (Hong Lim quickly flips the table, for shield.) Next the king asks Hong Lim if he is okay, then orders that the queen be taken away to safety. To the queen’s fright he demands for his sword and stays with his bodyguards in the fight. We see a king who has a superior skill in fencing.

Now the emperor of Yuan makes a move in the face that the king so far has not produced a progeny. The emperor now intends to crown somebody as next in line. This place belongs to the king’s son.

10.  Frozen Flower 2008 _confined in an impossibility

There, he has done it finally. Whatever happens to him at his rashness he is ready to face it. He has given her something that he was not willing to share with the king. He may die because of it but he had deliberated long over it. He wanted to give it to the queen and that’s all that matters for now.

But despite having had the queen and the concubines in the palace for many years now no royal children have been produced to the kingdom. As the emperor’s representative reads this edict up on the dais we see all the courtiers bowed down beneath, on the floor, with the king at their head. The queen, on the other hand, is seated up on the dais, on her throne, next to Yuan’s representative, and next to the king’s temporarily vacated one.

The king next gathers his court. Seated now next to the queen up on their dais, bodyguards behind, members of the court express that it would be wise to conform to the emperor’s wish. The king looks and sounds resigned as he asks the court for more opinions. The queen, barely controlling her anger, decides to speak out. She lashes at the surprised court for accepting Yuan’s edict, implying that they are looking forward to the day that the present king has no power anymore over the country. The king’s nostrils slightly flares at his queen’s defense of his honor, at her publicly owning up of the fault of their being childless, saying that it is not the “still young” king who is incapacitated. Hong Lim, of course, empathizes with the queen and is moved by her show of fierce loyalty to the king. In this incident the three characters are once more in harmony with each other.

11.  Frozen Flower 2008 _court dance

A court celebration as a way of imploring for a royal progeny. Shown is a drum dance.

By now it is clear that the king is protective of the queen, as a husband should be. That evening alone with her he tells her to go back to her native country now that his humiliation is inevitable. He does not want her to be humiliated as well. They now talk openly of the problem: he can’t “do it” with a woman. Even if she sleeps in his chambers tonight and at any other time they would still not be able to produce an heir. She in turn chooses to cling to him, to refuse to leave him and her adoptive country. She declares that this where she belongs now. The king then, perhaps encouraged by her clear support, tells her of an alternative. To beget a son for him through Hong Lim.

12.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Goryeo king & queen

The king and queen in full regalia.

Indeed, as the king and Hong Lim make love we see the passion in the king’s eyes as he holds Hong Lim’s face and looks at him. It’s a sort of a helplessly fiery openly honest passion. We see that Hong Lim is at ease with this relationship he has with the king. He accepts his place as being the object of his king’s passion and willingly responds to the king’s satisfaction. We do not see any problem between them in there. Albeit, I cannot see fire in Hong Lim’s eyes as he looks at the king. This fierce passion between them will be re-enacted the morning after Hong Lim spends a night with the queen. The king had then demanded of Hong Lim’s “heart”, that it should be given to him. It will be enacted again at the last tableau, with their final swordfight. In there, however, it will be a passion to subjugate and to eliminate each other.

13.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Hong Lim steals a look

Hong Lim directs a quick look at their majesties. Was he looking for something?

Disturbance is first seen in Hong Lim’s eyes when the king tells him what he wants to be done. Hong Lim bolts up in bed, passionately declaring to the king’s turned back that he can’t possibly do it. Perhaps to him it sounded like being commanded to desecrate the queen, or like being commanded to betray the king. The queen, alone in her chambers, has tearful eyes of emotions. She has long resented Hong Lim for taking away from her the rightful place as the king’s favored nurturing partner. She, a virgin, must consummate the marriage act with a person she sees as worse than a stranger. She who has wholeheartedly given her loyalty to her husband has been commanded by him to exert a very intimate effort at conceiving with a “servant”. She, a princess of the mighty Yuan, will be made equal to a mere “property” of a vassal country.

14.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the queen wears Hong Lim's gift

There, he sees it. She is wearing his gift to her.

To defy the king’s wish is to humiliate him, and she is not in the position nor does she have the will to do this. She is too good a country’s subject, wife, and woman. She is foremost the king’s property, the country’s subject next, and being her own self the least–if ever she indeed has that notion at all. Hong Lim, she knows, will surely not defy the king as well. She realizes that she is helpless.

The king, having totally believed that he can always get what he wants (except in the case of Yuan), did not anticipate that these “properties” that he manipulates could get out of his control. He does not see himself as deficient (except for being heirless). He can even beat the best of his bodyguards in a swordfight at any time of the day. What best for him to do other than have his most trustworthy confidant impregnate his very loyal wife? He must have felt he had the safety nets on all sides. At that point there was no reason to suspect that either of them is capable of betraying his trust.

15.  Frozen Flower 2008 _sword dance

The royal guards perform a sword dance.

On the first consummation night the king gently lays his agitated queen in bed and silently reassures her with a very tender kiss on her lips. He lets Hong Lim in after encouraging him with a brotherly pat on the shoulder. The queen quakes as Hong Lim approaches. He sees her anguished eyes full of tears. He gives up.

The morning after, the king, taking the failure in hand with an almost imperceptible smile, encourages him again. The next night the queen has mustered more courage–she volunteers to disrobe herself. Now, as the rhythm of Hong Lim’s breathing increases, he looks at the king’s shadow against the thin dividing wall as if asking for permission to leave the king and venture into a world without the latter.

The queen eventually accepts Hong Lim. A new knowledge can be read from her face. Hong Lim, finally, rests his head beside the queen’s. They have stepped onto a threshold of no return. Ahh, so, Hong Lim can, in fact, do it. The king at the next room, hearing of that exact moment, freezes and blots his ink painting. The king has started to lose his control over the matter.

17.  Frozen Flower 2008 _an embroidery gift

At the library, the queen hands over a gift to Hong Lim. It’s a head band that she herself had embroidered.

Hong Lim felt it. He excuses himself from the palace to distance himself from this overwhelming new force in his narrowly restricted existence. The queen felt it. She persistently prostrates herself in prayer to calm her confusion. Hong Lim cannot stop the force. He thinks of her in his sleeping time. He gets a new necklace to replace her lost one (during the assassins’ attempt at the picnic). He sneaks a peak at her at the palace, while she repeatedly bows in front of the altar, unbeknownst to all. He muses about her while his brothers play at the river. He hides the truth from the king whenever the latter asks of anything that might divulge a clue to his increasing attachment to the queen . She becomes sick and gets a fever.

At these times the king starts to re-establish his control over the two–he shows open affection to Hong Lim just like before, and he shows sincere concern for the queen just like before. Hong Lim will start to distance himself from the king. The king reaches out and tightens his hold against Hong Lim. These acts of insistence on control worsen, escalate, until even the sub-chief becomes horrified at the king’s madness—the first instance of which is the tragedy in the library during the night of the thunderstorm. In there the king had become like a hysterical woman scorned by her lover.

16.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the king sings magnificently

The king in his magnificent voice sings Ssanghwajeom. It means “A Frozen Flower”, itself the title of the doomed situation he will shortly find himself in together with the two persons closest to him.

We see in the queen’s eyes the switch of affections. Whereas before to the king she gives warmth and to Hong Lim she is uncaring, now she turns her face away from the king, perhaps shielding her true emotions from his gaze. Little by little she looks at Hong Lim with warmth (there is that deleted scene, of another secret meeting in the library, the queen wearing a palace maid’s attire and Hong Lim wearing the head band that she embroidered for him, where she in a playful mood surprises him with a hug from behind, erasing his anxious look, and then they talk briefly, and he tearfully cradles her head in a tight embrace–a mark that they eventually see each other as equals, and are now “self-less” in their regard for each other). As to Hong Lim, whenever he is not looking at the queen, his eyes are sad, touched with a resigned and helpless look. Though he is sure of his love for the queen, and eventually of the queen’s love for him, yet these are absolutely forbidden in their context.

18.  Frozen Flower 2008 _king's guards like his song

The clueless guards go on loving their king, enjoying his song. Can you see Song Joong-Ki in front? ❤ ❤ ❤

So Hong Lim continues to hide truths from the king. The sub-chief consistently works out his way into snatching for himself the affection that the king has for Hong Lim. The queen responds to Hong Lim’s signals. In the very constrained situation that they are in, where the king always finds ways to know about truths they hide from him, Hong Lim and the queen nurture their newly found world. They communicate through little gifts, and glances, and meetings whenever they can snatch them.

But Hong Lim calculates their chances of survival before the queen does. He realizes that he has no power to protect the queen from the king. He tries to put a stop to the danger when he sees that only disaster awaits him, and the queen especially, should they continue with their attachment, where they are persons of mutual high worth plus without a demand to sacrifice their personhood.

19.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Hong Lim starts to distance

The morning after. Hong Lim begins to withdraw from the king’s advances.

The king has been persistently hounding him, enough to assure him that surrender is his only safety net. The king has had all traitors killed, all the high officials and even the queen’s brother. He knows of the king’s capabilities. He cuts his happiness short by surrendering to the king. His eyes now look almost lifeless.

The queen, on the other hand, did not have the understanding by this time enough for her to agree with Hong Lim. She begs him to run away with her anywhere, to “take her away”, even to the hills. He tells her of his powerlessness. She is saved from a suicide attempt. She discovers she is with child. She accepts Hong Lim’s departure (him being assigned by the king to the border stations for the purpose of “forgetting”) but has to tell him of her fear, that their child might not be safe with the king.

20.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the flower unfreezes & blooms

When she thought he had left her he came looking for her. When he thought she might leave him he came looking for her.

Alas, their love for each other cannot be constrained. The king, with the help of the sub-chief, finds them despite the thunderstorm. Both, with hands tied and kneeling before the king, alternately defend each other at the cost of their lives. When Hong Lim declares twice that he loves the queen the king snaps. He makes a shocked sub-chief castrate a superior brother. The queen faints. The royal physician congratulates the king on the queen’s conception. The madness in the king’s eyes that started when Hong Lim lied about sending honeysuckle tea to the queen now grows into crazy proportions–he commands the sub-chief that all subjects private to the fatherhood of the queen’s pregnancy be killed. Except Hong Lim. The king goes to him in prison and bargains at the back turned to him, to return to how they were before, and that all would be forgotten. (Whoa! You cruelly deprive a man of an essential part of his personhood and you bargain your kingdom with him! Too late, king! Hong Lim has finally discovered that a person can live outside of your gilded cage.)

21.  A Frozen Flower 2008 _self-made rice cakes declare love

She makes him rice cakes according to her home country’s customs. She tells him she loves him.

The queen, in danger to her own safety, sends brothers loyal to Hong Lim to take him away from the palace. The baby, she says, cannot have two fathers. (I guess she has projected how their lives would be in the future when the child grows up and Hong Lim is forced to live in the pain of not even be allowed to have his child call him “father”. The secret of the true fatherhood is bound to eventually leak out. Perhaps she has a good idea that Hong Lim will not be willing to be reconciled to the king anymore. Perhaps she did not anticipate that the king has gone crazy enough to ask Hong Lim for a reconciliation–she did not anticipate the king’s level of obsession with Hong Lim. She miscalculated that the king would put Hong Lim first before self-honor. Ahh, but this is a drama movie–the more angst the better.)

22.  Frozen Flower 2008 _she asks if he likes the rice cake

Tearfully she asks how the rice cake tastes to him.

The king guesses right that it was the queen who has sent Hong Lim away. She denies his accusations without turning her head to answer him. When she finally does so she gives him a venomous glare.Her child is threatened yet still she insists on Hong Lim’s safety. Hong Lim, successfully spirited out of the palace, turns back against his brothers wishes in order to get the queen, and his child, out of the king’s clutches. His brothers say he has nothing to give the queen anymore. He rides fast alone. The queen’s song plays. He stops. He is resigned. He goes back to a ransacked temple-hideout, his comrades missing.

23.  Frozen Flower 2008 _he admits that the rice cake is exquisite

He solemnly answers her that the taste is exquisite.

But then, how would I say anything about a king who has known the virtue of being in control all his life? Can his acts be justified in view of his insecurity and humiliation at not being capable of producing an heir? That, him being in this state, Hong Lim shouldn’t have spurned him? Did he really love Hong Lim? How many legitimate dimensions of love can one possibly talk about? He has lavished Hong Lim with gifts and attention—is this a proof of love? Whereas, Hong Lim, who has not had the privilege of choices at all, and who has been indoctrinated since childhood that his life belongs to the king, has only his integrity to give to the king—and this he did until the king initiated the triangle. Were the king’s consistent intents at forgiving Hong Lim’s betrayals proofs of love? Crazy.

24.  Frozen Flower 2008 _deleted library scene _the queen in servant's dress

A deleted scene, at the library. Hong Lim is wearing the queen’s embroidered head band. She sneaks out to meet him wearing her maid’s clothing. He is worried for her and she tries to comfort him.

Crazy to torture and kill the four brothers that protected Hong Lim, thereby supporting him and the queen in their quest for freedom from the king. Crazy to bait Hong Lim back by putting up the queen’s head along with the brothers’ on stakes at the palace wall. As Hong Lim declares at their swordfight, the king has “cut him to his roots”. The king is a bad loser. It happens to people. From where I am coming I hesitate at blaming the king here. I only know the story based on the characters’ faces and voices and on the dialogues translated into English (hehehe). I can only understand the story based on where I’m “coming from”, which is not of the ancient Goryeo worldview. Besides, the king can sing beautifully, too (it’s the actor’s own singing voice) 🙂 His song is as haunting and poignant as the queen’s.

If Hong Lim’s sword had not become broken at that precise instance then he and the king would have thrust at each other simultaneously. As the king impales Hong Lim he asks if he was, even for one instance in the past, an object of Hong Lim’s “love”. The latter answers “no” and “never”, and drives himself forward through the length of the king’s sword in order to thrust his own halved sword into the demoralized king’s torso. Thus, the king dies open-eyed, gazing at Hong Lim’s back.

The queen did the only way she could to ensure Hong Lim’s protection, and also perhaps avenge the deaths of so many people including her brother and her personal maid (whose head on the stake with the queen’s necklace Hong Lim mistook as hers): instigate the sub-chief at killing the maddened king, to “put him out of his pains” she tells him.

Fortunately for the sub-chief, Hong Lim is already on the process of doing the deed for him. The king is having a late night snack in his bedroom as Hong Lim enters and bows his final respects, which basically is a request for the king to get hold of his sword. (Hong Lim then unsheathes his sword—from some Japanese story I read I learned that this act is an indication of an intent to strike. Swords are valued and are not supposed to be drawn out unless they are intended for use.) He’s on his last mission at freeing himself from the king’s shackles. He’s about to perform the exact opposite of what he was programmed to do all his life: take the king’s life. His anger at the king is magnificent but subtly expressed.

24a.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the king says she'll have another man instead of Hong Lim

The queen is horrified at the king’s decision that another partner will be found for her. Rightly so. But by this time the king is now desperate to put a stop at whatever connection Hong Lim and the queen have.

He declares to the arrogant king (who shouts “castrated fool!” at him) that he has no fears anymore. Still, years of programming emerges as he feels a loss at having finally struck down the king. There is also that element of horror at having struck at a helpless man (this is against a warrior’s honor code), because the king, after hearing from the impaled Hong Lim that he had never been loved for even once by him, seemed to have let go of life itself simultaneous to his slightly slackened hold on the jade sword handle.

The sub-chief, aside from personal grudges, had to kill Hong Lim. His brothers behind him witnessed the treason: a trusted guard wanted for high treason has killed the king.

25.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Hong Lim protects her by denying her plea

This, then, is the queen’s solution: that she and Hong Lim simply run away.

If during that meeting with the bodyguards moments ago the chief was not yet a “traitor” to them, now he clearly is. Moreover, they are not willing to put their lives in “unjustified” danger, though their faces looked unanimously aghast at the summary execution of Hong Lim by the sub-chief. (In fairness to them, the ones outside the building urged Hong Lim to leave the palace before anyone sees him. That is, they were still protecting him in his state of being wanted for high treason.) Would Hong Lim have lived even without that torso thrust?

26.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Hong Lim is now the queen's all

Hong Lim, unlike the queen, knows that the king is capable of tracking them down. Moreover, something holds Hong Lim back from totally breaking out. Guilt, maybe, or the sense of honor, or responsibility. He is the trusted chief guard, after all, the most trusted by the person who is considered as equivalent to the kingdom, to the people. Many things hang on his neck and so he chooses to forsake his personal happiness.

The king had slashed at him several times before that final strike to the left breast, impaling him. That final hit was intended by the king to be a death blow, after all. Would his brothers have put aside the law and embraced him nevertheless at that hour of crisis? As Hong Lim staggered towards them his eyes seemed to say that he wanted to explain to them his side of the story, the reason why he did all this. It seemed he was asking the sub-chief to listen to him. When he was finally hit and was already falling his eyes seemed to say that he forgives the sub-chief, that he understands him and is without grudges against him, and that he accepts his fate.

The queen barges into the death tableau. She spots the king first and calls out “chonha”, perhaps not realizing yet that he’s already dead. Hong Lim’s resigned eyes light up at the sound of her voice. Her gaze shifts to him, already lying on his stomach and shaking in his last breaths.

27.  Frozen Flower 2008 _that thunderstorm night

This is the result of desperation. She nearly died. They were saying goodbye. The thunderstorm begins to rage. His feelings for her are too strong for him.

She screams his name repeatedly and struggles to go to him against the guards who are restraining her. As she is being forced away Hong Lim looks at her direction, silently saying that he would have very much liked to spring up and rush to her. The sub-chief commands that she be ushered out. Her voice fades as she disappears from Hong Lim’s view. His eyes briefly show elements of regret that, perhaps, they will be parted permanently now, and that, perhaps, a sadness that he cannot stay with her and their child anymore. Perhaps also an apology that he was not able to protect her, and won’t have the chance to do so anymore. When her screams are not heard anymore Hong Lim forcibly turns his head to the direction of the king, whose eyes already had that same dead look even before he died.

28.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the crucial library scene, thunderstorm raging

When reality catches up there are only two things possible, either to run away from it or to face it. They, each, decide to face it.

Did that turning of the head say that he loved the king after all? I don’t think so. He was already prepared to die before he discovered that the queen is still alive. He was already on the act of dying with his face turned towards the brothers that he grew up with, his family. When he sees that the queen is alive, what could have gone through his mind? Ultimate relief perhaps, for a treasure thought lost but is found again, and not only for this beloved woman but also for their child she carries.

But what about the last scenes of him and the king in the bliss of the olden days? As youngsters they had virtually pledged to each other that they would be together all through their lives. Ahh, but young children are highly impressionable and may be bound to change their preferences as they grow up. What about that dream of the king’s where Hong Lim as well was getting ready to shoot with the bow, in the manner that he requested for the king to re-depict in his painting? Well, the king was shocked when Hong Lim had slashed that painting. Whereas, Hong Lim wasn’t thinking about it at all, him being intent at just their sword fight.

29.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the queen & Hong Lim try to save the other

She does her utmost to save him.

The king, in between strikes, demands from him if love was really that important to him. Aha. The king has come to see that there is something that he wanted from Hong Lim but was not given to him.

30.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Hong Lim declares it clearly

He does his utmost to save her.

 Hong Lim heatedly replies that he is thankful enough for the king in leading him to feel that same love. (Okay, so, in this context as he speaks, would this love have been for the king or for the queen? I was confused about the whole issue of who loved whom and so I tried to understand the story again. Based on this dialogue it’s clear that both meant that love which Hong Lim declared for the queen—this is based on his confession in the library, the one that made the king snap. Hong Lim had slightly straightened from his kneeling position and had fiercely reiterated, explicitly into the king’s eyes, that he loves the queen.)

31.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the king's madness starts

The king felt he was dying, and he chose survival. He embraces rage.

Hong Lim experiences something worse than death (he was shouting that he’d rather be killed). Though castrated and betrayed by the one he devoted his life to, Hong Lim was freed in his sexuality and in his personhood, even in just a short period of time for him to enjoy it all. Thus it is not only the king that controls a bow, as what the king at first depicted in the painting. He, too, has now a chance to shoot with his own bow, a freedom of choice and of decision making all by himself.

32.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Hong Lim begs for death instead

Not even once does Hong Lim beg for his life.

  Indeed, that happy scene with the king will forever remain as a dream because in reality the king will never consent to him a freedom of equal level. The king kept on trying to keep Hong Lim by his side until right before the time he impales him.

33.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the queen begs to punish her instead

The queen shares Hong Lim’s agony and is about to lose consciousness.

Hong Lim in his death is at peace with the thought that he will soon have a child who will carry life on for him. I think his last glance and tears for the king was a goodbye as well as an expression of gratitude for all that the king has given him–for the care, friendship, attention, generosity–, for having led him to find a kind self-affirming love with the queen and hence a sort of freedom, and most of all for not killing her and his child. It might also have been an apology for a misplaced rage that is supposedly the last straw for his decision at revenge, and a sadness at killing a person that he had for so long looked up to.

A deleted scene. Hong Lim forges a sword for his encounter with the king.

Perhaps there is also sadness at the pain that came to the three of them and at the senseless waste of many lives, of his brothers and the servants privy to the secret. It also seemed to say, “Ah, you’re also just a man, a powerless one, and what a pity that it all ends like this… I did wish you happiness but not the one that you kept forcing me into… at least now I’m free…”–I thought on this after noticing that his eyes had vitality until the queen was dragged away but after he turns to the right his eyes had dullness, peace, and resignation. I think he had started to cry as the sub-chief hit him. He would have died in his fallen position and not turned to the right had the queen not appeared. It seems like this last tableau brought harmony to the three of them for the last time.

35.  Frozen Flower 2008 _betrayals

As passionate their love for each other was so deadly their final clash was also.

Alas, the queen sees her beloved dying, and thankfully he sees her, only by forcing herself against the controlling power at that final moment: that event was only within the bond between the king and his 36 bodyguards. That’s why the sub-chief had to wrap up everything fast with everyone: it must be told that it was an assassin, and that they have eliminated him. The queen is not included in this bond. However, she is smart and is aware of all palace machinations. As an untouchable princess of Yuan and the queen of Goryeo, all alone now with her maid-companion also gone, she has at least the joy of having her own child. This child was born of a love that freed her and Hong Lim from fear. The king who had threatened the child’s well-being is now gone. Among her memories she will be recalling that time, on their last meeting, when Hong Lim told her to stay strong and take care of herself.

36.  Frozen Flower 2008 _freedom at a high price

This didn’t even happen in the king’s dream. Hong Lim was not aiming with an arrow then.

Ahhh… the king was really convincingly frightening here… He projects an aura of velvet-covered strength… I wouldn’t have wished him to be a real person… 🙂 This movie is not for the faint of heart with regards to issues of sexuality and the tragic consequences of controlling and uncontrolled “love“. The costumes, setting, and music are of top quality—i.e., a treat for the senses and are unforgettable for those who are not familiar with lavish settings of east Asia. I will certainly watch this movie again. I am drawn to the eyes of the three main characters. The king’s make me want to go for cover. The queen’s make me want to empathize with her in the depths of her introspection. Hong Lim’s make me want to first reach out and hug him and then go out free myself and live out life. Kaja! (still hoping to post some illustrations here…)