Hometown of Legends Episode 1: The Gumiho
[javabeans: Please join me in welcoming Sevenses to Dramabeans as a new writer and recapper! Dramabeans.com: Now with more dramas! (Also more beans?) I look forward to reading more of her funny, witty recaps, particularly of dramas I’m not currently watching such as this one. Hope you enjoy, and keep an eye out for more from Sevenses. Also, much thanks to Luv for her screencaps!]
Hometown of Legends
Generally I avoid scary stuff, having been forever scarred at the tender age of 15 by The Grudge, but hey, this is pretty interesting, particularly as it’s not that scary after all. (CGI issues will remain, alas.)
SONG OF THE DAY
Huckleberry Finn – “죽은 자의 밤” (Night of the Dead). [It’s not often I get to be so literal with song titles. Naturally I’m going with it. 😉 —javabeans ] [ Download ]
The Tale of the Nine-Tailed Fox
Once upon a time, a pretty young girl was kidnapped from her home in the dark of night, under a full moon, where a group of noble men awaited (two of whom she seems to know). Bound and gagged, she could do nothing but struggle uselessly under a red moon, crying and pleading.
With great ceremony, a sword is passed from one to another. (Clearly not a Freudian symbol, mind, out of gutter, please.) Obviously, they’re going to kill her. The one who does it, surprisingly, is her big brother, who tells her not to blame him. The father looks away when he stabs her in the heart. (Is it just me, or is the blood a tad too dark to be normal blood?)
Oh wait, she’s not dead yet. At the bottom of the well, she’s roused by mice chattering and climbing around. She tries to climb up the wall, tearing her beautiful long hands into bloody messes. She’s trying so hard but the walls are slick. She makes really scary death throes noises, sort of howl-like, but not really.
Above ground, the assembled men look at each other uneasily. The source of their discomfort is not from the fact that they just murdered an innocent girl, but rather that the moon continues to be red – and a thunderstorm is coming up too, by the looks of the sky. (The red moon, by the way, is a perfectly normal phenomenon.)
In the well, the girl’s fingernails suddenly grow in length and she falls to the bottom. She’s pale now, but the growth of black vine/Celtic Knot tattoos all over her prone body indicates that something other is up.
Okay, enough scary stuff. The scene switches to a noble household in full gala mode for the wedding of a granddaughter to a prominent noble. A young man hurries out the door, pausing to exchange glances with a similarly clad noble (I think it’s the man who killed his sister, but too early to tell).
The mother of the happy bride is sad that she didn’t get to see her daughter before she was wed and her husband attempts to console her. However, the matriarch scolds her for even thinking of flouting family rules. She’s got a pretty serious cataract in one eye too, making the iris milky white. The effect is, as intended, creepy.
The tearful mother has to be dragged off. Poor thing. In the background, the two cousins of the bride sneak off to get a last glance of her. The older sister is more cautious and sedate, remind her playful younger sister of the consequences if they’re caught, but the other girl is really determined to see their cousin.
The brother of the bride flips through a secret book that details some sort of ceremony, along with constellation arrangements and a test by blood. He doesn’t really want to kill ‘that child’ (meaning they’re not sure who the fox is yet) but his father gives him a tongue-lashing, reminding him that the Lee family’s prosperity depends on their strict adherence to ritual. (I’d say it was luck and diligence, but whatever floats your boat, old man.)
Before he leaves, his father warns him to keep his mouth shut about the last night’s events to any female in the house.
The two girls are right outside where their cousin is, and Myung Ok calls out her name, but we’re shown a shot of Yin Ok looking way too pale even for makeup – the bride is dead. So of course she can’t answer her curious little cousin, who manages to convince her big sis to come into the courtyard with her say goodbye. The two lift the curtain that hides her corpse.
Their male cousin warns them, just outside the door, that their aunt and grandmother are coming.
(Just to let you know, their clan abounds with cousins. In passing, the carriage that contains the bride is tiny. I would die of claustrophobia and lack of air before I got married too.)
Judging by their reactions as they run off, neither one of the girls have actually seen their cousin’s face. They giggle at have a near shave with a group of blind workmen (who all have deep claw scars around their right eyes). We see the men of the family gathered in the same formation as last night, with one checking his handy portable sundial for the proper departure time. As the girls look on secretly, the mother of the bride is crying and begging for a last goodbye.
All the men in the family look guilty. (Something tells me that the groom doesn’t actually exist.) As the corpse is carried away, a black mark grows from her chest and tapers off at her neck.
The grandmother and her eldest daughter-in-law discuss more ominous family secrets and duties. They feel bad too, but it’s the way things were always done. Then the two surmise about when the other girls will get their periods. (Oh no. Not that. Please not that.)
That night, the sisters stargaze. The younger sister expresses her wish to always stay near her big sister, as their parents are dead and they’re all the other has in the world. Myung Ok’s worried that as family custom forbids any sort of contact after marriage, the sister she’s so close to may just vanish out of her life like Yin Ok did this morning.
The two promise to always think of the other when they see the stars.
At the same time, the brother of the dead girl is inducted into the family’s secrets and duties. Oh yuck. Part of the oath is to drink blood. He obeys in the end, albeit with no small amount of reluctance.
After the ceremony, the two girls attend an illicit lesson from their older cousin – their grandfather forbids women from learning, but he’s always been kind to them. He sees the ghost of his dead cousin haunting him and is scared, which mystifies his watching cousins.
The inquisitive Myung Ok asks him about her cousin, and is told to obey the elders’ rules. This runs counter to what he’s been teaching them, but he can’t exactly tell them, “By the way, we’re cursed so every now and then a girl cousin of yours will get married off and never be heard of again.” Both girls look uncomfortable and go to bed, but Myung Ok can’t sleep. Curiosity killed the cat much?
And old man all in white sits vigil in an empty room, when he is aroused by some mystic shaking force.
Myung Ok sneaks out in her nightie, dragging her older sister along, and follows her grandparents along the way to sacred family ground that even their older brother isn’t allowed in. Her sister is nervous, but she continues to explore.
(Ugh. This is going to end soooo badly.)
The grandparents arrive to bow down to the old man, and to serve him all sorts of things. Blood, liver, and if my guess is right, an eyeball – they’re probably from the dead fox girl. Myung Ok is horrified and runs away with her older sister, but the old man on the alter has already heard and chases after them.
The mother of Yin Ok hears a girl sobbing in the night and opens a window to see what’s going on. She is greeted by the close-eyed, immobile face of her dead daughter. When she reaches up to touch her, her daughter opens her blood red eyes and her pupils change to slits. The woman wakes up – it was a nightmare.
Meanwhile, the two girls run back to their room and quiver under their covers. The older sister, not having seen anything weird, is not as afraid as her sister.
They get dressed and go talk to their brother, with the outspoken Myung Ok exclaiming that there is a ghost/demon in the forbidden hall. Strangely enough, the only one who sees the ghost is Myung Ok. She insists that all three of them should go see for themselves, but her older brother/cousin tells them that their family was actually cursed by the nine-tailed fox and that the various rules in place are to protect the girls from being harmed by it. (Personally, I think it’s the other way around, but okay.)
The next day, she hears her grandfather teaching her little cousins or nephews that nine-tailed foxes are evil and should be eradicated. Well, now we know why girls were never allowed to be taught.
Their cousin comes to check on Myung Ok, only to discover that her older sister has gotten her period. Along with the normal red blood, there is a trickle of black blood running down her leg too. The birds in a nearby cage are distressed. (And girls used to get their periods a lot later a few hundred years ago, if you wanted to know.)
Much to the two girls’ bemusement, their cousin instructs them to hide evidence of her period from everyone. He adds a bit cryptically (to Myung Ok, not to us) that he doesn’t want to lose them.
The menfolk discuss world politics, mentioning the US and Japan parceling away China, which tells us that it’s at least 1800 AD.
That night, Seo Ok buries the soiled silks she used, but is discovered by her grandmother. (Her aunt sneaks away, probably to see her daughter.) All four girls in the family are called to their grandmother to undergo an inspection. She discovers who it is, and prepares her for the ceremony.
Ugh. All the women in the family hold her down while they puncture her skin in a series of dots that form a circle, drop her blood into a container of water, let it flow on a sheet of paper and then burn it, and lastly, drop it into a bowl of white powder. She tests positive for everything.
The men in the family meet up to discuss what to do with the errant aunt, and unanimously decide to kill her if she discovers the truth. The grandfather also reveals that Myung Ok’s parents died because they tried to escape with their two daughters.
The grandmother and the oldest aunt are actually gleeful. Wtf. They prepare for Seo Ok’s marriage, basically making sure she’s full of foxy essence before handing her over to the creepy old man to devour.
Yin Ok’s mother returns from wherever she’s been, completely crazy and worried for her daughter.
Myung Ok sneaks a visit. She’s worried something bad will happen to her sister. Her instincts, sadly, are correct – she really won’t see her sister after she gets ‘married’, which is tomorrow. She gives her sister her favourite pendant.
The sisterly moment is ruined by their crazy aunt, who first mistakes Seo Ok for her own dead daughter, and when she’s told the truth, rants about how being married will result in her death. She is carted away by her husband and son, and strangled to death. Before she dies, she sees her daughter’s ghost transform into a mournful girl.
The cousin is unwilling to kill his cousin, but his father tells him that it’s his duty to kill his cousin with his own hand, and to assume the mantle of protecting the family from disaster if ever a girl becomes the nine-tailed fox.
Seo Ok gives her cousin a goodbye gift, to thank him for his kindness to her. He cries.
That night, Seo Ok is kidnapped by the same group of men we saw at the beginning, in the same position. Myung Ok wakes up when the birds make a fuss, and she sees her sister’s dropped pendant on the ground. Their older cousin can’t deliver the killing blow after all. Myung Ok watches as her sister is stabbed through the heart. (See, the thing is, if the girl doesn’t get emotional and angry, I don’t think she turns into the fox. There has to be a rippage of nails and all that first.)
Her sister doesn’t turn into the fox in the well. Once out, Myung Ok goes kind of cold with rage, and her cousin protests that the real curse is the one that forces the Lee family to keep killing its own people. The elders still drag Myung Ok away and lock her in an unused storeroom. (With the intention of keeping her there until daylight and then killing her.)
Her cousin defends her all the way there, but he’s overpowered by other people. The truth is, as another brother reveals, the liver and blood of a nine-tail fox guarantee long life, and the really old creep in the forbidden hall has lived on his own descendants for at least 400 years.
Inside the room, as the red moon shines through the door slits, Myung Ok turns into the nine-tailed fox. (Strong emotion and not blood is the trigger.) Driven by revenge, she kills her grandfather, and goes after the old man in the hall. Once he’s killed, she starts going after every male who participated in the murders.
Go CGI tails! Myung Ok is now gifted with apparition and super long nails. She’s perfectly capable of chasing down the men in the family. She slashes the cousin who was so eager to kill her sister, and strangles the uncle who condemned his own wife and daughter to death – he sees his daughter and wife choking him, however.
As she goes after her oldest uncle, however, her cousin intercedes and begs for his life. (Kill the scumbag anyway!) Her cousin promises not to kill innocent girls in the future, placing himself between Myung Ok and her ‘prey’. The black marks fade and she leaves the residence.
20 years later, however, things continue, much as they did before.
– So either they got to Myung Ok and her cousin in the end, or she’s the bicycle girl who went away in the end and didn’t see them go back to the old ways. I really hope Myung Ok is okay. She’s only all-powerful at the time of the full moon, after all.
– I’m not too familiar with the original legend, but I’m pretty sure that the nine-tailed fox was the evil one. It’s kind of refreshing to see them turn this version into a gothic commentary on (the lack of) women’s rights in a rigidly patriarchal society. And isn’t it amazing how many variants of ‘the essence of a virgin girl will give you long life’ exist?
– Am resisting a tail joke at all costs. 😀
– I can’t tell you how honoured I am that Javabeans is actually letting write for her site. (Hopefully she won’t regret it.) She’s helping a lot with everything, and I am just so grateful to her. If you have any suggestions or corrections for me, please fire away!