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Arthdal Chronicles: Episode 1

The highly anticipated Arthdal Chronicles finally premiered this weekend with a solid introduction and incredible potential to tell an epic story. The hype was real, with the first episode achieving a 6.7% viewership rating — a massive feat for a cable show, even with the tides turning in their favor. It may be too soon to decide if the show deserved the hype, but this first episode makes a convincing case for the enthralling made-up world of Arth — the predecessor to what we know as Gojoseon. It’s a world of fantasy but with familiar themes of conquest, motherhood, and survival. Without further ado, welcome to Arth.

(Disclaimer: One of the fun things about a made-up world is that literally everything is made up, so some names are liberally Romanized. If anyone wanted to learn how to Romanize, just use all the names from this show, and you’ll be trained.)

 
EPISODE 1 RECAP

Inside a shelter, a mother sleeps with her baby and sweats profusely as she suffers through a nightmare. A nefarious blue snake slithers into the shelter and coils up, ready to strike the baby. Still stuck in her nightmare, the mother screams as the snake widens its mouth to attack. The blue-lipped baby’s eyes glow purple as the snake strikes.

We pan through the mountains as a voice narrates in ancient language: “Humankind that descended from the trees held knives upon controlling fire, opened roads by creating wheels, and settled on land after planting seeds. This is an ancient time before a nation and king, before homo sapiens could dream, before nature’s great pyramids were summitted. The grand lands of our ancient mothers — this place, Arth.”

In the woods, a group of tribesman hunt a mysterious creature that seems to sweep these men of their feet and brutally butcher them. As this unbelievably fast monster kills these men, leaving them with sliced limbs, it becomes clear that these men are not hunting — they’re being hunted.

After the slaughter, only one man remains, and he tries to start a smoke signal. But he freezes when he senses someone behind him. He quickly crawls away and looks back at this creature, who steps on the fire with his bare foot and tells him in an ancient tongue, “The land belongs to everyone.” The human-like creature with blue blood, who we soon learn to be a Neanthal, and clawed fingers prepares to attack.

But then, the Neanthal hears birds behind him and escapes just before arrows spray down from above. The tribe’s reinforcements shoot arrows toward the smoke, and unfortunately, the surviving tribesman gets hit. When the tribe arrives, they curse the Neanthal for slaughtering their men. We learn the name of the survivor, Mookwang, who points the tribe to where the creature ran.

The tribesmen run after the Neanthal who runs away barefoot. We hear the hunting leader, Moobaek, ask in voiceover, “Where did this all go wrong?” Moobaek recalls the origin of this conflict, and we visit this place.

At the summit of White Mountain, SANUNG (Kim Eui-sang), leader of the Saenyeok tribe, stands with his tribe counsel to meet with the Neanthals. Tribesman Moobaek recalls seeing these blue-lipped and blue-blooded Neatals for the first time, wearing skulls on their heads.

The Neanthal leader asks what the humans seek, and Sanung responds through his interpreter, ASA HON (cameo by Chu Ja-hyun) that he wishes to form an alliance. Neanthal Leader questions why they should work together, and MIHOL (Jo Sung-ha), captain of the pirates, responds that they can amass great wealth together.

Neanthal Leader claims that Mother Nature provides everything they need and asks what else they wish for. Moobaek uncovers the rock slab between the two potential allies, and Neanthal Leader recognizes the food: beans, barley, corn, mugwort, and garlic. He asks what this is.

Saenyeok tribe leader Sanung responds that this is agriculture, a sign of human technology. Sanung offers human technology and wisdom in exchange for the Neanthal’s strength and fertile lands. He says that together, their wealth can build a nation that rules over all living things. He offers Neanthal Leader the power to rule.

Sanung claims that large-scale agriculture is required to build a nation, and they need the Neanthal’s land to achieve this. Neanthal Leader responds that the humans need their land, but they don’t need anything from the humans. More importantly, they don’t eat mugwort and garlic. Ha, Neanthal Leader is cheeky.

The Neanthals walk away from the deal, and Moobaek remembers the Neanthal with a tiger head on his back, Raguz, following suit.

The humans return to their base camp after the unsuccessful negotiation, and the tribesmen worry that war against the superior Neanthals awaits, as they need the land to end the Arthdal famine. The interpreter and member of the White Mountain tribe, Asa Hon, insists that they try to convince the Neanthals with gifts, but the Saenyeok tribesmen aren’t keen on negotiating with savages.

Moobaek finds young TAGON (cameo by One), son of Saenyeok tribe leader Sanung, feeding a caged bird. Tagon finds it fascinating that the bird flies over the White Mountain at sunrise and flies back at sunset. When Moobaek breaks the news of the failed negotiation, Tagon calmly asks with a smile, “Does that mean we’re at war now?”

Moobaek narrates that they were indeed at war, but it ended unbelievably quickly. The Arthdal tribe leaders gathered to watch their victory against the Neanthals, and Moobaek recalled the sun rising in the north that morning. The Neanthals were targeted on the day of the annual moon celebration, during which all Neanthals gathered in one location for seven days and nights — a golden opportunity.

After discovering an ailment that only affected horses and Neanthals, the Arthdal tribe leaders ordered for the blankets to be covered in this disease and sent with White Mountain interpreter Asa Hon to offer as gifts to the Neanthals. She was sent in as a sacrifice.

One night, Asa Hon discovered a sick Neanthal mother dying from the blanket disease, with her crying baby wrapped in her arms. Then, the tribesmen urged Asa Hon to escape, as the whole forest would soon catch on fire. We see Tagon and the Arthdal tribesmen launch their fire arrows to below the mountain, and the fire arrows get dropped on the Neanthals via birds that fly back over the mountain at sunset.

The Neanthals die from the illness and the fire, and Tiger Head Raguz only manages to salvage a baby from the slaughter. Asa Hon realizes that she gifted plague blankets and refuses to escape to Arthdal, a place that has now been dishonored by the sinister tribe leaders. Then, the tribesman gets attacked from behind by Raguz, who rips the tribesman’s heart. Gruesome!

Raguz calls the humans demons and starts approaching Asa Hon, but he stops when he sees the Neanthal baby in her arms. Then, he collapses on the ground and coughs up blue blood, stricken by the plague. Asa Hon notices another baby strapped on his back and urges Raguz to come to his senses. She pleads that they must save the babies.

At the edge of the forest fire, the tribesmen shoot arrows at the few remaining Neanthals who try to escape. The tribesmen laugh in enjoyment of this sick murder of their enemies. Moobaek narrates that the Neanthals were much faster and stronger than humans, and they possessed night vision, but humans had fire, swords, and schemes. Humans were determined to fulfill their greed, and most importantly, they had Tagon.

Sanung proudly commends his son’s brilliance, and Tagon humbly accepts the praise. Moobaek reveals in narration that the plot to use the plague, fire, and the sunset birds came from Tagon.

Although the Arthdal tribes were victorious, they feared retaliation from the surviving Neanthals. To combat their fear, the Arthdal tribe leaders became crueler and followed Sanung’s command to hunt down the surviving Neanthals.

We see a quick time lapse that shows a blue light in the sky and a newborn baby, but we’re not sure what this means yet. Moobaek narrates that the war was short, but the hunt was long. The surviving Neanthals were very strong.

Back in the present, Moobaek leads the tribesmen to fight the Neanthal, and we now know that it’s Raguz. In the bushes, Raguz leaves a packet of medicine with his baby before heading out to face his enemies. He fearlessly walks out and impressively avoids all the oncoming arrows. Then, he scales the trees and jumps into the fight, tearing off limbs and ripping out hearts.

Behind a tree, a young Neanthal boy watches this fight and runs off to notify Asa Hon. We now know that the nightmare-stricken mother in the shelter is Asa Hon. In her dream, she desperately holds onto the baby and refuses to hand over the child to the demanding young boy. The young boy warns her that he’ll take the child’s father instead and that Asa Hon will also die if they meet again. The boy advises her to run far away and to not follow the singing person.

Asa Hon jumps awake and can’t believe that she — a human incapable of dreams — just experienced a dream. The young boy’s demand for her baby rings in her ears, and she realizes that her baby is missing. She frantically yells for her baby, EUNSEOM, but she finds him safely in the arms of the Neanthal child, who happily reports that the baby’s fever is gone.

The other Neanthal child arrives at their shelter and reports to Asa Hon that Raguz is fighting the human warriors after hiding their older child. Asa Hon remembers the dream child’s warning that he’ll take the baby’s father instead, and she tells the children that she’s going to fetch her older child.

The Neanthal child tries to stop her from going with her baby because while she’s a human, her baby is an Igutu (half human, half Neanthal). If she gets caught alone, she may be able to survive since the mystic Asa tribe is respected among human tribes. But Asa Hon tells the Neanthal child that human mothers cannot just leave their babies behind and runs off to fetch her oldest.

Meanwhile, Raguz continues to fight against brutal odds. He breaks out of chains and raises Moobaek off the ground in a chokehold. More tribesmen arrive, and an arrow goes through Raguz’s neck. Raguz drops to the ground, and the tribesmen all attack to kill him.

With his last wheezing breaths, Raguz tells the tribesmen that he had a dream last night about the fall of the tribesmen, who will come to kill each other. Then, he dies and collapses in the pool of blue blood.

The human tribesmen couldn’t understand what Raguz told them, and only one picked up that he was talking about a dream. They find the concept of dreams strange and unnecessary, since they’re unaware of their importance. Moobaek checks the arrow that pierced Raguz’s neck and asks who shot it.

The culprit is Tagon, and the warriors all bend down in his presence. Tagon informs the warriors that he will join the Neanthal hunt, per his father’s orders and because he feels responsible. The warriors have heard of Tagon’s sweep of the Igutus and welcome his help for the Neanthal hunt.

Tagon looks around at the slaughtered warriors and rushes toward one man shouting in pain as he nears death. The surrounding men urge the dying man to endure a little longer to deliver his final consciousness to the gods, but they don’t have an officiant or a mystic Asa tribe member in their midst to deliver this message.

The dying man asks Tagon to deliver his final consciousness to his god — Aramun Haesulla, the god of union — and Tagon agrees to do this, despite not having a mystic background. The men look surprised at Tagon’s willingness to communicate with the god, but they follow his orders to chant along. After offering this dying man, Tagon proceeds to slit the man’s throat.

While walking through the woods, Tagon orders the men to find and bring back all the fallen warriors. One of the White Mountain tribesmen likens Tagon to the god of union, particularly his valor and thoughtfulness. Tagon dismisses the concept of ancient gods and reminds the tribesman that he’s just Tagon.

As the warriors search for the fallen, Moobaek warns the White Mountain tribesman not to taunt Tagon. The tribesman presumes that Moobaek must feel threatened by a well-spoken and skilled warrior from the White Mountain tribe. He derisively calls Moobaek the best warrior of the Daekan (the allied human tribes) until the younger warriors grow up.

Tagon and his accompanying warriors discover a baby in the bushes, and the warriors recoil in horror at this Neanthal baby. Tagon cuts the baby’s arm to see the color of the blood, and he identifies the baby as an Igutu. The warriors warn Tagon not to touch the half-breed, since they’re a bad omen, but Tagon picks up the baby anyway.

Asa Hon hides as she searches for her oldest child, and she spots the warriors discovering her baby. As the warriors continue to express disgust for the Igutu baby, Tagon takes his knife and sticks it in a warrior’s chest. Then, he throws his sword at the escaping warrior and kills him.

Asa Hon looks shocked when she recognizes the man carrying the child as Tagon. He walks away humming a tune, and Asa Hon remembers the dream boy warning her not to follow the singing person.

That night, the Neanthal child, Rottib, walks through the forest, using his night vision to look for Asa Hon. He finds Asa Hon on the ground, looking up at Raguz, who’s hanging from a tree. Rottib reaches for Raguz and says his farewell. He worries that Raguz was not delivered to the moon god, but Asa Hon says that Raguz was taken by Aramun Haesulla, the god of union and the one who created their alliance.

Asa Hon recalls the hammer and honeysuckle flowers held by the boy in the dream, and she confirms that she dreamt of Aramun Haesulla. She says that the god threatened to take Raguz if she didn’t give up her children, and Rottib says that it’s just a dream.

But Asa Hon knows that it wasn’t just a dream. She remembers the blue star in the sky when her child was born. In Arthdal legend, the blue star marks the birth of the one who will bring catastrophe. She tells Rottib that she’s been cursed by the god, but Rottib only believes in things he can see. Even if gods existed, Rottib can’t understand why Asa Hon would be cursed.

In tears, Asa Hon tells herself that she’s been cursed because she betrayed her own kind and brought Igutus into the world. She remembers the god’s warning to run far away, as she’ll die the next time they meet. Asa Hon stands up and tells Rottib that she’s going to Iark — a place immune to the power of Arth gods.

Rottib doubts that she can descend the wall that only birds can fly over, but Asa Hon knows that there’s a cave passageway. It’s one cave among thousands, but that’s the only way to save herself and her baby. She thanks Rottib and heads on her way, determined to live.

Asa Hon walks through forests and fields, through rain and neck-deep rivers, until she finally reaches the wall that overlooks Iark. Her only chance of survival is down in Iark, so she searches for the cave that will lead her there. In the caves, baby Eunseom cries, and Asa Hon also cries as she nurses her baby.

Ten years later, the allied Daekan warriors cheer for Tagon in a skull mask as he makes an entrance. He calls out the Saenyeok tribe and White Mountain tribe, and they each cheer for their respective tribes. Then, he calls out the pirates, but he’s met with silence. He jokes about his blunder and says no pirate would be among them. The Daekan warriors laugh.

Tagon tells the Daekan warriors that while they come from different tribes, they are brothers. He boasts that the skull on his head is from the last living Neanthal that they just killed, skinned, and drained of blue blood. He takes off the skull, and we finally meet our grown Tagon (Jang Dong-geun).

Tagon raises his skull, and the warriors fill their glasses for a toast. Tagon remembers the fallen warriors that protected them, who are now with the Arth gods. He toasts to their shining deaths, and the warriors solemnly raise their glasses. Moobaek drinks and think to himself that there is no such thing as a shining death because death is the loss of light.

After drinking out of the skull, Tagon wields his sword and smashes the skull to pieces. He announces the end of their 10-year Neanthal hunt and kicks off their celebration with a hunted pig. The warriors go wild, dancing and cheering for Tagon, who drunkenly dances with the tribesmen.

Then, a woman enters the tent, and the warriors go silent. Tagon recognizes TAEALHA (Kim Ok-bin) — daughter of pirate captain Mihol — but he drunkenly collapses before he can properly greet her.

Taealha dunks Tagon’s head into a barrel of water, and she belatedly realizes that it’s alcohol. Tagon stumbles on the bed with her, and she tells him to come to his senses. She reminds him that the child that he brought back is already 10 years old.

She gives him a letter from the Igutu child, who addresses Tagon as his father. Taealha asks what he plans to do with this Igutu child and warns him that they’re both dead if the Igutu is discovered. Tagon assures her that the Igutu child will shed the blue scales on its back the child is older — scales that Neanthals have for life.

Taealha asks again about his plans, but he doesn’t answer. Instead, he charmingly says that he plans on marrying her. She looks away with a smitten smile but says that she’s sad that they won’t be getting married, since they won’t be in Arthdal anytime soon because Tagon has another mission. She relays the news of an uprising that Tagon’s father — the leader of the allied tribes — has ordered him to suppress.

Tagon doesn’t look pleased by the prospect of another battle, but he obediently accepts his father’s order. Taealha strokes his face and tries to comfort him by saying that Tagon’s father is jealous of him. Tagon asks for more about his father’s plans, and Taealha whispers in his ear, “Iark.”

Leader of the allied tribes Sanung calls for tribe leaders meeting with Mihol of the pirates and Asaron of the White Mountains. Sanung shares that farming the fertile Neanthal lands requires more manpower, and Asaron expresses frustration with the constant cycle of insufficient lands and insufficient people — they will always need more of the other.

Mihol responds that this is cycle of deficiency is how they will grow their nation, as he did. Asaron belittles Mihol’s unsuccessful conquest that landed him in Arth, but Sanung recenters the conversation on their source of people: Iark.

Iark has plenty of Doojeumsaeng (a derogatory word for the Iark people), and Mihol promises that his pirate experts will find a way to descend the great wall. Asaron doubts Mihol’s promise and asks if Sanung will spite his son — who’s spent 10 years fighting for his father — by sending him to Iark. Poor Tagon has not returned to Arthdal in all those years, but Sanung defends his decision to send Tagon, who is the only fit person for the job.

At the Iark wall, a young boy walks through the caves and finds an opening that leads to a narrow walkway along the wall. He carefully walks down the strip, but he missteps and falls down the wall. Somehow, the boy grabs onto an edge and climbs back up to the cave opening.

When the boy resurfaces on the top of the wall, we see blue scales on his back. This is 10-year-old Eunseom, and he runs to his mother (Asa Hon) with a salt rock in his hand. He tells Mom that he found the cave that leads to the salt fields that she desired to see. Mom licks the rock to confirm and hugs her young son in joy.

Asa Hon and Eunseom venture down the cave and finally reach the hot spring lands welcoming them to Iark. As they walk through the hot lands, Mom tells Eunseom that a new world and new people await. Eunseom asks Mom if he isn’t a human, since his blood color is different. Mom tells Eunseom that blood color does not determine if you’re a human — you’re a human if you live among them.

Eunseom nods and tells Mom that his feet are hot. Mom checks her son’s burned feet and tells him to get on her back. As Mom carries Eunseom, she hums a tune and recalls Asamoon’s threat to kill her. She tells the Arth god that she’s safe in a land outside his reach.

When Mom finally reaches a forest at night, she collapses in exhaustion. Eunseom gives her water and then checks her feet, which are severely burned. He runs to grind up flowers to treat her burns, but then, he hears growls. It’s a pack of wolves slowly surrounding them.

Eunseom nervously looks back at Mom, and when the wolves run toward her, his eyes glow purple. Eunseom runs back to defend Mom with super speed, and he hisses at the growling wolves. The veins in his face show his purple blood, and he continues to hiss as the wolf pack alpha emerges from the trees.

The alpha wolf pounces at Eunseom, but a spear knocks it down. Several more spears fly toward the wolves, and they run away as a group of humans arrive. They’re surprised to see Eunseom, whose purple eyes have now vanished, and find it even more curious that he speaks their language.

Eunseom begs for help, and he goes back to grinding the flowers for Mom’s feet. Mom regains consciousness and looks around her. The scene looks vaguely familiar, and she suddenly recognizes the field of flowers and hammer. It’s the dream from Aramoon.

Eunseom runs back to treat Mom’s feet, and the tribe people look alarmed by the injury. A young girl says that Mom must have walked through the Sea of Tears. When Mom gets up, she sees the hammer strapped around the girl’s waist and the honeysuckle flowers in Eunseom’s hand. She can now see both Eunseom’s face and the girl’s face in the dream as Aramoon.

Mom grabs Eunseom and says, “You manipulated me, Aramoon.” Eunseom doesn’t understand Mom, but she’s too overwhelmed and devastated to explain. She weeps and gives crying Eunseom her necklace from Arth. She tells Eunseom, “When your scales shed, return to this place, Aramoon.”

Mom looks at Eunseom and wonders if she brought Aramoon; she looks at the girl and wonders if she was brought to Aramoon. Then, she collapses and goes limp. Eunseom cries by her mother’s dead body and yells in grief.

Years later, Eunseom (ah, there you are Song Joong-ki) stirs in his sleep while other men watch him mutter through his dream. They look confused and fascinated by Eunseom, and they scream in surprise when Eunseom wakes up yelling for Mom. Then, an older tribe man walks in and demands to know if Eunseom just experienced a dream.

 
COMMENTS

The world of Arth and beyond is fascinating, and I’m impressed by this production team’s creation of a mysterious yet fully conceived world. This introduction unravels like an epic legend of ancient times, with just the right information to keep us curious but move the prelude along. Also, the cinematography is beautiful, though I would expect nothing less. I’m excited to see more of the synergy between the writers and director in creating this series, and I fear that I have almost too much faith in them because they’ve separately created some of my all-time favorite shows. They’ve got a damn near perfect team, and on top of that, they could afford a star-studded cast.

While we haven’t gotten our full main cast on board just yet, I’m impressed by the actors who made an appearance in this first episode. Chu Ja-hyun delivered a powerful performance as Asa Hon — a mystic woman of strong convictions and a determined mother with an unrelenting spirit. The tragic mother storyline always gets me, and part of the tragedy is that these talented actors only appear as brief cameos.

The Neanthal cast was particularly impressive with the execution of their ancient language, and they left a very strong impression. The actor for young Tagon also left a strong impression, with his portrayal of an intriguing character, who I can’t quite read yet. Does Tagon have compassion for Igutus, or is he trying to manipulate the Igutu that he saved? Along with Tagon, I’m intrigued by Moobaek, the silent observer and narrator of the introduction. He was our guide through the world of Arth and the history of conflict, and I appreciated how his character was utilized to clarify unfamiliar elements of the Arth world.

The Arth world is not so foreign that I feel disconnected from it, but it also takes patience to understand the players. There are the human tribes — the Saenyeok tribe, White Mountain tribe, and Pirates — that have formed an alliance to build a nation. There are the Neanthals — likened to savages by the human tribes, but the most harmonious with Mother Nature and the land. They’re also the only group capable of dreams. Then, there are the Iark people, who are human but are considered inferior by the human tribes in Arth. Finally, there are the overarching Arth deities, one of which plotted the fateful death of Asa Hon and placement of Igutu Eunseom with the Iaruek people. Although the set-up is a bit convoluted, the information was delivered as clearly as possible, and I commend the production for tackling all of this in their first episode.

As others have mentioned, this set-up is vaguely similar to Game of Thrones (no spoilers please!), but I think it’s mainly the genre that overlaps. This show feels more like a Korean sageuk. The theme of conquest and war are not unfamiliar to the sageuk world — they just happen to be based on history while Arthdal Chronicles is historical fantasy drama, with a strong emphasis on fantasy. I’d like to say that Arthdal feels like a fresh and original take an ancient legend, but again it may be too soon to tell if the rest of this show will feel as fresh. I’m generally optimistic, as this was a promising first episode for a legendary series. I just hope the rest of this show holds to this standard.

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This premiere shows clearly that writing historical fantasy is not easy feat, even for talented writers. Because there is a good writing in this drama, but it fell flat in a lot of times.
As I said in others posts, the most lol'ed worthy for me was summit were they used modern political and economic concepts just after narrator assured as that humans don't even have kings.
Death metal mosh pit, wake up my high school weakness for guys in black leather pants and long hair but was jarring otherwise in drama setting. There are other instances that I'm sure other Beanies will rise but it just show that while the drama is nonetheless entertaining it could benefit from better research and writing.
But it doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it I did, and plan to keep watching it, but I can't treat it seriously.

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I agree this felt flat a lot of the time. Cheesy too. And really in ten years no one ever happens to wander over to the cliff and see a giant wooden elevator being built. And a lot of the mumbo jumbo about prophecies and the spirit dancing was a bit too much at times. Still, I am with you, kinda want to see what happens.

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How about so accurately predicting how long it will take to build it when it is first of a kind? Despite today's technology most projects run longer than estimated. I wish they just said it will take a really long time rather than pinpointing 10 years.

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This reminds me of the book Pillars of the Earth. One thousand pages of minutely depicting the building of a cathedral in the 12th century over 50 years. The amount of setbacks and miscalculations they suffered was exhausting.

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Oh yes that book is a wee bit more realistic. I loved it too!

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I didn't really love it. I might have had if it had been much much shorter, but as it was, it was draining to say the least.

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OMG that book was so exhausting and depressing at times to read! Not even sure why I kept on slogging on to the end. I guess I had time. It was a long time ago. Lol

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@jchirume1 Me too, probably! Lol

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I actually didn't mind prophecies and "mumbo jumb" because I am avid reader of fantasy genre, but anachronisms get to me, because I'm used to better work from even midlevel fantasy authors. And even if it's author first foray into this kind of work, with the level of their professional exprience and sky high budget, my expectations were equally high.

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I don't particularly like it but prophecies, visions, riddles and dreams, have been part of a lot of sageuks in foretelling the future.
Fate/destiny is a bit too cheesy for my liking and it can be frustrating with lazy writing.
This is the 3rd from these writers so it gets a bit tiresome. Here comes another cursed baby prophesy :p.

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Most of the fantasy books plot is based on some "ancient" prophecy to start heroes on their quest so I immune to that by now.

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Many times prophecies are written not by the adaptation, but by the original historian text. It’s why people still believe in fortune tellers because so much literature give so called wise people credit for bullshit that fulfilled later. lol

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Ikr? The so called wise lol.

Screenwriter Kim Young-hyun has been creating the prophesies for her dramas since DAE JANG-GEUM so this is no surprise. At least it's more her own.

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Tribal fantasy is often mythic fantasy. You have to hit the beats. If you have a personal or intellectual aversion to such stories, it is understandable. You're a citizen of the west and the technological rational world. But this is part of the tropes of this genre. Asking for mythic tribal fantasy without prophesies, spirit worship is pretty much like disliking our human history because all our ancestors did this kind of thing. Also, it's like asking for a rom-com without the meet cute or a kdrama without coincidences or a murder mystery without the uber-insightful cop/detective. You can't tell a genre to ignore it's basic tropes.

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The whole "we will build a nation" talk was beyond ridiculous. You need to know what a nation is to want to build one first. I am glad I wasn't the only one thinking that was really anachronistic.

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I thought it was mistranslated by Netflix.
Next time I won't be too quick to shoot the messenger lol.

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It's not historical fantasy at all. That is a totally different genre. This is tribal fantasy. The battling of tribes is entirely different from the battles told in history. Tribes have different gods, cultures, rules. Tribes generally get their wisdom orally or through someone who becomes leader through genetics or through some great feat. History is about written rules, and about nations. In this case, one might say that the technological Sarams are creating history, but the writer of the story is dealing with the tribal Sarams. It's as if the story were being told by the Navi and not from the techno-imperialists. As a great black writer once said, "you can't use Massa's tools to dismantle Mass'as house. If we insist that this tale which is about the oppressed needs to be told using our historical/technological rules, then we will not understand how the aborigines, inuit, etc saw their own "history." If we say "dreams," "prophecies," etc mean nothing (as the Saram technological types are saying) then we are using our privileged entitled western viewpoint. Just because dreams, visions, nature worship, various rites of passages mean nothing to you as a techno-saram doesn't mean we should belittle what other cultures do. Even though the Wahan tribe doesn't know about the Neanthals, it is fated to survive in this drama (i hope) because they retain that connection to nature that the techno-sarams don't. There is something hopeful in their spirituality. Unlike the technos who have put all visions, prophesies, etc aside because they are so focused on the rational. As for research, that is a tool for historians. If we have no written record of a tribe, we have to "feel" our way through vision. And, as someone who writes tribal fantasy and who loves anthropology, the writers of this drama are doing a great job with depicting how a tribal culture sees the world. They're hitting all the right points. Even if this technological saram world thinks prophesies, visions, dreams are all old hat. Tribes nowadays still honor those things.

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How tribal fantasy is not part of historical genre? History is everything set in the past. I'm really confused what are you trying to say.

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I think by 'tribal fantasy' what they mean is 'high fantasy'.

From what I've heard, the show is actually high fantasy. I guess they thought that the market wouldn't know what to think about a Korean high fantasy show and so they tried to market it as low fantasy, or even historical fantasy. But it's not.

"Fantasy" is a weird word, isn't it?

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Yes, the fantasy genre is very complex and weird. Describing the actual publishing terms can be problematic. Try convincing someone that urban fantasy is about vampires and werewolves in the modern world (rural or urban) and not fantasy about Black folks in the big city. There are descriptions that have to do with how the publishing world describes it and not how non-writers/non-publishing folks describe it. High fantasy and tribal fantasy can be alike, yes. Generally, high fantasy is like Lord of the Rings. There are epic themes such as "a boy goes on a journey" and tropes of the hero's journey in both genres. Tribal fantasy often deals with smaller cultures and also adds imperialism and deals with the beginning of mankind. Tribal fantasy also has shaman, and connection to nature because the beginning of mankind is mythic. In high fantasy things are a lot more organized and there are many cultures and larger worlds. In high fantasy, there are also princes rather than shaman, and a set of historical events that have been going on for a while that somehow needs to be rectified by the chosen one. So there are "past" issues. In tribal fantasy, the story is more forward-looking. That would be how a writer or an editor in the American publishing world would describe it.

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Actually byt the words of authors, Arthdal would be "low fantasy" set in real world with fantasy elements, high fantasy is something like LOTR.

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Fantasy sub-genres often overlap and interweave. As an example. Queen In Hyun's Man. This would be considered Low fantasy because with the exemption of the time dislocation, everything happens in the real world. The supernatural happens but most of the characters don't run around doing magical things. QIHM would also be considered historical fantasy because there are actual named kings and queens of korean history. And QIHM could also be considered time travel.

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Also having read the original comment in full, I'm a little confused myself by what Carole means.

But founding myths are nearly always entirely metaphorical and essentially timeless, basically divorced from the reality of history entirely. Any attempt to represent them will involve creating what is essentially a completely new, mythical universe. The elements you need to make your metaphorical points will then be represented by 'groups' or 'tribes' embodying certain aspects of the story you want to tell.

In that respect, it's more like LoTR. Epic high fantasy. It makes me far more interested in it than I was. Although I'm probably holding off on watching it till I get back home in September.

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Historical fantasies are done really well by the chinese. Much of wuxia is historical fantasy. They play with Chinese history. They take place in a recognizable time and place and country. With historical fantasies, it often helps to know a bit of the history. So, stories like Eternal Love, stories where the history of the warring states merge with fantasy elements are historical fantasy. A story like Ashes of Love is an example of fantasy that isn't historical because it hs nothing to do with written history as we know it. Ashes of Love has elements of high fantasy and mythic fantasy but it is not historical fantasy. The guardian is also high fantasy because it is so complex and doesn't really take place in the "real" world; it has a mythic fantasy feel because although it takes place in the normal world its "real" world is infused with mythic supernatural creatures. On the whole, i think the chinese are very good at historical fantasies.

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I'm using the genre meaning. If you say to a writer or screenwriter that you are writing historical fantasy, they will assume you mean a fantasy based on something known and recorded in history. Tribal fantasy is based on the premise that we don't know the actual facts of history because nothing is recorded. It's about recorded history versus historical history.Historical fantasy is playing with what we know about history. Historical fantasy is based on what we know because there are records. Tribal fantasy is mythic fantasy. It is based not on what we know but on archetypes. Archetypes come from the communal consciousness so there will be the archetypal mythic hero. Sometimes a historical fantasy will use a bit of the archetypal. For instance, history has such leaders who are like Robin Hood types; these leaders come from a upper class and help the lower class. So historical fantasy may borrow from cultural myth but it is based on actual records. Tribal fantasy is more mythic and because there are no historical records. If something is set in a mythic past, there is no written history.

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Yes, this drama is low fantasy as well. It is set in the real world. This is what low fantasy means. The story is not moved forward by magical elements. Most plot turn of events are done through the actions of very normal people. So...being set in the real world does not necessarily mean historical. It means we are not dealing with stuff like Ashes of Love where magical rules prevail. This is not a story about where the supernatural is the highest priority. Low fantasy takes place in the real world and has elements of fantasy but isn't over-the-top fantasy because fantasy is not the major issue. Historical fantasy would be Chinese wuxia dramas like Ever Night,, etc. They take place in am historically known world and infuse actual history with fantastical elements. High fantasy might be something like Ashes of Love where every character has some fantastical power, where people live in clouds or under the earth, and where there are magical rules, spells, etc. People in Arthdaal live in the real world for the most part.

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There is also such a thing as "pre-history" and prehistoric. The word "pre-history" implies that events happened before history. In this story, we are dealing with the beginning of mankind and the last of the neanderthals. How much more prehistoric can we get? They may have written records and recorded their "history" in caves but it's not as if we can create a whole history of the dynasties of kings when we read those cave markings.

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I feel like a lot of people gave this drama a lot of shyt purely off the custom design and with GOT just ending that was the closest historical fantasy drama they could compare it to, but I genuinely liked this episode, the world felt real as did the pain of the Neantals. I enjoyed it for what it was and saw no similarities to GOT whatsoever besides the "genre". I've been looking for something different in kdramas outside of romances and action and Arthdal kinda swept me away. I hope it continues to do so because i am definitely looking forward to more.

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I also don't feel the vibe of GOT here, but I strangely reminded of Avatar (and not just because of the blue blood :D).

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Agreed. Also the movie 10000BC. Sooo dejavu for me.

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"In the lead-up to its start, the series has been described as the Korean “Game of Thrones."
http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/article.aspx?aid=3063660
The writers probably took some inspiration from GOT so their drama have some kind of global appeal. This is also a Netflix original with a whooping 54 billion won budget. That's way more than any of Kim Eun-sook's big budget dramas.

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They should have changed their opening credits in a way that's not similar to Game of Thrones'. That's where the comparison started.

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I don't know why they are comparing it to game of thrones but I can say that it's most similar to the Philippine Drama BAGANI which is also a fantasy drama that tackles about different TRIBES. And as far as I know the writers and the directors have been researching and writing Arth for 7 years now before it's been made to a drama

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I have not seen GOT so I didn’t get that vibe. But it certainly reminded me of opening scenes of many many wuxia dramas. I think because of the wardrobe people drew stronger correlation when it’s actually a very generic opening.

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Definitely like a lot of Cdramas! The chinese drama-writers are good at creating mythic fantasy. Am hoping the Koreans can do it too in their own way. So many chinese dramas mix myth with history and i do like how --so far-- the koreans are leaving out stuff that is korean-history-centric. The Saram could be anywhere whereas in many cdramas, the fantasy definitely takes place in China.

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Tagon reminds me of Julius Caesar. Hugely accomplished in war, feared by the leaders, so they keep him out fighting. Or maybe I am remembering Goblin, where they did the same thing.

I could complain about a few cheesy special effects, but on the whole I found it entertaining and I will be sticking around for more. Thank goodness Netflix has it.

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The closest pre joseon story I've ever watched was Along with The Gods, the costumes here reminded me of that. They're not ugly at all. I think it makes sense that pre historic Korean peninsula people dress like this. I actually like it.
I wonder if G-dragon actually got inspiration for his style after visiting museum of korean Natural History. Tagon rocks!

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cloths and acessoirs was really important int the past - they represented your status in the society. so, the "primitiv" looking dresses are a big no for me 😕 old don't equal ragged and mismatched.

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Hot, hot Neantal lol...
Interesting first episode...it gave me a strong GoT vibe (they are currently filming the new prequel show and the plot is quite similar with different tribes fighting against the original inhabitants of the lands).
I was a bit scared of 80 min episodes but in the end I did not even notice how fast the episode flew by.

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Lol the Neantals were so hot, I wished their screentime was much longer 😊 I was also impressed by their acting that I wanted to know the actors other than Ragaz (German-Korean actor Teo Yoo), but my search was in vain.

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Ragaz was really fine....

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wow...yes, he was very good and quite cute

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Thanks for the recap @dramallama! The first episode was longer than I expected with so much backstory (honestly I kept wondering when Song Joong Ki would show up). I was looking forward to the DB recap so that I can keep things straight :)
I haven't seen GOT and fantasy sageuk is a new experience for me so I'm going in without any comparison. The fantasy world they've set-up seems complex. Hopefully the writing team will make good use of this tho we ultimately know how the story ends .... or maybe it's too early to say that SJK will end up ruling Arth. But now that Song Joong Ki is in the picture, I look forward to epi 2 :)

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I am digging the prehistoric concept. There's something unique and mystical about it.
That being said, the execution is clumsy. I never thought, the writing would be the problem here, but the dialogue is really akward at times. People talking out of context, people going out of their way to explain stuff to someone, who should already be in the know, people bringing up expositional matters and then dropping them instantly... Top it off with a lot of narration and hearing peoples thoughts out loud and I am getting the feeling, that nobody knew how to get information across elegantly.

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Okay. GOT, Along with The Gods, Julius Ceaser, Goblin, G-Dragon....what I remembered was, a Warlock baby. Because of those purple eyes, scales and blue lips!😂😂😂
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Also, did the mom and the boy walk thru the caves in the wall for 10 years!??? Woah.

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Lol! They did. They walked for 10 years, maybe they got lost or went in circles 🤣

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😱😱😱IS that even possible? Food, clothes, SUNLIGHT!!??? There's a baby, for heaven's sake!
Perhaps mom's mystic heritage helped.😑

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Is mum a mythical being? I thought she was human aka saram? The mythical being is dad. He has blue blood and can rip peoples heart out with his bare hands lol.

Of course it is not possible. Nothing in Arthdal is possible 🤣

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I'd like to know how she was able to speak the language of the Neantal people.
She is from a human tribe as far as we know but it's also unusual that she sees a vision of things to come.

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Yeah she's from a human race, but not a normal one? I thought her tribe was described as "mystic" and possess sidekick powers like translating, soothsaying?
Also @kiara

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@peony
Oh that makes sense. Thanks.

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no they didn't she searched for the right cave for 10 years, the boy finds the right cave when he is 10, and they make it down in maybe a day or two.

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I think they were wandering on the surface, foraging, looking for the right cave, and maybe finding a few dead-end wrong caves.

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Ah I see. Then it probably sucked "less" for them. Thanks @lordcobol @willow

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Warlocks are pretty cool lol. My favorite to play in a fantasy video game.
The Neantal Rottib's character kinda have a similar vibes to Merlin.

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Even though the Warlocks I had in my mind were from Mortal Instruments-verse(😅) and the only Merlin I'm familiar with is the regular Arthurian mythological one, WOW, it'd be pretty cool if Rottid can grow into such a powerful character, acting a loyal, powerful advocate on the surface and a man of his own devices under the guise!🤩.
It should be great playing Merlin in Video games! He's one of my fave myth-figure too even though I always imagined him to be a wizard not a warlock. A self-taught(or Morgana-taught), extremely capable human being.
Warlocks of the Mortal Instruments-verse have Warlock Marks, as an unwelcome baggage from them having a demon parent. Such as inhuman eyes, skin colors and scales and other appendages.

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Oh Merlin is always my favorite. He has a little bit of everything lol.
I watched "MERLIN," the BBC series and he was called a warlock. In theory, a warlock is born with magic and a sorcerer studies magic so he could be both?

These Neantals are born with magic even if they are not full blue blooded like Eunseom.
I wonder if it makes him more or less powerful.
Then we have Taealha who is said to be the last descendant of the Neanthal but she doesn't look like any of her people at all.

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Was wondering about hee

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Yup exactly. It's only that the Merlin representations I saw always portrayed him as a learnt-wizard not a born-warlock.
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Wait what? Taealha is a Neantal!?! How?? She's of human aristocrat blood right?

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The opening episode, the mythology and the different types of peoples felt like a mixed stew. It wasn't just Game of Thrones. I got very strong Lord of the Rings vibes from the opening battle scenes and different kinds of humanoids. There was a bit of Twilight in the Igt’s transformation - growls, claws and all - in the face of danger. There was some of Jarod Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steele narrative as well as Native American history in the story of the extermination of the Neanthals through the diseased blankets.

As brutal as the Neanthals were when they were cornered the narrative made sure the viewer is firmly on the their side as they seemed to be going about their business not harming people in the beginning despite their superior physiology. In comparison humans are portrayed as greedy, conniving and ambitious. And the narrator hinted at the beginning that this was the cause of their downfall - which makes me wonder how the drama will conclude as it was promoted as the origin story of the nation.

Is the ancient language also made up? (more Lord of the Rings vibes). I found interesting that the translators of both sides were women.

Regarding Tagon's intentions about his adopted Igt child I am expecting him to be used for his advantage. I am expecting a brother against brother setup between him and Eunseom.

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I think the writers are taking more liberties with the plot as contrary to the myth it's based on, it focuses on how Arth became an empire.
The language is actually Korean, especially created for the show by a linguistics professor. It's Korean words but pronounced backwards.
I'm really curious how the show is going to end: will it follow the usual pretext of internal struggles mixed with the rise of a group of usurpers or conquerors?

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I have a suspicion it will end with the boy and girl's son becoming Dangun and establishing Gojoseon. Where'd you get the details about the backward Korean? Or the myth it's based on? Inquiring minds want to know!

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very good

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it"s a mixed stew :) the conflict between the neanthals and the others is the classic conflict between hunter-gatherers/nomads and farmers. kain and abel, tur and iraj. the neanthals are the wild mans/noble savages, like enkidu. the humans are corrupted by greed - they must perish.

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This was a strong premiere because it already established the major actors (well, if they still survive in the succeeding seasons) and the seeds to future conflicts. We can see how not all characters are the same. Moobaek, for instance, isn't very supportive of his clansmen's violence and the genocide of the Neantals but he doesn't condemn them either (I kind of think it was refreshing because I've mainly seen the actor, Park Hae-joon, as the traditional villain). Tagon is more intriguing that I expected: he doesn't hesitate to kill, but at the same time, he does have a sympathetic side as he spared Ragaz and Asahon's first born and attended to the last moments of a fallen warrior. And in a world of scheming and conquering, Asahon seems to be very pure.

Before the premiere, I thought the writers were going to skip the "Dangun Legend" seeing that there was no mention, but the pilot episode does show it. The Bear Tribe (Saebyuk Tribe, shown by the name and bear hide worn by its leader, Sanwoong) became "human" as it adapted to the change of time, while the Tiger Tribe (Neantals) remained in their "wild state" because it refused to evolve (this is further stressed when the Neantals refused garlic and mugroot from the Arthdal tribes, the food that "transformed" the bear into human). But the later part of the legend, the birth of Dangun, the founder of Asadal, doesn't match up to the show's chronology as Asadal already exists.

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Thanks for the background info. I know nothing of these myths so this was really helpful.

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THE STORY OF THE FIRST KING'S FOUR GODS / THE LEGEND (2007) deals with Hwanung's descent from the heavens and begetting of Dangun with a female warrior of the Bear Tribe. Dangun founded the Gojoseon city of Asdal (not shown in the drama), and later reincarnated as Gwangaeto the Great. JUMONG picks up after the fall of Gojoseon, and leads to the founding of Goguryeo; KINGDOM OF THE WINDS is about Jumong's grandson, Daemushin.

The foundation legend is detailed here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Legend_(TV_series)

PS: For me, THE LEGEND and JUMONG were especially cracktastic epics. Your mileage may vary. ;-)

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Yes! This is what this drama reminds me of. But I never finished Legend.

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Good point. Actually mention of mugwort and garlic piqued my interests (like from "WTH are they talking about", to "Oh I know/heard this").

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IIRC, wasn't one of Hwanung's stipulations for becoming human that Bear and Tiger cease being carnivores? Bear could do it, Tiger could not. I find that interesting as bears are omnivores whose digestive tracts can handle a wide variety of plant matter. For example:
https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/bearfoods.htm
Here in New Jersey, black bears regard dumpsters as all-you-can-eat buffets -- as do their smaller associates, raccoons. ;-)

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Very cool re the Tiger and Bear Tribes and the foods. Thanks!

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Personally, I really enjoy the 2 eps and I feel pretty frustrated by a lot of a criticism bc I feel like it's made by ppl who have a confined concept of what kdramas should be.

Also, for those that say that it doesn't make sense to say this is prehistoric when the characters are discussing economic concepts and politics.. but it's obvious that even in prehistoric times, there were TRIBES and politics, and trade and conflict that arises from it. Just because it wasn't in a court like joseon history period dramas doesn't mean that those things can't be themes. I think the idea is that those things can always be themes in no matter WHAT era.

To me, this show is refreshing bc it's trying to tell some age old reoccurring themes that ppl like to see with a whole.new background that's not just the same reboot with different actors. It's essentially a fantasy piece that borrows the name asadal to tie it to pre-gojoseon history.

The catch phrase of this drama is that it's the origin of all myths, which, when taken literally, means that it's the prequel to the mythical beginnings of the Korean peninsula which is the legend of Danggun.. but I think the bigger meaning is that the themes discussed in this drama is the ubiquitous message of all myths, fables, and legends: that of identity of self/one vs whole/community, relationships (rivalry, loyalty, love), selflessness (martyrdom, sacrifice), perserverance (conviction and resilience)...

Really wished ppl would stop comparing this to GOT, really the two are nothing alike, other than a big production budget, and strong online streaming viewership.

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thank you. exactly this!!
the only similarity with game of thrones is that its a fantasy.

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It started with a strong Game of Thrones vibes – The opening credits, the Dothraki kinda people, their language etc. Then there was a Baahubali river crossing moment too (indian beanies will know what i mean). Then there was Avatar feels..
in between lot of things happened – snake, blue, purple, Farming, paradise flycatchers, literally ripping out heart etc. I thought, this show was batshit crazy. Then somehow, I got involved. I think it was Tagon’s character. I liked the way his character was portrayed and I might already be rooting for the bad guy (if he is the bad guy that is).
I like the war, scheming, plotting, Power struggle, tribe conflict etc. This whole god business I did not get it. Who the f*** is this god who can’t reach Iark (its not Lark)? And what’s the manipulation about?
And now we have possible separated brothers – one with Tagon and one roaming in Iark.. Is Tagon purple too?
I think I will continue to episode 2 and see where it goes.

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Duuuuuuuude, the Baahubali comparison is unreal xD I was reminded of the movies with the whole black cliff situation too. How the infant is brought down the cliffs and everyone in the lowlands is like naaah, never climb that and stuff. :3

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thanks for recap...i read few articles about the show prior to watching episode 1, so it was mainly out of curiosity I decided to check out the show. Post watching both episodes, i'm definitely game for next week's episodes. I was so pumped that i was able to immediately recognize the actor (from HPL) playing young Tagon; i'm finally reaching the stage when kdramas cast members are becoming familiar to me...ha ha:-). The snake-opening-its-mouth scene in the beginning was something, i try not to think about that bit. I'm looking forward to knowing more about Tagon and the Igt child relationship. I thought the child actor playing Song Joong-ki 's younger version looked similar to him. Since this is fantasy genre, the prophecy aspect will play a key role and I'm looking forward to understanding more on the Aramoon Haesla, who they mentioned as a God vs SJK's character, unless i completely understood this bit incorrect.

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A great first episode that didn't disappoint,it actually went by soooo fast!!!

I have the idea that the dreams that Godess Aramun gave Ah Sa Hon were the premonition of the future and not actually a curse...In the dreams she showed her the two children who will someday conquer Asadal and defeat the current people,like she very well pointed she used Ah Sa Hon to save Eun Som and unite him with Tan Ya(as clearly the chosen ones to represent her like the legends speak)...And that the ones who will someday lead Asadal will be Eun Som and Tan Ya as Emperor and Prime Minister(with kindness and iron fists,like the weapon and flowers in their hands)...

Quite curious of the fate of Eun Som's older brother and what plans Ta Gon to do with him...

The episode was beautiful yet very tragic and i totally felt for the Neoantals, as they were from a different species (the so called monsters)yet they were more human and humble than all of the others(who were pretty much the monsters in my view)...At least one had the decency to show regret for his deeds...I guess it will be quite karmic that the Godess they worship will bring their demise...

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I think your theory is possible, though the god did ask for the children in the first place. To kill or make them rulers of ASADAL? I don’t know. Dreams are ambiguous things.

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Gods are indeed fickle and cruel but like u mentioned the dreams are also ambiguous but fairly looking at young Tagon doing the prayer for the fallen warrior who worshiped Aramun i think he calculated it from the start and maybe AsaHon misunderstood it,that the curse was actually a blessing...
More likely like Asa Hon said in the night of the slaughter,Aramun stopped looking at them as the ones worthy of his Kingdom(the rats) and reincarnated once again having two voices(aka Eun Som and Tanya,like her visions as well) to conquer once again the land and get rid of them and make Arthdal a nation,an empire with a worthy ruler...
I think that if the tribes didn't break the peace and didn't loose to the greed the God wouldn't have turned his back on them and see them as the enemy that needs to be vanquished and him starting once again like in the legend to create a new Arthdal...

Aramun Haesulla: God of Harmony and Unification who brings Arthdal together...

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I did not watch Game of Thrones.
I just don't watch fantasy much be it dramas or movies.
Okay, I did watch Avatar and Lord of The Rings since these were mentioned here.
I don't care about the similarities or whether the show borrowed ideas or rip off from these works anymore because I've already dissed it for lacking originality because I was curious to see what a big budget Korean production can bring to the plate for this genre(meaning I want to see something more uniquely Asian/Korean
with less Western influence).

I watched this episode raw. Without intending to. I was surprised to see it, clicked on it, thinking I'd just take a look and ended watching the whole thing. Needless to say, I can't comment on the plot, accuracy etc.

It was better than I expected but then my expectations were really low after the laughable posters and all the ridiculous hairdos.
The huge stand outs were Ragaz and Young Tagon. They were so charismatic especially the latter. Now, I am wondering if it's a mistake to have this screen stealer who came out of nowhere- I was so disappointed Jang Yong Gun came on and he was actually the person I thought most charismatic of the lot from the trailers.

Things went from dark and testosterone filled to Flintstones when, the episode ended with the introduction of baby faced Eunseom crying out for his mother.

I'm waiting to see what others have to say about ep 2.

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I agree...Ragaz and Young Tagon did a very impressive job. I was quite disappointed when I realised Young Tagon would not be around in that version for longer.

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Same here. There was an enigmatic quality to young Tagon.

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That smile of his was just so sweet and enigmatic at the same time, I was just struck by it.

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After watching ep 1, two things stood out clearly.

1. Young Tagon's smile and his charisma.

2. The guy who was stripped to the waist, with blood pooling at the side. That was one hot extra.

The rest of the episode remains hazy to me.

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The character who was most charismatic and intriguing to me was Young Tagon too. His face looked sweet but there was a sinister undercurrent from his actions which made you question his motives.
I was disappointed in the adult Tagon when he appeared in the celebration scene. He seemed so two dimensional as an adult, compared to the earlier scenes of Young Tagon, who came across as mysterious and hard to read despite his youth.

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I enjoyed it alot. I think it was a little silly at times. They also took alot from GOT. That being said the 2nd episode establishes the world much better and separates it from all the comparisons. So should be fun.

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I think fantasy dramas like this one are not for me. I never could pass first episode of fantasy chinese dramas.

I can't take it seriously. I have the impression they want to do very good but I can feel it when I watched, it was not natural...

I was not convinced by One as a warrior, he's too feminin for me.

I'm not a fan of "stupid but brave " hero when they're adult. It works with younger hero like Naruto :p

In short, I think I should wait for more but not sure if I can like it.

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"I could never pass first episode of fantasy chinese dramas..." Ha! That's your problem - you never watch the first episode of Chinese fantasy. Watch the last half first. Or maybe start at the 10th episode. ETc.

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It's a weird advice :p

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It seems to work for me - but then I'm kinda weird that way.

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One is too pretty to be a warrior. Like yoo seung ho in warrior beak dong su

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I think the show should have given us some GU FAMILY BOOK style romance between the tragic Neantal and compassionate human. We saw too little of Ragaz, dang it. I saw a lot of his heart-wrenching fighting skills but would have liked to see his gentle side more. It’s like the show has so much story too pack into 18(?) episodes that they didn’t linger on the parents’ story.

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I think the show should have given us some GU FAMILY BOOK style romance between the tragic Neantal and compassionate human. We saw too little of Ragaz

Was he superhumanly fast there too?

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Daddy Gu was a gumiho, so different species (lol). He wasn’t lightning fast but he could outrun everyone in the woods. His claws and roar, and the fighting style is similar. But normally he was a shy, gentle, and beautiful forest deity.

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I completely agree. I wish they spend more time for us to digest this new world and get attach into Neantal. They were experiencing genocide! And yet it was over in a blip. The impact of the devastation was diluted. And we're missing the history of the other half of the hero parentage.

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Several reasons... first and most important, SJK must come out in the first episode (and ppl were complaining he came out too late).

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This writer duo's epic sageuks tend to have a humongous number of episodes (except for Tree With Deep Roots, which had 24), probably because they have so much plot and so many characters that they need tons of episodes to flesh it all out. Arthdal is their shortest yet, so it's no wonder they had to rush the entire world-building in order to fit everything in 18 episodes. I also wish they'd have at least another episode to set the backdrop before introducing Song Joong-ki & co.; they'd be able to show the parents' story and it'd probably make the story easier to understand (from what I head, the domestic audience's criticism was mostly directed to the lack of understanding of the plot). If they REALLY wanted to introduce Song Joong-ki from the first episode, make it start with a significant future scene of him or something.

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This sounds like so much fun! I can’t wait to catch up with the show. Looking forward to watching with you all

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I honestly didnt get any GoT vibes at all. 🤷‍♀️

That first scene with them being attacked strongly reminded me of lost when the smoke monster attacked.

Anyway, it didn't blow me away, but I am planning to watch the next ep. A couple of times some of the peripheral characters threw me off with their acting. They just came across as very modern.

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I went into this drama, prepared to dislike and snark watch the first episode, due to the cheesy posters and trailers. Instead I came out really enjoying it! I didn’t get and GoT vibes. Maybe Avatar or LoTR.

I’m cautiously looking forward to the rest of this drama now. I love unexpectedly good shows! Or maybe it was good because I was expecting it to be bad??

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Some of the things made me laugh like the purple blood, but it also made me happy. It is such a fantasy trope that thing that makes you special but different and you have to hide it.

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if you mix the blue and the red, you get purple

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@bcampbell1662 Beverly,
Maybe the color of Eunseom's blood is a clue that he is destined to wear the royal purple? (Oops! Wrong part of the world, and maybe anachronistic, too.)

I like the fact that the color of Eunseom's blood is an obvious indicator of his ancestry. It sounded as if the halfling Igts were hunted as mercilessly as the full-blood Neantals -- which makes me wonder just how many Igts there were.

It's ironic that individuals of such disparate cultures could communicate and get along well enough to fall in love and raise a family together while the larger groups fought. It sets a precedent that cooperation is indeed possible between both groups. Oh, wait. Asahon was an interpreter, and able to speak with Ragaz. So how did she learn the Neantal language?? I would love to know her back story. Will we get to see a flashback? I hope so.

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Yes, how did she learn the language? That is a good question that may never be answered. Though maybe at one time there was more friendly interaction between the different groups, especially if Igts are not unheard of.
Just because the blue star is a prophesy of destruction doesn't mean he might not rebuild what he destroys and become the leader of a new union.
Or maybe one brother destroys and the other rises to the top.

Honestly, I think it would be kind of funny if it did turn out just to be a dream with no meaning. But that never happens in fantasy.

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she learned it. they lived side by side, were in contact with each other - the humans knew about the moon festival etc. and they interbreed in the past too.

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I'm confused about the babies? was there 4. was those 2 boys she was talking 2 the ones her and Ragaz found? At first, I thought Eunseom was the same baby she got when that lady died but she was talking about she fell in love and gave birth and I'm like " when did that happen". Ragaz had found a baby also when the war was happing but I'm now realizing that WASNT the same baby he was running in the woods with, Before he died and Tagon found that baby. Which is why that baby was a half-breed also.

Are Eunseom and the other baby twins? I know their brothers. I take it that guy in ep 2 with the mask on his face is Eunseom brother. right? That's why he where the mask, b/c his lips are purple and they would know he's a half-breed. Tagon probably forces him to wear it. I'm figuring this stuff out as I'm typing lol. So again the 2 baby boys that Asahon and Ragaz found are NOT the same as Eunseom and mask wearing guy. Right? i'm about watch both episodes all over again lol.

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This is the comment I was waiting for because i was so confused but noone seems to be bothered about it (i was like ARE THEY THE SAME? BUT THESE TWO ARE MIX BLOODED.. SO WHERE ARE THEY!?
I'm guessing the Neantal kids who were with them like Rottib might be one of the two babies that they saved.

Tha fact that we're already so invested just for the side stories shows that the show is setting towards the right track & the actors playing Asahon and Ragaz did so great (how i wish we have a glimpse of their love story)

if the 'hot warrior with the mask on' turns out to be the brother that be so interesting but i believe i saw him in ep1 where young Tagon took the baby.. Wait, i'll just watch it again! XD

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Right. everyone talking about Games of Thrones. and i'm like how many babies are there lol. I would have loved seeing more of Asahon and Ragaz also.

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ok watching episode one again i saw the part where Eunseom had just been born and the masking wearing guy was part of the crew that killed Ragaz so nope to him being the brother lol. I'm not even sure that baby in the woods was a boy being Ragaz called the baby sweetheart. which sounds like something a daddy would say to a lil girl. also nope to them being twins.

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ok the baby in the woods was a boy. the chick in the tent referred to him as a boy that's 10 to Tagon and im going to stop guessing stuff b/c i be wrong most of the time. lol

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YangCha,the mask dude, was part of the group since the beginning,when EunSom was also a baby so he can't be his brother,he was present when they killed his Dad...He looks young but he surely isin't...It's like the guy doesn't age at all,so he could be also an Igutu or another species but he isin't his brother...
Also 'em i he only one who think he resembles a younger Yoon Kyun Sang?

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On the character synopsis on TVN website

Yangcha is a member of the Daekan troops, "something" happened to him in the past and he has a punishment of silence, and he always wears a mouth mask. Tagon gave young Yangcha a secret mission. And Yangcha is the one who Tagon is able to reveal his true thoughts to.

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Good question. I came here to read the recap just to figure this stuff out. Give the recap a read.

I'm glad you asked though because I didn't know if it was only me that found it confusing. There was a poor edit - or maybe poor subtitling - that led to this confusion. Now I'm worried about this show's editing, because I've found poor editing to be a main contributor in spoiling otherwise good Korean dramas (looking at you SH Ryeo and Black).

Will have to see. Watched episode 2. Quite like the series so far.

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If u watch it again it might clear the ambiguity because the first time the timeline might be a problem for some...On the night of the slaughtering Asa Hon and Ragaz saved together 3 kids(2 in his back,one in her arms)...After that they fled,time passed,settled down and their own children were born with the one that carried Ragaz being the older one and EunSeom the younger(i also considered that he might be a girl and that is why they choose not to see the babies face) that are mix blood aka Igutu(unlike the older ones who are Neanthals) but Taealha mentioned it's a boy(that if the orginal meaning was not being lost and translated badly as a he)..The older boys seen along Asa Hon are the ones they saved 10 years earlies on the fire day...So in present timeline 20 years or so has passed and EunSom might be 19 years old(brother possibly 20)

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i'm watching episode 1 again and it does look like Ragaz had 2 babies but they never showed the other baby's face. I was like what's in his other arm. what is he carrying lol. so that makes 5 babies. 3 full blood and 2 half breeds. yeah, the edit for this part was all over the place and this stuff would be easy to miss.

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Yes. They saved 2/3 boys. Then cross bred and made 2 purple babies. One is SJK and other is with Tagon(not shown yet).
Wonder if it’s a twin :))

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There were two time jumps, each of 10 years. They find and save 2 Neantal babies. 10 years later Ragaz is killed, the Neantal kids are the found babies. The Igt babies are the children of Anason and Ragaz. They were both babies so I’m assuming they are twins. I think you are right about the young man with the mouth mask being the Igt raised by Tagon.

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Ok I was wrong guy with mask isn’t the Igt. All the time jumps and not showing the love line made it confusing.

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@modestgoddess,

Good to see you! ;-)

I was under the impression that Yang-cha, the guy with the mouth mask who has been there since the beginning, is yet another Igt, but now you give me pause to reconsider. He's been going through some kind of training to become the most whiz-bang warrior in Arthdal (Tagon's champion?). Considering the Arthdalians' cruelty to the Neantal, is keeping him gagged/muzzled for 20 years their idea of how to treat people?! (Do they even consider him a person?) Does he bite? Or are they afraid he'll say something they don't want to hear. Does he have prophetic dreams that would ruin the warriors' morale?

Aside: I'm cracking up at Ki Do-hoon's being cast again as a silent warrior after his turn as Im Si-wan's bodyguard in THE KING IN LOVE. Is he going to pop up out of nowhere like a meerkat again?! At least he got to talk to people when he worked as a barista in SHOULD WE KISS FIRST. ;-)

I think it's possible that the child with Ragaz who was taken by Tagon could be Eunseom's elder twin, if only by 5 minutes. That means he would have been born under the malign sign of the Azure Comet just like Eunseom. Hmmm. What an interesting possibility. Tagon doesn't know when the infant was born, and doesn't know he's harboring someone who could endanger Arthdal and/or its overlords. Or does he have some nefarious way to find out?

I like this twin scenario. How much do you want to bet that the separated twins find each other in their dreams, and team up to take down the Arthdalian oppressors?

On the other hand, I don't think they are twins because both of them would still be with Mom to nurse. I really doubt that Dad would have taken such a tiny infant with him on what seems to have been a foraging expedition for medicinal herbs for the feverish Eunseom. -- Even if they aren't twins, I would still expect there to be some kind of psychic link between the siblings that enables them to find and recognize each other even years later.

I'm enjoying the show very much.

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ok so i was confused at first as well, but realised it by the end of the first episode. the two kids (not the babies) who are with asahon when ragaz dies are the ones they rescued from the fire. the babies are asahon and ragaz's children. the one in the woods is older (the god in her dream asks if he can take eunsom's hyung). both are boys and we still haven't seen the other kid grown up.

therefore we can guess around 10 years have passed between the war and Ragaz's death.

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Why don't the Neanthal children like Rottip have blue eyes?

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I would watch it as a play

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You guys are quick in recapping this drama. I liked episode 1. I loved episode 2. I'm looking forward to this tho I dont think I can learn all the tribes involved. Those comparing this to GOT need to get their brain and eyes checked

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I agree. I don't see the GOT similaritis. Personally, it's like rewatching 10000BC. Looks like the story will develop in pretty much the same way.

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Maybe everyone else already knows this, but just in case...
Wikipedia's article on Arthdal Chronicles is helpful. Sorts out who's who in what tribe and interestingly it lists Tan-ya as Eun seom's "First Love"...uh, oh. It's broken down in to 3 separate parts: Part 1) Children of Prophecy (thru Jun 22), Part 2) Sky Turning Inside Out, Rising Land (thru July 7) but then...Part 3) Prelude to All Legends - doesn't start until September 7 and ends Sept 22. That's it for me, I'll wait until October to watch it.

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If you can read Korean, or at good at sorting out with good translate, the character synopsis from TVN website of Arthdal Chronicles also is very helpful and can give hints to where this story is heading

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I have learned some of the Korean alphabet so can recognize some names (like Kim, Song, Kang MaRu) I've no idea the meaning of the words. Back to Duolingo again.

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Thanks for the pointer, @linda-palapala. Very helpful. ;-)

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Did you catch my reference to Kang Ma Ru?

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I didn't know who Kang Ma-ru was until I looked him up. I've only seen SJK in A FROZEN FLOWER, TREE WITH DEEP ROOTS, and BELIEVE IN THE MOMENT. I know, I know -- I'll be drummed out of DB for dereliction of Kdrama duty for not watching SUNGKYUNKWAN SCANDAL. One of these days... ;-)

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I couldn't get into Sungkyunkwan Scandal either, couldn't understand the love.
Kang Ma Ru is who SJK plays in INNOCENT MAN/NICE GUY. My first drama to see SJK and probably my favorite of his.

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@Linda Palapala . Kang Maru is still my fav character and performances of Song Joongki after werewolf Boy!

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@missjb I've never watched Werewolf Boy - every time I try to watch it I start crying the first few seconds into it.

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Didn't I hear a "ni-da" in the conversation? This woud be far previous to any honorific and pre-Confucious.

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The one thing I have to be negative about is the children and the time line. Asahon and Ragaz found these two children, but then it sound like Asahon gave birth to this half-breed child, and then who are those other two children? I'm just confused...

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I really liked it, sometimes it takes a few episodes for me to become hooked on a drama but this had me by 40 minutes in. I think what I enjoyed the most was the twisting of our expectations of who were the villains and the victims. In the 2nd scene we assume the humans are being attacked by a monster, then later on we find out that the humans committed genocide against the Neantals in order to steal their fertile lands. The way the dream manifested was another cool thing. I’m enjoying the world building. Young Tagon seemed like a psychopath. I’m assuming the two Igt babies are twins. Since Asahon is the mother and Ragaz is the father. I don’t understand why Asahon didn’t take the two Neanthal kids with her to cliff. I feel like she left them to die.

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Ok maybe Tagon isn’t a psycho but I did find his smile creepy.

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He looked more like a lost soul. Like he never belonged. There is something about him that draws me to him. Hope he is not evil.

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@mayhemf,
Might Tagon have a Neantal in his family tree?! It would be interesting if there's a deep, dark secret that many Saram families are of mixed ancestry.

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I have a doubt he is an Igt too. Tagon.
Asa mentions that if you live amongst Saram you are one. I think she knew
Tagon was. That’s good reason for his dad to keep him away.

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It just occurred to me that the lilac lip color might tone down in later generations as the percentage of Neantal blood gets further diluted. So maybe Tagon is several generations removed from his Neantal ancestor, and is able to pass for Saram. Hmmm.

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Also, I wonder if it matters whether the Father is the Neanthal vs the Mother is neanthal. Because if you look back at that scene where San-woong meets with the Neanthal chief, after the Neanthal chief declines his offer, San-woong exchanges this loaded glance with the Neanthal interpretor woman...

I mean, there's some secret to Tagon's identity-- no one knows who his mom is for one. And then in one of the previews, Eunsom's voice-over says something like, I know Tagon's secret, I know what can kill him. This is why I think Tagon is really a multi-layered Villain...

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@mpa_555 June 4, 2019 at 3:39 AM

That's an interesting idea -- that Neantal traits could be sex-linked. If Tagon's mother were indeed the Neantal interpreter, that makes me wonder what the Neantals thought about halflings. Were they more accepting than the Saram?

It just occurred to me that Igt would not present a threat to their Neantal kin because they were not as big, strong, or fast as full-bloods. But they are bigger, stronger, and faster than humans -- and that may be why they're being extirpated.

As for what could kill Tagon, might it have something to do with horses or their diseases?

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I think Asa Hon didn't take the two Neanthal kids because the chance that they may die crossing the sea of tears was high, and maybe she didn't want to risk killing them. Plus it seems like Neanthal maturity is faster than human because even though they were only 10 at the time we last saw them, they seemed to be able to process situations and understand politics already. So perhaps they were already equipped with a good level of survival skills...

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@ mpa_555,
I agree with you about Asahon's possible reasons for leaving them behind. But they're also being hunted relentlessly. Here's hoping they will be able to make themselves scarce enough to avoid detection, only to emerge from hiding years later.

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I wondered the same thing about why Asahon left the Neantal kids behind to be hunted down.

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So! I don't think SJK and the other baby are twins. Because in the dream Asahon had, the threatening kid said the child she gave birth to (aka SJK) was born on a day they saw blue in the sky or something, which meant SJK would lead to destruction.
But if she'd given birth to twins, she'd have 2 babies leading to destruction.

I think she only gave birth to one, because it's clear she prizes SJK, and the baby Tagon took she wasn't as attached with.

I'm still confused about the timeline, and which baby is which! I hope it gets clarified in future episodes. I may just have to re-watch episode 1!

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No. She actually goes looking for the other child even when it’s dangerous. She mentions that she is a mother. Only after seeing Tagon with the child she decides to leave. I have a feeling she knew Tagon won’t kill the baby.
When Ragaz leaves the baby on the floor with medicine he mentions about it being for his brother. Should go rewatch if it mentions elder or younger brother.

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Her dream told her not to follow Tagon.

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oh right!! dont follow the one who sings..
duh!

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I think Eunsom is the younger brother.

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I couldn't feel any similarities with GoT tbh. If anything, I can see similarities with Marco Polo (a netflix original). There were elements drawn from mongol-china era. That scene with the birds on fire was a reference to genghis khan tactic in conquering tribes, which his son khublai khan later copied (as I saw in marco polo). I'm not too knowledgeable on mongol history so anyone feel free to correct me. It seems the "human nation" is built from several tribes similar to how the mongols did it back in history..

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The Sarams' use of flaming flycatchers reminded me of phoenixes or the Jujak / Vermilion Bird in THE STORY OF THE FIRST KING'S FOUR GODS.

Apropos of Mongol tactics, they used trebuchets to launch the corpses of plague victims into a city they were besieging in the Crimea. Departing Genoese merchant ships then spread the Black Death throughout the Mediterranean. See:
https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/8/9/01-0536_article

in: Emerging Infectious Diseases
Volume 8, Number 9—September 2002

Historical Review
Biological Warfare at the 1346 Siege of Caffa, by Mark Wheelis, U of California, Davis, Cal.

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