Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter: Episode 15
When dealing with immortal beings, you can’t expect the answers to all of your existential questions to be answered in a straightforward manner. Even fairies have lessons to learn about what it means to be human, but those lessons must be learned through hardship and sacrifice or they won’t mean much. It’s time for our fairies and humans, whichever incarnation they may be in, to learn the reason why they’ve been suffering for hundreds of years, and the answers are a surprise to everyone.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Yi-hyun wakes up in the woods with his memory completely restored. He remembers being the child named Izy who was abandoned in the barn, and being the fairy named Izy who punished humans who sacrificed children. He remembers being betrayed by his most trusted friend, Bausae, and thrown out of the fairy realm.
Ok-nam also remembers what happened to Izy after her banishment, why Bausae had to go with her, and what happened to them after that. And Geum remembers being the fairy Bausae, who had had to leave the fairy realm and the fairy he loved, Ok-nam.
Yi-hyun finds Geum at the fairy spring, and he traps Geum there by setting the trees on fire. He accuses Geum of being reborn over and over, and always taking what mattered most to him. Ok-nam finds them and begs them to come to safety, away from the fire, but Yi-hyun tells her that he’s the one who set the fire in the first place.
He moves closer to her so that she can see Izy in his expression, then reaches up to touch her face. Suddenly the three of them remember being in the fairy realm together in happier days. Izy had grabbed Ok-nam’s butterfly hairdo, joking that it looked like a handle and was old-fashioned. Ok-nam had popped it off, surprising Bausae and Izy, then had given each of them one of the flowers she was carrying.
Izy had seemed touched, but she’d been jealous that Ok-nam was raised seeing only the good things in life. She’d stormed off, and though in her private heart she’d adored Ok-nam’s bright, warm personality, it had also hurt her pride because she could never be like that.
In the present, Ok-nam sees that Geum is in danger and she begs Yi-hyun to stop this. He says he doesn’t care, because, “You never loved me even once. You cared more about mere trees and flowers than me. If I hadn’t loved you, how would I have been?”
He leans closer, but suddenly a roar echoes through the clearing. It’s Jeom-soon in her tiger form, carrying Jeom-dol on her head, and she jumps at Yi-hyun with teeth and claws bared — and sails right over him to land on the other side, embarrassed.
More voices call out… it’s Master Gu with Shin-seon and Fairy Oh (followed by Kyung-seul) , screaming at Yi-hyun to put out the fire immediately. He says that the spring is the only connection between the human and fairy realms left in the world, but Yi-hyun spits back that he doesn’t care, and that Master Gu isn’t his master.
Shin-seon gets distracted, wondering why Master Gu got the title of “master” when he didn’t, giving Yi-hyun time to toss a fireball at them. He notes that Master Gu is afraid of fire, and he asks why Master Gu tried to kill him when they met as deer and hunter.
Izy had taken the form of a deer after being banished from the fairy realm, but she could never rest because she was always being chased. The hunter had yelled that the deer/Izy was responsible for setting fires that killed trees, deities, lakes, and mountains, but Yi-hyun narrates that the deer’s only crime was getting a drink from a lake.
Woodcutter Bausae had saved the deer from the hunter by draping his shirt over its back and hiding it behind his pile of wood. Deer Izy had recognized him even with black hair, and she’d tsked at his humble, dirty clothing when he was such a fashion icon in the fairy realm.
She had asked if he truly didn’t remember the fairy realm, seeming angered that she remembered his betrayal while he recalled nothing. Deer Izy had led Woodcutter Bausae to the fairy spring, where N was bathing with her friends, and had asked him to drape a fairy dress across her back, saying that it belonged to her.
Her hope had been that the dress would allow her to return to the fairy realm, but Woodcutter Bausae’s touch had caused the butterflies in the dress to fly away, losing its power.
Deer Izy had been forced to watch as Ok-nam and Woodcutter Bausae fell in love beside the spring, forgetting all about her. In the present, Yi-hyun accuses Geum of always taking everything he wants as he sends another fireball Geum’s way. Ok-nam emits her protective blue glow as she runs to Geum’s side and throws her arms around his neck, and her glow spreads to cover him.
She takes the peony she always wears from her hair, and pins it into Geum’s hair, telling him that after he died as Woodcutter Bausae, peonies bloomed on his grave. He touches it and calls her “wife,” finally remembering their life together, and they hug as if there’s not an inferno raging around them.
Yi-hyun watches them, and he sees a burning branch falling from a tree straight towards them. He remembers when he was Deer Izy and saw Woodcutter Bausae fall into the ravine and die. Deer Izy had resented Bausae but hadn’t wanted to hurt him, and had been devastated by his death.
Luckily, Geum sees the falling branch and swings himself and Ok-nam out of the way. He calls out to Yi-hyun as Izy, asking him to put out the fire before he destroys the last bridge between this world and the fairy realm. He warns that if that happens, the fairies will disappear, and so will they.
He says that he knows Yi-hyun doesn’t want to feel hate and resentment, and that he has to let go and forgive or he’ll always be in pain. Yi-hyun hangs his head and Izy appears in front of him, pleading, “It hurts. I’m exhausted. I’ve been born again and again, but the pain stays with me every time. I don’t want to hate, so help me. This place, and me — make it all disappear.”
Deer Izy had visited Woodcutter Bausae’s grave often, where she’d seen Bausae’s children visit. She’d noticed that little Jeom-soon was missing a pinky finger. Jeom-soon had brought food for the deer, and Deer Izy would stay with her, noting how much Jeom-soon missed her father.
Master Gu somehow finds his bow and arrows, and threatens to shoot Yi-hyun to make the fires stop. Everyone screams at him not to do it, but he lets the arrow fly — and Izy appears, sobbing that they killed her first. Master Gu’s arrow drops to the ground, harmless, and he wails that that wasn’t supposed to happen.
Bong-dae shows up, surprising everyone, even Kyung-seul (who’s been watching this entire confrontation). She announces her real identity: Master of the Southern Star. She spots Jeom-dol, still on Jeom-soon’s head, and she’s overcome with awe as she sees his true form.
Jeom-dol is suddenly enveloped in light, and he rises into the air where he transforms into a huge blue dragon. Lightning crackles around him, then Yi-hyun finds himself standing in the coffee shop on the first day he and Geum met Ok-nam, in her older form. As Shin-seon and Fairy Oh complain about the wait, Yi-hyun runs outside to wonder if the past week has all been a dream.
Bong-dae walks up to him, carrying Jeom-dol’s (now unhatched) egg, and he remembers her true identity. She tells him that they’re in a universe outside space and time, holding Jeom-dol’s egg out to him. He says it’s just a spotted egg, and Bong-dae replies, “That’s right, it’s an egg. Everything that’s happened in humanity — life and death, the rise and fall of countries, wars, knowledge learned by humanity, beautiful poems and songs — everything is in this tiny egg.”
Yi-hyun looks skeptical, so Bong-dae tells him to follow her to see the Master of the Northern Star. She teleports them to the staircase to the fairy falls, at the time of the Japanese invasion of Korea. They bicker as they stack the stones and Bong-dae draws the line down them with her finger, and she tells Yi-hyun that the other bridges to the fairy realm were destroyed in wars.
Bong-dae tells Yi-hyun that this path is now enchanted to protect the fairy spring. A golden barrier flashes across the path, and Bong-dae says that she’s waited a long time for Jeom-dol’s egg to crack and the door between dimensions to open.
As they walk, they find themselves facing the shrine where Izy was first sacrificed as an orphan. Bong-dae says that Yi-hyun resents his past and dreads the future because of his ignorance, and tells him to look inside the shrine.
A peasant woman runs up to the shrine carrying food for the child locked inside, but the shrine bursts into flames — she’s too late. Bong-dae says that the villagers looked down on the woman because of her unfortunate looks, and that when Izy took her revenge on the village, she couldn’t find the woman.
The woman had been peeling acorns, her only food due to the drought. She had felt the pain of the child locked in the shrine, so she made acorn porridge and ran to the shrine. Bong-dae says that if she had made it in time, Yi-hyun wouldn’t have turned out like this.
She turns back time and makes the woman run faster, over and over again until the woman’s feet bleed, but the shrine ends up in flames every time. Horrified by the woman’s suffering, Yi-hyun tells Bong-dae to stop.
She reminds him that he wanted revenge on the villagers, but when the woman collapses in pain and exhaustion, Yi-hyun runs to help her. She dies in his arms, and Bong-dae informs Yi-hyun that she will be reborn as the fairy Bausae.
She tells Yi-hyun that when he accepts that all things are the same, he’ll be able to overcome the physics of man and return to the temple of the immortals. Yi-hyun cries over the woman, then he and Bong-dae are watching again, as the Master of the Northern Star claims the child and the woman at the request of the monk that Yi-hyun saw in his dream.
The monk says that he’s spent a thousand years’ worth of reincarnations in the human realm, but he still doesn’t understand why people resent or forgive each other. He asks the Master of the Northern Star to make the child and the woman immortals, and the Master of the Northern Star agrees, curious to see what relationship they will form, the flames and the kind heart.
Later, in the fairy realm, Bausae approaches the Master of the Northern Star to report that Izy has dark spots all over her body, the mark of a fairy that’s abused her powers. He begs the Master of the Northern Star to forgive her or she’ll die, offering up his own immortality in exchange.
The Master of the Northern Star warns Bausae that it will mean suffering in the human realm, but Bausae cries that it’s worth it to save Izy. The Master of the Northern Star agrees that Izy will bring about her own destruction if she isn’t stopped, so he decides to banish her to save her life, and take Bausae’s immortality and memories.
He tells Bausae that he will meet Ok-nam again, marry and have two children, and that he will die young and leave them. He even tells Bausae that Ok-nam will wait a long time for him to be reincarnated, but that she won’t recognize him. She will meet a man who has his memories and will believe he’s her husband, which will break Bausae’s heart.
He tells Bausae that his true wish is to comfort a broken soul, and that he will be able to save the child when he learns that others’ pain is also his pain. He gives Bausae the choice to give up, or fight this battle.
Bong-dae and Yi-hyun are still at the shrine when the Master of the Northern Star appears. When the Master of the Northern Star sees him, he asks if Yi-hyun is still hungry, and Yi-hyun bows his head, ashamed. The Master of the Northern Star tells him that the whole universe moved to satisfy his hunger.
Back to the first day Yi-hyun and Geum met Ok-nam, she serves them Deer’s Tears coffee. But instead of complaining about the bowls, this time Yi-hyun looks at Geum and tells him that he’s too sweet, following him all this way just to give him some porridge. He gently frees the moth in his coffee, and follows it outside.
He finds the monk, who pats his head and calls him a good boy, making Yi-hyun choke up. Bong-dae runs over to borrow a pen, and she writes a sticky note with Jeom-dol’s name on it and tells Yi-hyun that she needs to make a trip about a hundred years into the past. She goes back to leave Jeom-dol’s egg on Ok-nam’s porch, narrowly escaping before Ok-nam returns to discover it.
In the present, Ok-nam looks on proudly as her magnificent dragon son flies in a stormy sky. It begins to rain, and the rain puts the fires out. Shin-seon declares that you should never judge a book by its cover and that he could very well be a dragon, too, but Fairy Oh says that no matter what, she still thinks he’s the handsomest.
The Master of the Northern Star arrives at the spring, with Bong-dae, the monk, and a much calmer Yi-hyun in tow. The Master of the Northern Star is happy to see Geum after banishing him as Bausae, and he holds his arms open for Geum to step in for a hug. Geum runs, but he passes right by the Master of the Northern Star to hug Yi-hyun, leaving the Master hanging, hee
Yi-hyun hugs him back, calling him an idiot, but when he realizes that everyone is watching, he pushes Geum away grumpily. Ok-nam rushes over, her arm raised as if to strike, but then she grabs both men by the neck for a three-way hug.
Later, the Master of the Northern Star says that Ok-nam’s ability to grow plants and trees will join with Geum’s warm wind to protect the fairy spring, so it’s time for him and Bong-dae to return to the fairy realm. Geum returns to ask the Master of the Northern Star how Ok-nam can return to the fairy realm without her winged dress.
He confesses that it’s his fault for stealing her dress and getting her stuck, because when he touched it, his wind power chased the butterflies away. Geum goes back to tell Ok-nam that the Master of the Northern Star said she’s already gotten her dress back, and that it’s in her closet at home.
All she can find is the clothes she saved of her husband’s, and the ajumma pajamas that Geum gave her. He says that when he picked out the pajamas, he saw a butterfly that landed on the shirt and become part of the pattern.
Now butterflies flutter all around them, and Ok-nam recognizes the pajamas as her winged dress in disguise. She thanks Geum for returning it to her, and he asks if she’ll be returning to the fairy realm now. Ok-nam says that she misses her home dearly, but Geum asks her quietly not to go.
He says that he remembers being her husband, and he’s not as dashing as Fairy Bausae was. He admits that he’s stubborn and has a lousy sense of direction, and that he doesn’t make much money, so he shouldn’t hold her back. Ok-nam interrupts him with a tiny kiss and tells him that he’s perfect just as he is.
Geum gives her a shy smile, then his shyness dissipates, and he leans in for a longer kiss.
It took me a while to understand the lesson that Bong-dae was trying to teach Yi-hyun, but I think that I get it now. She’s saying that everything happens for a reason, and that those who affect our lives will do so no matter what we wish for them, and whether or not we’re even aware of it. Izy/Yi-hyun has been consumed by anger at what the humans did to him, then for what he saw as Bausae/Geum’s betrayal. Then he’s spent hundreds of years being jealous that Bausae/Geum got everything Izy thought she wanted. But he never knew that in their first lives, Bausae actually gave his life for a child that nobody else seemed to care for, and that later, as fairies, Bausae told the Master of the Northern Star about Izy’s wrongdoing in an attempt to beg for mercy and lost his own immortality (and Ok-nam) in the process.
I really liked this episode, despite it being kind of a hot mess in terms of continuity, because we got a lot of great answers to questions I’ve been asking for a long time. Bausae lost his memory because it was part of his deal with the Master of the Northern Star to save Izy’s soul. Yi-hyun and Geum end up running into each other over and over again because of a failed act of kindness that Geum has been trying to complete for hundreds of years. Geum returned Ok-nam’s dress when he gave her the clothes, though neither of them knew it. We even got the answer to how Jeom-dol’s egg showed up at Ok-nam’s home with a sticky note attached, before sticky notes were even invented, lol.
Seeing that all of the loose ends have been tight up neatly from the beginning tells me that this story has always been well-planned, which brings me back to my previous wish that the actual storytelling had been cleaner. I feel like the story itself is solid and nuanced with a great message, but that the writer struggled with the best way to tell the story itself, and just fell a bit short when it came to explaining things soon enough. For example, I’ve complained since early on that Ok-nam felt more like a prop than a fully-fleshed character, when in truth, her character is a prop, and intentionally so. This was always Yi-hyun and Geum’s story from the beginning, their journey to understanding true love and sacrifice — it was never really about Ok-nam’s search for her husband. I just wish we’d known that a bit sooner, so we could have stopped being frustrated by things that didn’t matter in the long run (like whether Yi-hyun and Ok-nam would end up together) and focused on the real story between Izy and Bausae.
That said, now that we know why we’re here, I really love this twist. I’ve always preferred the relationship between Yi-hyun and Geum to Ok-nam’s relationship with either of them, because they just felt so mismatched, yet there was so much obvious affection and true caring between them. It’s wonderful to see that Geum has been selfless and self-sacrificing every since Izy’s first incarnation, and that his whole story has been about trying to run faster in order to save someone that nobody else in the world cared enough to save. And Izy has spent hundreds of years resenting the person she thought took everything from her, when in reality, he’s the one who gave up everything to save her. Seeing Yi-hyun finally at peace was beautiful, though he’s still a grump, but I’m glad, because that’s what makes him Izy.
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