Arthdal Chronicles: Episode 9
As two of our protagonists exchange knowledge, they find themselves forming a mutual bond that resembles friendship. But our Wahan heroine Tanya isn’t quite looking for friendship — she’s looking for the closest weapon she can find to empower herself. While Tanya slowly learns more about the world around her, others seem to be learning more about her — that she’s a force to be reckoned with in ways that she has yet to realize.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Tanya decides to choose Saya as her closest stone, her first weapon to fight her oppressors, and she kneels in front of Saya to beg for forgiveness. She calls him “owner,” and Saya asks the reason for her sudden change of heart. Tanya explains that she wants to live and says that Saya will need her.
Echoing Taealha’s words, Saya asks if Tanya knows what he wants and fears. Tanya accurately answers that Saya wants freedom and fears confinement and surveillance. She reveals that Taealha ordered her to spy on Saya, but she offers to report whatever Saya wants. Saya warns her Taealha could kill her for this, but Tanya is certain that she won’t die. She says, “I’m not Saenarae.”
Saya’s smile drops, and he looks flustered. The image of Eunseom flashes through his mind, and he reminds Tanya that he’s not her dead friend. He warns her not to look at him with her pleading eyes again. After slamming the door, Saya feels his racing heart and seems confused by his reaction.
The slave traders set up a base camp for the night, and one of the slaves speaks in a foreign tongue to ask for food and water. Teodae translates, and slave trader Syoreujagin approaches Eunseom. He tells Eunseom to announce that he’s an Igutu son of a dirty human and a monster Neanthal. When Eunseom doesn’t repeat the phrase, Syoreujagin has him beaten unconscious.
Then, Syoreujagin pulls Teodae in front of the slaves to translate that the Igutu are even more lowly beings than dujumsaeng. He pours water from his jug and says that words flow down from above, just like water; therefore, the lowly dujumsaeng cannot request water from someone above them.
Syoreujagin taunts them even further by insisting that they announce themselves as dujumsaeng — animals that walk on two feet but cannot fly, equivalent to chicken. He makes it clear that they are animals and that he’s a human. Ironic.
Teodae translates the order from Syoreujagin to call themselves dujumsaeng, and when the slaves fail to do so, Syreujagin refuses to give them any water. He laughs about how long they’ll last without water, and the rest of the slave traders sing as they sprinkle water in glee. The slaves are whipped as they continue their journey, and Eunseom weakly gets pulled by a horse.
With a new resolve, Tanya does her chores and enters Saya’s room to clean the mirror. She notices the birds outside the window and how Saya looks at them longingly. She remembers Eunseom saying that in his dream, he detested the birds because they were free while he was confined. In his dream, he wanted to catch these birds, but he couldn’t. Remembering this, Tanya offers to catch the bird for Saya.
Tanya takes Saya outside to the treehouse and puts together sling to shoot at birds with stones. She whistles the bird song to lure the bird to them, and then swings the sling around until she releases to shoot down the bird. Saya looks fascinated by the contraption and Tanya’s successful hunt.
Once they find the bird, Tanya thanks the gods for the sacrifice and explains to Saya that the bird sacrificed itself to nurture them. Saya look confused by this notion. Then, Tanya offers to teach Saya how to use the slingshot.
Saya fumbles through his first few tries, losing the stone and smacking himself, but he quickly learns how to hit his target. He gets so enthralled that he keeps asking for more stones, and his excitement makes Tanya laugh.
Tanya cooks up their hunted birds and offers it to Saya, who reluctantly tries the scorched bird. He seems pleasantly surprised by the decent taste, and Tanya says that there are many more delicious foods in Arthdal. She asks how Arthdal came to be a place with excess food, excessively large homes, and too many people.
Saya responds that Arthdal probably started as a smaller civilization, much like where Tanya is from. He credits the overcrowding to Aramun Haesulla, who created the union. Tanya asks what the union is, and Saya seems receptive of her curiosity.
As Tanya chops up some chicken later that night, she reviews what she learned: a union is a group of tribe leaders who then choose a union leader; the union was formed by Aramun Haesulla. She remembers Eunseom’s mother mentioning Aramun before she died, and she wonders if it’s the same Aramun. Tanya continues to run through the facts of the union members and commits to learning everything.
Back at the slave trade camp, Syoreujagin drinks water right in front of Eunseom and tries to make him claim his Igutu title, but Eunseom spits on his face. Eunseom gets beaten to a pulp once again, and Syoreujagin torments the other prisoners by spilling water in front of them. One of the captured announces himself as a dujumsaeng, and Syoreujagin throws water at his face. At that, all the other captured proclaim themselves as dujumsaeng for survival.
Teodae and Dalsae watch from the side, and when Teodae tries to go for water, Dalsae reminds him of Eunseom’s suffering. Eunseom had joined the rescue mission in a weakened state, and they can’t abandon him.
Moobaek is furious to find that the Eunseom and the Wahan friends have disappeared from the hideout. Nunbyeol lies ill in bed, and Chaeeun presumes that Nunbyeol had spent all night searching for these missing Wahan tribesmen, who disappeared while she was fetching medicine.
As the slaves continue to get tortured through their journey, Dalsae weakly falls to the ground and picks up a stick. He makes eye contact with Teodae behind him and sees the Eunseom is slowly losing consciousness.
Moobaek returns to the Daekan base and demands that Mookwang tell him who the Wahan tribesmen were sold to. Mookwang responds that Gilseon sold them to Syoreujagin, and he seems suspicious of Moobaek’s activities. Mookwang knows that Moobaek visited the Asa Sakan at the White Mountains, and he warns Moobaek not to betray Tagon for the Asa clan.
From afar, Daekan warrior Yeonbal eavesdrops on this conversation and later reports to Tagon. He tells Tagon that ever since Moobaek returned from Iark, he’s been acting strange.
Moobaek confides in an ally, Seuchun, about Syoreujagin, and he’s hold that it may be too late. Seuchun explains that Syoreujagin has an extreme hate for Igutu, so Eunseom may already be harmed. Moobaek asks that Seuchun check on them.
While the other prisoners appease the slave traders for water and food, Dalsae sharpens his stick with Teodae at his side. Teodae looks close to death and mumbles in surrender, “I am a dujumsaeng.” Dalsae tells him to stop, but Teodae says that it’s not that hard to abandon Eunseom and just accept that the Igutu are lower than dujumsaeng.
Teodae reminds Dalsae that he abandoned everyone in the Fortress of Fire, so it should be easy to abandon Eunseom now. Dalsae looks unsettled by this plea, and he quickly hides his sharpened stick as Eunseom gets dragged out. As Dalsae tends to Eunseom, Teodae takes the sharpened stick.
That night, Teodae takes the sharp stick and holds it against Eunseom’s neck. He tells Eunseom to do as their captors ordered, to announce that he’s an Igutu. Eunseom knows that Teodae and Dalsae can’t surrender because of Eunseom, but he allows them to abandon him. He says that he won’t give up his name because it’s a spell that both Tanya and his mother left him with.
Teodae takes a step back and commends Eunseom’s protection of his name in disbelief. Then, he takes the stick and pierces his own neck. Blood sprays across Eunseom’s face, and Teodae falls to the ground, dead. Eunseom yells for Teodae, and the rest of the camp wakes up to his mourning.
In the treehouse, Saya shows Tanya his books and explains that these words can tell stories of people without meeting them. Saya says that he’s read all the books in the Fortress of Fire multiple time because he had nothing else to do.
Tanya asks which story he like the most, and Saya excitedly tells her about Tamer, a general from Remus, where the Hae tribe is from. Saya claims that Tamer taught him about war and how to fight in war. Then, he shows her a strategy board with two different set of rocks. At first, Tanya thinks that the rocks are used to throw at each other in war (ha cute), but Saya explains that they’re used to mimic war.
Tanya notices how Saya seems to enjoy explaining the military strategy, and Saya acknowledges that this is fun to him. He found enjoyment in drawing out the stories during his time in confinement. Saya asks if this is boring to her, and Tanya remembers asking Eunseom if he enjoyed the commotion he was causing. Tanya tells Saya that she’s not enjoying the strategizing and says that something must be wrong with her.
The Daekan warriors meet with the newly appointed Minister of Trade and Commerce, Minister Kungtung, and as his new guards for his family. Minister Kungtung kindly declines the offer, as his own soldiers from his Bato tribe will guard him, but the Daekan warriors inform him that the Bato tribe will no longer be allowed to wield arms in Arthdal.
Minister Kungtung raises this issue with Tagon, but Tagon tells him to stand in his designated spot among the other ministers. Addressing all the ministers, Tagon explains that they recently lost Sanung due to an armed outsider getting through the gates too easily. As ministers of the union, they will all be protected by the Daekan and Arthdal warriors, and no other tribesmen will be allowed to be armed in Arthdal.
Taealha thanks Tagon for his generosity and asks Minister Kungtung if he has ulterior motives behind his request to bring in his own guards. That silences the minister, and Tagon looks pleased with Taealha’s performance.
Asa Ron and Asa Mot try to think of ideas to bring down Tagon, but they’re at a loss. Asa Mot says even Asa Sakan suggested that they support Tagon, but she’s not willing to let Tagon have his way. Tagon hasn’t had a chance to do anything wrong in Arthdal because he’s been away fighting for all these years, but Asa Ron thinks of an idea to turn all of Tagon’s heroic fighting against him.
Out in the woods, Saya gets excited when he thinks he shot down a bird, but Tanya knows that she hit the bird. When Saya sees his catch, his expression darkens. Tanya recognizes the paradise flycatcher bird from when she trained in Iark and notices that the tail color is different.
Saya recalls a prophecy from Isodunyong that a catastrophe would hit on the day that the paradise flycatcher wears another color. Saya fears that Asa Ron has stirred up trouble.
In Arthdal, a commoner wildly swings an ax at the crowd around him, shouting that Isodunyong is punishing them all with death. Gilseon stop the man and sees that his skin is turning black. Close by, the crowd screams in response to an elderly woman collapsing, her skin also turning dark. Then, a woman waves around a knife, madly announcing Isodunyong’s orders. Gilseon just barely stops the woman from slaughtering her own mother.
Moobaek meets with Tagon and assures him that he sent off Danbyeok with Harim. They share a drink, and Tagon notes that he heard about Moobaek chasing after Kanmoreu, the legendary horse of Aramun Haesulla. Tagon jokes that Moobaek almost became Aramun, and Moobaek stiffens at Tagon’s implicit accusations.
Tagon continues with the hypothetical that Moobaek mistakenly though a random horse was Kanmoreu and laughs that he even visited Asa Sakan in the White Mountains to confirm. Moobaek wonders if Tagon actually knows the full truth or if he’s just testing him, and he decides that he should confess the whole truth to Tagon.
But before Moobaek can share the truth, Tagon interrupts him and appoints him as the head of the military office. Tagon doesn’t allow Moobaek to refuse and says that he should at least consider it. Moobaek agrees to think over the offer, and Tagon asks that Moobaek observe how the military office works starting tomorrow.
Their meeting is interrupted by Gilseon, who offers to come back another time, but Tagon reaffirms that he and Moobaek hide nothing from each other. Gilseon leads Tagon to another room and reports the cases of people going mad and having dark spots on their bodies. He also shows Tagon the blue-tailed paradise flycatcher and reminds him of the prophecy.
Gilseon adds that a dead tiger was found in the mountains with a large hole in its body, with its stomach, heart, and liver removed. There was also blue blood on the tiger’s claws, which implies that this could be the deed of a Neanthal. There is widespread concern about an impending disaster, but Tagon’s mind immediately goes to Asa Ron.
While a large crowd of Arthdal people gather around the Great Shrine in fear and desperation, Asa Ron conducts his ceremony to speak with the gods. Asa Yon then communicates the oracle that Asa Ron received: The Arthdal people are being punished by the vengeful spirits of the Neanthals and Igutu. Asa Yon orders the people provide their offering to the Great Shrine and appease these spirits with clay figures in front of their homes.
Tanya tells Saya the words on the street about the vengeful spirits of Neanthals and Igutu attacking the Arthdal people, and Saya thinks those claims are ridiculous. Saya credits this chaos to Asa Ron and explains to Tanya that Tagon will be blamed for creating these vengeful spirits because he killed all the Neanthals and Igutu.
Tagon enters the minister meeting, where Taealha tries to convince the ministers the claim about vengeful spirits could be a scheme. Then, Asa Yon enters the chambers with the message from Isodunyong.
Tagon respectfully stands to accept this message, which delegates a large responsibility on Tagon to appease these vengeful spirits. Tagon is summoned to a ritual at the Great Shrine to deliver these spirits to peace. Taealha worriedly looks at Tagon, and he seethes through his teeth that this is Asa Ron’s doing.
In the shrine, Asa Ron approvingly watches all the offerings from the people and tells Mihol that the hearts of the Arthdal people still lie with the Asa clan. Mihol asks when Asa Ron prepared the blue-feathered bird, and Asa Ron warns him not to probe too much into the Asa clan if he wants to remain an ally.
Tagon is led to the Great Shrine in a ceremonial robe, and Taealha watches with her fellow ministers. She recalls the ministers blaming Tagon’s appointment as Union Leader for this chaos, and she looks chocked up as she watches Tagon kneel in front of Asa Ron.
Saya continues to explain how this scheme targets Tagon as he walks out into the woods with Tanya. He tells her to keep watch as he prepares something, and he adds that this scheme conveys that while Tagon could kill off the Neanthals and Igutu, only the Asa clan can fend off the vengeful spirits.
Saya belittles Asa Ron as an indirect descendant of the Asa clan, but he acknowledges that Asa Ron wields great power with this scheme, enough to make Tagon kneel. Tanya notes this source of power. Saya says that Asa Ron has given him an opportunity because they’ve revived the Neanthals and Igutu.
Then, Saya reveals his look, and Tanya freezes in shock. He’s wearing a flower crown with the paint on his face that resembles the Wahan ceremonial look. She doesn’t say anything, and simply asks why this revival helps him. Saya says that he’ll tell her when he returns.
In the shrine, Tagon is surrounded by the praying Asa clan. He opens his eyes and looks around at the carvings in the cave, noticing one of Isodunyong.
When Saya returns, he continues to explain to Tanya that humans marginalize things that scare them. He says that humans used to marginalize Neanthals, but they don’t anymore because they’re not scared of what doesn’t exist. As Saya explains this, Tanya wonders how Saya knew of these Wahan ceremonial look and wonders who he showed this look.
Says further explains that Asa Ron revived this fear by summoning the vengeful spirits of the Neanthals and Igutu. He says that Arthdal’s most powerful god will emerge, one with thousands of ears and mouths — rumor.
The guild members discuss the issue of these vengeful spirits and how they can understand the Neanthal’s seeking revenge for their suffering. Some sympathize with the Igutu, who were generally harmless but were also hunted in case that they sided with the Neanthals. One guild member shares the legend that Aramun is an Igutu, which explains why Aramun has two voices because they’re half human and Neanthal.
After praying all night at the Great Shrine, Asa Ron confronts Tagon and acknowledges that this spirit fiasco is his scheme. He says that the Arthdal people will always have the clay figures to fend off the spirits, and this will burden Tagon until the day he dies. Tagon criticizes Asa Ron for making a business out of selling these figures, but Asa Ron finds no shame in securing his own income.
Asa Ron asserts that he holds the hearts of the Arthdal people, and as long as this holds true, he will always be above Tagon. As Tagon leaves, Asa Ron taunts him that he will never become king unless he is willing to kill all of the Arthdal people. He shares Mihol’s criticism that Tagon wants to be adored by the people. Tagon warns Asa Ron that it’s not over.
Asa Ron celebrates his victory against Tagon, and Asa Mot commends his preparation of the tiger. Asa Ron looks surprised and says that he didn’t prepare the tiger. He assumed that someone else prepared that, but Asa Mot and Asa Yon don’t take credit for this.
In the woods, a mysterious person crushes up red flowers and tints their blue lips. Is that… a Neanthal?
In the hideout, Harim takes care of Nunbyeol with another woman (his wife?), and she says that she’s grateful that he brought Nunbyeol under their care. When Nunbyeol wakes up, she tells Harim that while she was looking for the Wahan tribesmen, she saw the Neanthals.
Sure enough, we see two Neanthals, and one tells Rottib (OMG is that Nichkhun?) that they have company — it’s Chaeeun and Moobaek walking through the forest. Chaeeun asks why Moobaek saved Eunseom, even before he knew that he was Asa Hon’s son. She wonders if it’s because Moobaek is trying to rebel against Tagon for killing Sanung.
Moobaek acknowledges that he’s trying to make things right and assures her that no harm will come to her family. But that’s not the reason for her concern. She’s committed to finding Eunseom because she thinks that extending Asa Hon’s suffering to her son would be too cruel, but she knows that rebelling is a completely different matter.
Chaeeun knows that a revolt against Tagon will require lying and dishonorable tasks — things that Moobaek is incapable of. Moobaek doesn’t respond and continues to walk onward, as the Neathals watch from above.
Taealha learns from her Hae advisors that the mad people reacted to a medicinal plant that can cause lunacy and that the bird feather changed color through a reaction with poison. She marvels at Asa Ron’s preparation for this scheme and tells her advisors to prepare a briefing of their future response to these schemes.
When Taealha enters her room, she finds furniture and books knocked over. She sees Tagon across the room, and he insists that he’s fine. She knows that he’s lying and shares Asa Ron’s tactics in creating this scheme. Tagon knows that it all doesn’t matter now because the damage has been done, and it drives him crazy that he has so little control of the Asa clan’s power.
Tagon remembers Saya’s assessment of the Asa clan’s power and questions if he could ever usurp their power. As he gets more anxious, Taealha caresses his face and assures him that nothing is over until they decide it’s over. That seems to calm Tagon, but he discloses that he’s not only faced with Asa Ron, but also with Moobaek.
Although Tagon is unsure if Moobaek has joined forces with Asa Ron, he knows that Moobaek’s meeting with Asa Sakan means that he’s up to something. Taealha knows that this is bad news, since half of the Daekan warriors would die for Moobaek. They need to figure out his alliances using a simple tactic.
Moobaek meets with Yeolson and demands to know the origins of the Wahan people. Yeolson says that he does not know, since the oral history is passed down to their Tribe Mother. He reminds Moobaek that the Daekan killed Mother Choseol, and he refuses to tell Moobaek where Tanya is unless he shares his reasons for searching down their history. Kneeling down to Yeolson, Moobaek earnestly says that he’s trying to save the Wahan people and the rest of the world.
Saya leads Tanya on another night venture, and she wonders where Saya went that night with his ceremonial face paint. She wonders if they’re doing the same thing tonight. They pass two hooded figures on the road, and one turns around in supposed recognition — it’s the Neanthals. After a moment of pause, they continue on their way, and then Saya looks back at the hooded figures.
As Moobaek walks through the dark forest, he wonders if the Great Wolf of the Wahan tribe was Asa Sin, and if that bloodline was passed through the Wahan Mothers, then Tanya would be the descendant of Asa Sin. Then, he hears rustling around him and gets attacked by Yangcha. He’s confused by this attack but expertly defends himself.
Once he traps Yangcha against a tree, another sword comes at his neck. It’s Tagon, who notes that Yangcha is no match for Moobaek. He assures Moobaek that this surprise attach was merely a formality for their conversation.
In the forest, Saya prepares his ceremonial look once again and tells Tanya that he’ll take a little longer this time. Tanya nods innocently, but when he leaves, she watches him suspiciously.
With Moobaek tied up, Tagon asks if he lied, and Moobaek honorably confesses that he did. Tagon won’t allow Moobaek to become his enemy because he’s too valuable and powerful. He continues his interrogation by asking why Moobaek lied.
Moobaek thinks back to his conversation with Chaeeun and her doubts with his ability to fool Tagon. He knows that he’ll die if the tells the whole truth, so he only gives Tagon part of it. Moobaek asks Tagon if he killed Sanung and demands to know the truth. Tagon claims that it was an accident — a unintended death caused by the three-way combat.
Tagon admits that Sanung died from his sword and blames himself for his father’s death. He says that even if the dujumsaeng was the one who killed Sanung, he should take the blame for not protecting his father. Tagon asks that Moobaek believe him or just feign belief now and kill him later. Moobaek responds that he truly believes Tagon and asks to be untied, to which Tagon jokingly asks if Moobaek plans to kill him now.
Now that he’s shared his version of the truth, Tagon asks Moobaek to explain why he visited Asa Sakan in the White Mountains. Moobaek continues to fool Tagon and reveals that he wanted to confirm something he saw in Iark — something that would destroy the Asa clan. This captures Tagon’s attention, and he asks what this is.
Moobaek explains his reluctance to share this information with Tagon because he believed that Tagon killed Sanung. Moobaek knew that Sanung had struggled to disempower the Asa clan, and when he returned to Arthdal, he was unable to provide this helpful information to Sanung because he had died.
Tagon looks desperate for this information. Moobaek notes that the current Asa clan members are not direct descendants of the Asa bloodline, and he reveals that the Great Mother of the Asa clan, Asa Sin, settled in Iark, making the Wahan people the direct descendants of Asa Sin.
Meanwhile, Tanya wanders through the forest and follows a hooded figure’s torch. At the entrance of the cave, she puts down her torch and follows the hooded person to a ceremonial gathering. She sees familiar face paint and flower crowns, and we see that Chaeeun and Nunbyeol are in attendance.
Then, Tanya sees a familiar symbol on the cloth and recognizes it as the symbol that Mother Choseol had drawn for her to remember. Tanya recalls refusing her duties as Tribe Mother, but Mother Choseol told her that even if she forgot her responsibilities, they would find a way back to her. As Tanya scrutinizes the ceremony from afar, someone suddenly covers her mouth from behind.
Moobaek tells Tagon that Wahan’s Great Mother successor may be the direct descendant of Asa Sin. He reveals that Wahan’s Tribe Mother is Tanya, and Tagon remembers her as the one who cast a curse on the Daekan warriors.
Tanya looks behind to see Saya, who suspiciously asks why she disobeyed him. He asks if Taealha ordered her to follow him, but Tanya insists that she was just curious. Saya seems to believe her, and he says that he was going to bring her to one of these ceremonies eventually.
Saya engages in the ceremony from afar, and Tanya looks unsettled by these familiar signs and rituals. In his mind, Saya prays to the Aramun Haesulla, an Igutu, who can call upon Asa Sin, and Tanya hears his thoughts. Unaware that she heard Saya’s thoughts, Tanya turns to him and asks if Aramun Haesulla is actually an Igutu. Saya freezes and looks confused by her mind-reading question.
Moobaek says that if Tanya is actually the descendant of Asa Sin, then she will hold the true psychic powers. Tagon looks shocked by this reveal.
This is an epic reveal, even though most of this episode was clearly foreshadowing this ending. Despite the obvious, I appreciated the build-up and the eventual shock that Tagon experienced at the end — the reaction we all would have had if we hadn’t known all the facts of this episode. While this was not much a surprise to the viewers, I think this episode did a great job of tying together all the pieces that made this reveal so significant. We already knew that the Wahan tribe was possibly the descendants of Asa Sin, but I learned what that actually means in the world of Arthdal — basically that Asa Ron is fake AF and that Tanya’s psychic abilities have greater implications of power.
This episode was a gift that kept giving, with reveals after reveals, but the one that I was most excited about was the surviving Neanthals (woo Rottib! woo Nichkhun!). I was hoping that the Neanthals would still be relevant, not only as a legend, and I’m happy to see that we’re gathering all the possible characters for the ultimate showdown — whatever that looks like. I wonder how the Neanthals have survived all these years, and I’m intrigued by the implication that they have somehow integrated into Arthdal, seeing that they seamlessly blend in on the streets. And do they somehow know Saya? Do they recognize him? Does Saya know them? Can they just sense each other? I am intrigued.
I really enjoy watching Saya and Tanya develop a bond, but I am torn because what about Eunseom? I feel bad for Eunseom, for all the pain he’s suffered and the pain that he’ll have to endure, but I’m hoping that his powers will return and that Helper makes an appearance soon. Compartmentalizing my guilt for Eunseom, I’m a fan of Saya and Tanya’s partnership and how they’re mutually benefitting from each other’s knowledge. Song Joong-ki outdoing himself by creating a love triangle with himself, and I know that he’s doing a great job because the two characters are clearly distinguished in my head. It’s confusing me because ultimately, I’m choosing the same person… but not? Shhh, don’t tell the other twin that I’m a fan of Song Joong-ki.
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