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The Sword of a Warrior

This piece is a bit different from what I have posted previously for “Faith.” It is a little more analytical than usual and it won’t make you cry. I know that’s what you guys have started to expect from my posts (:D) but this time, I really wanted to just think through the character of Young narratively and explore the journey his character has made from the beginning of the story till now. This type of essay requires certain interpretations of key points in Young’s life and if there are any interpretations that you disagree with, please let me know. I love a good conversation.

Tears of Soldier (“Faith” OST)

The sword of a warrior. How much does it weigh?

Choi Young was born into a family of scholars, yet he chose to be a warrior. Perhaps he was always more athletically inclined and that’s why he wanted to be a warrior but the only thing we know for sure is that he left his home to be one after his father died. We can assume that he was very close to his father since his father was present inside his dream. It was also implied that Young latched onto the Jeogwoldae as a foster family after his father died. The death of his father must have been the turning point at which Young decided to be a warrior.

Young left his house at the age of sixteen to become a warrior. We don’t know exactly when he joined the Jeogwoldae after that but the Jeogwoldae daejang, Moon Chi-hoo, died when Young was twenty-two, which means he was a warrior for six years until that event. As an adolescent, the life of a warrior must have been exciting and idealistic for him because he believed he was fighting to protect his country, even as he killed many people and saw death everyday.

The death of Moon Chi-hoo destroyed the idealism of a warrior’s life for Young. As Jang Bin said, a warrior is someone who protects his master. Inversely, a master should be worthy of that protection. Moon Chi-hoo served his whole life to protect his king and master, only to be killed by him. So after his death, Young saw no purpose in being a warrior. He wanted to leave the palace so he can stop being one. He didn’t want to die fighting as a warrior because he saw what happened to his daejang. Leaving the palace was his only hope for freedom from a life of senseless duty. There was no higher purpose to the wielding of his sword; Young used it merely to keep from dying.

Young quickly agreed to go to heaven to bring back a heavenly doctor because he had nothing to lose if he never returned and also because he wanted to quickly complete the mission of bringing back Gongmin and Noguk safely to Goryeo so he can leave the palace as the previous king, Choong-jung, decreed. As his king, Gongmin, ordered Young kidnapped Eun-soo from heaven. When she was scared and unwilling, he promised to send her back. When Gongmin ordered him to keep her in Goryeo even though he knew that Young had made an oath to Eun-soo, Young experienced the same betrayal that Moon Chi-hoo had- that his master was not worthy of serving. Gongmin had prevented him from keeping his promise as a warrior and for a warrior, his promise is the same as his life. So he didn’t step out of Eun-soo’s way when she ran toward him with a sword since he didn’t keep his oath and in conjunction, his life was void. Being unable to send Eun-soo back destroyed all hope for him to at least keep his integrity and leave the palace, still dignified as a warrior. So when Eun-soo accidentally brought death to him, he welcomed it.

However, Eun-soo didn’t let Young die like he wanted to too. She surgically fixed him up and tried to keep him alive. Young was incredibly angry at her for saving him because he no longer had a master worthy to serve nor was he worthy of being called a warrior; there was no inkling of hope in living. But he was alive so what could he do? He could only finish carrying out his mission to bring Gongmin and Noguk to Goryeo safely. He accomplished that and asked Gongmin to let him go but Gongmin pushed it off and gave him another mission to accomplish before he would consider letting Young go- to find out who and why he had to fight. Young accepted the mission so he can leave the palace after he accomplished and repay the debt that he owed Eun-soo. But what to do after that, he had no idea. As he said to Gongmin, he didn’t know if he had a reason to keep living after he sent Eun-soo back to heaven.

With no reason to live and only desiring to just hang on long enough so he can send Eun-soo back, Young continued to refuse treatment from Eun-soo and grew weaker and weaker until he collapsed and his heart finally stopped. Eun-soo, refusing to let him die and reminding him of his promise to protect her and send her back, brought him back to life. After this, Young lived with renewed purpose to keep his oath to her and he completed Gongmin’s task in order to keep Eun-soo safe from Ki Chul.

In the process of freeing Eun-soo from Ki Chul’s clutches, Young spent more time with her and got to know her. While she was annoying and noisy, she was also vivacious and full of life. He saw her warmth with Choong-jung and she made him smile with her singing. She also lent him her shoulder to lean on. It was at this point, I think, when he could first feel the weight of his sword. Before, he did not notice the smell of blood on him and he always stood upright with his sword by his side. But when Eun-soo offered her shoulder to him and he took it, he was letting the full weight of his sword and all the fighting lay on his head for the first time. He let the weight lean against Eun-soo’s shoulder and for a brief night, stopped being a warrior.

I’ve had ponder a bit why he wiped his blood that first time, when he rescued Eun-soo from Ki Chul’s house, even before she ever said she didn’t like the smell. Was it because he wanted to show her he was alive and well and also to show her that it wasn’t hard to get to her? While I can’t figure out the reason why he did this at that point, we know after that night when he leaned on his shoulder, he became highly aware of the blood on his hands after a fight.

When Young was accused of treason and thrown in prison, Gongmin came to tell him that he only let Eun-soo go to Ki Chul because he believed she was the safest there. With this assurance, Young finally deems Gongmin worthy of being his master and gives himself willingly as a warrior to him. Young is now complete as warrior and his sword has renewed purpose to protect his king.

In episode nine, Jang Bin explained to an angry and frightened Eun-soo that Young only did what he could by killing Choong-jung with his own hand. He said to her that Young didn’t killed Choong-jung; he killed his own heart and every hope to leave the palace for his freedom. I think Jang Bin was wrong. Young’s hope to leave the palace died before when he let Eun-soo stab him. In contrast to what Jang Bin said, I think Choong-jung’s death added new purpose in life for Young, as well as when Eun-soo stepped away from him in fear after she saw him with the bloody dagger. Choong-jung’s death made Young vow to never let that happen again and his determination to fight Ki Chul grew stronger. Eun-soo regarding him with disgust also made him vow that same thing so that he would never have to wield his sword in that manner again. Young vowed to use his sword to protect and never use it again to kill those he loved. Remember, while Young was in prison, he went into that same dreamland again but this time, he fell through the frozen lake and swam out of it to a warm spring. Choong-jung’s death didn’t kill hope; it shifted it to a new purpose.

In the same moment when Young vows to never use his sword to kill the people he loves, the sword becomes heavy with that renewed purpose and history because Choong-jung’s death and Eun-soo’s disgust also showed Young what his sword was capable of doing. As he spent more time with Eun-soo and began to fall in love with her, he saw how much it worried and pained her for him to fight, kill, and get hurt. He also began to see life beyond his duty as a warrior who can die at any moment. As his attachment to Eun-soo grew, so did his attachment to life. While he was prepared to die fighting Ki Chul, he was also scared to die. By fighting Ki Chul one-on-one at that point, Young wanted to end things before he grew more afraid and more attached to life.

After Eun-soo bandaged the hand that had just tried to pull Ki Chul’s sword into his own neck, Young vowed to never risk his life so easily again. It is at this point when the sword of a warrior starts to hesitate. He said to the Chilsa at the smithy that while looking at Eun-soo live life so vigorously, he asked himself, “What the heck am I doing?” Young also washes his bloody hands in the rain and closes the eyes of the dead Chilsa, signifying Young’s changing perspective towards death and his relationship to it. Through Eun-soo, Young reflected on his own life and the choices that he made. As a warrior, he had fought merely to not die which wasn’t the same as living. Young had lived the past seven years as not dying but he was never really living either. But after meeting Eun-soo, he saw what it meant to really live for a future- to plan, to hope, and to dream.

Young’s sword became a burden as it kept him from getting closer to Eun-soo. He quickly cast it away when he had to kneel beside her when she was sick and couldn’t get up. He didn’t even remember to take it with him as he started to run to Deok Heung to demand the antidote; Jang Bin had to remind him to take the sword. When Eun-soo asked him to piggy-back her if she fell asleep, he replied that he can’t because he won’t be able to carry his sword if he did. He also couldn’t use his sword to fight his own men when he had to steal the royal seal to obtain Eun-soo’s antidote. It is at these moments which involve Eun-soo that Young is forced to confront the weight of his sword and his life as a warrior.

Young confesses to Eun-soo while they are on the run to the door to heaven that he now hesitates to use his sword and because a warrior cannot hesitate, he is no longer worthy of protecting his king. Still Young is unsure why he hesitates. When Ahn Jae asks him if Young is leaving the palace because of Eun-soo, he replies that he’s not sure. So Ahn Jae asks if it is because the sword became too heavy for him. Young learns that Moon Chi-hoo felt the weight of his sword and knew it was time for things to end. Through Ahn Jae, he finds out that his beloved leader died not only to protect his men but also because he wanted to be relieved of the weight of his sword. After learning this, I don’t think Young wants to die the same way Moon Chi-hoo. He didn’t just die heroically; he died worn out and wasted by all the years of fighting and all the people he killed. Ahn Jae asks Young how many people he has killed during his thirteen years as a warrior and Young can’t answer because it is innumerable.

Young’s sword- how much does it weigh? It has cut down an untold number of lives but it also keeps many alive. His sword is what protects Eun-soo and Gongmin but it also keeps him apart from her. His sword defines him as a warrior and without it, Young does not yet know who he is. Will Young be able to give up his sword, thus his life as a warrior? Can he? Will the weight of it become too much or will he become stronger so he can carry that weight with grace and honor? How will Young carry out his life from here and where will Eun-soo be in that life? Oh goodness, I can’t wait to find out. I need Monday like right now.

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58 Comments Post a comment
  1. Joonni, your posts never feel to evoke emotions…sadness, lust or mind churning headaches (for this post and the time travel one).

    as you can see from my previous posts…it’s mainly squealing at how fine LMH is and how horrid the writer is at stringing us along with the more interesting scenes…so this is my 1st attempt at being logical and analytical…be kind! 🙂 *puts on crash helmet*

    Ermm…I very respectfully beg to differ with your analysis on Jang Bin’s explanation to Eunsoo on Choi Young killing Choong-jung.

    When Young let Eunsoo stab him: it was because he had failed to keep his word as a warrior, since he’s word as a warrior is his life, his life was as good as the worthless promise, hence he as a warrior was willing to die.

    When Young stabbed Choong-jun: that was in my opinion one of the lowest point in his life. My heart literally clenched for him. At this point, Young’s dream of leaving the palace and living as a normal human being (a fisherman) is no longer possible. I think this was what Jang Bin was referring to when he said Young killed every hope to leave the palace for his freedom. Since he no longer has the choice of leaving the palace and living life as a regular human being, he has to return to life as a warrior.

    Young is a warrior who swore allegiance to his King and would give his life for his King. To personally end the life of your King, for any person is cruel, all the more so for a warrior who’s task with the king’s protection and especially so for a warrior like Young. Add his personal affection he felt for Choong-jun to those feelings. That is why Jang Bin said Young killed his own heart – he’s chance of a normal life is gone, but as a warrior who instead of protecting his king, killed his own king.

    I think Young sees himself as a warrior obligated to his King as totally separate from living as a regular human being / fisherman if that makes sense…

    Now I need coffee…way too much thinking…

    October 22, 2012
  2. ann #

    I think they both will be separate, ES escorted to heaven and CY returned to Goryeo, but somehow ES in the current era can meet someone who is similar to CY. I guess it is a win-win solution. On the one hand does not change history on the other side Imja couple remained united with a happy ending.

    Since CY only know how to be a warrior, perhaps in this era he became a security agent or police officer or equivalent. He tried to help ES who is disturb by a criminal, hehe..

    A simple scenario, I do not know just a possibility.

    However, they will unite and live happily ever after, according to forecasts in episode 1, ES mate is male god items he’d dated in the past.

    ES can be CY’s second wife who accompanied him to died or CY would be reincarnated and meet ES in the present.

    counting down 21th episode..

    October 22, 2012
  3. Chepie2 #

    Hmmm, I like this type of conversation. Thanks, Joonni!

    I agree with you that his father’s death may have led him to become a warrior than serve the king like his father and his ancestors before him. CY would have been raised as a scholar and groomed to take on a position in the king’s court. But just why did he choose to be a warrior? I’d like to think that CY’s father was not happy anymore with the king then and CY saw this frustration and maybe father and son even had conversations of living an ordinary life (maybe as fishermen), if they can choose to do so. Remember his father’s advise to him “not to be covetous of gold”?

    However, scholars are (supposedly) noble people who are expected to serve the king/government so that a few of them preferred to rebel and wander in the countryside than serve kings whom they think is not worthy. (Pls correct me if I’m wrong as I didn’t read Korean history in its entirety but based my opinion from the many sagueks I’ve watchedn.) Especially during the Faith era when Goryeo was under the foreign control of the Yuans or Mongols (Korea served as a tributary ally of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty for approx. 80 years from King Wonjong until King Gongmin, as per New World Encyclopedia).

    I remember the flashback of CY as a young Jeogwoldae when they were first summoned to the palace. He was very excited at the prospect of living inside the palace then. Until they met the king—drunken and surrounded by half-naked women in his court with his officials and where his master Moon Chi-hoo met his death at the king’s hands. Ahn Jae told CY that (their) master confided that he was already feeling the weight of the sword before coming to the palace. Serving a puppet-king whose only concern is to keep himself on the throne by continuing to pay the tribute to Yuan, a illustrious warrior like Moon Chi-hoo would naturally feel his sword heavy. (Not sure if that king was Chungmook who was described as “licentious” in Wikipedia.) When one doesn’t believe anymore that he’s fulfilling his purpose in the world, he gives up on living.

    To CY, the sword passed on to him by his master has always been heavy. He was only forced to carry on with the life of a warrior because he promised his master to serve the king. But without Mae Hee by his side, what was there to live for but to fulfill the task at hand given by each king that he serves and escape death by killing others. When he couldn’t keep his promise to a stranger (ES) who will be used only as a pawn by a king he has sworn to protect and serve (not by his own choice) the sword became even heavier to bear… He was ready to give up on living.

    CY saw a hint of promise that it may be worth fighting for Gongmin after all when the latter asked for his help so that he could be a better king. But all the while, to return High Doctor to heaven’s gate was top priority and protecting the king only came second. Unknown to himself, this increasing desire to protect ES was slowly detaching the sword from the warrior: wiping away the blood from his face so that she will not worry whether he is hurt (and be unable to bring her to heaven’s gate); caring not to smell of blood because she does not like it (but she has come to accept that it’s part and parcel of his job as a warrior and her job as a doctor); trying not to use the sword to protect her and himself (because life is too sacred for her as a doctor, whether one is foe or friend). So the warrior unconsciously drops the sword to run for the antidote for her; runs immediately towards her the moment he’s assured of the king’s safety; and stands before her to comfort her albeit covertly among the Woodalchis. This increasing desire has fully blossomed in his heart that he has to declare it once and for all for what it really is. He has finally started to live life again even if it meant he would lose her in the end. (Nooooooo… I’m just feeling “poetic” and I don’t mean this.)

    CY is feeling the weight of his sword, so to speak, just because he wants to be able to choose love with ES over life as a warrior for his king, to live life—with her and for her, not for Gongmin anymore nor exclusively for Goryeo. Tough choice for a noble warrior who wouldn’t know how to live life apart from being one but who couldn’t bear the thought of living life without knowing love.

    Work intruded so this was late in coming…(Sorry, that it’s too long.) 😉

    October 22, 2012
  4. Mittens #

    I think the reason he wiped off the blood from his face the first time is because he claimed he loved/liked her. To make it clear he was acting solo. If you love someone you want to look presentable. KC and his minions could have questioned him due to his appearance. (Of course they didn’t believe it anyways)

    October 22, 2012
  5. jomo #

    Thank you for this. Very nice.
    I like that ES = life, Sword = death and there is a BIG choice coming where he has to decide between them.
    Adding to quirkstine’s choice.
    ES lives and pregnant goes to the future to raise her baby CY, but then brings him back full grown to meet his father before CY dies at the ripe old age of 72.

    October 22, 2012
  6. Thank you so much! What a great analysis! I’ve always loved warriors; you really showed all the aspects of the warrior angst. At least Choi Young’s warrior angst. Thanks.

    October 22, 2012
  7. Cira #

    Wonderful analysis. I wonder too at times what part ES’s heavenly world has had on him. Although he was only there briefly you could tell how he was mesmerized by it in his description of it to the young former king. That heavenly world combined with his observation of ES and how different she was from everyone in his world, did it perhaps give him some glimmer of hope for his world’s future?

    I would think he would need that hope to help push him forward in the event that ES were to leave, either by the Heaven’s door or death. His time with her and the personal witness he had of her world would give him the strength to continue to live and fight for the changes that would help to bring her future world to pass. Man, what an epic love story.

    October 22, 2012
  8. I am coming back to this post after the show has ended. This is perhaps my favorite theme of the show. I really love how it has so many layers of meaning. It is also some of the most powerful scenes done by LMH, in my opinion, when he is dealing with the “heavy sword”, and trying to figure out, make a choice on what to do next, with the support of ES. So I made this MV that is exactly about this topic. Check it out!

    October 31, 2012
  9. Saxo is going immediately after adverse balances.

    November 30, 2015

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