Painter Of The Night/Serene Bird: traces of Beauty and the Beast in the manhwas

This is where you can read the manhwas. Painter Of The Night:  Serene Bird: But be aware that these manhwas are mature Yaois, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes.

As you can imagine, this is going to be a very long essay! So now you’re warned.

This essay was suggested by one of my readers, Sol Lopez. She noticed many parallels between Painter Of The Night and the fairy tale “La Belle et la Bête” written by Madame Leprince de Beaumont in the 18th Century. The irony is that shortly after, I started reading Serene Bird, created by Brothers without a tomorrow, and noticed so many similarities between the two manhwas. Not only the plot and characters contain so many affinities but also the stories in their realization have many common denominators. That’s the reason why this analysis will focus on two aspects. First, I’ll study the fairy tale and examine their parallels with the famous fairy tale and later I’ll compare both Korean works with the story from the 18th Century. Just a reminder, I will use the original fairy tale as basis, since I’ve always used classic novels and original fairy tales (Rapunzel, Snow White) for comparisons. I have to admit that the other purpose of this analysis is to incite people to read Serene Bird, especially if they love Painter Of The Night so much.

First, I have to summarize the fairy tale in order to avoid any confusion with modernized adaptions (Jean Cocteau, Disney etc.) and to outline the important elements of this story. In this famous story, Belle has 3 brothers and two sisters. Since her father is a rich merchant, we could say that Belle’s family belongs to the bourgeoisie. The protagonist is admired by many people for her gentle, selfless and pure nature. She likes reading books, while her two sisters prefers living in high style. The latter have many suitors but they dream to get a title. Strictly speaking, they wished to marry nobles. Consequently they keep rejecting proposals.

However, one day their father suddenly loses his wealth and the whole family is forced to abandon their house in the city and return to the countryside. They have to live like peasants. The irony is that the moment the family loses their fortune, the two sisters have no longer any admirer, whereas Belle is still asked for her hand. Yet the latter refuses out of filial piety. She wants to share her father’s burden and fate. In other words, the sisters are forced to follow the family and resent Belle even more than before. There, the main lead starts helping her family in the household, while her sisters continue living like rich people. The latter act as if Belle was their servant. One day, the father receives some news that a boat with his merchandise has just arrived to the port so that everyone in the family has the impression, their misfortune has come to an end. Before their father leaves for the city, the two sisters ask for jewels and robes, whereas Belle, modest as ever, would like to receive only a rose. She believes that her gift won’t cost much to her beloved father. However, what happens is the father is just as poor as before because he needed to pay taxes with his trade. Consequently on his way home, he has no present for his family.

Because he is chased by wolves while traveling during the evening, he finds refuge in a huge mansion middle in the woods. There he’s well treated because he can eat delicious dishes and has a comfortable bed. Yet at no moment, he meets the host. Everything goes well, until he takes a rose from a bush, as the father is reminded of Belle’s wish. At that moment, the beast appears and threatens to kill the man, yet the latter explains the cause for his action. Thus the beast proposes a deal: if one of his daughters is willing to sacrifice herself for his sake, he is saved and if none of them agrees to this proposition, then the man has to return after 3 months and accept his death sentence. After his return, the poor father can’t hide his misfortune, hence Belle decides to sacrifice herself. I would like to point out that before the former merchant’s departure, the beast offers him a large chest filled with gold coins. So Belle goes to the beast’s house with her father and after one evening spent together, her beloved relative is sent away.

Each evening, the beast appears and asks for her hand in marriage. The latter refuses but since she is treated like the wife of the house, she notices that the beast, despite his ugliness and lack of knowledge and intelligence, has a good heart. She starts getting fond of the beast and believes to see in him a friend. After 3 months, she asks the beast if she could visit her father. The latter has been ill since their separation. Belle is aware of the situation of her family because she could see her relatives through a magical mirror. The beast accepts her request under the condition that she returns to his side after 8 days. Belle is sent to her father’s place with a magical ring.

She meets her sisters again who are now married. Yet they are both unhappy in their respective marriage as one spouse is too vain and self-centered due to his handsome face and the other is so arrogant due to his knowledge that he irritates people with his remarks. The sisters can only get mad and jealous towards Belle who seems to have a better fate. Therefore they decide to plot against her and begs her to remain longer than 8 days. Their true intention is that once Belle returns to the beast’s mansion, the latter kills her for breaking her promise. However, Belle witnesses in the magical mirror how the beast is letting himself die. She uses the magical ring and comes back only to find the beast dying next to the lake. Just before he dies, the pure woman agrees to marry him and expresses her regret for not realizing sooner her love for him. She even admits that she can no longer live without him. As soon as she pronounces this, the beast transforms into a beautiful prince. He explains that a witch had cursed him to live like a beast, until a woman would agree to marry him. He couldn’t use his handsomeness or his intelligence and knowledge in order to woo a woman. He had to rely on his good heart. With his kindness, he was able to move Belle’s heart. With her vow, a fairy appears and congratulates the heroine and at the same time, she condemns her two sisters for their jealousy and misdeeds. As punishment, they are turned into statues and have to witness Belle’s happiness. Their curse will only end the moment they recognize their wrongdoings and their own flaws.

Before comparing the manhwas with the fairy tale, I believe, it is necessary to dwell on the lessons of this story. Some readers think to see a reference to “Stockholm Syndrome” since Belle is kept captive in the mansion and can only see the beast. She is excluded from society thereby she starts developing an affection for the beast, they consider it as a description of the “Stockholm Syndrome”. However, I have to admit that I am quite skeptical with this very modern interpretation for a simple reason. Based on this article

A person with Stockholm syndrome may start to identify with or form a close connection to the people who have taken him or her hostage, Norton told Live Science. The captive may begin to sympathize with the hostage takers and may also become emotionally dependent on them, he said. That’s because a victim with Stockholm syndrome may become increasingly fearful and depressed and will show a decreased ability to care for themselves. This, in turn, will make them more dependent on their captors for care, Norton said.

a victim suffering from Stockholm Syndrome starts getting depressed and neglecting herself/himself which is not the case with Belle. The later might be living in seclusion, but she sees her family through the mirror indicating that she is still very attached to her relatives. This explains why she is even willing to remain next to her sisters after the 8 days have already passed. She doesn’t become emotionally dependent on the beast, she still loves her father and is able to occupy her free time on her own. She shows no sign of depression. But I’ll still keep this aspect for the comparison.

In my opinion, it is more important to put this story into its historical context. This fairy tale was written in the 18th Century, where arranged marriages were common places. And if you read the story under the perspective of an arranged marriage, you’ll notice the resemblance. The daughter has to sacrifice herself for her family. In exchange for his daughter, the father receives some money and his financial situation improves (chest with some gold coins). Since the man is a beast, then we have to imagine that it is a metaphor for an older man. A young woman is forced to marry an older man she has never met before for her family’s sake. She might not accept him as her husband first because he is not good looking or very intelligent. But she’ll realize that her situation is not bad in the end as she is the wife of the house. She will be treated according to her status. In other words, the real historical lesson was to submit young women to their fate. They shouldn’t hope for big love and passion but see in their spouse a companion. Beauty and knowledge are not relevant in an arranged marriage, rather wealth and power but according to their respective status. On the other hand, the women shouldn’t have too high expectations, like the jealous sisters who thought, they could enter nobility due to their fortune. Far more important is that the father should be the one who decides about the future husband of his daughters. The sisters were asked in marriage by young men who were in love with them. The father never selected himself the spouses of his two other daughters. As you can observe, the story advocates arranged marriage over love marriage. Eventually, these women will discover that with time, they love their husband. As a first conclusion, this fairy tale is very conservative and is not fighting for women’s rights.

The author is even giving the feminine readers the illusion that a wife can reject the husband’s sexual advances. From my perspective, the sexual aspect is insinuated with the question the beast asks each evening: the hand in marriage is a metaphor for sex. But we can imagine that this was not the reality. It was expected that a wife submitted herself to her husband’s authority and wishes.

Because of this statement, it becomes more clear why Belle was developed like that. She should be seen as a role model for all the young women in the 18th Century. They all should be innocent, kind, honest, filial, selfless and modest. They should occupy their time with books and not focused too much on festivities and their appearances. For me, according to this book, women should live more in the background, rather secluded so that they wouldn’t spend too much money. They should also obey to their husband. Breaking her promise is similar to a crime as it almost causes the Beast’s death. The moment they are married, the daughter is no longer part of her father’s family. Let’s not forget that the author is herself a woman from the nobility hence she wanted to teach young women what they should expect in a marriage and how they should behave. This is not surprising that the new adaptations of Beauty and the Beast are modernized and convey other values (f. ex. women’s education and independency in the movie from 2017).

Now, it is time to list all the most important characteristics encountered in the fairy tale:

  1. The protagonist’s innocence, humbleness, gentleness and kindness
  2. A deal between two persons
  3. The Beast as the second main lead: he instills fear and has a negative reputation
  4. The innocent main lead saves the powerful beast from his death and releases him from his curse
  5. Blows of fate: loss of fortune and social downfall
  6. A sacrifice has to be made by the protagonist
  7. An arranged marriage, love will come gradually versus love marriage
  8. “Stockholm Syndrome”
  9. Sex: The wife can refuse her husband’s advances
  10. The rejection of superficiality and vanity
  11. Brother-sister relationship and their problem: rivalry and jealousy
  12. The presence of a mirror
  13. Conspiracy and life threatening situations
  14. Abandonment. The sisters desires Belle to replace their father as they blame her for that incident. After arriving at the beast’s mansion, Belle is left behind by her father
  15. Loneliness. She has no one she can turn to, except her husband, hence at some point she starts looking forward for their meeting
  16. The mansion as prison
  17. Live in the background and find an occupation like reading books and walking through the garden

Now, I’ll compare the manhwas Painter Of The Night and Serene Bird with the elements from the tale, however I can’t treat them separately as they are often strongly connected to others.

As you can imagine, Baek Na-Kyum resembles a lot Belle due to his personality: strong-willed, hardworking, social, humble, selfless, innocent, brave and willing to sacrifice himself for his teacher in different occasions:

  1. chapter 8, when he accepts the deal,
  2. in the hall, when he stops the noble from killing the teacher with a fellatio (chapter 26)
  3. and in the chapter 30 In the courtyard, he recognizes Seungho’s killing gaze hence he submits himself to the noble. Furthermore, he lived quietly despite the huge success of his erotic publications, until he vowed never to paint. Even after that, he becomes a drunk, until he is forced to paint for Yoon Seungho. After getting abandoned by Jung In-Hun in the chapter 40, he begins painting like a robot, however at no moment he tries to get praise for his work and to get the lord’s attention. He remains humble and prefers being in the background. Due to the high number of abandonments (he was abandoned in front of the brothel, then by the head-gisaeng and finally twice by the teacher), Baek Na-Kyum feels abandoned and very lonely. Imagine, in the chapter 46, he confesses to the head-maid that he escaped once again but returned because he had nowhere else to go. He fears loneliness and longs for a home.

And now it is time to introduce the new manhwa. In this story, Yoo Chung was a traditional Korean dancer who renounced to his career for his twin brother’s sake Yoo Hong. The hero has many reasons to do so: he feels very guilty because he was adopted without his twin brother and couldn’t keep his promise to remain by his side. Secondly, Yoo Hong got sexually abused by the director of an orphanage and Yoo Chung feels responsible. If the latter hadn’t slept too long and had gone to the director’s office like asked, then his brother wouldn’t have become the victim. The main lead embodies innocence and purity which is indicated with the crane, the color of his clothes (blue-white), the hydrangea representing him and his habit to bite his finger nails, when he is stressed . When the other main lead Sha Hu Rong appears at the café where he’s working, Chung rejects the deal to be scouted. He doesn’t want to become a famous dancer. Although he never expresses it directly, it is clear that his twin brother is the reason for this decision. Yoo Chung doesn’t desire to ruin Hong’s dream for fame. He senses that his resemblance with his brother could become problematic for his career. The other reason for his action is that he fears loneliness and has abandonment issues, just like Baek Na-Kyum. His birth mother abandoned him, he lost his twin brother for a while and his adoptive parents died in an accident. In other words, he is another Belle and Baek Na-Kyum but in another century. Since Sha Hu Rong is here describing him, this exposes how well he knows Yoo Chung’s personality and how much he admires him for his purity. This explicates why the seme doesn’t give up on Yoo Chung after the first rejection because his real purpose is to have him as his lover. That’s why later, the man with the nickname Serpent uses his company to pressure the Entertainment company where Yoo Hong works as a trainee. The CEO is postponing the signature of the deal between the two companies. Sha Hu Rong’s well aware that the twin brother will force his sincere and selfless hyung to contact him. As a result, the pure man begs Sha Hu Rong and asks for his help. That’s why Yoo Chun sleeps with the main lead after this. We could definitely say, he prostitutes himself for his brother’s sake. Despite this action, Yoo Chung remains so pure and Serpent is well aware of his real situation. Furthemore, I would like to add this is not their first sexual encounter. The hero had sex with Sha Hu Rong before and he did it on his own accord implying that he is a natural homosexual. Yet the next morning, he told Serpent that this was just an one-night stand. That’s why the seme used the deal with the Korean entertainment company in order to incite the hero to return to his side. As the manhwaphiles can detect, we have two semes using strategies to obtain results, similar to the Beast’s behavior. In order to get a wife, he manipulated the former merchant and made the offer that a daughter could take his place. He must have realized that the man must be close to a woman since he only intervened the moment the man picked up a rose. In my opinion, the rose was a signal that there existed a woman in the guest’s life. In order to get more info, he threatens the man and once he hears the whole story, then he makes the offer. As you can observe, all the Beasts are quite manipulative.

The irony is that the two ukes are unaware of the real personality of the persons they are trying to protect. These persons are vicious, selfish and hypocrite. One might argue that Belle’s father is different as he loves his daughter dearly. Yet, the father is not entirely innocent either. He fails as a merchant and secondly, he allows his two other daughters to act selfishly. He doesn’t stop them, when the latter use Belle as a servant and even blame her for being responsible for their father’s misfortune. So the father is also a character full of flaws and Belle is oblivious to his flaws too. Yet, in the manhwas, the negative features of the person the innocent protagonists wish to protect are enhanced. Both believe that the person they love and respect is a truly good person and deserves such a sacrifice. Belle’s father might have flaws but he’s not that mean and sneaky. All the heroes are so nice that they never complain about their sad fate. Since Yoo Chung has dropped his career as dancer, he works diligently at a café and during the night at a motel. Baek Na-Kyum was willing to give up on his work as painter in order to follow his “father’s doctrine”. Besides, he can’t even tell his learned sir that he has been forced to paint or even got raped. He always has to hide these horrible situations. The protagonist from Serene Bird doesn’t feel the need to confide to his brother that he slept with the Chinese man, since he feels that he is less important and his life should revolve around Yoo Hong. He has decided to dedicate his life to have his brother’s wishes come true.

In Painter Of The Night, Yoon Seungho has such a bad reputation, he is called an infamous hell-raiser. He shows no respect to social norms with his actions giving the impression that he is living like an animal. He even instills a certain fear due to his ruthlessness, very similar to the Beast. Besides he’s also very rich and lives alone in his mansion, another common denominator with the main lead from that fairy tale. I am not counting the staff because the lord never pays attention to them. He’s also older than Baek Na-Kyum who has just become an adult. Furthermore, since Yoon Seungho has a very traumatic past which is somehow very similar to a curse, he can no longer live normally. Until the chapter 49, he considered himself just as a spirit. And as time passes on, he shows more and more kindness towards Baek Na-Kyum, thereby even the painter starts noticing it. So deep down, the noble has a good heart but could never show it due to his terrible experience. Thus his actions are also similar: he uses threads and forces the painter to swear an oath of allegiance. Belle had to promise to return to his castle after 8 days. As the manhwaphiles could sense, he has many affinities with the beast. Let’s not forget that I even associated him to an eagle due to his behavior and gestures, like the hand looking like a claw.

In Serene Bird, the seme is actually the head of a powerful mafia clan called Kowloon Ring, hence he has this huge tattoo on his back: a snake. That’s why his nickname is Serpent. Strictly speaking, he is associated to a beast too. The Kowloon Ring consists of 9 bosses and Sha Hu Rong is the face of the Kowloon Ring. Due to his social situation, he lives on the edge of society. When he interacts with Yoo Chung, the former asks his lover if he fears him.

As you can observe, the innocent lover does find Sha Hu Rong a little frightening but it has more something to do with his sexual stamina from my point of view. The ugliness inducing fear is represented by his job: he belongs to the mafia and his life is full of danger. Interesting is that from the start, Yoo Chung never saw Serpent’s dangerous side, contrary to his friend Jun Hyung, hence he has a similar attitude like Belle. This explains why he tries to help the head of the clan, when he imagines him surrounded by dangerous thugs. Imagine the irony, the boss has to run away from his own minions, dragged by this very agile and fragile man. And just like the beast, Serpent shows his care and kindness which doesn’t escape the main lead’s notice.

Here, I see a divergence between Baek Na-Kyum, Belle and Yoo Chung in their initial interaction with their respective Beast. Unlike the other characters, the painter is somehow afraid of Yoon Seungho due to the rumor circulating about him, hence he lies about his identity. He doesn’t wish to be associated with such a person, he wants to be seen as a person with a normal sexual orientation or even worse, as an asexual person. However, this difference is explainable. His mind has been corrupted by Jung In-Hun therefore we could say that he is less pure and innocent than Belle and Yoo Chung. He has some prejudices which make him blind to the truth: his teacher is in reality the Beast.

Another interesting aspect is that all three Beasts are powerless at the same time, although they are strong financially and physically. The Beast can’t leave his mansion and can’t force Belle to return to his side. His castle is his prison. Yoon Seungho fears his own reflection and seems to be avoiding the capital. I have the impression that the gangrape must have happened there. So he is also trapped in his mansion. He might leave his house in order to visit other nobles (chapter 3, chapter 6 and 33) or to hunt (chapter 22 and 41) or to follow the painter in the town (39, 40 and 45), yet he never travels far away, he always remains in the proximity of his mansion. This exposes the function of his house: it serves as a protection but as a prison as well.

As for Sha Hu Rong, he is also vulnerable and powerless. He can’t avoid Yoo Chung’s kidnapping and his gangrape. And just like the other protagonists, he is hindered in his moves. He explains that he needs to go where the crane’s nest is. Here, the seme is referring to Yoo Chung with this metaphor because while dancing, the innocent man reminded Serpent of a crane. In other words, the mafia boss is forced to follow his lover in order to win his affection completely. As a conclusion, Shu Ha Rong shares so many features with the main lead from the fairy tale and Yoon Seungho too. His “prison” is just different, it is connected to his position as mafia boss. Besides, he’s already bound to Yoo Chung.

The role played by the hero: Both seme have the same function than Belle. They are all the savior of their respective Beast. The painter forces the main lead to abandon his philosophy (living as a spirit) and to leave his self-inflicted prison. But for that, Baek Na-Kyum had to force the noble to see his own reflection and confront his past. As for Yoo Chung, first he “rescues” Serpent from a danger, although he misunderstands the situation. Later, it becomes clearer that Serpent is feeling lonely and can only find peace and love thanks to the “crane”. Due to his dangerous “job”, he will always be reclusive hence he needs a companion next to him. He made this decision at a very young age, as he knew his future. However, his choice for Yoo Chung is not random. First, he met him, when they were both young Furthermore he fell in love with him the moment he saw his Korean dance. Notice the age gap between the two protagonists. As you can observe, the age gap is indeed a parallel to Beauty and the Beast. Sha Hu Rong is well aware that the moment the former dancer chooses him as his partner, the man will be forced to live in a cage. As you can observe, the mansion from the fairy tale as a prison becomes here a cage. However, the order has been changed. Here, the seme wants Yoo Chung to love him before he puts him in “his birdcage”, while in Beauty and the Beast, love only comes at the end and she lives in a prison first.

4. Another similarity between the manhwas and the fairy tale is the terrible fate afflicted on the heroes. There are conspiracies (murder assassination, kidnapping, rapes etc). Both “Prince Charmings”, Baek Na-Kyum and Yoo Chung, have to suffer a lot because of jealousy. In Painter Of The Night, due to the coercive persuasion, the artist rejects the lord which leads the latter to force himself on the low-born. However, none of this would have happened, if the painter had not been brainwashed. From the start, he felt attracted to the lord (the wet dreams and the mirror: chapter 2, 6 and 28). Moreover, because of Jihwa and Jung In-Hun, the painter is sentenced to the straw mat beating (chapter 11/12). Yet, we observe three persons hurting the painter due to their jealousy (Jihwa, Jung In-Hun and Min), while there are only two jealous sisters in the famous story. Yet, Jihwa represents an exception as he is not purely evil. His heart has been corrupted. Despise the different number of resentful persons, I see no real difference because when at the end of the tale the two sisters are punished, the fairy announces that their curse will end the moment they realize their flaws and wrongdoings. As you can detect, redemption is possible, although it is not revealed. The fairy implies that they will never change but since the story ends before, we don’t know for sure. Byeonduck proposes atonement either. Jihwa embodies exactly this aspect. The second season will be about his transformation and redemption. Atonement is always accompanied with suffering, hence Jihwa will suffer a lot in the second season. His mind is already in pain, he’s tormented by his huge pangs of conscience.

When we examine Serene Bird, we have indeed two jealous brothers, however the constellation diverges. The “two sisters” in this story are Sho Wang, Sha Ru Hong’s older brother, and Yoo Hong, Yoo Chung’s twin.

Sho Wang and Sha Hu Rong were adopted by Baek Ro, a woman originated from Korea but who lived in China as the head of Kowloon Ring.

So the source of the older brother’s jealousy is greed and rivalry. As the eldest, he should have become the head of Kowloon Ring but Sha Ru Hong got chosen in the end. However, I also think that his jealousy started even before. When he sees the affection Serpent has for Yoo Chung , he feels the need to retrieve the “crane” from Sha Ru Rong. He also would like to have such a relationship. However, he only views the pure man as a “precious” that he needs to take away from his younger brother. So he is the one orchestrating the abduction and the rape. And during Yoo Chung’s captivity, we have to wonder if “Stockholm Syndrome” will occur. First, the vicious Sho Wang uses an aphrodisiac so that he can have sex with Yoo Chung without meeting any resistance. Furthermore, the illustration of Serene Bird is Yoo Chun with his two shoulders covered with a tattoo. They represent the snakes Sha Ru Hong and Sho Wang have on their back. For sure, both brothers will fight each other because of Yoo Chung.

As for the younger twin, Hong is jealous of Chung because the latter always attracts more people’s attention, although they look the same. He shows his true colors the moment his older brother appears at his company. Yoo Chung cooked lunch for him and wished to meet his younger brother. Note Yoo Hong’s coldness towards him and how he pouts the moment he hears from his colleague that Yoo Chung could replace him due to their huge resemblance. Right after, he vents his anger at his hyung in front of the other trainee which surprises the latter. He never thought, Yoo Hong could become so rude. However, I believe, there’s another cause for his fury. “Replacement” reminded him of his past. From my perspective, Yoo Chung decided to take his brother’s identity as the latter didn’t want to leave the orphanage without his hyung. Baek Seung-Hyun, the adoptive uncle of Sha Hu Rong, adopted one of the orphans. The one crying on the left is Yoo Hong, while the other smiling is his hyung. By switching their identity, it explains why it took so many years before Serpent could meet his “crane”. He must have seen Yoo Hong’s face and mistaken him for his older brother. Since Serpent speaks about the real thing, he implies that there’s a copy, a fake. And this leads me to another observation: the presence of the mirror in Serene Bird. Yoo Hong is the reflection and as such indicates the existence of a mirror, the same procedure in Painter Of The Night, where the painter’s face serves as a mirror. The other difference is that Byeonduck used in her historical manhwa much more the mirror (chapter 3, 28, 31-32, 41, 54) compared to Serene Bird. Yet I have to say that the story has less chapters so Brothers Without A Tomorrow could have already planned to utilize this important item in other chapters.

But now, let’s go back to Yoo Hong’s jealousy. I sense that the switch of place wasn’t the start of his resent and jealousy. Remember what I wrote above: Yoo Hong got raped, when initially he took his brother’s identity. For that, I need to explain how it came to this. After getting abandoned by their young mother, they had to share a pack of gum, the last present bought by their mother. The two boys always divided the gums equally, until one day, it was stolen by another child from the orphanage. Yoo Chung got so angry that he started a fight and got punished by the director. His calves were severely caned. First, this illustrates how courageous Yoo Chung is, he showed no fear to argue with the other child and he accepted his punishment without complaint. What caught my attention is that while the hyung explains that he needs to visit the director in his office in the evening, the manhwaphiles witness Hong’s gaze. It is directed at the gum on the floor. Due to these two pictures, I came to the observation that the younger brother must have been the one who stole the gum. Furthermore, if you pay attention to the colors of the clothes Yoo Hong, you’ll notice that he prefers green, orange and red. And this is no coincidence, the negative aspects associated to orange are: lie, deception, jealousy in a couple. As for red it is fury, anger and blood. Green is famous for representing envy and jealousy. So early on, Yoo Hong felt jealous and wanted to have more. He always let his brother burdened everything. Nonetheless I believe that he realized at some point that he needed his twin by his side in order to become successful. That’s why he keeps him by his side and views him as an object. Yet he doesn’t want to be seen together, thus they are barely together in the end. Their real connection is through the phone and Yoo Hong only calls him, if he wants some help. So when Yoo Hong realizes that Sha Hu Rong is trying to steal Yoo Chung from him, he immediately requests from his brother to cut ties with the CEO. He doesn’t care if he used his brother as a prostitute. The problem is that we don’t know if there will be a redemption arc in this manhwa. The story has only 31 episodes released in English, yet it shouldn’t be excluded.

Since I mentioned the “Stockholm Syndrome” in the fairy tale and already noticed that this could occur in Serene Bird, I would like to explain if we have this phenomenon in Painter Of The Night. And yes, it’s true, yet Baek Na-Kyum has developed the Stockholm Syndrome with Jung In-Hun and not with Yoon Seungho. There are many evidences for this. Let’s not forget that after the painter was abandoned by his adoptive mother, he was living with the teacher so that he was exposed to physical, emotional and mental abuse. Since he had no other place to go, he could never escape this hell. It became so terrible that his unconscious decided to repress this memory. These memories are so terrifying that he wakes up so suddenly. Imagine, his unconscious can’t bear to view these images, hence it forces the painter to wake up. The artist’s conscious is here to help the unconscious to overcome the trauma. Many readers underestimated these drawings as they are shown only once and some thought, this was an occasional punishment. However, the artist’s reaction displays shock and fear. They were deeply buried in his unconscious. The Stockholm Syndrome explains why the painter started “loving” Jung In-Hun and neglected after the first abandonment. Let’s not forget that he became a drunk! His love was associated to the mind and never to the heart. And the fact that we see how Baek Na-Kyum fantasies about Yoon Seungho in a conscious and unconscious state clearly proves that the painter is definitely attracted by Yoon Seungho’s body. The Stockholm Syndrome has no effect on the unconscious. So the Beast’s ugliness in Painter Of The Night is more related to the image Yoon Seungho has created through his rumors than his body and face. Furthermore, we shouldn’t forget that the artist was the first one to discover the main lead’s true face: his huge smiles and happiness, when he met the lord for the first time. However, just like in the fairy tale, the artist starts discovering new aspects about the master: he can be caring and kind towards him.

Like I mentioned above, I see in the fairy tale a description of an arranged marriage which turns into a love marriage. As you can anticipate, we have a similar evolution here. Baek Na-Kyum gets closer to his “husband”. As for the lord, he imagined that once he had taken the boy’s virginity, the artist had become “his wife”, although his conscious never realized the meaning of his actions. Deep down, Seungho wished to be loved. But nothing happened like expected, since it was an arranged marriage right from the beginning. Remember that it started with a deal. The surrogate father would get support in exchange for the painter’s talent. Furthermore the manhwaphiles should envision that Jung In-Hun was well aware that putting a repressed homosexual next to the biggest sodomite could only lead to one thing: sex! That’s why he accused the artist of seducing the noble and refused to believe in the low-born’s words (chapter 19), when the nature of the deal was unveiled.

However, the moment he accepted the truth, Jung In-Hun started acting as a father selling his “daughter” in exchange for his support. We have elements of arranged marriage in Painter Of The Night but Yoon Seungho’s unconscious is longing for love and as such for a marriage of love. And little by little, we are getting there, the love marriage will arrive. We have a similar evolution in Serene Bird, although it is a combination between arranged marriage and love marriage. Serpent knows that he needs Yoo Chung to fall in love with him in order to put him by his side, “his bird cage”. The uke is slowly falling in Sha Hu Rong but doesn’t realize it. On the other hand, he doesn’t know his lover very well and is not aware what awaits him: the bird cage.

After comparing both manhwas with the fairy tales and outlining that both manhwas contain all the elements listed, we have the impression that Painter Of The Night and Serene Bird are just two modern versions of Beauty and the Beast. However, it is important to remember the lessons expressed through the original story. The author was not a representative of women’s rights, quite the opposite. Moreover, we have to remember that stories always reflect the social norms of their society. And this is not different with the two manhwas. Both are also mirroring the mentality of our modern society, where freedom and individuality are in the center. Besides, homosexuality should be accepted as normality which coincides with the gradual acceptance of homosexual marriages. This explains why the protagonists are men and not a normal romance between a woman and man. In the 18th Century, it was unthinkable to write about a homosexual couple.

Furthermore, these stories reflect the sexual emancipation of women because the majority of readers of these manhwas are indeed women. The uke can be perceived as a metaphor for a woman. Note that women’s emancipation concurs with the homosexuals’ liberation (20’s and 60′). Sex is nothing embarrassing, quite natural. Women and homosexuals can outlive their sexual fantasies but at the same time quench their thirst for romance. Women are quite sensitive to beautiful love stories. Furthermore, since the authors depict gangrape and rape as violent physical assaults, they are actually condemning these which corresponds to the appearance of “Me too” movement. What was omitted in the fairy tale (sex) is clearly unveiled. However, all these works have one message in common: They expose that women are owners of their own body and can choose if they want to have sex and not.

The other message is that marriage is not just about love and sex, but the acceptance of the partner’s flaws and mistakes. Let’s not forget that nowadays marriages tend to end up in a divorce. The increasing rate of divorces all over the world shows that the definition of marriage has changed. People seem to forget that marriage is indeed about companionship too, living with someone with flaws and deals with them. That’s why I don’t see in Beatuy and the Beast an indication of Stockholm Syndrome, rather the author tried to display how a lovely marriage should be: real communication, acceptance of flaws, forgiveness and endurance. I hope, after reading this essay, you’ll read the other manhwa and you’ll try to discover what other lessons Painter Of The Night gives to its readers.

Feel free to comment. If you have any suggestion for topics or manhwas, feel free to ask. If you enjoyed reading it, retweet it or push the button like. My tumblr-twitter account is: @bebebisous33. Thanks for reading and the support.

4 thoughts on “Painter Of The Night/Serene Bird: traces of Beauty and the Beast in the manhwas

  1. We had some vague information from Seungho’s past in the new chapter (55). We see his father with a kid (apparently it’s Seungho’s little brother. The author just twitted it) and someone (==Seungho) is clearly laying on the ground and looking at them. It looks like the kid is trying to go towards Seungho but his father is stopping him ( his hand shows it clearly). Seungho is obviously helpless and probably humiliated at that very moment.

    Interestingly, while recalling that traumatic event, he links it with his feelings to Nakyum and is wondering why it is happening again! He then thinks if killing “them” and himself would have been a way out of his torments. My interpretation is that in the past, he felt deeply in love with someone and that person was prohibited to him. Either because it was a man, a servant/lowborn or someone noble from an enemy family. When his father found out, he did something terrible (probably tortured and killed that person in front of helpless Seungho) and then humiliated and kicked Seungho out of their mansion. I don’t know who are the other people Seungho is referring to though. Maybe some other people joined his father to capture Seungho’s loved one if he belongs to a noble enemy family(?). Or could it be that the person whom he fell in love with betrayed him and used him for spying some political information. So Seungho wanted to kill that person as well…

    Anyways, I am thinking that’s possibly what happened… Otherwise, why would Seungho say that he is feeling the same all over again? He is experiencing feelings towards another person (NK) just like it happened before and that led to his end. He thought he was numbed and unable to feel such emotions again but Nakyum proved him wrong. He is now confused and angry against himself as well as against Nakyum for making him feel love again and consequently remember his traumatic experience. He finally is aware of it and that is a good progress. Another huge step is Nakyum realizing Min’s words could be true.

    What are your thoughts and theories guys?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Great. I like reading other people theories :)) Are you still thinking it’s related to a gang rape though? In my opinion it’s something different.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I still think so but here, it is related to the incident of the topknot where he got dragged and his father ordered the servant to cut him his topknot! Remember, I wrote that this gesture is like a castration! He felt powerless and his father whom he loved before, condemned him to this humiliation and he only saw his father’s rejection/abandonment.


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