This is where you can read the manhwas. https://www.lezhinus.com/en/comic/pawn https://www.lezhinus.com/en/comic/painter But be aware that these manhwas are a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. If you want to read more essays, here is the link to the table of contents of Painter Of The Night: https://bebebisous33analyses.wordpress.com/2020/07/04/table-of-contents-painter-of-the-night/ As for The Pawn’s Revenge, this is where you can read other essays: https://bebebisous33analyses.com/2021/06/06/table-of-contents-of-analyzed-mentioned-manhwas/
Warning: I used the German version Snow White “Schneewittchen” as basis. Hence I translated myself the quotes.
Everything started with this panel: (chapter 22) The protagonist starts viewing himself as the main character from the fairytale Snow White. Hence he comes to the conclusion that since he is Snow White, then there must be a hunter and a witch, the famous stepmother of Snow White. (chapter 22). That’s why he believes that Do Seong-Rok is the huntsman, while Jeon Hee Seong is the witch, because the former didn’t kill him. The former prostitute had planned to get rid of the young man, as he represented a source of danger for her. That’s why she ordered the killing to her lover. Soon after the release, an user asked Evy who was the Prince in this story. The author replied by denying his existence in this story.
What caught my attention is that there are more references of Snow White in this manhwa, like for example the presence of the shared apple. (chapter 24) Thanks to The Pawn’s Revenge, I came to recognize that even Painter Of The Night has so many common denominators with this fairytale. (chapter 23) That’s the reason why I decided to compare the two manhwas with Snow White. This means, I’ll also explain why they diverge. But for that, it is necessary to explain the fairytale Snow White and its functions.
1. The fairytale Snow White and its purposes
Actually, the focus of this fairytale is the daughter-mother relationship creating some rivalry and jealousy. Though there exists so many stories about this topic (for more read this article https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/07/the-tale-of-snow-white-and-what-the-various-versions-mean-to-us/), only two are famous, the fairytale written by the brothers Grimm (19th Century) and the version from Walt Disney, “Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs” (1937).
1. 1. Grimm versus Walt Disney
But the famous psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, who considered tales as very important for the child’s development, looked down on the version from Walt Disney calling it “empty minded entertainment”, as the creators had modified too much the Grimms’ story to the point that it had softened and robbed the meaning of this fairytale. Why did he say that? It is because the darkness from the Grimms’ version had totally disappeared. The stepmother in Walt Disney’s version doesn’t eat the lever and lung of a boar boiled in salt in order to keep her beauty, or she doesn’t asphyxiate Snow White with a lacing strap. The jealousy had turned into more in a rivalry and competition because of beauty. Besides, the movie focused on fated love too, for the prince met Snow White as a child. As you can see, the prince plays a bigger role in the movie. For Bruno Bettelheim, only the Grimms’ version is the true one, as it truly deals with the oedipal complex.
The oedipal complex is when a young daughter feels jealous of her own mother, she is unconsciously attracted to her father. But since having such feelings is forbidden, she projects her own jealousy onto her mother. That’s why the daughter feels that her mother is jealous of her. The darkness from the child is now personified by the “mother”. I need to add that the German authors turned the mother into a stepmother in the second version. For Bettelheim, the fairytale helps a child to overcome the negative emotions (oedipal complex, jealousy, rivalry), it also helps him/her to understand the world around by giving him/her a meaning to life. Furthermore, it explains to the young daughters the future transformation unconsciously: it announces the adolescence and adulthood through sexuality. We have to imagine, when Snow White lives with the dwarfs, she is protected growing up in an environment free from sexuality. So when the Queen offers the apple and both are eating from the same apple, Snow White discovers sex and temptation. The apple is a reference to the bible. And now, you comprehend why I choose such a title. The Queen is a witch introducing Snow White to sexuality. As you can see, Bruno Bettelheim judged the fairytale from the point of view of a psychologist. Yet what he failed to realize is that fairytales have other functions.
1. 2. Fairytale and History
First, fairytales were not written for just children, but also for grown-ups. They were supposed to teach lessons to the adults.
“They were meant to entertain adults while they were spinning, sewing, repairing tools, and doing chores late at night. John Updike tells us that fairy tales were the television and pornography of an earlier age, and a story like that is revelatory about the true uses of enchantment.” quoted from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/07/the-tale-of-snow-white-and-what-the-various-versions-mean-to-us/
How to deal for example, when a lord betrays or abandons a servant? Here, I would like to outline that the notion “family” is strongly connected to the house, and as such a household including the staff. Imagine that Snow White is a maid. Remember that the Queen acts as a lord, the head of the house, so when she orders Snow White’s execution, the young girl can only escape from this terrible fate thanks to the hunter’s fake generosity. This story shows that a servant or even daughter has no right, the lord can do whatever he wants. He won’t get sanctioned. And this remark leads me to the following statement. Bettelheim didn’t recognize that fairytales actually reflect history and the society of their period.
And now, you comprehend why the Disney version was less brutal, more romantic and the Dwarfs were portrayed as rich but hardworking miners. When the American author released the fairytale, marriage in America is associated to love. There exists the myth about fated love too. In addition, American society is promoting free market economy and hard work: American dream. Therefore we see the Dwarfs working so hard in the mine while singing. In the other version, it is just said casually. The parents are supposed to protect their children from any kind of violence, the children have even rights. Consequently the cruelty was removed. Moreover, motherhood is considered as sacred, while in the past, it was different. In the 18th Century and even before, parents didn’t ponder on how to raise their children properly. There were neither psychologist nor pediatrician nor educationalist. The children just needed to learn how to act and dress according to their social status. They were treated like small adults. However, slowly from the end of the 18th Century on, government and as such society started perceiving children differently, as a tool for their own politics. Napoleon created lycées (high schools) in order to increase his army. He promoted education, while in truth he misused it for propaganda and indoctrination. My point is that when the brothers Grimm published Snow White, people treated young children differently than in 1937 in the United States. In Germany, adults used fear to control the children!
Secondly, violence was a way to expose the children to the brutality of their world (there were many revolutions in Germany in 19th Century). But there’s more to it. And we have a proof that Snow White from the brothers Grimm reflected the society of the 19th Century: the presence of a lacing strap.
“But the old woman quickly laced and laced so tightly that Snow White lost her breath and thought she was dead.”
It was a reference to the corset. Young girls would try to lace their corset so tight that they could faint. This was one of the lessons in Snow White: “Don’t lace the corset to tight, because you could have the same fate than Snow White!” This explicates why Walt Disney didn’t include this scene in his story. The corset had vanished from fashion a long time ago. How did I realize that old fairytales are a mirror of the past? It is because when I was a P. A. of a History professor, I was asked to translate his essay about the definition of House and Foreign in late Middle Age and early modern times, and he used the fairytale “Town Musicians of Bremen” from Grimm as an example. The servants were indeed part of the House, once they were old, they would be thrown out of the mansion. The house was a synonym for family, like I mentioned above. During the Middle-Age, European cities, like Bremen, became more and more powerful leading to their emancipation from lords. Bremen like other cities became independent, hence the city councils could hire hire their own musicians. Though this fairytale was written in the 19th Century, it let transpire the social norms and mentality from a previous period. That’s why I came to the conclusion that Snow White must also reflect society from the 19th Century. I could give you another example.
In the Grimms’ version, the presence of sexuality was hidden, because it was symbolized by the apple. Since religion occupied a huge place in the 19th Century, people knew the bible. Consequently they could comprehend the message. But the moment Snow White ate the apple, she discovered sex. But note that she fell into a deep sleep right away. Once she woke up due to an accident occurring during the transportation of the coffin, Snow White had already found her husband, the prince. The latter had selected her as his bride, as he couldn’t forget her. The prince had even asked for the dwarfs’ permission.
“Then he said to the dwarves, “Let me have the coffin, and I will give you what you want for it.”
In other words, this fairy tale was promoting marriage of convenience and the interdiction of sex before marriage, while in the Disney version we have the opposite message. Since the prince kisses the protagonist, before he marries her, it implies that sex can occur before marriage.
Thus even if I consider that The Pawn’s revenge and Painter Of The Night are new versions of Snow-White, they can only be different. Now, sexuality, sexual education and homosexuality are no longer a taboo. That’s the reason why there is no hidden message concerning this topic. As a conclusion, the stories will reflect Korean society or modern society as such. The stories will teach lessons to the readers and give meaning to their life, but only if they decide to ponder about these stories.
This truly exposes that Grimms’ and Walt Disney’s Snow White is just a mirror of the past. But don’t get me wrong: these fairytales are still useful. First, like Bruno Bettelheim, they help children to forge their own identity and to navigate in the world as moral compass. Since the characters are black (evil) or white (good), the children can easily differentiate between right and wrong. Simultaneously, the fairytales prepare them to recognize that reality is more complex. We have the perfect example in Snow White (Grimm) with the huntsman.
1. 3. The lesson taught by the huntsman
It seems that people only remembers him as a good-hearted man, as he had pity and disobeyed the Queen’s orders. But what many don’t know or overlooked is that the huntsman embodies cowardice and selfishness. In truth, he is just a weak-hearted person and a hypocrite.
“And because she was so beautiful, the hunter took pity on her and said, “So run along, you poor child!” The wild animals will soon have eaten you, he thought, and yet he felt as if a stone had rolled from his heart, because he did not need to kill her.“
He acts kind and benevolent in front of Snow White, while in reality he envisions that she will die. At no moment, he wants to save her. She survives, because he doesn’t want to feel guilty and fate is on her side. This means, he just refuses to become responsible for her death. Others will do it for him. That way, his Queen won’t notice that he disobeyed. And notice that the moment the stepmother discovered that she had been played, the huntsman’s disobedience was not punished. Why? It is because she didn’t discover it right away. She ate the lung and lever believing that these were the parts of Snow White.
As you can see, the fairytale was teaching the meaning of fake kindness, cowardice and hypocrisy. But the irony is that in the latest movies, the huntsman was turned into a hero! In addition, it also exposes the “powerlessness” of the Queen. The huntsman could fool her due to her obsession. Simultaneously, it teaches that disobedience doesn’t lead to a death sentence. Here, I would like to point out that after the end of World War II, many German soldiers or guards from camps of concentration claimed that they didn’t dare to disobey. They just followed the orders they had received as a justification for their misdeeds. The reality is that it was just a myth. Historians could prove that no one got executed or no one was forced to become a guard in a camp of concentration.
1. 4. Definition of a fairytale
Because of these parallels between The Pawn’s Revenge, Painter Of The Night and Snow White, I wondered if the manhwas could be considered as fairytales. The presence of violence or sexuality can not be judged as evidences that they can not be fairytales, for they are considered as old form of pornography, destined to adults too. So what is the definition of fairytale?
The story must contain the following elements:
- The presence of magic and supernatural beings: witch, animals acting like humans, fairies etc.
- The characters are seldom given a precise identity. The characters are portrayed very briefly. They are associated to features, like for example, the Queen embodies vanity, superficiality and jealousy.
- The existence of trials, the heroine has to go through different bad experiences in order to grow and mature.
- The place and times: They are usually not defined in order to give a timeless dimension.
- The ending: People usually think that all the fairytales have a good ending, but this is not true. The fairytales from Andersen (The little Mermaid, the little Match girl) have often tragic ending.
According to this definition, The Pawn’s revenge can’t be considered as a fairytale, for there is no magic. But I would like to point out that The Pawn’s revenge still contains some “supernatural elements”. Lee Je-Oh compares the serial killer to a grim reaper (chapter 1) or a god. Then the characters are often associated to animals: dog, mutt, snake, horse, pig, elephant, chicken (chapter 2). Furthermore, the figures in this story are perceived as living pawns of Janggi. (chapter 12) Finally , I compared Jeon See Heong to a mermaid (chapter 6) bewitching her prey. On the other hand, the figures have a precise identity. The time and the place are quite defined. As for Painter Of The Night, it looks like the same. We know the birthdays of Yoon Seungho and Baek Na-Kyum and there’s no magic or supernatural elements. Yet, we sometimes see the presence of magic and a lustful spell. Imagine, in this scene we have the impression that the painter’s spirit summoned the Ghost Seungho to approach him. Striking is that this repressed desired got fulfilled. While he had his eyes closed, the lord approached him. Another positive aspect is that the time and space are not defined. It’s just Joseon period, but that’s it. The mention of Hanyang can not be seen as transgression, because remember that there exists the fairytale Town Musicians of Bremen. The town has no name. Byeonduck said that her manhwa was not a historical story, but she found her inspiration in History. Besides, the trials of the two protagonists are more in the center, while Lee Je-Oh and Do Seong-Rok have already struggled, before the story starts. Consequently, Painter Of The Night resembles a lot more to a fairytale than The Pawn’s revenge, though the sentence “once upon a time” is missing.
On the surface, this comparison seems pointless, yet I wanted to expose that these stories might not entirely correspond to a fairytale, they still resemble to Snow White. Just like the fairytales, the manhwas can have a deeper meaning, for they serve the same purposes: Teach lessons to adults, incite the readers to question their own society and social norms, develop a better understanding of psychology, encourage them to become more committed, less indifferent to injustice, more thoughtful and not judge people too quickly.
1. 5. The ingredients of Snow White
In order to be able to contrast the stories to the fairytale, it is necessary to list all the elements present in Snow White from the brothers Grimm. Besides, this version resembles more to the manhwas due to the sexual content. Seduction and temptation are more obvious. Nevertheless, I will not just list the characters and the relevant items present in the fairytale, but also the topics while giving some explanations:
- The 7 Dwarfs: owners of mines
- The presence of a witch (The Queen as the stepmother in the original story)
- The huntsman
- Snow White: Dark hair, white skin and red lips.
- The prince: a symbol for marriage
- The mirror of truth
- Arrogance and vanity: She keeps looking at her own reflection in the mirror. She feels entitled to be the most beautiful.
- Hidden fears and anxieties: The Queen still doesn’t believe her own eyes, hence she needs a confirmation from the mirror of Truth. In reality, the mother is full of insecurities, that’s the reason why she desires a confirmation.
- Reflection and critical thinking: She doesn’t ponder about the reason why the mirror of Truth is telling her that Snow White is more beautiful. She doesn’t distinguish between seeming and being.
- Jealousy and rivalry
- Oedipal complex
- Guilt and responsibility: Because the hunter didn’t want to feel guilty, he refused to follow the order. Yet he didn’t save her as well. Notice that the stepmother and the hunter desired to put the responsibility on others. The Queen blamed her step-daughter for her failure, whereas the huntsman desired to delegate the dirty work to others (animals). Both showed no true remorse in the end. The Queen failed in her quest, because she never reflected on her own actions. She is definitely responsible for her own failure and misery.
- Loyalty and betrayal: While the Queen betrays the daughter, the huntsman does the the heroine and the Queen. He is only loyal to himself and his own interests. Despite the discovery of the scheme, she doesn’t punish him, she vents her anger on the protagonist. On the other hand, Snow White still has a good impression of the huntsman.
- Neglect: the father seems inexistent and he doesn’t intervene.
- Obsession and blindness: The Queen is determined to become the fairest that she doesn’t understand what the mirror of Truth is telling her. She misunderstands the message: the mirror of Truth is telling her that “Schneewittchen” has the better personality. She is a 10000 better than the Queen, as she is more kind and selfless. The Queen doesn’t recognize her true personality.
- Abandonment: Notice that Snow White is sent away to woods in order to get murdered. This gesture symbolizes abandonment and betrayal. But the Queen is not the only one to blame. The father doesn’t seem to miss her disappearance as well. He neglects and abandons his daughter.
- Selfishness and fake altruism
- Death and murders
- Hypocrisy: Snow White never discovered the huntsman’s true personality.
- The presence of justice and injustice: While the huntsman escaped a punishment, the Queen was sentenced to death: “Iron slippers had already been heated over a fire, and they were brought over to her with tongs. Finally, she had to put on the red-hot slippers and dance until she fell down dead“. This means that the real perpetrator was only caught many years after the crimes. And it is, because the huntsman had told her what the Queen had ordered him to do. She relied on his testimony. But the protagonist never discovered the true thoughts of the huntsman. Yet, like I mentioned above, the hunter was not innocent. He might have committed no big crime towards Snow White, yet he was definitely a sinner and had not a good heart. According to our actual laws, the huntsman has perpetrated a wrongdoing: non-assistance of a person in danger. The moral of this fairytale is that true justice will never happen immediately or even worse: there exists no real justice.
- Ambition and Greed: Her quest to be the most beautiful exposes her greed. In fact, her fight is pointless, as she can’t fight against aging. She is already doomed to failure.
- Unconscious/conscious: Here, I would like the readers to keep in mind that according to Bruno Bettelheim, the fairytale was speaking to children’s unconscious, while the adults can learn lessons from this story consciously.
And now, it is time to analyze how similar the manhwas are to Snow White.
2. The Pawn’s revenge
As this essay is already long and to outline the similarities, I will put the common denominators to bold. Simultaneously, I will follow the list developed above by examining the main figures.
2. 1. The 7 Dwarves
Since the 7 Dwarves are owners of mines and seem to be very rich, I couldn’t help myself connecting these supernatural creatures to the following characters: Contrary to the fairytale, they embody not innocence, generosity, selflessness and chastity, but the opposite: sex, hypocrisy, corruption, selfishness, ruthlessness and immorality. They are not owners of mines, but they possess brothels which reminded me of chicken farms . They don’t live surrounded by nature and among animals, but in the city. The animals are the humans, they are treated like chickens. In other words, they stand in opposition to the dwarves of the fairytales: corruption, urbanization, poverty and misery. They don’t work themselves, but let others work for them like slaves. Yet they act, as if they were normal citizens abiding laws. This explicates why Ma Jong-Seok hides his affection from Snow White. He can’t be labelled as homosexual. The dwarfs, associated to different vices, symbolize the negative aspects of free market economy and the problems, when the government is not strong enough or too corrupt to stop such an evolution. I could even say, we have here the negative reflection of Snow White and the 7 Dwarves from Walt Disney. Motherhood is no longer sacred, the kids are exposed to any kind of abuse. Snow White is now held captive in the mansion of the dwarves! He is exposed to exploitation, the perverted version of Grimes’ version. In the fairytale, the young girl was supposed to take care of the house in exchange of protection, here we have the opposite: Enslavement. The male prostitute has no choice. But what they didn’t realize is that the witch would betray them. Hence I consider the apple as the tool the witch used to get rid of her rivals! The fruit served as a diversion, she was busy listening to their affairs so that she could develop her plan to climb the social ladders.
2. 2. The witch
Since Jeon Hee Seong was the one who introduced Do Seong-Rok to sex, she can definitely be seen as the witch and evil queen. She seduced him with her experience and insight. She could read him like an open book. She knew that he was so pure and innocent, hence she compared him to a lamb. Her resemblance to the evil mother explains why she is seen with the apple. However, unlike the fairytale, the fruit doesn’t symbolize sexuality, but betrayal. She is actually spying on the boss of the red light district and his minions. She behaves exactly like the Queen, as she is not longing for warmth and love. But her wish is still different, as she wishes power and wealth. Yet, they resemble each other, as both felt somehow powerless. In the fairytale, the absence or passivity of the king, Snow White’s father, gives me the impression that the evil Queen could have been a neglected wife, and the lord selected her as his new wife, out of convenience. He needed to have a wife by his side, and couldn’t remain as a widower. She was treated like a trophy explaining his absence. But because he married her for her beauty, it signifies that she had no power. Her appearance was her source of strength, and now you comprehend why she became obsessed with her image. If she lost her beauty, she would become even more powerless than before. She had nothing else to do. Jeon Hee Seong was forced to marry Choi, and while the Queen from Snow White was neglected, the witch was abused by her husband. So both were unhappy in their marriage and life. This explains their desire to get power in their own way. As the manhwaphiles can detect, both witches have something in common: ambition and greed, though Jeon See Heong uses her beauty differently. She is aware of her own attraction and has no fear or insecurities. She doesn’t need a mirror to tell her how beautiful she is. Her body is her tool, not the mirror. Yet both have another aspect in common: they try not to do the dirty work themselves. Both hire a killer, the only difference is that due to the huntsman’s betrayal, the Queen learned her lesson. She had to do it herself, if she wanted to get rid of her rival. And this leads me to the following observation. The witch from The Pawn’s revenge has two reasons to use others for her dirty work. First, she is no queen, hence she could get charged with murders. Secondly, if we use the fairytale as a parallel, she could have a similar mindset than the huntsman. She doesn’t want to feel burdened by guilt, notice that she is never facing the consequences of her order and decisions. She didn’t see the corpse of her dead husband and the gambler Lee Soon-Cheol. She just communicates through a cellphone. Besides, even Do Seong-Rok felt uncomfortable after killing two people. Hence I perceive Jeon Hee Seong as less bloodthirsty than she appears to be. She could be more of a coward.
On the other hand, in the manhwa the witch is still relying on her lover, Do Seong-Rok. She got angry, when she realized that he had disobeyed her and let him become responsible for Lee Je-Oh. However, it is just a matter of time, until she gets aware that Do Seong-Rok is no longer bewitched by her. In chapter 26, he can no longer have sex with her. Hence we have a parallel with the fairytale: the allusion of aging and change. The woman is no longer attractive to him, because he has perceived her true nature. She manipulated him and he got aware that she was fake. With this, we would another similarity with the fairytale, the distinction between seeming and being. He realizes, that her promises were all an illusion. In this scene, the manhwaphiles can sense her witchcraft.
And since Jeon Hee Seong has already chosen Ahn Jae Oh as her official partner due to his social position, it becomes understandable why her relationship with Do Seong-Rok was doomed to failure. I would say, since the police officer is on the verge to become a congressman, the protagonist could only appear weak to her. His strength were his loyalty and blinded trust. Consequently Ahn reminds me of the king from the fairytale, while I perceive Do Seong-Rok not just as the huntsman, but also as a second Snow White. First, he had dark hair and a white skin like the protagonist. Secondly, he was as pure as Snow White. But since he was neglected and had abandonment issues, he longed for maternal warmth and love. In the Korean version, we see his father promising to come back, an indication that he had no mother. Hence I judge, Do Seong-Rok’s relationship with the witch was a form of an oedipal complex. She served as a surrogate mother, that’s how much he longed for a mother and family. The manhwaphiles will realize the common denominators: neglect and abandonment perceptible in the beginning of the fairytale. Secondly, note that Do Seong-Rok had changed the color of his hair, when he met her again. That’s why I deduce that the card she gave him should be perceived as the apple from the fairytale. (chapter 16) With her appearance, her words and this card, she casted a spell on him. That’s why he was so full of lust during their second encounter. The red hair could be judged as the indication of the lustful spell. Simultaneously, this color implies the loss of virginity and the beginning of adulthood. The most fascinating is that in the bedroom, two colors are prevailing: red and white, which coincidences to the red and white side of the poisoned apple from Snow White. The witch’s beauty was so strong that he had to transform himself. (chapter 16) This was his desire to resemble her, to get closer to her. Since he was a man, the witch didn’t see him as a rival. This explicates why she didn’t feel jealous at all. But for me, there’s no ambiguity that she filled the void left by the missing mother. Hence, since he was having sex with a surrogate mother, this can not be considered as the real discovery of sex. I conclude that when he met Lee Je-Oh, he discovered real sexuality. That’s the reason why he can no longer have any erection with the Queen. If we judge The Pawn’s revenge as a fairytale, then it teaches, homosexuality is a normality. He didn’t know about this, until he saw the male prostitute having sex with the pimp and felt aroused.
Moreover, by sleeping with him, Jeon Hee-Seong somehow committed a sin. Let’s not forget that she was already married. The woman embodies evil, for she promotes cheating, betrayal, murder, selfishness and avidity. Her ambition is to become the Queen of the red light district. This means, the readers are witnessing the raising of the evil mother, who is on the verge of becoming the Queen! But due to her greed and ambition, she doesn’t realize her own blindness. Her arrogance makes her overlook the male prostitute, Lee Je-Oh. She trusts too much her beauty, and believes to be smarter than others. Thus her arrogance is the reason why she will fail in the end. She showed her true face to Do Seong-Rok too soon, when she showed her anger, because the huntsman had disobeyed her order. The man could see a glimpse of her true personality. Due to his past experience, he had learned his lesson. In addition, she is underestimating the power of love. Thus she had planned to betray and abandon her lover, but she doesn’t anticipate the killer’s betrayal. Exactly like the stepmother, she is not reflecting on her own actions. She didn’t pay too much attention to her words over the phone and the consequences. The absence of critical thinking will be another reason why she is doomed to fail: too obsessed to reach the top. She has the impression, she is almost there, the presence of the ring offered by Ahn is the proof of her success. And now, you can see why I saw so many parallels with the fairytale.
2. 3. Snow White and the huntsman
Naturally, this is not surprising that Lee Je-Oh considers Do Seong-Rok as the huntsman. The latter’s actions resemble to the ones from Snow White. Yet, unlike the hunter, the red-haired man has not a weak heart, but a good heart. He is not a coward or a hypocrite. He can feel pity, and doesn’t fear to dirty his hands. On the other hand, he has nightmares, as his unconscious is telling him that he made the wrong choice. And in this scene, we have the presence of conscious and unconscious. He shouldn’t have listened to his lover’s suggestions, but he is still in denial. That’s the reason why he keeps starring and looking at the letter with a fake confession. Hence I believe that contrary to the hunter, he feels some remorse, as he senses that he has been tricked. In my opinion, by sleeping with her, Do Seong-Rok got tainted by her darkness. This explicates why when he strangled Ma Jeong-Sok, he had an erection. And remember that in the Grimms’ version, we had the presence of a lace in connection to Snow White. And this reinforces my interpretation that the killer is actually more a combination of both characters: the huntsman and Snow White. He has become the “perverted version” due to the Queen’s influence, he is her step-son. Striking is that Lee Je-Oh is giving him another interpretation of his wrongdoings: he liberated him from his prison and misery.
2. 4. Snow White and the mirror of Truth
Since Jeong Hee-Seong resembles a lot to Lee Je-Oh, he appears to be indeed the real Snow White. Exactly like Do Seong-Rok and Snow White, he has dark hair, a white skin and red cheeks. Moreover, similar to the Grimms’ version, the main lead has been neglected and abandoned by his father.
Their fate seems similar, yet there is a huge difference. The male prostitute learned not to rely on others. When he tried to free himself, he didn’t ask for help, he stabbed Ma Jong-Seok himself. However, he was encouraged to use the knife by the witch, that’s how he discovered her true personality. Her beauty can no longer bewitch him. Striking is that he could already perceive her true personality, even before knowing her true identity.
In my opinion, Lee Je-Oh is actually a combination of the mirror of Truth and Snow White. Through his comments, he is confronting Do Seong-Rok and forcing him to reflect on his actions, questioning his relationship with the witch. But notice that he has a similar attitude with other characters. He confronts Choi Yeong-Gil with his hypocrisy and negative attitude. Just before the pimp is killed, he confronts him with his true personality and sins. He is responsible for the misery and death of many people. Once cornered, the “dwarf” is forced to confess his affection to Lee Je-Oh. Both dwarves had something in common: hypocrisy. Hence you can comprehend why I come to the conclusion, Lee Je-Oh is the mirror of truth. He embodies honesty and loyalty, just like the protagonist, he longed for a home and family.
Hence the huntsman’s “jail” corresponds more to the house of the dwarfs from the fairy tale. It’s the place where love, trust and innocence are protected. Since I have already predicted a revolution, I believe, Lee Je-Oh will give another sense to Do Seong-Rok’s murders. They will try to destroy this corrupted world full of selfishness and greed. That’s how Lee Je-Oh will become the witch’s rival. He will ruin her plan due to his sense of justice. The manhwaphiles will certainly remember that the fairytale is centered on jealousy, rivalry and competition. The young boy was already jealous that he felt the need to steal the killer. Right after having sex with him, he considers Do Seong-Rok as his boyfriend. He compliments him and caresses him, giving him the warmth and affection the killer had been longing.
What also caught my attention is that both Snow Whites are “corrupted”. While the one kills, the other lies, schemes and steals. This stands in opposition to “Schneewittchen” from the Grimms’ version. It is comprehensible, because both protagonists got tainted by their parents. Lee Je-Oh’s father was selfish and had no sense of responsibility, while Jeon Hee Seong desired to use the main lead’s weaknesses (isolation, lack of experience and innocence) to her advantage. This signifies, both are the products of bad parenting and a ruthless and selfish society. So if the two Snow Whites start working together and keep killing others in order to clean society, what will happen to this city? Chaos. But Lee Je-Oh would see it as delayed justice.
2. 5. The absence of the Prince
Why did Evy say that there was no prince in this story? My explanation is the following. Since the prince embodies “marriage” and in South Korea, homosexual marriage is not allowed, there can’t be a prince. Secondly, since I have already portrayed that the two protagonists have two functions, this signifies that both could also be perceived as the prince. They both free each other, as they give each other what they need. In the episode 27, Lee Je-Oh decided to lie to Kang Hyeon-Jong in order to protect his lover. He gave him an alibi and used the video as an evidence. This means that from now on, he is now responsible for Do Seong-Rok, just like the latter is now accountable for Lee Je-Oh’s survival. And since there’s no justice in this world, I believe that the prostitute Snow White will take matters into his own hands and give justice to others. Remember that Snow White sentenced her stepmother to death! This signifies that she gave justice herself.
As a first conclusion, though The Pawn’s Revenge doesn’t correspond to the definition of a fairytale, the manhwa and Snow White are really similar due to the topics and characters. It truly shows that such stories are a great source of inspiration. Then the readers should question themselves why the city and its inhabitants are portrayed in such a negative light. From my point of view, it is related to the huge political scandals South Korea had to face like for example with the president Park Geun-hye, and the economical boom with the development of new districts which doesn’t lead to a diminution of poverty. Then, there was the Sewol ferry incident, where many students died, while the captain and the crew abandoned them. This terrible event caused a huge mistrust in the authorities and the adults’ hypocrisy and selfishness. As the manhwaphiles can detect, I view this story as a mirror of our modern society: the failure of parents as role model, the disintegration of families… Simultaneously, it teaches the same lessons: recognize hypocrisy, selfishness and the importance of reflection. Lee Je-Oh could become the killer’s ally, the moment he recognized his own mistake. He imagined his intelligence made him superior, he underestimated the huntsman’s strong will. He might have felt pity, but he was not a fool, rather a dangerous man because of his strength. He mistook his innocence for stupidity. That’s why Snow White is superior to the witch.
As you can imagine, I won’t write the comparison with the Painter Of The Night here, for the analysis is already so long, however I would like the readers now to ponder on the following question: Who is the witch with her lustful spell, Snow White, the mirror of truth, the 7 dwarves, the huntsman and the prince in Byeonduck’s work?
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