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First of all, I would like to thank the author for the compliment concerning the first essay. 🥳 And now, you have the answer why I am writing about The Ghost’s Nocturne again. Since I examined Jae Shin first, it is logical to expect that I am now studying the second main lead, Lee Nok. However, if you pay attention to the title, you will recognize that it is actually ambiguous. Prince could be referring to Jae Shin as well, as he is the son of Yeomra, the king of the Underworld. Furthermore, I had already pointed out that Jae Shin has a human side, thus he needs to absorb yin energy to remain strong. Since he is not a God like his father, he is vulnerable, but contrary to Lee Nok, he is immortal. To conclude, the title is a reference to both protagonists. Why`? The reason is simple. In order to portray the Crown prince properly, it is necessary to contrast him to his lover Jae Shin. Through this comparison, the mortal protagonist and his personality can be more fleshed out. To conclude, my main focus is indeed the Crown prince Lee Nok, yet the prince from the afterlife can not be excluded in this analysis as well.
1. Lee Nok’s situation
1. 1. His mother
Lee Nok is the eldest son of the king, thus he was designated as the Crown prince. Striking is that exactly like Jae Shin, he doesn’t have any mother next to him. (chapter 2) Queen Yoon vanished, because she was condemned as a witch. Naturally, her disgrace is linked to Lee Nok’s special situation. His yin energy is so strong that he attracts ghosts which his mother noticed. If the king knew about this, he would definitely see it as a curse. Thus Queen Yoon tried to protect her son with talismans which led to her demise. Because of this incident, the king turned concubine Han into his new Queen. The latter gave birth to a son who definitely represents a threat to Lee Nok. (chapter 8) This explicates why the boy is turning his back to Lee Nok. Their position in this picture already displays the existing rivalry between them which Queen Han is trying to diminish by faking concern and pity for the Crown prince. She seems to take the Crown Prince’s side, for she has to mask her involvement and true intentions: ambition. She is eyeing at the throne. If the main lead was involved in a scandal, the king could decide to nominate his second son as the future Crown prince. As you can see, Lee Nok’s situation is quite fragile and as such precarious. There is no ambiguity that the loss of his mother wounded the Crown prince deeply. We could detect it thanks to Jae Shin. The main lead chose to adopt the cute puppy, as the latter was motherless. (Chapter 7) As you can see, the main lead was projecting his own emotions and thoughts onto the small dog. He feels also abandoned in the palace, as he has no one to rely on. He can not even trust his close aid, the eunuch Ahn, and his love interest, Choi Kyung Joon, as his secrets (sodomy and the ghosts lusting after him) would shock them (disbelief and rejection).
1. 2. The princes and their fathers
What caught my attention is that both main leads were put in the exact situation. Hence Jade and Ananas created similar drawings. (chapter 1) (chapter 2) Both protagonists were sentenced to exile after being put on trial in front of their respective father. While Jae Shin is sent to the mortal world and cursed to live as a puppy during the day, the other prince is no longer allowed to speak to his father and to leave the palace. (chapter 2). Though the verdict looks similar, I come to a different interpretation. How so?
The first difference is the “crime” committed by the two princes. The immortal one is indeed guilty, while the other is actually a victim of dark arts. This simple comparison outlines Lee Nok’s innocence. Moreover, while Jae Shin admitted that he had played with “dark arts” by switching the date of Park (chapter 1), the other is badmouthed to be involved with dark arts through posters. (chapter 2) Yet there is no evidence. I would even add that contrary to Yeomra, the king never gave Lee Nok a choice to defend himself and to determine his fate. How so? As soon as the father read the poster, he accused his son: “What have you been doing that things have come to this?” This means that he believes that there exists a kernel of truth in this rumor. The cause for his mistrust is Lee Nok’s birth mother, the former Queen Yoon. Because his mother was already involved in such a ruckus, the king can only blame the Crown prince, all the more when the latter defends his mother’s honor. (chapter 2) These words could only reinforce the father’s prejudices. He was already guilty by association.
And this is truly important, because this exposes the king’s blindness and stupidity. He puts more value to the insulting posters than to his own son. He is not capable to see his son’s purity and innocence. My avid readers will certainly recall my previous interpretation about Yeomra. Though the immortal god seems to be unfair and merciless towards Jae Shin, his sentence was actually the proof of his love for his son. He wished him to learn a lesson, to recognize that humans are precious and even strong. He wanted him to recognize his human origins, and as such his mother. Hence he sent him to the human world. He needed to interact with humans, so that he would come to understand them. Only through empathy, he can win a human’s heart. However, the king in the mortal world did the exact opposite. Instead of showing the Crown prince to people in order to stop the bad grapevines, he actually isolates him even more than before. The exile is different. It is actually prison. He is not allowed to leave his quarters. Not only he can not speak to his father, but also he can not create connections to officials in the end. Therefore it is no coincidence that Lee Nok describes himself as the Crown Ghost. (chapter 2) No one is able to see his face. His only support and connection to aristocrats is his friend Choi Kyung-Joon, the son of a minister. That’s how powerless the Crown prince is in the palace. He is even surrounded by maids spying for Queen Han. Consequently, I come to the conclusion that Lee Nok’s father represents the negative reflection of Yeomra. He doesn’t send away his son in order to protect him, rather to hide him out of shame and resent. In other words, the king doesn’t love his son contrary to Yeomra. Interesting is that the latter let his son make the choice about his own destiny. Why? He wished to give him the liberty to determine his fate in order to prove him what DESTINY is. (chapter 3). Let’s not forget that the son’s crime had been to change a person’s fate. Striking is that both monarchs believes in fate, but the mortal ruler has a different notion. Since Queen Yoon is viewed as a witch, the son seems to be “tainted”. Moreover, while Yeomra trusts his son, the mortal king behaves differently. In reality, he relies on his wife, Queen Han. Thus he recommended her to Lee Nok (chapter 2), and later he listened to her fake concerns. This shows how easily the king can be manipulated, he is not even realizing that his royal secretary (chapter 2) is working against Lee Nok, while claiming that he will look for the author of these posters. I couldn’t help myself connecting Lee Nok’s seclusion in his quarters to the death of the shaman Yeom: both are “buried alive”. (chapter 13) Hence she can “understand” him. Another proof for this interpretation is the spirit’s following statement: they share the same fate. (chapter 8) The only difference is that the Crown prince is still living. However, for the Queen, it is just a matter of time, until people forget Lee Nok completely so that her son can replace him. At the same time, his isolation can only increase suspicions. And the more he is badmouthed (dark arts or sodomy), the more the king will turn away from his own son. While the king of the hell of tongue ripping wished Jae Shin to recognize his mother, the king of Joseon desired the exact opposite: he should deny his relationship to his birth mother, Queen Yoon. (Chapter 2) Moreover, the god never imposed his will onto Jae Shin. The latter has to discover this himself, whereas the king made the opposite choice.
Another detail caught my attention, both princes value traditions and family very much, hence the “ghost” Jae Shin used filial duty to defend himself (chapter 1). This shows that the ghost has a deep respect for his father in the end. This explains why after his sentence he thought about his father (chapter 1) His words don’t ooze resent, he is more pleading his cause, begging his father to recognize that humans don’t deserve such mercy and care. He trusted his father and his fairness, hence he spoke the truth. He never hid anything from him. As for Lee Nok, despite the father’s verdict, he still follows social norms. He accepts his father’s order. Then despite the rejection, he tried to see his father, and he even went to the Queen’s palace to greet her. He acts like an obedient and dutiful son. Finally, he tried to defend his mother’s honor, as he knew that she had sacrificed herself for him. I am convinced that he must feel guilty for her disgrace.
To conclude, Lee Nok’s father contrasts so much to Yeomra: biased, blind, full of resent towards his own son due to Queen Yoon and totally naive. On the other hand, I believe that he views himself as fair, for he is protecting his young Queen. (Chapter 8) This truly displays that he had no faith in his son, for in the king’s eyes, the prince is ignorant about Queen Han’s good nature. To sum up, Lee Nok is rejected by his own father, he has no one to rely on. He might have loyal servants like inspector So-Rib (chapter 2) or Eunuch Ahn, but the latter have no real power in the palace. Furthermore, he can not confide to them everything. He is not loved which stands in opposition to Jae Shin who grew up as a spoiled prince.
Besides, Lee Nok is constantly observed, as he is followed by servants. Therefore it is no coincidence that he likes being alone. (Chapter 2) That’s the moment he can finally breathe. This corresponds to the situation of being buried alive which I mentioned above. Since he is surrounded by maids, he has no privacy. But contrary to the Queen and the king, he has no real control over his staff. Due to his innocence and purity, he is not aware that one of his maids is reporting to Queen Han. He is definitely cautious, but he is not cunning enough to anticipate the Queen’s moves. As the manhwaphiles could sense, Lee Nok is indeed a fragile and lonely prince.
2. Lee Nok’s love
However, he is powerful. How so? It is because he has Jae Shin’s fate in his hand. (Chapter 1) Imagine that he can control someone from the afterlife. But the problem is that he is not aware of his power, as he has no idea about Jae Shin’s curse. Yeomra’s son can not return to his father’s side, as long as he had not won Lee Nok’s heart. On the other hand, the immortal prince has no intention to reveal his secret to Lee Nok, because if so, he would become his puppet. This explicates why in chapter 18, Jae Shin treats the Crown prince like an object. (chapter 18) He is masking his own vulnerability, at the same time he gives the impression that Lee Nok has no other choice than to depend on him. He is trying to turn the tables in the end.
Nevertheless I had mentioned above that he was his destined partner. How can I prove now this theory? The readers should question themselves why Lee Nok is the only one who can ooze such a yin energy and this is exactly what Jae Shin needs. (Chapter 4) Besides, according to me, Yeomra fell in love with a human, this means that his action affected the mortal world, so he has to restore the harmony in the mortal realm. But the problem is that Lee Nok is already in love with his childhood friend Choi Kyung-Joon. So the main lead might have become the Crown prince’s sex partner, but he has not conquered his heart yet. Nevertheless, it is just a matter of time. The irony is that humans are mortals, hence their time is limited. This shows that Jae Shin is actually working against time. He could end up living as a puppy forever. So he is also weak, totally depending on Lee Nok’s heart and good will.
The Crown prince could demonstrate his power to the ghost, when he stabbed him. (Chapter 16) The latter might have not died, but he lost his yin energy. Thus he lost his strength. Only the Crown prince could heal him.
Striking is that Yeom described Lee Nok as straight and narrow, hence his love is the same. (Chapter 13) Why would she say that? First, Lee Nok is aware that his friend hates sodomy. (Chapter 3) Hence he is forced to hide his affection from him. This means that he can never be honest to Choi Kyung-Joon, yet like already pointed out above, the Crown prince embodies innocence and as such honesty. This means that his lack of honesty towards his loved one can only wound his heart. So far, the Crown prince could never outlive his sexual orientation, for he had no partner at all. Thus he could still maintain his image in front of his loved one. This hopeless love gave him a certain strength. (Chapter 9) This outlines the mortal’s power.
However, the more Lee Nok interacts with Jae Shin and the more he feels pleasure with him, the more he will distance himself from the scholar. Homosexuality can only create a riff between the friends. The reason is simple. He can detect more and more his friend’s flaws. That’s the reason why the spirit described The Crown Prince as “narrow”. He values loyalty very much, so once betrayed, there is no forgiveness or turning back. For me, his vision is either white or black. Lee Nok learned it through the hard way due to his mother’s downfall. He also witnessed that the king and Queen Han are not on his side. And this leads me to the following observation: the scholar is close to the Crown prince for his own interests. That’s the reason why Yeom said this: (chapter 13) The friends can not become lovers, as this would represent a threat to them. However, there is no ambiguity that Choi Kyung-Joon is aware of the Crown prince’s affection and he is taking advantage of it. By using social norms, rejection of sodomy, he can keep his distance from Lee Nok, but still maintain his relationship with him. How did I come up with this interpretation?
We have two scenes revealing his selfishness and ambition. First, when he meets Jae Shin for the first time, he acts, as if he was powerful, as if he was the Crown prince. (Chapter 3) Note that he is using the personal pronoun “I”, while in reality he is just usurping the Crown Prince’s authority. (Chapter 3) He was definitely arrogant, selfish and intolerant in that scene. He didn’t pay attention that his friend was not feeling well the whole time. Secondly, with such an attitude, he could create a ruckus for the Crown prince and damage his reputation. (Chapter 3) They were in a gibang, and note that the poster was released shortly after this visitation. Finally, Jae Shin was already hinting about Lee Nok’s love to Choi Kyung-Joon (chapter 3) It was clear that he was designating his companion, as their path crossed there for the first time. But since the ghost was just insinuating, the other could still feign ignorance. However, despite this warning, the minister’s son didn’t change his attitude. In fact, he became even more caring and gentle than before. Moreover, observe that when the main lead was summoned to his father, Choi Kyung-Joon never asked for an audience and speak up for his friend. (chapter 2) Where was he? Lee Nok was on his own.
Third, though he is the son of a minister, he only passed the first stage of the civil service examination. (chapter 10) Thanks to Painter Of The Night, we all know that this exam has more rounds. Why did he not pass the second round? In my opinion, it is because he is relying on Lee Nok’s support. This shows that he is not determined to become a high official on his own merit. That’s the reason why he is close to the Crown prince in the end. His well-being is his ticket to get power. (Chapter 9) But since Queen Han sent someone to tail the childhood friend, it is only a matter of time, until jinsa Choi realizes that he can obtain more, if he supports Queen Han. Besides, if he detects that Lee Nok is hiding things from him, he can utilize this as a sign that he is losing favors. And the moment he switches sides, Lee Nok won’t be able to forgive him. But there exists another possibility how their friendship can get ruined, Choi Kyung-Joon’s attitude represents a problem itself, which I had already outlined above. He almost caused a ruckus in the gibang, then he didn’t try to defend his friend in front of the father, and finally, he made another huge mistake. He let Lee Nok sleep outside. (chapter 10) Though his advices sound selfless and great, they are actually terrible. How could he leave the room, after the prince had fallen asleep? He should have left before. Then he makes sure that no one sees him. This can create a misunderstanding. Why did they do there together? So the moment there is a rumor that Lee Nok is a sodomite, the minister’s son could get suspected. So in order to save his skin, he could betray his friend and testify against him. He saw the hickeys. (chapter 09) To conclude, Choi Kyung-Joon is just a good weather friend. So if Lee Nok were to lose his status as Crown prince, I am convinced that the scholar will turn his back on the protagonist. He still has other options left to achieve his goal.
On the other hand, Jae Shin stands in the opposite situation. Only Lee Nok can help him to put an end to his sentence. Thus he has to curry favors to the Crown Prince. (Chapter 13) This is important, because Jae Shin is powerful contrary to the childhood friend. He can use his connection from the afterlife: his brothers, Yeom and the ghosts. And contrary to the minister’s son, his movements can not be detected first. As an investigator, he can unveil how Queen Han used ghosts to ruin Lee Nok by altering the book of names. The ghosts remained in the mortal world, (chapter 15) because they were not fetched by the warden and messenger to the deceased. (chapter 15) The reason is simple. They were not supposed to die.
Through this investigation, he will realize the consequences of his wrongdoing. (Chapter 13) Remember that he questioned Yeom’s choice, as she had not accepted the tragic death of her loved ones which was in his eyes predestinated. (chapter 13) Like his father, he believes in fate, not realizing that his sin is the evidence that destiny can be changed. From my perspective, this change of heart and conviction can only happen, when he discovers that someone else committed the same crime affecting him directly. Interesting is that Yeom serves as a mother figure to Jae Shin. Despite his rejection, he still followed her advice. He trusted her words, when she said this: (chapter 13) He recognized the truth in her words. This shows that through Jae Shin, Lee Nok can gain powers. Indirectly, the latter is also receiving the help of the mother figure, Yeom. The punished prince can give orders to ghosts, he can chase away evil spirits and as such put an end of Queen Han’s influence. Moreover, thanks to his loving brothers, Jae Shin can get an access to the book of names and know about people’s fate. (Chapter 15) He doesn’t necessarily needs to interfere directly, his knowledge can help Lee Nok (for example the king’s passing). Remember the saying: knowledge is power. As a puppy, Jae Shin can tail Choi Kyung-Joon too, and he won’t be suspected, as a white puppy is supposed to chase away evil spirits. In fact, the friend knows how Lee Nok cherishes the dog, so he has no interests to mistreat or suspect him. This shows that the Crown prince has powers in the afterlife, and his purity is his strength.
Finally, I would like to point out that Lee Nok represents the evidence of Jae Shin’s misjudgment about humans. When he complained to his father about the rudeness of mortals (chapter 1), the Crown Prince took pity on him (chapter 2) and chose to protect him. Despite his status, he showed humbleness. But this doesn’t end here. He shared not only his bed and his food with him, but also his secrets. . (Chapter 2) Jae Shin had already become his confident. And this leads me to my final conclusion: Lee Nok is strong because of his huge heart too. He is neither arrogant nor selfish, and he has not such a negative view about humans and life in general, more about ghosts, the cause for his suffering. For me, he has never lost hope. He contrasts so much to his lover, thus he can teach him these values and change him. On the other hand, Jae Shin can give the Crown prince what he has been missing the most: a true home thanks to his affection and support.
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