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Before starting the topic of this essay, I would like to remind my readers that exactly like in the first essay, I am going not just to interpret certain scenes or characters, but also to present theories which I developed through contrasts and connections. Therefore it is possible that certain ideas or significations become wrong later, as the story progresses. If you read my analyses about Painter Of The Night, you are aware that my passion is to work like a detective! 😉
1. Curse: the symbol of love or hatred?
On the surface, the title “devoted curses” seems contradictory, for devotion represents the opposite of curse. The latter is a solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone, while devotion is a synonym for love, commitment and allegiance. This implies that the person will do anything in his power to protect the loved one. Striking is that in this story, the curse can be the sign of love and affection. First, Yeom chose to become a spirit not only out of hatred for Queen Han, but also out of love. She could never recover from the loss of her loved ones. (chapter 8) She felt guilty for their death. Thus she dedicated her life to find a way to punish the evil child. (chapter 13) Then Queen Yoon decided to employ dark arts to protect her son. (chapter 21) Yet, the amulets were actually curses, as they were supposed to keep away the ghosts and spirits. (chapter 20) Hence when the king discovered the amulets, he truly believed that Queen Yoon had tried to hurt the Crown Prince. As you can see, there is a strong connection between devotion, affection and curse. Finally, if you read my first analysis about The Ghost’s Nocturne, you are already aware that Yeomra didn’t curse his son Jae Shin (chapter 1) in order to wound or humiliate him. His malediction and punishment were a sign of his affection, it was to protect him in the end. It was the prince’s fate to remain in the mortal realm and meet Lee Nok. (chapter 3) I am quite certain many people know this saying: Who loves well, chastises well. Yes, this proverb is actually insinuating that children need to know boundaries, because through a bad experience, the loved one can learn a lesson and come to internalize social norms. They need to learn to become responsible for their wrong choices or bad behavior. To conclude, boundaries are necessary to become not only loyal and honest, but also brave. [For more read the essay Cowardice versus courage: innate or learnable?] Striking is that Queen Yoon acted the same way with Han Chae-Hee. There is no doubt that she loved this young lady.. (chapter 21) Thus when she discovered the incident with the wounded servant, she was greatly disappointed, especially when the villain showed no remorse or guilt. (chapter 21) Her words oozing indifference and coldness could only shock and infuriate the queen. (chapter 21) By hurting her, the sovereign was reminding her of her true nature; she was a human after all. Queen Yoon hoped with her punishment that the court lady would come to learn to show more respect towards the maids. Chae-Hee should view them as humans, and just like her, they would feel pain. The matriarch didn’t value people based on their social status, but on their condition: they are also vulnerable mortals.
As you can see, both parents in this story had a similar attitude towards their affectionate one. They desired them to change, to improve their behavior. While Yeomra as god had nothing to fear from his son, it was not the same for Queen Yoon, because the latter had a weakness. Han Chae-Hee knew about the Crown prince’s curse. (chapter 20) Thus after the chastise, the young lady cursed Queen Yoon with her thanks. (chapter 21) But contrary to Yeomra, the future queen had a different intention. Her words displayed her thoughts. She was already planning to hurt the sovereign.
2. The targets of maledictions
And now, if I were to ask the avid readers how many curses exist in this story, the latter might reply three. The victims of a malediction are Jae Shin, Yeom (chapter 13) and finally Lee Nok. Why? It is because all these maledictions are the most obvious one. Yet there is more to it. Though Queen Yoon got sentenced to death by the king of Joseon, (chapter 21) I believe that the gentle woman was targeted by a god from the Underworld, the true father of Han Chae-Hee as well. Moreover, we have the ghosts circulating around the punished prince. (chapter 13) Finally, I believe that Han Chae-Hee was cursed as well, thus the father Han Jung-Eon asked for the shaman’s assistance in the first place. Note how Yeom described the young lady: (chapter 8) She was associated to misfortune, to bad karma, thus she had to become a righteous person in order to change her situation. But why had she such a bad “karma”? It is because her father is from the afterlife. In my first essay about The Ghost’s Nocturne, I had already presented her as the fruit of a god and a human, but I had no idea about the identity of her parents and as such her true lineage. However, now it is different, for I could gather more information.
3. Han Chae-Hee’s curse
The author left the biggest clue with this scene. (chapter 21) The young lady refused to sit on the pillow embroidered with the name “Han Jung-Eon”. (chapter 21) She explained her attitude as a sign of great devotion and filial respect, whereas in my eyes, it was the opposite. She was not recognizing the official as her true father. Secondly, the queen asked the villain to report this incident to her “father!” (chapter 21) While Lee Nok’s mother had in mind the official Han, the young woman could think otherwise. She would report it to her biological father, and the latter would definitely retaliate. 😲
Moreover, I realized that Ananas had introduced 3 gods from the afterlife. Yeomra (chapter 1), Jin-Gwang and Cho-Gang. (chapter 3) Striking is that each deity is associated to a certain punishment: tongue ripping, the knives and the fiery cauldrons! Thus Cho-Gang wondered why Jae-Shin had not be sent to him. (chapter 3) However, in Korean and Chinese, the number 4 sounds similar to DEATH!! This explicates why in South Korea the number of 4 is often avoided. The 4th floor in a building will be referred to 3B and it is the same for the place in a parking lot! That’s how I deduced the existence of a 4th god of the Underworld. And Han Chae-Hae must be related to him. Under this new light, it becomes comprehensible why Jae Shin’s brothers are working for the 3rd office. (chapter 15) Yeomra’s realm corresponds to the 3rd office. Thus I am assuming that each god from the afterlife has his own office, Jin-Gwang and Cho-Gang’s being the first and second bureau of the Underworld. However, because of their interactions in the patio, it becomes clear that only these 3 gods were close to Jae Shin, and not the 4th god. But since Yeomra and the other gods of the Underworld are associated to a certain punishment, I am deducing that the 4th god must also represent a certain suffering. But what could it be? That’s how I came to the following idea: poisoning. Note that in order to rip the tongue, you need a knife. As you can see, I believe that there must exist a connection between each torture from the afterlife. And for a poison, you need a cauldron and probably fire… Finally, the manhwalovers should notice how Han Chae-Hee destroyed the queen. The schemers used rumors to tarnish her reputation, her tool was poison tongue. (chapter 21)The tongue is often depicted as an instrument that is full of death and poison. It is also unruly—unpredictable, listless, nervous and easily agitated, and always prepared to inject venom. We could witness this, when the young lady cursed the queen with her “gratitude”. (chapter 21) This is no coincidence that her method contrasts to Yeomra’s ruling: (chapter 1) The juxtaposition of these two panels makes the readers recognize the similarities and as such the contradictions: gratitude versus punishment, hatred versus love, calmness and anger etc. She is presented similarly than the king of the hell of tongue ripping. This is important, because with this new theory, the manhwaphiles can sense rivalry and jealousy of this 4th god towards Yeomra. Finally, my friend Luzyla had mentioned to me that one of the ghosts could have died due to poisoning (chapter 13), as a drug can create the sensation of heat. That’s how I recognized too that Han Chae-Hee’s father is behaving the opposite of Yeomra. While the latter is fair and impartial so that he doesn’t fear to sentence his son, the other is blinded by his love for his daughter. He will do anything for his daughter. Thus he made sure that she becomes Queen in the mortal world. She is definitely treasured. She felt insulted, when the shaman Yeom criticized her for bad karma.. She was “cursed” due to her father’s true origins, while the villain felt powerful thanks to him. She could control malevolent spirits. (chapter 8) Yet, like Han Jung-Eon mentioned it to the queen, a monk had helped them to change her situation. (chapter 20) This means that between the 10 years of Yeom’s wandering, the family Han had discovered a mean to keep away the spirits. However, for me, the official definitely deceived the Queen by letting her believe that they had used the same stratagem to help the daughter. My theory is that they used Lee Nok as her replacement!
4. Lee Nok’s curse
And now, you are wondering how I came up with this idea. Actually, the starting point of the whole theory was Lee Nok’s confession. (chapter 20) Striking is that the Crown Prince had been fetched by a single man dressed in black. However, the rule is that a deceased has to be followed by a messenger and a ward. (chapter 15) And there was no exception for Jae Shin too. (chapter 1) Why? It is because they make sure that no grim reaper or god meddles in the mortal world. Since Jae Shin is wandering around alone in the human world, he was able to manipulate the book of names. He was not monitored like all the others, because he needed to go there in order to replenish his energy. And note that the brothers came to pay him a visit together! (chapter 15) Thus I came to the following observation: the man in black had brought Lee Nok on purpose to the afterlife. This was never a mistake! (chapter 21) How can I be so sure? It is because this mysterious man never allowed Lee Nok to cross the river (chapter 1) But who is this mysterious man? It can not be a messenger or a ward, for all of them are wearing hats. Secondly, I am excluding Jae Shin, as the latter never wears a topknot in the Underworld. This could only be a god and as such the 4th god. Thus he has access to the book of names. And only someone from the Underworld could know that it was not his time to cross the river. (chapter 20) Because he had brought back the young boy, no one could detect the manipulation, as the book of names had not been touched. Thus I deduce that the person tipping off lord Park (chapter 1) was the man in black from Lee Nok’s dream. How could he get aware of Jae Shin’s supernatural powers and of his imminent death? Someone with knowledge and connected to the afterlife could manipulate the stupid noble Park. The mysterious man in Black knew that Jae Shin would get caught and even punished for his trick!! But why?
It is because this man didn’t want him to meet Lee Nok, I would even say that he wished that the prince remained in the Underworld. He imagined that the king of hell of tongue ripping would definitely sentence his own son. However, since he had never been close to the prince and Yeomra, he never expected him to send his son to the human world, because that’s the place he can replenish his energy. It doesn’t sound like a real penalty. However, this trick was so pointless, because on his way to meet his father, his path crossed the Crown Prince’s. (chapter 3) It was their fate to meet. But why did the mysterious man bring Lee Nok to the shore of the 3 ways-river?
5. Yeomra’s attachment
Let’s not forget that Yeomra had violated his own rules, when he fell in love with a human and Jae Shin was born. His actions had affected the human world. So they needed to create a balance according to Taoism, the harmony of yin (black, female) and yang (white, male). Someone should be born with yin energy so that Jae Shin would have a companion. But since I am suspecting that the 4th god of hell is jealous of Yeomra, he could only be infuriated that his daughter was destined to have such a partner. Besides, while Jae Shin is an immortal, Han Chae-Hee is still a human with the power to see spirits and use dark arts. Such a god could only see it as unfair… Thus I come to the conclusion that Lee Nok was brought to the afterlife in order to change Han Chae-Hae’s fate. That’s how Lee Nok became the prince’s destined companion. Thus Yeomra said this to his friends: (chapter 1) He knew about the intervention of the 4th god! But this doesn’t end here. When Yeomra banished his son, he never mentioned that Jae Shin would turn into a white puppy. It is important to pay attention to his words: (chapter 1) On the surface, it looks like he turns into a human during the night. But this is not entirely correct, he might preserve his human form, but this doesn’t mean that he is powerless. Hence he could survive the stabbing from the Crown Prince. (chapter 16) Secondly, he never mentioned Jae Shin’s true form during the day. (chapter 1) Creature can refer to an animal or a human. However, since he is a white puppy, he can never be perceived as a curse, for this creature is supposed to ward off evil spirits. As you can see, his curse was actually a blessing in disguise. The Queen and her father can only attack the prince from the Underworld during the night. That’s the reason why they will try to separate the “ghost” from his fated companion during the night.
6. Curse, water and Earth
But then, one detail caught my attention: the importance of water! The gods met at the pavilion and Yeomra was looking at the pond (chapter 3), when Jae Shin was marking Lee Nok as his partner. (chapter 3) And the crown prince got ill, after taking a bath outside with his mother. (chapter 21) As you can see, I believe that the connection between the two worlds is the water, and as such the pavilion. (chapter 1) Thus the white dog met the lonely Ghost prince next to the pond. But why water? The latter serves as mean for purification, and this stands in opposition to Yeom’s curse who chose to be buried alive. She desired to become an evil spirit in order to torment her enemy Han Chae-Hee. (chapter 13) This means that she gave up on reincarnation. She is condemned to wander for eternity on Earth. (chapter 15) As you can see, earth is strongly connected to the spirits, while water to the afterlife. That’s the reason why I believe that the author is playing the following elements: Water and air versus earth and fire. Hence C.-R. Jade was asked to used such colors, when Jae Shin was descending to his father’s realm. Was it air or water? And this observation brings me to the following deduction. Yeom can not approach the young Queen, for the latter is protected. The spirit thinks that it is an amulet (chapter 13), but observe that the drawer employed blue as a color at the bottom. I see it as a clue that the father must have brought “water” from the divine river. That’s the reason why the ghost can not enter her palace. This 4th god from Hell is violating all the rules from the Underworld.
7. The identity of the mysterious man
As conclusion, Queen Han’s father decided to curse Lee Nok to protect his daughter and even to help his daughter to become queen in the human world, because she is a mortal. She was not like Jae Shin. The latter can see ghosts and spirits so he is not alone. That’s the reason why he tried to have Jae Shin punished. Out of the picture, Queen Han had no other big opponent. That way, his lineage could rule over Joseon, while he is a forgotten god in the Underworld. But who is her father then? (chapter 30, Korean version). For me, the man on the left is her father. Who would imagine that such a poor and weak man would be so powerful? First, he might not be dressed in black, but he is wearing the same hair dress than the mysterious man in black. Striking is that in that scene, he acted exactly like Han Chae-Hee, he spreads lies about Jae shin in order to separate our favorite couple. He badmouthed Jae Shin to scare Lee Nok. Moreover, he is alone. Finally, he is blind… and remember what people said about the “viper”. Her gaze was truly terrible. (chapter 8) (chapter 21) It was, as if her father had given her his eyes. And remember that I had described him blinded by love and obsession for his daughter. He would do anything for her, though deep down, I am sensing that he is motivated by hatred and jealousy towards Yeomra. But since his meddling caused the death of many people, there is no ambiguity that the god’s fight is pointless. Han Chae-Hee is headed to face a terrible karma. Each action has a consequence, and since her father changed the fate of many people, her destiny got changed and not for the better! (chapter 13) For me, there is no ambiguity that she will never be allowed to enter the afterlife and as such she will never be able to live with her father or get reincarnated. Hence the devoted god’s curse can only turn into a true malediction. Why? It is because this deity never realized that “death” was a blessing in disguise for his daughter. She would never have to bear the pain to wait for the return of the fated companion. She would have no memory of her past love. Jae Shin, as an immortal, will be the only one remembering his relationship with Lee Nok, unless he chooses to give up on his immortality.
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