Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Legacy of Moon Chi Hoo

by Hanjae
We know little about Moon Chi Hoo, the man who lead the Jeogwoldae before Choi Young. What limited information we have on him was gleaned from Young's memories and his brief conversation with Ahn Jae, and as such our image of Moon Chi Hoo is perhaps romantized, viewed through the biased eyes of Choi Young.

Nevertheless, we can draw some preliminary conclusions on his character based on the facts that we have available. Through the animated and live action flashback sequences in Episode 4, we saw a number of events that include:

1. Moon Chi Hoo losing his arm in the process of saving a female Jeogwoldae warrior (presumably Mae Hee) when she fell during a retreat and was trapped by the enemy.

2. Moon Chi Hoo stepping between the king and Mae Hee as the former lunged at her with a sword as punishment for disobeying his orders to take off her clothes, thus taking the sword thrust through his stomach. He dies after ordering Young to continue serving the king loyally and keep the Jeogwoldae safe.

These flashbacks, though brief, paint the picture of a man whose bravery, love for his subordinates and unswerving loyalty to the king must have been an inspiration to those around him. The scene in the palace sleeping quarters also emphasized Moon Chi Hoo's stoic demeanor and quiet charisma. Even if we take into account that we are seeing these events from a biased point of view, it is no coincidence that these aspects became the trademark qualities of the world-weary and cynical Young that Eun Soo met many years later. One can surmise that Moon Chi Hoo's sense of honor and duty to the king, his demeanor and way of valuing the lives of others over his own were lessons that impacted Young even more strongly than any other skills his master taught him.

His Legacy
Young had stated himself that Moon Chi Hoo was like a second father to him after his own father passed away when he was sixteen and he chose the path of a warrior rather than a scholar. It was from these two fatherly figures that Young had learnt to prize honor, duty and loyalty above all. But what of Young's own personality? The flashbacks in Episode 4 presented us with a Young who was not only younger of age, but possessed the innocence and enthusiasm of youth. He looked upon the world with wonder and hope, which presented a stark contrast with the grim dignity that showed in Moon Chi Hoo's every movement. What had turned that Young into a weary warrior that so resembled his master?

This drastic change to his character is often attributed to the death of Mae Hee, but it was perhaps not quite as simple as that. It is far more likely that it was a combination of the traumatic series of events that saw Young robbed first of his fatherly figure, his girlfriend and the meaning of his existence as a warrior - and above all, it was Moon Chi Hoo's death (and the way he died) that had the greatest impact on Young.

To Young, his master was most likely whom he aspired to be: a brave warrior who dedicated his life to the service of his king and country. When Moon Chi Hoo died and died at the hands of an undeserving mockery of a king, not only was Young's innocence and hopes crushed, but he was left drifting in confusion. With his dying breath, his master ordered him to serve the crown loyally and protect the Jeogwoldae, but the part of Young that we saw reemerge during his conversations with Gongmin - opinionated, stubborn and not above challenging authority if the situation called for it - likely fought internally against the injustice. Young's drastically changed character can perhaps be seen as a coping strategy: to model himself after the image of his loyal and heroic master in order to carry out his final command, as well as to keep his master close to him by living as he would have done and walking the path he chose. When his master no longer appeared in his dreams and the guiding force in his life was truly gone, where else could Young turn but to live life the same way as his master did in an attempt to do what his master would have wished of him?

At that point, Moon Chi Hoo moved beyond what Young aspired to be, to represent what Young will eventually become. Young's meeting with Eun Soo reawakened the side of himself that he had locked away (the part of him that wanted to live like he was living rather than living to die) and brought him to his biggest crossroad - would he rediscover meaning in his life, or succumb to the burden of a warrior as his master did?

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