The Goblin: The Lonely and The Great God
Korean Drama has become internationally favourite. One of those is The Guardian (Goblin): The Lonely and The Great God released December 2, 2016-2017 in 16 episodes. It was written by the brilliant writer, Kim Eun Sook. The Goblin which intensely stirs up viewers’ emotion is among some wonderful stories written by Kim Eun Sook, like Secret Garden (2010), A Gentleman’s Dignity (2012), The Heirs (2013), Descendants of the Sun (2016). Directed by Lee Eung-Bok, this drama goes to the third rank in South Korea. This fantasy romance is an epic tale depicting the Goryeo kingdom founded in 918. Goblin is known as dokkaebi in Korea. Dokkaebi physically presented in many different shapes in different time periods either has immense supernatural powers, can bring good harvests, big catches and great fortunes to humans, or is a defender against evil spirits.
The story begins with the return of the General Kim Shin (starred by Gong Yoo) from the war. Unfortunately, his return meant death for his people and even his family including his beloved sister who was the Queen. The Emperor had warned him not to return alive before he gave a sword to him and sent him to the war. Finally, he was killed by the sword accused as betrayer. But he was cursed to be immortal and became the Goblin. His super power due to his immortality didn’t make him happy. He felt so lonely and desperately sad as he had to see all his loved ones leaving him. One by one. He could end his life and die peacefully only when his bride took the sword from his chest. After seeking for his bride for about 900 years with the great desire of ending his lonely life, he met his young and cheerful bride, Ji Eun Tak (starred by Kim Go-Eun). Her youthful exuberance as a high school student, despite her miserable daily life after the death of her mother, revived Kim Shin. He didn’t want to die anymore. He fell so hard on her that he wanted to have a longer life with her. The goblin was the CEO of so many assets both in Korea and Canada. The Yoo family took care of them for years. While having a relationship with his bride, he met with a good-looking grim reaper (starred by Lee Dong-wook). Their relationship was strange at the beginning as the Grim Reaper forgot his past. What he knew was that he must have had such the greatest sin that he couldn’t get the mercy. He could live as human and as a Grim Reaper. When he was a human, he avoided touching them as he would see their past. However, when visiting the gorgeous woman named Sunny (starred by Yoo In-na) with whom he fell in love at the first meeting, touching her hand was unavoidable. During the brief touch, he could see a sight of an emperor and his empress. Then, he told the Goblin about it and also about the picture of a noble woman that the Goblin had. The picture made his heart hurt and cried. Seeing the Grim Reaper in despair every day, the Goblin finally told about his story. He felt that Sunny was his sister, so he asked the Grim Reaper to touch her again for sure. He agreed to, but didn’t want to continue his relationship with Sunny. He met and kissed her. While kissing, they both could see the sight of who Sunny was. She understood why she always felt hurt when missing the Grim Reaper while the Grim Reaper knew that he was Wang Yeo, the emperor. After the Goblin had known about the Grim Reaper through the ghost of Park Joong-heon, a cunning and manipulative eunuch from Goryeo Dynasty, he desired to kill him for revenge. However, he remembered that he was his sister’s lover, so he asked the Grim Reaper to take care of his sister despite her leaving him. On the other side, Eun Tak felt that she wasn’t worthy enough for the Goblin due to the failure of taking the sword. But the Goblin ensured and promised to protect her life because of the appearance of Park Joong-heon who wanted to kill her. When she finally could hold and draw the sword, the Goblin realized that only the sword on his chest could kill Park Joong-heon. This meant his death. Soon after Kim Shin’s disappearance, Eun Tak wrote everything about him and that she was his bride so that she wouldn’t lose the memory of him. For nine years, Eun Tak had a good life and had no memory of the Goblin, but her heart often hurt without any reason until the day when she blew a candle. This summoned Kim Shin who was lying on the vast desert in misery. He got up and appeared in front of Eun Tak as the General Kim Shin. Then, the Goblin’s frequent appearance returned her memory back on him. Unfortunately, after their wedding Eun Tak died, but she promised him to come back. And she did.
The story is quite fantastic as the writer can combine a fantasy, history, people’s belief, and the modern life perfectly. It began from the historical background story of Kim Shin and Wang yeo, then it fancifully comes to the present time. It is depicted from the main character’ life span, the Goblin. Not only does the writer brilliantly stir the viewers’ emotion but also Gong Yoo as the lead actor expertly exudes various emotion like sadness, jealousy, fear, joy and solemnity which are shown in:
Friendship, the friendship between the Goblin and the Grim Reaper is strange enough as one didn’t remember his past while the other lived with his terrible past. They helped each other despite their oposing to each other. For example, when The Goblin had to pay the Grim Reaper’s bill (eps:7), the Grim Reaper had to erase the broken car owners due to the Goblin’s power (eps:8). They also laughed at their silly actions, drank alcohol together when they were desolate, yet encouraged each other after that (eps:6). They depend on each other.
Humors, The two men interaction sometimes shows their childish side, such as their irritating expression when the Goblin tried to kick the Grim Reaper out of his house in front of Yoo Duk-Hwa’s grandfather (eps. 3). Goblin said,”Take care ad never come back” and The Grim Reaper answered,”Be happy until you die there.” In episode 5: When they bought a smart phone and learn it, they acted so naturally that we felt they were so truly stupid and ridiculous. Kim Shin who is always cool, also shows his silly action when watching horror movie with Eun Tak (eps:7).
Power, both men often showed their power while they were eating or cooking together. The writer excellently presents the Goblin’s power when he pushed Eun Tak to the air and saved her (eps:7). It caused many cars flew to the air and dropped hard to one another. How the Goblin prevented his bride from a bus crash (eps:8) that may have killed so many people was another perfect way to show his great power. His face, when doing this, looked stern and frightening.
Jealousy, In spite of the great power and the 900 of age the Goblin has, he did childish things such as meeting Tae-hee, then asking The Grim Reaper to erase Tae-hee ‘s memory on Eun Tak. Tae-hee was Eun Tak’s first love when they were both still children. The Goblin also told everyone that he was her fiancee to avoid the blind dating arranged for Eun Tak by her friend.
Sadness, Few moments which can drain the viewers’ tears the most are firstly when the Goblin was disappearing while both of them expressing that they loved each other. Eun Tak’s cry was heartbreaking. Secondly, Seeing Eun Tak died because of the car crash, the Goblin broke down and cried like a child. The next, is when Sunny decided to leave the Grim Reaper forever and asked to embrace him.
Romance, The romantic scenes between both The Goblin and Eun Tak and The Grim Reaper and Sunny can be seen from almost each episode. The strength of the Korean Drama lies on how breathtakingly each romantic relation between the main characters is woven. The romance is delivered gradually that can raise the viewer’s curiosity what will happen next. There are two most romantic scenes. The first is between The Goblin and Eun Tak when Eun Tak remembered that the CEO was Kim Shin disappearing nine years before. Eun Tak was crying desperately while repeatedly saying “I miss you.” Then, Kim Shin appeared and kissed her with all his heart. The second is betweenThe Grim Reaper and Sunny when they met again in the next life after their death. He kissed her passionately as if he had been waiting for that moment for ages.
All of the talented actors and actresses colour the atmosphere of the characters’ emotion. Gong Yoo (the most handsome Goblin) is able to both play the Shin’s different sides (example: being cool, childish, foolish, in love, sorrowful, scared, brave and fierce) perfectly and lead the other actors and actresses to perform excellently. Kim Go-Eun (The Goblin’s bride) shows her capability of acting as the girl with the emotional journey. She can follow the professional actor’s acting so well that there seems to be a strong chemistry between them. Each of their meeting cleverly causes the viewers either provoked or pitied. Lee Dong-wook (The Grim Reaper) acts as such a handsome commanding grim reaper that his presence gives a long impression on the viewers’ mind. His skillfully transition from the powerful and scary man to an awkward or bumbling one makes him become the character to be longed for every episode. Yoo In-na (The Grim Reaper’s lover) has naturally stunning beauty. She is the best choice to be Lee Dong-wook’s partner. They are well suited in playing as the longing two lovers, even sometimes their interaction is more romantic and dramatic than that of The Goblin and his bride. Yook Sung Jae did well as Yoo Duk Hwa. His family has served the Goblin for 900 years. He looked immature and a bit spoiled, but he has a good heart and is helpful. He is a nice addition to the Goblin family as he connects each main character. His expression could transform into being stern and dignified when he was possessed by the Angel.
The cinematography is amazingly artistic. The shots and individual scenes in each episode are so impressively set up that the viewers can see the detail of the characters’expression. For example, the scene of the silent and romantic stare between the Goblin and his bride. The shots portray the fantasies like Dokkaebi fire that is a glimmering light or tall blue flames heralding the appearance of dokkaebi and the flickering sparks of light when the Goblin was disappearing. Many scenic places are shot in such a way that viewers are amazed at their beauty and attracted to visit them. First, Unhyeongung Palace Yanggwan Hall where the Goblin Resides is the majestic residence that was constructed in 1907 by a Japanese ambassador who was looking for the favor of the royal family. Second, A Romantic, Nature-Filled Attraction, Ilgamho Lake is where Ji Eun-tak met her first love Tae-hee after having an admission test. It is located within Konkuk University’s Seoul campus but is open to the public all year-round. The lake is surrounded by plentiful greenery offering a gorgeous stroll. Third, Jumunjin Breakwater where Eun Tak summoned the Goblin at the first time provides the calm and silent place to meditate. Fourth, Buckwheat Fields, White Flowers Field is the location where the Goblin is ‘stabbed’ and the place he will return to when he dies. The vast white blooming flowers evoke the romantic scent. Last but not the least is the overseas filming that is in Canada. Chateau Frontenac Hotel, Parc du Bastion-de-la-Reine (Green pastures with the Tombstones (Props)), and Parc Samuel-Hollande (The Goblin catching the falling maple leaf) are the memorable places with breathtaking scenery that will linger in the viewers’ mind. The heroic battles of Kim Shin are the other quite impressive shots in the opening episode portraying historical portion.
Goblin is an epic tale with a story that spans centuries. It presents fantasy but is full of mythology which reveals the secrets of an ancient kingdom. In the present time, the lonely and weary Goblin whose age is about nine centuries connects the past time to the present one so that the story doesn’t lose its plot. It is admitted that the plot is confusing for the first four episodes. However, it becomes clearly seen for the rest for each episode is woven wonderfully. The story is very rich of both cultural concept and fantasy arousing plenty of questions. When they are answered, the viewers will find out that the episode is getting more and more interesting. Although this drama is romantic, there are some humors or jokes erasing the boredom of the plot, especially the bromance between the Goblin and the Grim Reaper. Their fun interaction is either hilarious or awkward. Each character is so memorable and engaging that the viewers will remember the talented actors and actresses as the characters they played. This drama successfully not only promotes the South Korean culture but also brings Korean dramas to the world. In short, The Guardian (Goblin): The Lonely and The Great God is highly recommended for it teaches what is true love, friendship, kindness and forgiveness.
(Reviewed by Hedwig Maria)
Questions for understanding the text:
- How does the writer begin and end the story?
- What points are reviewed?
- If you have seen the drama, what points can be added to be reviewed?