So I finally finished reading the novel version of The Moon that Embraces the Sun. While the drama hasn’t deviated so significantly from the novel that I would accord it an “inspired by” moniker, its deviated enough in major enough ways that I have no clue what parts of the novel might make it into the drama intact. With rumors of the drama supposedly getting an extension due to its blockbuster ratings, the drama trajectory is a free-for-all as far as I’m concerned. With Yang Myung’s character getting significantly less page time in the novel, but since the role is played by Jung Il Woo, I sense his character might be accorded the biggest revision in the drama just to give him more things to do and likely add in more interactions with Wol.
Back to the novel, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but found ultimately not terribly deep or substantive. With the romance getting so much screen time (complete with florid romance novel prose that is quite…..heated to say the least), its more like a romance novel with a well-written fantasy sageuk element, rather than the other way around. Just for fun, I’ve decided to summarize two chapters of the book (13 and 14 to be precise) which are all Hwon and Wol moments that made me both swoon and chortle. It was very passionate yet sad, though I would have gone easy on describing the making out. I’m not used to period stories skirting close to a bodice ripper, and this one had moments here and there where it got close. With that said, it was a fun read, so check it out. A disclaimer – my summary below is nothing like Blue‘s exquisite book recaps, which are eloquent, precise, and thoughtful translations of the original text. I’m just doing this for fun, so forgive me any lapses in language precision or dexterity in translation.
Just an FYI, all the pictures used in this post are from the drama episodes which have aired, and not from any scenes from the book as described below.
Hwon claims his head hurts and asks that the shaman Wol be brought to ease his pain. When the official hesitates, Hwon yells at him: “Bring her here now! Do you want me to die of a headache? She’s much more useful than any of your medicines. Go now!” While waiting for Wol to arrive, Hwon discusses with Woon why there appears to be secrecy surrounding the shamans in the Royal Astrology Office, indicating that he’s starting to have questions about Wol’s background.
Wol arrives, as beautiful as ever. Hwon pretends to hold his head and sneaks a peek at Wol, who walks to his side to sit down. He complains about a splitting headache, needing Wol to ease his pain. Once Wol sits down, Hwon suddenly grabs her hand and places it on his forehead. Wol wants to pull her hand back but she can’t because Hwon’s grip is too tight. Hwon says: “Strange. It was hurting horribly just a minute ago, but the second your hand touches it, the pain has vanished.”
As Wol tries again to pull her hand back, Hwon grabs her and pulls her into his embrace. He asks that she just stay like this for a bit. As Hwon apologizes to her, he strokes her soft hands and then entwines his hands with her. He compliments her on how beautiful her hands are, like that of an aristocratic lady. Wol softly returns the compliment that his hands are the same. Hwon explains that he’s done nothing since he was a child except for occasionally writing and pulling back the bow.
Hwon pulls Wol closer and whispers in her ears: “What did you do before you became a shaman? What was your name? How did you possess these hands? Tell me or I’ll investigate myself.” He theatrically moans a bit more about how his head hurts. Hwon has Woon go and retrieve the records of the shamans.
While they are alone and waiting for Woon to return, Hwon takes the opportunity to sneakily plant a quick kiss on Wol’s lips. Wol stares in shock at Hwon’s lips after he pulls away. Hwon apologizes for taking liberties with her. He offers to be punished for his actions. But the moment he says that, he quickly leans in and steals another quick peck, then pulling away with a playful smile on his lips. Wol can only stutter: “Your….your majesty…”
Seeing Wol stuttering in shock, it makes Hwon happier and he laughs out loud. Hwon proclaims that this kiss will surely bring him good luck. He will not miss an opportunity when the moon is in front of him. He reiterates again that Wol must never leave his side. Woon has returned and sees this, leading him to unconsciously feel a pang of jealousy.
Hwon starts investigating Wol’s background in earnest, consulting the written records of the shamans, which only leads him to have even more questions and doubts. He wants to see Wol, but she cannot be found that that moment. This causes Hwon to immediately worry about her, until finally she arrives by his side. When Wol sits too far away from him, Hwon angrily demands that her place must not be so far away from him. After Wol comes closer, Hwon sadly asks why she didn’t stay put, he was worried about her. Wol can sense that something is upsetting Hwon.
Hwon suddenly lays his head down on Wol’s lap. He sighs, feeling helpless even towards Wol who is alive in front of him, so how can he deal with someone who is no longer alive. Hwon plays with the red sash on Wol’s robe while he talks to himself and Wol quietly watches him. She reminds him that she is but a shaman. And he reminds her that she is also the King’s moon. Hwon’s sorrow seeps into Wol.
Suddenly Hwon sits up and he looks out the window to see the beautiful moonlight. He suggests that they go for a walk. Going out to admire the moonlight is better than sitting in the room feeling worried. Wol stands up and starts to head outside with Hwon to accompany him on his walk. Hwon laughs, what if his Wol decides to fly back up to the moon? But Hwon was merely teasing, happy that Wol will be walking besides him.
Under the moonlight, Hwon and Wol walk down the small lanes in the Palace. Wol is a step behind Hwon, keeping her head down but following carefully behind him with her eyes fixed firmly on his shoes. After walking for awhile, Wol’s eyes slowly rise and fix onto Hwon’s back. Hwon slows his steps and gestures for Wol to walk besides him. He doesn’t say anything and they continue to walk. Woon is walking behind both of them, fulfilling his duty to protect the King. Hwon suddenly stops again and looks up towards the moon.
Hwon calls out for the Wol to keep up with him and walk even closer, while telling the retainers to move further back. Woon complies and keeps his distance from Hwon. As they continue walking, Hwon inches even closer to Wol until they are but one finger width apart. Wol asks Hwon what he is doing? Hwon teases that she ought to know since she’s a shaman, right? Wol explains that she cannot probe Hwon’s thoughts despite being a shaman, that would get her in trouble. When Wol raises her head to thus reply to Hwon, he suddenly reaches out and puts his hand under her chin and lifts her face for a quick kiss. Then Hwon pulls Wol and takes off running with her. Wol feels like she’s in a daze and the person beside her in not the real Lee Hwon.
Hwon demands that no one is to speak or witness what is happening. Woon understands Hwon’s wishes and keeps his head down, allowing Hwon a head start. By the time the rest of the retainers wrap their heads around what just happened and start their pursuit, Hwon has already taken off quite a ways. Woon stands there with a sad expression on his face. He waits until everyone has taken off chasing Hwon before he also joins in the chase.
As Hwon runs with Wol, he’s thrilled because no one can run around the Palace being chased like he can. As he weaves through the Palace with people on his heels, he suddenly hears his pursuers getting closer. Hwon smoothly pulls Wol down as they hide in the shadow of a building. Hwon is breathing heavily but he has a radiant smile on his face. He tells Wol: “Don’t worry. I’ve been playing hide-and-seek in the Palace since I was a child.” Wol asks Hwon where they are going?
In the darkness, Hwon cannot see Wol’s face so he is unsure of what her expression is right now. In truth Wol is very happy. Rather than being a shaman, she is more like a woman in love. But it is only in the darkness that she dares to reveal her true feelings. As the substitute for his eyes which cannot see, Hwon reaches out his hand and starts to stroke Wol’s face. He answers her question: “I do not know where we’re going, but as long as it’s with you besides me than that is fine……even if it’s temporary, for this time only, it is only the two of us.”
Hwon’s words leaves Wol unsure of how to respond. But Wol cannot say anything if she wanted, because Hwon’s lips have firmly sealed her ability to say anything more. After the initial soft kiss, Hwon’s tongue boldly reaches towards Wol, who is afraid to open her lips to him. Hwon puts his hand on Wol’s chin and coaxes her lips open, sliding his tongue inside when her lips open ever so slightly. With his tongue he can feel her warmth. The warmth from their tongues makes the cold from the ground below them seemingly dissipate.
Hwon instead feels this heat radiating from within that envelopes them both, until soon Wol cannot even feel the cold from the ground below. Both of them are burning up from the heat of their entwined lips, with their breathes quickening and their hearts racing. Hidden in the shadows between two building, Wol and Hwon enact this very intimate moment. Suddenly the sound of a guard searching for the King reaches their ears, the man walking back and forth but unable to find the King.
Even in this very moment, Hwon and Wol’s lips do not break apart. Hwon does not move, and neither does Wol, who is actually quite frightened. As the footsteps from the guard gradually become more distant, that is when Hwon slowly withdraws his lips from Wol. Hwon softly asks Wol if she likes to jog? Wol doesn’t understand what he’s asking, but Hwon continues, asking Wol if she will run away with him. If she can’t run very far, he can carry her. Wol is holding Hwon’s hand and nestled next to him in this darkness. She calmly replies that she will go with him.
Hwon notes that no matter where they escape to, they can never escape this Palace. They can never find a place for them to settle down. Wol just looks at Hwon’s face, which shows his frustration. Hwon suddenly tells Wol that he doesn’t remember today’s security code for use within the Palace. He’s been so busy he doesn’t even remember the code he set for today. If they are captured by the royal guards, maybe they will be cut down on the spot. Wol is shocked to hear Hwon say this and grabs his arm in alarm.
They decide to run back together, maybe if they hurry back everything will be fine. Wol holds Hwon’s hand as they run back. Wol thinks to herself, she doesn’t care where they are headed. Even if they are going to hell, she will gladly go anywhere with him. In this very moment, in the two-person world of Hwon and Wol, there is no King or shaman. There is only two people in love.
After they cross over a wall, in the distance is a small lake with an elegant pavilion in the middle. There are guards patrolling so Hwon and Wol stay back, waiting for a guard switch before running into the pavilion. Hwon tightly holds Wol’s hand this entire time, never letting it go. Inside the pavilion, Hwon takes off his outer robe and drapes it over Wol. She tries to decline, she is a lowly shaman and cannot wear the King’s robe. Hwon insists because he hates seeing her cold. When she still demurs, he grows teasingly angry, asking if she dares to disrobe in front of the King!
Hwon tells Wol that there are no retainers here right now, so there is no King or shaman. There is just a man and a woman. Please forget that this is the King’s royal robe, and accept the robe for the warmth that it contains within. The robe signifies Hwon’s desire to keep Wol warm, so will she just accept that from him?
Hwon smiles and opens the door to the little enclosed pavilion. He sees out of the corner of his eye that Woon is standing at the other end of the bridge. Hwon asks Wol if she knows where they are? She does not. He explains that this pavilion was his father’s favorite place to come with his mother, when they needed to get away from people constantly surrounding them and wanted to spend time alone talking. Hwon asks Wol to just spend this time enjoying the moonlight with him. As the moonlight shines on Hwon’s face, it also shines on his smile.
Wol hesitates and doesn’t step over the ledge into the pavilion. Hwon teases Wol, explaining that this area of the Palace houses some tigers, who might suddenly show up and gobble her up. Wol smiles at this tall tale, disbelieving what Hwon says. When Hwon sees her skeptical smile, his heart does little leaps. Hwon launches into a detailed explanation of the tale of the tigers in the Palace, telling Wol that she can ask around if she doesn’t believe him.
When Wol continues to hesitate, Hwon asks if she’s not sad about the waste of their precious time together. They may be forced to go back at any moment when people arrive to fetch them. Hwon’s words are like magic, as Wol slowly gets close to him. Hwon’s head is lowered so Wol cannot see his eyes. She walks up to him and notices how sad he looks. She places her hand on his face to comfort him, and her hot tears falls on Hwon’s cheeks.
Hwon pulls Wol to sit down beside him, hearing her sobs come from within. He cannot help but pull her into his embrace. But even as the King, he cannot stop her tears from falling. Hwon asks: “Wol, tell me who you are? Who are your parents? Who did this to you, tearing you from your family. Tell me and I can help you.” Wol answers that she is just Wol, a shaman. Even if it is just the two of them, she does not dare use the name “Yeon Woo”. That is all she can say.
Hwon tightly holds Wol by her waist, hearing her sorrow and pain but unable to do anything to comfort her. There is much he wants to ask, but his worries about Wol cause him to hold back. The wind lightly blows through the tree, rustling the branches. Hwon asks Wol not to cry, if she stops crying he’ll tell her a story about hearing the trees cry. If she comes into his embrace, she can hear what he hears. Hwon gentles pulls Wol down on his lap as he tries to wipe away her tears. Even though he can only wipe away the tears on her face right now, what he really wants to do is wipe away the tears in her heart.
As Hwon so desired, Wol finally lets out a soft smile. But in Wol’s heart, she feels guilt knowing that she is lying to Hwon. In her life now, she ought not to have such desires. But Wol cannot stop her gaze from always stopping on the King. Wol and Hwon walk over the bridge, heading back towards the Palace. Under the pale moonlight, Hwon looks at Wol’s face and suddenly recites a poem about two people who long for each other but cannot meet. It is the same poem that young Yeon Woo once wrote to Hwon, and he remembers that moment again now.
Wol stares at him in shock, as Hwon smiles a wry smile. He explains that this poem was one he loved to recite when he was just the Crown Prince. He suddenly remembers this poem a lot because of Wol. This poem reminds him of his situation with Wol. When he is asleep, she is awake. When she is asleep, he is awake. Even though they long to see each other at anytime, they cannot. Wol asks Hwon if he still thinks about Yeon Woo? To conceal the look of happy wistfulness in her face, she walks forward to embrace Hwon.
Hwon is pleased by Wol’s closeness to him. At that moment, he puts Yeon Woo away in an important corner of his heart, at the same time he places Wol there as well. Wol suddenly recites a poem back to Hwon, which causes him shock to realize that it is the same poem that was the first poem he ever wrote to Yeon Woo. He realizes that even though he never saw Yeon Woo face-to-face, and she is now a world away from him, yet she is the person who is closest to his heart.
As Hwon holds Wol tightly, he doesn’t realize that Woon has silently walked up besides him. Woon peers at Wol over Hwon’s shoulder, and then quickly his eyes are hidden again. Hwon wonders to himself why he’s been making himself suffer between the living Wol and the deceased Yeon Woo. He cannot compare the two. And perhaps that has always been a problem he created on his own. Hearing the footsteps of the retainers and the guards growing closer, Hwon’s escape for the night has come to an end.
Wol quickly pushes herself away from Hwon and makes herself presentable. They appear before everyone as the King and the shaman, with a respectable distance between them. Hwon whispers to Wol, asking her to run away with him again. Next time he’ll take her to an even bigger lake, where they can row and admire the flowers. Wol smiles as she remembers the pond young Hwon once mentioned to her before.
Once the retainers and guards arrive, Hwon imperiously tells them to stop fretting, he just wanted to enjoy playing hide-and-seek. Hwon heads back to the Palace with everyone in tow. Once they are back in Hwon’s quarters, Woon worries about Hwon having given his robe to Wol to wear. Hwon asks whether Woon wanted him to let Wol stay cold when he was the one who brought her there? Wol does not answer, simply sitting silently in the corner. Hwon edges closer to her, muttering that even though she’s so beautiful, she’s such a troublemaker because she doesn’t do as told.
Hwon grabs Wol into his embrace right in front of Woon, who gives up trying to blame Wol for anything. Woon wonders why Hwon took off, what if he’s attacked by the tigers? Hwon teases Wol about how he was telling the truth about the tigers back there. But he’s not worried, since he knows Woon will protect him. He invites Woon to come closer for some tea, using this chance to discuss Woon’s investigation into the shaman records. Wol sits in Hwon’s embrace and listens to him talk, sensing his sadness over Yeon Woo.