In describing this drama to my roommate I used the ineloquent words “amazingly awesome” because they were the first ones that popped into my head. Tale of the Nine-Tailed is without question a 10 – Heart & Seoul’s first 10 of 2021! The story is about the undying love between an arrogant, yet tender-hearted mountain god and the exiled seventh daughter of a human king – an unselfish love spanning 600 years.
Lee Yeon was once the owner of Baekdu Mountain Range, the god of the wind and rain, one of only four mountain gods. No one dared to exploit his forest so his mountain range was always rich and fruitful. A young, human girl named Ah Eum wandered into his forest one day and as she grew, the two became close, eventually falling in love – sparking a scandal that a god had given his heart to a human. Because of greed for what he claimed should have been his, the wicked serpent, Imugi sought to steal Lee Yeon’s body and take over as the god of Baekdu Mountain. During the struggle to stop Imugi from successfully carrying out his evil plan, Ah Eum lost her life and the heartbroken mountain god made a deal with the younger sister of the supreme ruler of the underworld – giving up his position as a mountain god and becoming a nine-tailed fox, so Ah Eum could be assured reincarnation.
Now, after more than 600 years of searching, Lee Yeon thinks he may have found his first and only love in the form of a young woman by the name of Ji-Ah.
When Lee Yeon voluntarily gave up his position as the god of Baekdu Mountain, he transformed into a nine-tailed fox and was sentenced to a compulsory military service that has lasted over 600 years – disposing of the supernatural beings that cause harm in the human world. Now, dwelling among mortals, Lee Yeon hides his nine-tailed fox identity well – living as a 36-year-old multi-million dollar real estate mogul. He is extremely good-looking and very well built – one girl describing him as “a fantasy drama’s lead.” Lee Yeon loves the Toy Story 3 movie and absolutely adores mint chocolate ice cream which he says tastes like the forest. His closest friend and right-hand man describes him as a very devoted romantic.
On the day of her ninth birthday, Nam Ji-Ah and her parents were in a car accident. Although she made it out alive, her mother and father simply vanished. Ji-Ah grew up well and went to the best college in the country. After working as an assistant director for an animal-related TV program for two years, she is now the PD of the popular TV series “Searching For Urban Myths.” When she sees Lee Yeon on some CCTV footage she remembers his face from when he saved her life when she was a child and is astonished that he doesn’t look a day older than when she first met him about two decades ago. Curious, she seeks him out and, after discovering his true identity, enlists him in helping her find her long lost parents.
Lee Rang, Lee Yeon’s younger half-brother, was raised by his mother among other humans but, because she was mortal and his father was a god, the villagers thought of him as a curse and would often beat him. Scared for her own life, his mother abandoned him in “the forest of the starved,” but Lee Yeon came to his rescue. When his older brother chose to give up being the god of Baekdu Mountain, so Ah Eum could be reincarnated, it was left unprotected and evil villagers set fire to it, killing the puppy Lee Yeon had given Lee Rang. Crushed that he had been abandoned by everyone he loved, when he grew up he took revenge on humans, murdering them indiscriminately, and it was Lee Yeon who carried out the punishment for his crimes – slaying. Fortunately, he was saved by a passerby and his resentment for Lee Yeon has not ceased to grow in the many centuries since then.
Goo Shin-Joo is a nine-tailed fox who lost his sisters to traps that were set by humans so he took revenge by hypnotizing people. A lot of them went mad as a result and many even died. Fearing for his life, he ran from his mountain god to Baekdu Mountain where he was saved and “claimed” by Lee Yeon. At that moment he decided he belonged to Lee Yeon, whom he respectfully refers to as “Mr. Lee Yeon.” Out of loyalty and love for his friend, Shin-Joo hasn’t strayed from Lee Yeon’s side once in over 600 years. Aside from being Lee Yeon’s right-hand man, Shin-Joo is also his primary doctor, bodyguard, and housemaid. When he followed Mr. Lee Yeon to the world of humans, Shin-Joo studied medicine and became a veterinarian. While wearing a magic necklace, he has the ability to speak with animals.
Ki Yoo-Ri is a Russian fox who was mistreated by the workers at a zoo. Very near death, she was rescued by Lee Rang and, in gratitude for saving her life, happily does whatever he asks. Rang taught her to defend herself and as a result, she is not someone you would want to mess with. Rang arranged for her to assume the identity of the 24-year-old daughter of a wealthy department store owner. She is extremely devoted to Rang and wouldn’t hesitate to give up her life for him.
Affectionately known as “Granny,” Tal Eui Pa is the younger sister of King Yeomra, the supreme ruler of the underworld. She runs the Afterlife Immigration Office and is the god that oversees “Samdocheon” – the border between this life and the afterlife. She also manages the list of people who die and is the one who assigns missions to Lee Yeon. She is a strict ruler with clairvoyant abilities. She is married to Hyun Eui-Ong, the person in charge of briefing deceased humans before they enter the underworld. The couple had a son named Bok Gil who committed suicide and therefore will be forever denied the opportunity to reincarnate. Although she comes across as a harsh, unfeeling woman she loves Lee Yeon like the son she lost.
Imugi is an evil serpent that wanted to take Lee Yeon’s place as the god of Baekdu Mountain many centuries ago. The two fought and everyone thought Imugi was destroyed but he was recently reborn and is now ready to take on Lee Yeon once again. Among Imugi’s many powers is the ability to read others’ minds and plant suggestions which the person will immediately carry out. Imugi is the representation of chaos, plagues, and wars.
I’ve loved Lee Dong-Wook for a long time and have enjoyed every character I’ve seen him play but Lee Yeon, the former mountain god turned nine-tailed fox, is the role this actor was born to play. He was magnificent! In 1999 Lee Dong-Wook began his entertainment career by winning the grand prize in the V-NESS model contest. His acting debut was in a single-episode drama, which got him noticed by the PD who decided to cast him in the teen drama School 2. By the time he finished his role in School 3, he was gaining recognition. But it was the drama My Girl that turned him into a Hallyu Star. In 2005 he became a student at Joongbu University with Media and Broadcasting Arts as his major. He has been an MC on Strong Heart, became part of the reality show Roommate, and was the host for Produce X101. In honor of the 20th anniversary of his debut, he became the host of his own talk show called Wook Talk. He is also the author of a photo-book entitled For My Dear. He was chosen to be the Honorary Ambassador for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games and was also the Tourism Ambassador of Gangwon Province. A few of his best characters are those in Blade Man, Wild Romance, Bubblegum, Touch Your Heart, and of course Goblin!
By going to my review of My Strange Hero you can read about Jo Bo-Ah, the gorgeous actress who plays the part of Nam Ji-Ah.
Kim Sang-Bum, better known as simply Kim Bum, majored in Film and Theater at Chung-Ang University. Of the hundreds of contestants that joined Survival Star Audition, he placed sixth, but because he wasn’t yet 20-years-old he was unable to continue the competition. However, it did lead to him receiving many roles in TV series. His debut was through the sitcom High Kick! And he won the Netizen Popularity Award for his performance in East of Eden. You might remember him best from his supporting role in the hit drama Boys Over Flowers. His acting career branched out to China where he has been in three films and one TV drama. For a little bit of relationship news – he has dated (and broken up with) actresses Moon Geun-Young and Oh Yeon-Seo. Sadly, he developed degenerative arthritis because of all the weight he lost during training for his role in the drama Padam Padam. Oh, Kim Bum is also a solo singer and has released two albums. Look for him in the upcoming drama Law School.
This show is chock full of ancient Korean myths and creatures. I had heard of a nine-tailed fox (gumiho) but everything else in the show was totally new to me. Various gods, mythical places, evil creatures… this story is loaded with those kinds of things and I loved it. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with any Korean folklore, everything in the drama is explained so it’s easy to understand.
There is excellent chemistry between all of the actors/characters in the show. All the relationships felt very real, not like they were acting at all, which is one big reason this drama is so good. Great chemistry goes a long way in making a show enjoyable, and Tale of the Nine-Tailed has it in spades!
The CGI work in this drama is jaw-droppingly superb – right up there with the likes of Goblin, Memories of the Alhambra, and Hwayugi. These people had to have been experts who knew exactly what they were doing. I’m sure no expense was spared in making those special effects look so incredibly real. Cheers to that wonderful, talented CGI team!
While I’m on the subject of special effects, I need to mention the show’s fight scenes – wow! Because the people involved in the fights are superhuman, they are able to move from place to place in the blink of an eye and punch a person hard enough to make them go flying. It’s so cool, and none of it looks hokey.
How’s the story’s ending? Well, I’ll just say I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Tale of the Nine-Tailed sequel sometime in the near future, and I’d be thrilled if that turned out to be true.
There’s a scene where Lee Yeon is walking through a wooded area on an island and sees a tree with a broken branch. It’s so heartwarming to see him wrap a handkerchief around the split part and heal the tree’s wound. It shows that he may have ceased being a mountain god in name but it was still part of him in his heart.
Those of you who spook easily better hang on to your hat because there’s one scene that has zombie-like creatures that come after Rang and Yeon and they are every inch as creepy as the ones from Kingdom and Train to Busan – they’re things nightmares are made of. Yikes!
Tale of the Nine-Tailed has 16 episodes, each one being about 70 minutes long. There’s also a bonus episode with highlights of the story andgreat behind the scenes footage!
If I were to give out an award for the actor who has the most talented facial expressions, it would go to Lee Dong-Wook. It’s a pleasure to watch this man’s face act. His eyebrows have a mind of their own and are often the center of attention in a scene. He’s absolutely amazing and darling to boot!
So, here’s something interesting I learned from watching this show – if you unraveled a large bowl of ramen noodles they would be 40 meters long, the height of the 13th floor in an apartment building. Although it’s a totally useless thing to know, I bet you’ll mention it the next time your eating ramen with a friend.
Watch for a scene where Lee Yeon and Ji-Ah are together by a waterfall. I don’t know for sure but I’m at least 90% positive it’s the same waterfall as the one in It’s Okay, That’s Love. Once you’ve seen both shows, let me know if you agree with my assessment.
So imagine – securing an area, a rope is tied around several, two-feet high, metal stakes. A person pulls one stake out of the ground and there’s no rope around it. It’s possible I missed something but… “oops.”
The drama’s opening theme, The Legend of the Fox, is a perfect representation of the story – it sounds just like a scary yet romantic fantasy. This particular show’s instrumental versions of the songs are exceptionally beautiful and we have composer Hong Dae-Sung to thank for each of them. Moonchild is gorgeously soul-stirring – hands down the best song on the soundtrack. Listing to Parting at the River of Three Crossings would break your heart even if you had no idea what the story was about, it’s that emotional. Firefly spotlights a lovely piano with soft strings in the background complementing the melody. The Uninvited is intense and powerful with a feeling of deadly conflict in the notes. Every single one of the instrumental pieces is superbly excellent! Diary of Dawn, sung by Yang Da-Il, is my favorite vocal ballad on the soundtrack.
From the freezingly-hellish cave where Lee Yeon is chained up, to his lush mountain forest, this drama is a visual feast. Yes, a lot of it may be CGI scenery but it’s still breathtakingly stunning nonetheless.
Short and simple – every devout Kdrama fan needs to see this show! And, to those of you who are just starting out with this entertainment genre, I suggest caution because Tale of the Nine-Tailed is sure to turn you into a devout Kdrama lover.
I’ll end this review with the best piece of advice I’ve ever heard come from a Kdrama – a quote from Lee Yeon, the former god of Baekdu Mountain turned nine-tailed fox…
“Life can become sweeter with just ice cream.”
Note: Tale of the Nine-Tailed replaced Vagabond on my Favorite Dramas list.
Lee Dong-Wook’s amazing (intense and darling) acting
Everyone’s acting is excellent
Two thumbs up directing
Actors’/characters’ chemistry and relationships
Endearing love story
Superb CGI work
Fantastic superhuman fight scenes
Gorgeous and emotional instrumental versions of the soundtrack
Possibly one itty-bitty “oops”