The long-awaited spinoff episode of ‘Tale of Nine-Tailed’ has finally aired and international fans might be in a little bit of a rut as to what it all means. Right from the myth of Grandpa Mangtae to the azaleas, keep reading to know it all.
Part 1 of Yi Rang’s untold story starts with Rang walking the streets of Seoul, bored out of his mind before he settles on a bench to rest on. However, his calm is interrupted by the shrill sound of a child crying to his mother. The reason is not apparent at first, but the more his mother tries to calm him down, the more he cries. Frustrated by the child’s tantrum, the mother warns him, “If you don’t stop crying, Grandpa Mangtae is going to get you.” Right at that moment, an old man collecting trash passes Rang by before being stopped by Rang with the statement, “I see Grandpa Mangtae disguises as an old man who picks up trash these days.” The camera pans to the old man, who reveals his face, half-hidden under a bucket hat. “I see you can recognize me now,” says the man, admitting to his identity.
Mangtae-gi halabuhji is a Korean mythological figure, commonly found in children’s stories intended as a cautionary tale against children's misbehavior. Just the utterance of his name would turn a temper tantrum quiet. Mangtae-gi halabuhji means grandfather of the net bag. The net bag is important because of its widespread use during pre-modern times for carrying crops and other goods. Legend has it that if a child does not stay still or makes too much noise, Grandpa Mangtae will take them away to discipline them before returning them or will simply kidnap them, never to return.
Back to Yi Rang, the duo shares friendly banter while the child cries on in the background because he misses his father. This prompts Rang to remind Grandpa Mangtae that he seems to have work to do, referring to the child. The old man rummages around in his paraphernalia to bring out the notorious net bag, out of which comes a black smoke consuming and containing children’s wailing. We quickly cut to the next scene where Rang engages in his usual fun time activity, granting unlikely wishes to unsuspecting victims. He goes up to the mother, asking her if she’d like him to make her wish come true and have Grandpa Mangtae take her child away. Frightened beyond belief, the mother calls out for a child who is nowhere to be seen. With one last smug look, now so iconic, Rang disappears, and the child reappears. The mother holds her child close, now aware of her own misbehavior.
Grandpa Mangtae and Yi Rang walk away, laughing out loud at the human condition. For old times’ sake, the two decide to grab a drink. The conversation goes from hearty laughs to a familiar sigh as Rang asks the old man why he didn’t take him away when he was a child despite the fact that he used to cry quite like that. The old man replies by saying that he couldn’t do so because Rang had a doting older brother to take good care of him. Rang retorts by saying that he had no one there for him after Yi Yeon abandoned him and left the mountain. However, the old man is assertive, saying that even when he tried his best to take Rang away, he couldn’t because his brother would protect him with all his might. Rang persists, now with a tone more solemn than before, saying that it would have been better if he had taken him away, for he was way too lonely. At this critical moment in the conversation, a waitress appears, bringing a plate of sweet azaleas on the house. Rang looks heartbroken at the mere sight of the flowers, claiming that azaleas are what he hates the most in the world. He continues by saying that he hates the look of it, the taste of it and especially, his brother before replaying the tale of his brother abandoning him for a human woman in his head. Rang cannot seem to comprehend how Yeon could abandon him and if he was going to do that anyway, what even was the point of rescuing him after his mother abandoned him in the first place? Rang doesn’t think of the mother that threw him away, but he cannot forgive the brother that left him all alone. At this point, the old man shoves an azalea in his mouth because he wouldn’t eat them himself. Even though he looks repulsed, Rang doesn’t protest.
Azaleas hold an essential place in Rang’s heart, as was previously made clear in the main plotline of ‘Tale of the Nine-Tailed.’ Korean azaleas that bloom in abundance in spring are edible and are often used as sweet little additions on rice cakes.
The meaning of the azalea flower in South Korea is ‘first love.’ After having rescued Rang, Yi Yeon would spend most of his days with Rang. On one such beautiful spring day, Yeon introduced Rang to the sweetness of azaleas. He had decided at that moment that azaleas were going to be what he loved the most in this world, only after Yeon. Rang hopefully, with a heart full of joy, asks Yeon to make a promise to have azaleas every day from then on until forever. However, the proposal remains unanswered, foreboding the cruel fate that was going to engulf them both. Back at the restaurant, the two men have passed out; with the thought, “my brother abandoned me,” continuously running through Rang’s mind. The screen fades to black.