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Laya

Damdeok, Damdeok, Damdeok, Damdeok. Nuff said?!



One of my all time favorite personal heroines is England's Elizabeth I, who as a girl, legend has it, stupefied and stumped many politicians of her time, enabling her to survive to take the throne of England. So many quotes are attributed to her, like "Today died a man of much wit, and very little wisdom" (on the death of Thomas Seymour), and "Christ was the word that spoke it, he took the bread and broke it, and what his word did make it, that I do believe, and take it" (when asked by inquisitors if she believed that the words spoken by priests during the mass before communion really did transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ). Okay, so I love to read (and reread) "The Young Elizabeth" and "Legacy".

So when I finally got to watch the first few episodes of Korea's "The Legend", quite a few scenes involving the young Damdeok reminded me very much of Elizabeth as I knew her from books. Especially the part where he confronted his aunt about her plot to poison his father, then King of Gooknae.

Picture this: an angelic-looking eleven-year-old boy, very calmly and artlessly putting a jar on the table in front of his aunt, Lady Yeon, then telling her that there was a plot to poison his father, and that the plot was really very ingenious because the poison used was odorless and tasteless and virtually undetectable, yet one drop of it each day was capable of causing the death of a person in a month's time, a poison used by witches and sorcerers, the poison contained in the very jar now before them. He then goes to say artlessly, (as in dedma!) that the poisoner could have been brilliant, but he made a stupid move: he paid the king's physician, who did the poisoning, with gold that the king had bestowed on someone he favored-- the same gold that the king had recently awarded to her son, Yeon Ho Gae, and that Damdeok himself had delivered to the Yeon residence. He then adds that because of this, he had his cousin arrested, but he really didn't want to have him executed, as he is fond of his cousin, however, trying to poison the king was treason of the highest order and should not go unpunished. Then, with a knowing glance at his aunt, he says that of course, if someone else would take the blame, he would spare Ho Gae's life. At first Lady Yeon tries to bluff him, challenging the truth of what he said, demanding that he bring the king's physician before her and they would see who between the two of them was telling the truth. Whereupon Damdeok says that he cannot do that, and reaches into a box at his feet and brings out the severed head of the same physician. Sorry aunt, but you see, he committed treason, so I had to have him executed. Lady Yeon bursts into hysterical laughter, picks up the jar, and exits like a drunk, laughing all the way as she guzzles the remaining poison. She dies in the arms of her son, warning him to look out for the prince, as his innocent face hides a treacherous serpent.

Fast forward a few scenes, to the Yeon household, where Lady Yeon now lies in state. Enter the young prince, casually carrying a box. He greets his uncle and cousin, and extends his condolences for the very unfortunate incident. Ho Gae, still enraged over his mother's death, attacks him, but Damdeok remains calm. He states simply that he had uncovered that his aunt had plotted to kill the king, and that when he confronted her about it, she had drunk the poison, but he couldn't have known that was what she'd do. He then opens the box and brings out its grisly contents, the head of the royal physician, and explains that the doctor had been executed for his part in the plot. He concludes that now all who knew of the plot were dead, and he knew that the Yeons would keep silent about it because there was really no point in letting anyone else know, so he would also say no more on the matter. After this diplomatic "I won't if you won't", he takes his (very polite) leave. Minister Yeon turns to his son and says bitterly that the prince always stayed in the background, so they thought nothing of him, yet he, a weak little boy, won the battle. Lady Yeon always believed that Ho Gae was born the king of Jushin, yet now he (Minister Yeon) doubted it.

Move over, Queen Bess.

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