The Tale of Nokdu is about a man (Jang Dong Yoon) who disguises himself as a woman to live among a community of women in order to solve a mystery about his past. He falls for a hot-tempered woman (Kim So Hyun) who is reluctantly training to be a gisaeng while seeking revenge on the king.
Jang Dong Yoon plays Jeon Nok Du. He grew up on a secluded island with his family, but after an attack on their lives, he sets out to find out who is after him. When his attacker enters a village of widows, he disguises himself as a woman to live in the village and gather information.
Kim So Hyun is Dong Dong Joo. She is a gisaeng in training who secretly has plans for revenge on the king. She encounters Nok Du in the city as a man and then again is the widows’ village believing he’s a woman. They develop an interesting relationship when they end up sharing a room and growing closer.
Then we have Kang Tae Oh as Cha Yool Mu. He has had longtime feelings for Dong Joo. He is very protective of her and tries to win her over, but that becomes a lot more difficult once Nok Du enters the picture.
Oh my! I have to say that I sure did love this drama! The Tale of Nokdu is one of those shows with a little a bit of everything: action, romance, intrigue, mystery, humor, angst, and heart. And that combination makes for a pretty terrific drama!
This was a fun opportunity to have a little role reversal with a guy cross dressing as a woman for a change. I thought that Jang Dong Yoon was a great choice for the role. Of course, I wouldn’t say I would ever actually believe he was a woman, but how often is the girl dressing as a guy actually believable either? Jang Dong Yoon did so well though and made a pretty decent woman. And he sure was pretty!
I loved all of the humor surrounding Nok Du pretending to be a woman. There are all kinds of fun shenanigans with him constantly having to avoid being caught while sharing a room, bathing, and during everyday interactions.
I always got a kick out of his terrified expression as well as some of his more “intimate” moments with our other male lead Yool Mu who was none too pleased with their encounters.
We also see a nice relationship develop between Nok Du and Dong Joo. She’s very feisty, and this made the bickering stage particularly fun. Plus, she believes him to be a woman for a while, so that made for an interesting relationship.
Of course, the pair slowly grow closer, and she eventually finds out he’s a man. They both have some big secrets remaining between them though, and their developing feelings for each other complicates their individual lives. They then have to face some serious challenges together.
The Tale of Nokdu is more lighthearted for the first third, but everything is clearly being set up for all of the intensity to come. I thought the story was established well with a mystery introduced early on concerning who Nok Du was and why people were trying to kill him.
This all builds up to some surprising reveals about him and those around him. SPOILERS: And count me as completely surprised that our seemingly sweet second lead Yool Mu turned out to be the big baddie! I wasn’t ready, lol END OF SPOILERS
Things get really intense in the second half of the drama as Nok Du finds answers about his past and has to figures out what to do with the information as well as protect himself and those he loves.
We get some very swoon-worthy as well as heart wrenching moments between Nok Du and Dong Joo during all of this. The build up of their relationship was done so well, and it piqued at just the right time with some extremely emotional confessions.
There was laughter, sorrow, tears, and so much more. I just ate all this up! This is the kind of star-crossed romance I live for. I was definitely feeling this relationship and enjoyed it very much.
The drama also has a plethora of amazing supporting characters that include Nok Du’s family and friends, palace people, and ladies at the widow village. Some provided lots of laughs while others brought some incredible intensity. It was a great cast for sure.
MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
Another of my favorite relationships was the heartbreaking one between Nok Du and his father the King (Jung Joon Ho). Since the King tried to have him killed as a baby and was responsible for all of Nok Du’s suffering, it was more than understandable that he would have a lot of anger towards the King.
The King was an incredibly interesting villain because of how multi-dimensional he was. He was definitely a brutal man who acted rashly and violently out of fear, but he was also a lonely and tormented man who was quite miserable.
He and Nok Du start out unaware of who each other is, and they bond during that time. Nok Du became a calming and trustworthy presence for the King. And then when Nok Du learned the King was his father, he had a lot of conflicting feelings. He longed for his father to regret what he had done to him as a baby, especially as he saw what a pitiful man he was.
But sadly, the King continued to disappoint Nok Du, and Nok Du ultimately had to go against him. Every single conversation between these two was full of so much weight, and the emotions were just palpable. Such a tragic story for these two all the way to the end.
And whew, that ending! I couldn’t have been more satisfied with how things played out. On the surface, it might seem like it would have been better for the King to have been dethroned earlier as well as for Yool Mu to be exposed.
Instead, many years pass before any resolution comes as Yool Mu finally succeeds in overtaking throne. The King finally realizes Yool Mu was bad, and in a heartbreaking twist, we learn that Yool Mu was actually the baby spoken about in prophecy that would take the throne. This meant that all of the King’s fears were completely misdirected, and he cast out Nok Du for no reason. The irony!
And even though Yool Mu ultimately became King, it was clear that he too would suffer the extreme loneliness and paranoia that the previous King suffered. So not really that great of a fate.
And then we have Nok Du, Dong Joo, and all of their loved ones who were able to escape to the island and live out their lives happily together. Nok Du and Dong Joo were at peace with everything and found that revenge was not what was important in life. Instead, they found love and chose to focus on that. What a beautiful ending!
END OF SPOILERS
The Tale of Nokdu was a wonderful historical. It sets up a great story early on that blossoms into an intense drama. The pacing was great throughout with humor to make me laugh, and then it upped the stakes with some serious plot developments surrounding Nok Du as well as his relationship with Dong Joo.
I enjoyed the story, the romance, the action, and the intrigue. All of these elements blended together nicely to make for an entertaining watch all the way through. My heart was left feeling so full!
My Rating: 9/10
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