The Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea

Overview

In this classic tale from early seventeenth-century Korea, Hong Kil Dong, the son of a powerful minister, is not entitled to a birthright because his mother is a commoner. After studying the martial arts, divination, swordplay, the uses of magic, and the wisdom of the I Ching, the Book of Changes, Hong Kil Dong sets off on a quest for his destiny. He leads a band of men to right the injustices shown to the peasants by some powerful and corrupt merchants, ministers, and monks. Hong Kil Dong can then claim his ...

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Overview

In this classic tale from early seventeenth-century Korea, Hong Kil Dong, the son of a powerful minister, is not entitled to a birthright because his mother is a commoner. After studying the martial arts, divination, swordplay, the uses of magic, and the wisdom of the I Ching, the Book of Changes, Hong Kil Dong sets off on a quest for his destiny. He leads a band of men to right the injustices shown to the peasants by some powerful and corrupt merchants, ministers, and monks. Hong Kil Dong can then claim his rightful role and become a wise and just leader. This graphic book captures the drama and pageantry of sixteenth-century Korea during the Chosun dynasty and pays tribute to the adventure story that became the first novel written in the Korean language.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This uniquely formatted tale owes its strength to O'Brien's (the illustrator of the Jamaica books) meticulous research. In multiple-paneled comic-book style, the author/artist retells the story of the illegitimate son of a high Korean official, who is forbidden to address the man as "Father." Young Hong Kil Dong twice runs away, first to the monks in the mountains, then to the countryside-"Perhaps there I will find a clue to my destiny," he tells his mother earnestly-where he stumbles upon a hideaway for bandits. Their misfortunes are more affecting than his own. He decides to train them to fight for justice for the common people. Elements of magic and martial arts mastery combine to produce a story with an unflagging pace. The plot's utter improbability (at one point, Hong Kil Dong uses his mystic powers to conjure up seven straw dolls that look and speak just like him) contrasts with O'Brien's historically faithful renderings of ceremonial silk robes and temple architecture. A series of autobiographical panels shows O'Brien herself discovering the original story ("What a great idea for a children's book!" says a thought balloon above her head); she also includes plenty of other background material. Ages 9-12. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
Kil Dong was the second son of a powerful advisor to the king, but because his mother was not a noble woman Kil Dong could not inherit his father's nobility or serve in the government. He left his father's home and studied martial arts, swordplay, divination, and the uses of magic under the tutelage of monks. He wandered the land seeking his destiny until he came upon bandits who were seeking to right the wrongs inflicted by corrupt officials. With Kil Dong's training, they became the Hwal Bin Dang Save-the-Poor Army whose mission was to seek out and right injustices inflicted upon the poor. Kil Dong made seven men of straw to look like him, breathed life into them, and sent them out to the eight provinces to do his work. Called to the court of the king, Kil Dong used trickery, his magical powers, and his wisdom to win his support and gain dignity and justice for all the people. Having accomplished what he set out to do, Kil Dong vanished in a swirl of clouds and mist. It is said that he and his men settled on an island where men ruled by "skill and virtue, not by parentage." This graphic novel retells a 17th century Korean tale with lavish watercolor panels, depicting the rich culture of the time period and accurately detailing the clothing and architecture of the time. As with most graphic novels, narrative must be sacrificed for dialogue in order to propel the story, but the exquisite design here makes up for that drawback. This is an excellent addition to the burgeoning graphic novel genre.
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-While Library of Congress places this book with graphic novels, it stands on its own as a traditional tale. It's possibly the first novel written in the Korean alphabet. O'Brien has done her homework, using sources in Korean and English and researching her images to display the culture and time period accurately. Her references are well explained and documented. This is a book that demands that readers engage with the text and the art. Hong Kil Dong is successfully characterized from the beginning, and as he is the son of a maidservant and a powerful minister, it is easy to sympathize with his plight. Unable to be acknowledged or even to refer to his father as such, he must determine his own destiny. It is this pursuit that leads him to learn of the injustices toward common people brought on by corrupt officials. The layout alternates between full-page images that frequently include insets and text bubbles and a traditional frame-by-frame graphic format. This serves to heighten the action. The art, done in heavy black line and mostly pastel watercolors, will appeal to the comic-book crowd, but the story-with its magic, martial arts, and drama-will entice reluctant readers as well as adventure lovers.-Janet S. Thompson, Chicago Public Library Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580893039
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/15/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 787,479
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.11 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.24 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Sibley O'Brien has illustrated more than twenty picture books, including WHAT WILL YOU BE, SARA MEE? and the Jamaica series by Juanita Havill. Anne has also illustrated a number of her own books, including THE LEGEND OF HONG KIL DONG: THE ROBINHOOD OF KOREA, AFTER GANDHI: ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE, and A PATH OF STARS. She lives on Peaks Island, Maine.

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