12 – Legend of the Condor Heroes

Yes, I’m still on a wuxia kick.

This time I read Jin Yong’s popular Legend of the Condor Heroes, which is part of a trilogy. It’s been adapted into films and television shows multiple times, but I suppose nothing beats reading the book version.

A lot of the subtle nuances and themes are lost when a wuxia book is transported into a different medium. Usually all you get are the non-stop wire-fu scenes and that’s that. Not that I’m complaining because those movies were my introduction to wuxia, but once you read the books you just realise what you’re missing.

Legend of the Condor Heroes follows the adventures of Guo Jing and Huang Rong, a pair of youngsters who fall in love, get into scrapes, learn kung-fu, get injured, and defeat the world’s(?) best kung-fu masters – all before they settle down and get married. Sometimes condors show up.

All I know about these characters I picked up from Return of the Condor Heroes/em>, which is the second book in the trilogy. I suppose it’s more popular, hence the fact that it’s shown on tv more often. I had a lot of preconceived notions about Huang Rong, for example, because of Return.

It’s not like she does anything to change my mind, though. Young Huang Rong is just as cunning, scheming, and manipulative. The fact that she acts cute to get her way makes everything more irritating.

I can’t shake the feeling that Guo Jing could have done better than get a manipulative harpy for a wife. So I’m biased, but I dare anyone to tell me that Huang Rong is actually loveable. That said, I do concede that someone as stupid as Guo Jing needs a clever shrew to help him get out of scrapes.

What makes Jin Yong’s works so interesting is the manner by which he makes characters so interesting and realistic. These people are extremely talented martial artists but they aren’t above pettiness and folly. He might write about flying swordsmen and powerful kung-fu manuals, but Jin Yong knows humanity – every sick little detail of greed and desire, redeemed only by man’s boundless capacity for good.

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