Ok, this is a REALLY LONG saga – and I’m trying to condense as much as possible in as little posts as possible. Sort of because I think this drama is done in parts. The first 25 episodes sort of summed up everything from the beginning of Seon Deok/Deok Man’s birth to adulthood, and the next bunch of episodes will focus on her battles with Mishil. This is an EPIC drama, and no one has made recaps of it!!
I’m going to attempt to recap it – except I am going to do it in a VERY abbreviated form. Though I’ve finished watching the first 25 (albeit in fast forward at some parts), it’s waaay too long – and so here are the first 5 episodes. I’ll keep churning them out when I have the time.
First off, this chart has been very helpful for me in figuring out everyone’s role in the drama:
The ruler of Silla is King Jinheung. The leader of the Hwarang – or the Royal Guards (think Secret Service) – is Lady Misil. His grandson is Jinpyeong – who becomes the father of Princesses Chun Myung and Seon Deok. His second son is Jinji, who is the lover of Lady Misil. Jinheung is old and sickly, and he gives Misil one piece of advice: fate does not make a ruler, the people do. Later, he tells the loyal Misil what his final requests are, and that includes passing the crown to his grandson rather than to Jinji and Misil (who are told to devote their lives in prayer). Misil is clearly not happy, but she says she will carry out his orders. Behind her back, Jinheung orders Sulwon, his Hwarang guard to kill Misil. Of course, Misil helps Jinji take the Mandate of Heaven away from the young Jinpyeong and become King. Meanwhile, Hwarang guard Munno remembers a prophecy that Jinheung once made: Misil’s reign would not end until an 8th star appears in the Ursa Major (or, the Big Dipper).
Four years later, Misil has given birth to a son and wishes that they be recognized as Queen and heir. Jinji refuses and says that he will never name her queen, despite her help with putting him on the throne. She abandons her child. Meanwhile Jinpyeong and his wife Lady Maya are expecting a child.
At the royal ceremony, before Jinji can once again claim the Mandate of Heaven, Misil interrupts with the legion of Hwarang guards, all of whom are loyal to her. She reveals that Jinji has disobeyed his father’s Final Bequest and that everyone, including the nobles, are calling for his abdication.
Misil plots to be by Jinpyeong’s side to become queen, which means killing Maya. However, Munno manages to save their lives, and disrupt an important council meeting. Maya reveals herself to be queen and pregnant with a child, thus foiling Misil’s plans. Maya gives birth to not one girl, but two. To protect the younger daughter from Misil, he has his maid Sohwa to take the baby and run under Munno’s protection. He gives her Jinheung’s royal dagger as a keepsake to protect her.
Fifteen years later, Deok Man, the second daughter of Jinpyeong, lives a merchant’s life with her mother Sohwa, constantly traveling across the deserts and learning many languages, including Chinese and Latin for trade. During all this time, Misil has her loyal guard Chilsuk chase after Deok Man and Sohwa, and eliminate them once and for all.
Back at the royal court, the royal family suffers another loss as the third and last son of Queen Maya dies, leaving Princess Chun Myung all alone. Misil cryptically comforts Chun Myung by saying that her brothers’ deaths are all her fault.
Deok Man is discovered for trading tea illegally and is arrested. However, she’s a plucky one – she faces up against the Chinese warlord and begs for his forgiveness, even saying outright that the laws banning tea trade are unfair. She matches wits against him, and he is forced to let her and all of her friends go. However, this encounter leads to Chilsuk realizing who she really is, as he had been unaware that he had been traveling with the girl he’s supposed to kill. He goes to Deok Man and Sohwa’s home, but a fire accidentally breaks out and they manage to escape to the desert. Sohwa, however disappears in a quicksand.
Chun Myung’s husband, Yongsun, is killed in battle, thus effectively killing all the men in Jinpyeong’s family. Knowing that Misil is somehow involved, Chun Myung escapes the palace to give birth to her son, Chunju, in safety and secrecy. She leaves Chunju at a temple and begins her search for Munno, knowing that he is the only one who can undermine Misil’s power over the Hwarang. Meanwhile, Deok Man is searching for Munno as well, as her mother told her that he is the last person who can provide all the answers for her.