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Introduction: When the Going Gets Tough
There was a time when the entire world was fascinated by the incredibly artistic stories about noble samurais and the fearless warriors who made Japan famous and honorable all over the world. However, as time passed by, the legends old as time started to wear off, to much pity of the fans. Nevertheless, the really worthwhile novels stood afloat, among them the fabulous story by Jin Yong, The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, which not only was a mastermind of depicting the battle scenes and giving the fighting styles sonorous names, but also managed to reinvent people’s perception of the whole idea of the Japanese martial art, making the characters more three-dimensional and giving them not only the abilities to learn fast enough and fight well, but also the chance to develop as the story progressed.
With the help of the idea that stands behind each of the martial arts style, and the character that stands behind it, the author manages to convey the specifics of the given character’s features and outline the stages of his/her development throughout the novel, which added vivacity to the novel and contributed to the credibility of the characters and the world that Yong depicts.
Yue Buqun: When the Violet Twilight Sets in
The man who founded the school and started teaching the students the secrets of the martial art of gongfu, Yue Buqun deserves considerable attention. He is one of those wonderful clichés that the whole generation of novels about the Japanese martial arts teachers is thankful to him for. Yue Buqun is the image of a perfect teacher, sympathetic, wise and fearless; the author makes his nobility obvious, offering an all-embracing description of the character:
Mu Gaofeng immediately recognized him. He was indeed “Righteous Sword” Yue Buqun, Head Master of the Huashan School. Mu had always been in dread of him. Now, since Mu had been caught bullying a junior who basically had no gongfu skills and because Yue even gave the youngster a helping hand, he felt very awkward.1
However, these are not the peaceful scenes that characterize Yue Buqun the most, but the scenes of fight, where he, despite the rage, manages to keep honor and dignity. And, as he fights, he resembles a shadow sliding in the twilight across the street. Taking a closer look, one will see that the author does not actually give the descriptions of Yue Buqun’s movements, in contrast to the other characters, whose motions are described in the most detailed way – the Master himself simply does not need any comments on his art. He sees the injustice, he joins the fight for justice – and “Mu Gaofeng knew well that once Yue Buqun stepped in, things would not go as he wished.2” The author leaves it to the defeated enemies to comment on Yue Buqun’s martial skills: “Mu Gaofeng saw the change and felt his heart shudder. “So that was indeed the ‘Violet Twilight Gongfu’ of the Huashan Sword School!” he thought.3”
A Member of the Unmatched Ning Family
Weirdly enough, there is a woman in Yong’s story, even though martial arts ate supposed to be the prerogative of men. However, the author decided to give her a specific weapon, which was rather clever. With the help of the swords that she used to combat the foes, not only did she look more perilous, but also more feminine and gracious. Whenever she makes a move in the fight, it is always the right one: “Madam Yue turned to her side and drew a sword hanging at the waist of one of her female apprentices and commanded, ‘Use the fast knife-chops!’4”
The Power of Dugu Nine Swords: Feng Qingyang
Another character that possesses the most mysterious features, Feng Qingyang is one of the noble and chivalrous followers of the Master. With the help of a Zorro-style build-up, the author allows the reader to understand that Feng is a master of gongfu: “The words ‘Feng Qingyang’ were carved on the left side of the wall. They must have been carved using a sharp blade – the vigorous strokes were almost a half-inch deep.5” However, it is only the teaching process where the skills and the soul of the noble warrior come into the open. Swearing to never fight anyone6, he might seem too mild, yet it is simply the compassion and love for people that motivates him. However, most of the time, Feng simply teaches Chong the martial arts along with the Master, which also allows the reader to see his character pretty well as a wise and a proud warrior. He teaches Chong, and he leaves – to be mentioned again further on.
The Master of Improvisation: Linghu Chong
The last, but definitely not the least, Linghu Chong is one of those students that every teacher could only dream of. Mastering each style of gongfu with an amazing ease, the warrior manages not only to master every single style that he sees someone performing, but also perfect it to the point of utter brilliance. “He continued working at gathering his inner energy, using Violet Twilight Gongfu in an effort to break open the sealed points.7”
Moreover, Linghu Chong also possesses that specific nobleness that the Master of gongfu himself, Yue Buqun, has: “Yue Buqun was livid. He remembered how Linghu Chong had put an act of stabbing himself on Mount Hua, not wanting to kill Tian Boguang.8” Born to follow the footsteps of his teacher, he is, doubtlessly, in the focus of the novel.
In the Heat of the Fight: Why Being so Elaborate?
The scenes of the fights that the author makes the readers go through are, therefore, not only successful attempts to make the well-paced story more action-packed, but also the means to show the way in which the characters’ personalities developed, and mark the stages of their further progress. One of the most striking examples is the one of Linghu Chong, the man who starts out as a humble student ad turns out to be an incredibly fast learner who manages to become even more successful in the art of fighting than his own teacher.
Moreover, the moral development of the character has been shown well enough; among all the scenes in the book, the one where Linghu Chong is filled with bitter regret about his forced lying – that is, keeping forced silence, which is even more dreadful for him – and cannot help feeling the overwhelming sorrow:
Not daring to reply, Linghu Chong kept kowtowing as thoughts raced in his head. ‘If I don’t tell them how Grand Uncle-Master Feng taught me sword arts, Master and Master-Wife will certainly not forgive me. But a true man must keep his word.9’
The rest of the characters also display considerable evolution from the state of being captured by a certain idea to slowly transmitting to a more tolerant vision of the world. Therefore, the fighting scenes are not only the gems to decorate the novel. These are the landmarks of the characters’ development.
Conclusion: The Acme of Skill
Introducing each character of the story with the help of the battle style that suits his/her character precisely, Jin Yong does a miracle of characters portrayal and the depiction of their development. It is quite peculiar that not only the strengths and the positive features of the characters, but also their negative features and the obvious weaknesses are exposed to the reader with the help of the battle descriptions. When giving the reader the details of the battles, the author shows clearly that one chooses to fight and die the way (s)he used to live, which is rather impressive when it comes to confronting the main villain of the novel.
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Rather unexpectedly, the latter turns out not the numerous enemies and opponents that the leading characters are supposed to fight with, but their own fears and weaknesses, which adds to the symbolism in the novel. When giving detailed descriptions of the acme of the skill that the leads possess, the author compares the battle to the actual life, which makes the novel truly gripping and fills it with the specific philosophy of the East.
1. Jin Yong. The Smiling Proud Wanderer, (Lanny Lin, 2011), 136. Web.
2, Jin Yong. The Smiling Proud Wanderer, (Lanny Lin, 2011), 136.Web.
3. Jin Yong. The Smiling Proud Wanderer, (Lanny Lin, 2011), 137. Web.
4. Jin Yong. The Smiling Proud Wanderer, (Lanny Lin, 2011), 198. Web.
5. Jin Yong. The Smiling Proud Wanderer, (Lanny Lin, 2011), 205. Web.
6. Jin Yong. The Smiling Proud Wanderer, (Lanny Lin, 2011), 267. Web.
7. Jin Yong. The Smiling Proud Wanderer, (Lanny Lin, 2011), 361. Web.
8. Jin Yong. The Smiling Proud Wanderer, (Lanny Lin, 2011), 361. Web.
9, Jin Yong. The Smiling Proud Wanderer, (Lanny Lin, 2011), 362. Web.