'Tale of the Nine-tailed' Ending Explained: Lee Rang's sacrifice gives Lee Yeon his happy ending with Ji-ah
'Tale of the Nine-Tailed' finale showed how this story about gumihos is not only a love story between a nine-tailed fox and a human but also about family
After Lee Yeon jumped into the Samdo River to save the world from the Imoogi and a plague, the two people who found it the hardest to live in his absence were Lee Yeon's (Lee Dong-wook) brother Lee Rang (Kim Beom) and Lee Yeon's lover Ji-ah (Jo Bo-ah). Shin-joo did what Lee Yeon had wanted of him and had moved on by marrying Yu-ri and living with Lee Rang and his adopted son. However, neither Ji-ah nor Lee Rang gave up on Lee Yeon. Ji-ah, just as she had promised, waited for Lee Yeon while Lee Rang ended up beating up supernatural beings to get clues about a way to bring his brother back.
Ji-ah recorded everything that happened in Lee Yeon's absence and that included Shin-joo's wedding to Yu-ri and finally when she did coincidentally find her way to the 10th Lord of the Underworld. Turns out he is also responsible for the reincarnation of living beings and so he tells Lee Rang and Ji-ah that he is ready to bring Lee Yeon back if they are ready to barter the thing that they cherish most in return. This is his usual style of bartering things as we had seen in the past and so when we see Ji-ah tell that she is ready to give her life up to bring Lee Yeon's back. The Lord reminds her that he may never return as they knew him but as someone else entirely.
She doesn't care and neither does Lee Rang, however, Lee Rang feels that if Ji-ah were to offer herself up to the underworld then Lee Yeon's sacrifice will be of no value so he offers himself up instead. Initially, the Underworld's Lord refuses considering how Lee Rang had never been interested in leading a life and so he considers this an unequal barter. However, when Lee Rang is looked at through the magnifying glass then surprisingly, he is told that he has recently begun to cherish his life considering how he has got himself a family in the form of Shin-joo, Yu-ri and the little boy. So before Ji-ah could stop him, the deal is made and all the time that he has to deal with his decision is a few minutes. He is unable to even bid his family goodbye and only watches as Yu-ri runs towards him.
He is happy he has a family that would miss him and remember him and just as Lee Yeon had left him a video message, he leaves one for his brother too for when he returns and return he does. Lee Yeon returns one rainy day and when Ji-ah meets him, it is quite clear that the couple have got their happy ending. However, Lee Rang's absence is what makes this happy moment tinge with sadness. Not only that, but Lee Yeon also tells Ji-ah that he has returned as a human being and not a gumiho. He tries to live a normal life, as humans would and he realizes all the things that could go wrong with this situation. From having to get root canal done to wearing spectacles, he experiences all the mundane human experiences and also thanks Taluipa and Hanienyeong who stalked and spammed Hades's Korean equivalent until Ji-ah and Lee Rang were given a chance.
Until the very end, it seems as if Lee Yeon would have to live with taking Lee Rang's life, but then we see him meet a young boy who looks exactly as Lee Rang did when he was a young boy and is happy that he has reincarnated. This shows that it was always about balance and how to lose something means to gain something else. It was always a fight to protect what you love while protecting the world that was the problem. However, when Lee Rang had given himself up, he negated the cycle of fate that was expected to repeat this time around as well. It is interesting how from the beginning, the story of the two gumiho brothers was more compelling than one of their love stories.
While everything about the ending went as expected, what was surprising was the ability that Lee Yeon still held when it came to hunting evil spirits. We saw how he hunted the Spirit of Misfortune spreading evil on the streets and he was able to swing the gumiho sword from the red umbrella as if he were still a powerful nine-tailed fox. So did he not come back as human? Or is it just his special ability? We believe that Lee Yeon is still the gumiho that he was in the past and he has been given his yeowu guseol back from the light in his eye when he used his sword. So the human facade is surely for Ji-ah's mental peace and from how the two were able to get married and even plan a child maybe, he succeeded.
'Tale of the Nine-Tailed' will be aired on tvN on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10.30 pm KST and can be streamed on Viki Global.