Many people dream of possessing immortality. But living for all eternity plagued with the ghosts of your past, and seeing the people you care about grow old and die… Is this really the kind of life worth living? Goblin: The Lonely and Great God tackles this question in a bittersweet way.
Before Kim Shin became a goblin, he was a decorated military general during the Goryeo Dynasty. He won every single battle he went to, and because of this, the people of the country began to praise him. Unfortunately, this caused jealousy in the young king of the nation, and in consequence, the king kills Kim Shin and those close to him.
Listening to the cries of the people, the God in the Heavens bring him back to life as a goblin. But as a goblin, he soon learns that being immortal is both a blessing and a curse. In order for him to break the curse and become dust once again, he needs a human bride who can see and remove the sword from his chest.
One fateful day, 900 years later, the Goblin sees a pregnant woman dying on a street. He, being in a good mood that day, decides to save both her and her unborn child. Little does he know, his action would set in motion that of which he has been waiting for over 900 years, his death.
Now, let’s take a moment to see what a goblin in Korean folklore and mythology is.
What is a Goblin or Dokkebi?
It’s not the same as the European goblins we know about. The Korean goblin or dokkebi (도깨비) is a supernatural creature who interacts with humans. They use their extraordinary powers and abilities to help humans and make them happy, or sometimes play tricks on them and give them misery. We see Kim Shin do this on occasion throughout the drama, including to our female protagonist.
The dokkebi are formed by the spiritual possession of an inanimate object, and not by the death of a person. From this we can deduce that the goblin Kim Shin came from his blood stained sword which possessed his spirit. This is probably one of the reasons why his sword is so instrumental throughout the story.
One difference worth mentioning between the dokkebi in the drama and the dokkebi in folklore is that of their physical appearance.
In folklore they do not take human form, and don’t look as dashingly handsome and stunning as Gong Yoo, but take many forms and sizes with features like horns, sharp teeth and claws.
You can see an image of what seems to be a dokkebi on the guard of Kim Shin’s sword.
The Main Characters & Actors
~ Kim Shin (the Goblin) played by the famous actor Gong Yoo. ~
He’s know for dramas such as “Coffee Prince” and “Big”, as well as the blockbuster zombie film “Train To Busan”.
He plays a goblin who’s a protector of souls and possess powers such as teleportation, freezing time, and looking into the future of humans. In present day he meets a 19 year old girl who suddenly summons him and claims to be his bride. Though apprehensive at first, he begins to develop feelings for her. During this time he also becomes roommates with a grim reaper. They start off pretty much as enemies, but as time goes by, an adorable bromance begins to bloom.
~ Ji Eun Tak (the Goblin’s Bride) played by Kim Go Eun. ~
You may have seen her in the drama “Cheese in the Trap”, as well as the films “Monster” and “Canola”.
She plays a bright and bubbly 19 year old girl who possesses the ability to see ghosts. After the goblin saves her mother while pregnant with her, both she and her mother become missing souls. And because the goblin saved her, she is also born with the mark of the goblin’s bride on her back. Sadly, her mother dies when she is 9 years old, and she goes to live with her aunt’s family who treats her horribly. On her 19th birthday, she makes a wish while blowing out a candle, which summons the goblin. It is then when their bittersweet love story takes full force.
~ The Grim Reaper played by Lee Dong Wook. ~
He is known for his acting chops in dramas such as “My Girl”, “Scent of a Woman”, and “Hotel King”.
He plays the role of a 300 year old, surprisingly innocent, grim reaper with amnesia. The reason he’s a grim reaper is because of the horrible sins he committed before his death. His job is to escort the dead to the afterlife or reincarnation, and give them tea that will help them forget their recently ended lives. He has the ability to see a human’s past life when touching them, as well as become invisible to them when wearing his hat. He is currently living with the goblin, and has developed a particular interest in the owner of a chicken restaurant after meeting her one day on the street. As he begins to develop feelings for the owner, he also begins to wonder more and more about his past life and what lead him to become a grim reaper.
~ Sunny (AKA Kim Sun) played by Yoo In Ha. ~
You may have seen her in the dramas “Queen In Hyun’s Man”, “My Secret Hotel”, and “One More Happy Ending”.
She plays the role of a bright and extremely beautiful chicken restaurant owner. She meets the grim reaper on the street while looking at a ring, and instantly falls in love with him.
~ Other characters include: ~
Yoo Deok Hwa played by Yook Sung Jae from the boy group BTOB. He plays the role of a spoiled and rebellious chaebol who lives with the goblin. He lives there with the intention of being his companion and looking after him.
Samshin played by Lee El. She plays the samshin granny or the goddess of birth and fate.
The Original Soundtrack
The OST is produced by CJ E&M Music Studios and consists of 16 songs (Part 11 has 3 songs), excluding the instrumentals.
Click on the album cover to listen to the song on YouTube (will open in a new tab).
The original soundtrack of this drama is absolutely beautiful, and pairs perfectly with each and every scene it appears in. It helps give the drama a sense of mysticism, magic, and wonder. The songs really amplify the painful moments of the characters, as well as their joy. A demonstration of the OST’s success is with the song “I Will Go to You Like the First Snow” by Ailee, and Part 9 of the OST.
It received an all kill on the music charts on January 13th 2017.
Sadly, the OST has also received criticism, particularly with the last song, Part 14 called “Round and Round” by Heize Featuring Han Soo Ji.
This song just so happens to be the opening song of the drama. Viewers were used to the vocals of Han Soo Ji, expecting the full version to be hers. However, her part was only a feature, with the majority of the song sung by Heize. CJ E&M released an official apology and statement of the matter to the viewers. They stated that the music director’s vision was Han Soo Ji’s voice for the first 50 seconds of the song for opening impact, but had Heize’s voice in mind for the rest of the song.
The Good & The Bad
~ The GOOD ~
The drama has received constant praise for it’s breathtaking cinematography, beautifully crafted special effects, a well thought out and original plot/script, a superb soundtrack, and top notch acting. The last two episodes of the drama were even held back from airing due to the desire of ensuring the CG (special effects) were of top quality. Their meticulousness for perfection payed off, as the drama became a huge success both in Korea and internationally. It also became one of the highest rated dramas in cable TV history in Korea.
However, with it’s ever growing popularity, also came it’s share of criticism.
~ The BAD ~
During the beginning of the drama, viewers criticized the age gap between the protagonists. Being the goblin in his mid 30’s (more like mid 900’s) and the bride only 19, some viewers were uncomfortable with them falling in love with each other. However, this didn’t really bother me since the main actress is in her mid 20’s in real life, and the whole idea of the main female being hundreds of years younger then the main male is nothing new (cough*twilight*cough).
Others have criticized the acting of the main female lead Kim Go Eun, as well as her physical appearance. Some have also criticized her character as acting too annoying and childish for her age. I personally don’t agree with these sentiments, as I consider her to be beautiful and her acting phenomenal. When she cried, I cried, and when she was happy and cheerful, I couldn’t help but smile. As for the character, I enjoy characters with a cute, bubbly, and slightly childish side, so I found her quite endearing. But of course, everyone has their own likes and dislikes, so it’s ok if you agree or not.
Overall, I highly recommend this drama to people who enjoy fantasy, are interested in Korean mythology and folklore, the concept of life, death, and reincarnation, as well as everlasting love.
This drama receives a 5 out of 5 stars in my book. A definite must watch for the korean drama addict.
Well, we’ve finally reached the end of this overview. I hope you loved it as much as I loved writing it. Did you enjoy the drama as much as I did? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Until the next overview!