This time we should be able to finish up Miri Kim’s 2012 novel Wolf Boy (김미리의”늑대소년”). In the next chapter, the story turns to the officer manning the town police box, Kyeongjang Oh. He receives the police report from Mr. Jeong while he’s getting tipsy on rice wine, and he rides his bicycle out to the scene. He recalls what happened out there with Dr. Park who was doing research on wolves. In this section, we are told the story from his perspective with his impressions of Suni and her family, which are far from flattering, though admittedly up until now Suni is kind of a jerk and hard to please. One of the girls opens the door for him and escorts him to the living room where Mr. Jeong and his wife are waiting with Suni’s mother. The boy is crouching strangely and looks very hairy. Officer Oh isn’t very sympathetic to vagabonds as a rule.
Officer Oh thinks Suni’s mother is attractive but pegs Suni as a slick Seoul girl and Sunja as a foolhardy tomboy. However, he puts a sincere expression on his face and listens to their chattering. He notes no one knows anything about the boy at all, not his name or residence, and he doesn’t have an ID card or certificate. The boy is an alien. Suni’s mother detects Oh’s insincerity, and she becomes offended and stops cooperating with him. He gets angry and threatens to take them to the station to get them to talk. He says he doesn’t really have any place to put a vagabond since this town doesn’t have a proper police station and the boy is too old for an orphanage. Oh plans on talking to the county office about the problem, thinking this Seoul woman is very troublesome. They leave Suni alone with the boy, but she finds him irritating and notices he smells bad. She glares at him and goes up to her room.
Suni’s mother gets on the Jeongs’ three wheeled cart to go to the county office, but she has no income or documents proving she can raise the boy herself, and the county office isn’t happy about that. She confirms she’s not the boy’s guardian and doesn’t know where he came from, that she discovered him by chance. When they return to the house, Suni’s mother decides the boy needs a bath because of how bad he smells. Everyone is nauseated by it. As she cleans him up, she tries to discover if his parents are dead, but he doesn’t answer. She realizes he is much bigger that she thought and that his features look more refined than those of the local country folk. Finally, since she can’t find out anything about him by asking, she decides that they will call him Cheolsu. This name sounds like the word for withdrawn.
Suni is unhappy with the arrangement and thinks her father would never tolerate a beggar like Cheolsu hanging around the house. He still acts like a beast even though he’s clean now and looks outwardly human. When they eat dinner, he eats greedily and pounces on the food, eating with his hands. That night, Suni can’t sleep and comes down to gawk at Cheolsu. She thinks he looks like an idiot rolled up in the quilt with his mouth hanging open. Her mother comes in and talks with Suni about how she found work with a publisher editing manuscripts that will help pay their debts and for school. After their conversation ends, Suni notices Cheolsu moving in a way that reminds her of a wolf, and I think he howls a little. It startles her, and she scolds him for make a racket at midnight when everyone is sleeping. She goes to her room, hating everyone, but she hears dogs whining in the distance, seemingly in response to Cheolsu.
In the next chapter, titled “Jealousy,” Suni begins preparation for her GED certificate. The novel shows her studying at a few different times, sometimes keeping her mother company as she corrects manuscripts for her job. She has a few scuffles with Cheolsu since he’s physically awkward and she’s upset by everything he does. We see Cheolsu eating corn a lot, which I think is kind of interesting. So far the book really describes him a way that makes him very domesticated in spite of his wolf attributes. Wolves are carnivores, not omnivores, so eating a diet exclusively of potatoes and corn wouldn’t be natural, but this arrangement in the novel makes him safer for the girls in his new household. It’s very striking and strongly emphasized at this point.
The front door opens, and Jitae arrives and has an angry fit when he sees Cheolsu with the women since he seems to think he’s the man of the house. He demands to know why Cheolsu is staying with them. Suni is cold toward Jitae, and he can’t control his anger, reminding the women that they are indebted to him. He sees Suni’s books and makes insulting remarks about girls studying, telling Suni all she needs is a wealthy husband with a luxurious house. He grabs her wrist and tells that if she behaves meekly and sweetly, he may just bring her back makeup from Seoul. Cheolsu intervenes by grabbing Jitae’s hand until Jitae cries out, embarrassed and in pain. Jitae lets go of Suni and can’t look Cheolsu in the eye. After Jitae leaves, Cheolsu goes back to eating corn, and Suni tries to thank him. When she goes back to her room, she notices a book in her box on training a pet dog. That makes her happy.
The next chapter has the title “Training Cheolsu,” so we see he’s finally being accepted into the family. Suni seeks out Cheolsu and even brings him potatoes to eat. They sit outside with Sunja while Suni tries to teach him commands like stay and eat. When he tries to bite the potato out of her hand, he nips her, and she screams though it’s just a scratch. Sometimes when she tries to train him, she strokes his hair and tells him he did a good job. Finally, she decides he isn’t capable of human speech though he has superhuman strength that they discovered on an outing to the market one day. A steel beam falls and nearly hits the girls in the market, and Cheolsu steps in front of it, letting it fall on his back. The family knows for sure then that Cheolsu isn’t an ordinary boy, and they consider him a member of the family.
In the next scene, we see Cheolsu cultivating beans in a flower pot. He seems to be a natural at caring for plants, and Suni wonders how he knows about it and who he is. Again, this is very strange since he’s supposed to be part wolf. That evening when they are sitting at the dinner table, Sunja asks her mother to buy her a baseball. Her mother asks why she’s interested in getting one since they can’t play ball in the house. Sunja says she wants it for Cheolsu because he lost Mr. Jeong’s baseball. That night, Cheolsu suddenly gets up from his bed and disappears outside in the deepest part of the night. There’s a car on the dirt road leading into the village. Jitae is in the car with his friends at Mr. Jeong’s house, and they kill one of his baby goats. Worrying that if they are found out, Mr. Jeong will run them out of the village, they decide to blame Cheolsu, who happens to be around looking for the baseball he lost earlier. The next day, Jitae is drunk as usual and comes to the house looking for Suni. He takes a key out of his pocket and opens their front door, heading straight upstairs to Suni’s room. Cheolsu is asleep in front of her door but wakes at the sound of Jitae’s loud footsteps. Jitae drags Suni outside while it’s still dark, ranting about how Cheolsu killed this goat. Much to Suni’s dismay, Cheolsu follows them and fights with Jitae.
Chapter 14 is titled “That Guy is a Monster,” and it starts with Officer Oh not really buying Jitae’s story of how the goat died. Jitae calls Cheolsu a monster, and he fights with Suni over his plan to marry her. Suni calls him crazy, and her mother scolds her. Later, in the next chapter titled “A Letter from Doctor Park Jongdu,” Cheolsu is stuck back in the barn because of the controversy over the dead goat. The barn door is open, and the air wafting out from it stinks. Sunja complains about the smell and asks about Cheolsu coming back to the house to live with them again. Her mother says he is in prison then complains to Suni about all of the dust in the barn. The windows of the barn have bars, and Cheolsu’s bed is filthy. He is also locked behind a door of steel bars with a padlock.
In the barn, Cheolsu has the flower pot with beans, pencils, paper, boxes, and related items. Jitae and Suni’s mother have a discussion about Cheolsu’s living conditions, which he answers sullenly. She threatens to call Jitae’s father about the problem, but he tells her not to worry and mentions Suni marrying him eventually. Suni’s mother feels he has insulted them. However, Jitae has a letter from the deceased doctor who conducted the experiments on wolves which contains something about Dr. Taeshik Kang at the National Defense and Science Institute. This gives Jitae a lot of ammunition against Cheolsu.
Suni goes to the barn to visit Cheolsu often, though none of them can get past the barred door. She takes plates of food out to him at every mealtime, and when Sunja returns from school, they go straight to see Cheolsu to play. Her mother has a hidden key to go in and clean up. Meanwhile, Cheolsu is clumsily trying to learn to write with a pencil while he’s locked in the barn. Suni decides they should go out for a walk together, but when they are out in the forest, she starts coughing while Cheolsu looks on. After midnight, Suni’s mother and Sunja notice Suni and Cheolsu have disappeared. Suni’s mother can’t sleep all night.
Jitae is convinced Cheolsu is a beast, and he is now helping Dr. Kang search for Cheolsu and Suni. It is confirmed that Cheolsu was Dr. Park’s target of study. Jitae feels he has evidence of Cheolsu’s dangerous nature, and now he has the support of naval doctors in his vendetta against cheolsu. Dr. Kang wants to get rid of Cheolsu once and for all, too. Meanwhile, Suni’s mother and Jitae are waiting together for word on Suni and Cheolsu’s whereabouts. A search party brings word that they found the couple, and all of them go to the heart of a pine grove where Suni lies unconscious with Cheolsu at her side.
Suni’s mother feels nervous about Suni’s unconsciousness. Due to their suspicion of the boy, the authorities now have Cheolsu chained behind the door with the steel bars. He’s rigged to a dog collar with a chain. The next day, Suni regains consciousness, and she looks around for Cheolsu and her family. All of these strange people are at the house, and a taxi is out front waiting to take her to a Seoul hospital for a medical examination. When her mother helps her outside, she sees men in black military uniforms standing around the barn. Suni looks toward the barn, trying to see Cheolsu. Sunja tells her not to worry about him, but she goes in and sees for herself how he is chained up like an animal.
Cheolsu is also put under 24 hour camera surveillance in the barn. The colonel watching the monitor finds his task a little boring. When he has a meeting with some of the other team members, they ask what Cheolsu is doing. He replies the boy is learning how to write the alphabet. This astonishes Dr. Kang. That night, Dr. Kang reviews the tests they have done on Cheolsu, which had down Cheolsu’s blood type as indeterminable. They can’t even determine if it’s animal blood, and Cheolsu’s senses rate off the charts.
The next morning, everyone is gathered in Suni’s house. Dr. Kang is questioning Jitae’s friend Kyeongsuk (not sure if this is a boy or girl) who was with him the night that the goat was killed. Kyeongsuk says Cheolsu killed and ate the goat. Dr. Kang presses for details as to how Cheolsu ate it. Was it like a wolf would eat a goat? Finally, Kyeonsuk admits not seeing Cheolsu kill and eat the goat at all, and Kang asks why he said he did. Kyeongsuk says they were too scared and keeps looking at Jitae during Kang’s interrogation. Jitae glares at Dr. Kang and storms out.
After talking a bit with Mr. Jeong about the dead goat, Jitae goes into the barn to see Cheolsu, whom he finds sitting at a desk. They talk a bit, but Dr. Kang becomes alarmed with what he sees on Cheolsu’s monitor. Cheolsu and Jitae end up at the Jeongs’ house where Jitae’s friend Kyeongsuk also lives. Cheolsu goes into their house and grabs Kyeongsuk, which sets off a chain of events that brings Dr. Kang, Suni and her family, Colonel Cha, Mr. and Mrs. Jeong and a group of military guards to the Jeongs’ house. The Colonel tries using a megaphone to direct Cheolsu to come out of the house with his hands on his head. Suni is outraged, and Dr. Kang confirms that Cheolsu has no weapons and isn’t going to hurt anyone.
As Cheolsu starts to come out to meet Suni, Jitae appears suddenly, yelling for them to shoot Cheolsu and calling them fools. They all think Jitae is crazy. He tells Suni to step away from Cheolsu, but she tells him to lower his gun. The Colonel starts yelling at Jitae through the megaphone, but Jitae ignores him and goes on about how Suni will die if she doesn’t step aside. A bullet grazes Cheolsu’s shoulder. Suni yells for him to be still while Jitae calls him a monster and laughs maniacally. Jitae grabs Suni with one hand and points the gun at Cheolsu with the other hand. Cheolsu goes after Jitae, and the Colonel takes out a revolver and shoots Cheolsu in the leg. Cheolsu bites Jitae’s windpipe and kills him. Everyone gapes at Cheolsu with his blood-stained mouth, and Dr. Kang admits that Cheolsu is really a wolf.
In the next scene, Suni faces Cheolsu have run off somewhere int he forest, and she asks if he really is a monster. He can’t respond other than to take her hand. She says it’s okay if he’s a monster. As they hear someone approaching, she tells him to hide before they arrive and see him. She’s afraid they’ll kill him if they catch him and wonders if she’ll meet him again. When he won’t leave, she starts crying and insulting him, telling him she hates him and calling him a monster. She slaps him across the face, and he finally leaves her alone in the forest.
In the next chapter, the story returns to her marriage and move to America along with a few brief scenes discussing Cheolsu with Mr. Jeong. In chapter 26, the story picks up in the present as Suni is finishing her long story at the sleepover with her granddaughter. In the middle of the night, she goes into the barn and opens the door to find Cheolsu sitting there! He has waited for her all of those years, and now they are finally meeting again! It seems like time has stopped for Cheolsu though Suni has aged normally. This part goes on for a fairly long time, mostly showing Suni talking to a mute Cheolsu, but at one point, he takes her face in his hands and tries to talk. He tells her she’s beautiful and that he longed to see her all of that time. They both end up in tears. He takes out a nursery storybook called I Am a Butterfly to read to her. The watercolor picture on this page shows Suni looking old and gray in bed wrapped in a quilt with a young Cheolsu reading to her in a chair beside the bed.
In the morning, Suni returns to the house, and Eunju asks if she went out for a walk. She only replies that they should return to Seoul. Eunju admits to her grandmother that the night before she saw a strange person outside, but she doesn’t get into the details. They make a phone call, then Suni thinks of a long poem about waiting for someone and meeting again. These are the lyrics to a song. The epilogue shows Cheolsu looking around the empty cottage. He tries to say Suni’s name and finds her guitar. He also sings a song about waiting for someone and meeting again. The story ends with him observing a butterfly.
Part two of a two part series.
Next Time: We return to China with a look at Rong Jian’s Wolf Totem!