In most western cultures today, a child’s only job is to play and learn about the world around him. However, this is not the case in the epic novel, Taiko, by Eiji Yoshikawa, and in a number of episodes of the Korean television drama, Tree with Deep Roots. In both of these mediums, one can identify the need for discipline and respect within the family or community.
Hideyoshi, the main character in the novel, and Ddol Bok, an important character in the Korean television series, both grow up to be respectable soldiers. And yet, due to their impulsivity as children, it is a surprise to everyone when they succeed as adults. Their success later in life is a direct result of the influence their parents have had on them.
The epic novel, Taiko, by Eiji Yoshikawa, explicitly shows how a young Hideyoshi who, while living in Japan during the feudal era, is thought to be an ungrateful and troublesome child. Because, in Japanese culture, it is the duty of the sons to continue the family lineage in a proper way, the young Hideyoshi worries his parents (Kumagai 138). Those who know him call him “monkey,” an animal often thought to be of a mischievous nature, consistently see him as that: a child up to no good (Yoshikawa 2). And, at first, he lives up to his name. In the beginning of the novel, Hideyoshi is constantly getting in trouble whether it be for fighting with his sister or getting fired from a job. However, a change slowly comes over Hideyoshi, and it is because of the parental figures in his life that he is able to change.
One man who is very important to Hideyoshi is his father, Yaemon; and therefore it is no surprise that he is part of the reason for Hideyoshi’s success as an adult. Yaemon is described as a man who was once a low-ranking samurai, or a “foot soldier.” Though he was not a samurai, or a high-ranking one for long, due to an injury that left him crippled. Hideyoshi looked up to his father immensely. Despite his discourteous actions toward his mother and sister, he always respects his father, addressing him as “sir” (Yoshikawa 9). As a young six-year-old boy, he wants to grow up to be a samurai like his father. Hideyoshi dreams of becoming a samurai when he grows up and his father shares this dream: “Hiyoshi was his only son, and Yaemon rested impossible hopes in him” (Yoshikawa 10). It is this influence from his father that helps Hideyoshi to grow up to be the respected samurai he was. However, while his father encourages him, allowing him to play with a sword, Hideyoshi’s fervor worries his mother.
Hideyoshi’s mother, Onaka, has helped Hideyoshi to recognize the importance of family later in his life. While she believes her son can help to restore the family name, does not wish for Hideyoshi to follow in the footsteps of his father: “No matter what my husband says, Hiyoshi is not going to become a samurai, she resolved” (Yoshikawa 7). But because her authority in the house decreases not only as Hideyoshi grows older but also when she remarries, he does not honor her wishes. As a child, Hideyoshi received numerous beatings from his stepfather. One time, “Hiyoshi’s mother tried to stop him,” but Hideyoshi’s stepfather, Chikuami, simply yelled at her and she began to cry (Yoshikawa 13). Because Hideyoshi’s mother was unable to protect him as a child, he feels the need to protect her when he grows up, asking his wife to take of Onaka and insisting that Onaka move to live closer to him.
The last parental figure that influences Hideyoshi when he grows up is his stepfather, and the way he does so is in direct relation to Hideyoshi’s strong work ethic. Even though, Hideyoshi’s mother remarries after his father dies, in Japanese culture that does not mean the two have a new family (Isono 39). Hideyoshi’s dislike for his stepfather is clear, and, in the text, it is frequently mentioned that Chikuami drinks a lot, “Chikuami had grown tired of trying to wipe out their poverty. He sat around drinking sake,” (Yoshikawa 20). His stepfather’s drinking has so much of a influence on Hideyoshi that when he becomes an adult and begins drinking sake himself, he is constantly wary of how much he drinks for fear of turning into his stepfather. Chikuami, however, also helps to teach Hideyoshi to work hard, “Chikuami drove Hiyoshi hard. But after being sent home from the temple, he worked hard, as if he had come back a different person” (Yoshikawa 21). This work ethic can later be seen in Hideyoshi when he rises through the ranks under Nobunaga and eventually takes control himself.
Ddol Bok, a character in the television series, Tree with Deep Roots, can be described as an impulsive and undisciplined child, similarly to a young Hideyoshi. In terms of family in Korea, sons have been thought to bring good fortune (Chin 54). However, Ddol Bok’s impulsivity as seen through his interactions with the adults and other children in his life, lead many in his life to believe otherwise. Despite a lack of belief in Ddol Bok, when we meet the grown up Ddol Bok, who now goes by Chae-Yoon, we see that he has since learned to control those impulses and think rationally. Like Hideyoshi, this change is a result of parental influence.
Ddol Bok’s preference for impulsivity is apparent the first time we meet him. In episode one, he is beating a child much bigger than himself (Yoo 1). Immediately, as viewers, we wonder what happened to spur this attack. While we do not receive the answer to our question, we are able to assume that despite Ddol Bok’s size, the other children are afraid of him mostly due to their unwillingness to intervene and the larger boy’s inability to fight back. We then find out that the reason Ddol Bok is attacking the larger boy is to learn who made fun of his father (Yoo 1). While we are thrown into the middle of the scene rather than starting as the beginning, based on Ddol Bok’s aggressiveness, we can assume that he did not ask the other kids respectfully first and instead immediately resorted to aggressive means, showing his impulsivity. Ddol Bok’s “act first, think later” attitude can even been seen in his interactions with the adults in his life.
Ddol Bok is fiercely protective of his family, as seen in his reaction to hearing someone made fun of his father. Despite his inability to control himself, his protectiveness can be tied to his success as a soldier later in life. In a scene in episode one, we meet Ddol Bok’s father who is being picked on by the other slaves. Ddol Bok rushes in and immediately begins beating the man who was putting makeup on his father, tackling him to the ground and punching him repeatedly, even though the man is clearly many years Ddol Bok’s senior (Yoo 1). Though the man was wrong to make fun of Ddol Bok’s father, Ddol Bok shows his impulsivity by storming into the scene and attacking the man without asking any questions. When the fight is broken up by a master, who demands an explanation, Ddol Bok shows restraint for the first time and is able to properly explain why he was beating the other man (Yoo 1). However, that restraint does not last, for one wrong comment from the man who put makeup on his father and Ddol Bok is once again attacking him, showing his impulsivity. Despite Ddol Bok’s lack of restraint as a child, as viewers, we witness an clear change in him as an adult due to his father’s influence.
In the first episode of the television series,we see Ddol Bok’s change from impulsive child to calculating adult. We quickly learn that Ddol Bok, or Chae-Yoon, has a desire to kill the king and is attempting to find the best way to do so (Yoo 1). In one scene, we witness Chae-Yoon come across the king in what appears to be a stroke of luck. Based on what we know of the young Ddol Bok, it would not have been surprising to see Chae-Yoon attack the king and strike him down. However, Chae-Yoon stops and thinks about the probability of his success, commenting how he’d have an 80 percent chance of success, or 70, and so on, ultimately concluding that he would be unable to kill the king in that instant due to the arrival of his guard (Yoo 1). This moment of reflection contrasts what we have seen of Ddol Bok as a child. The reason for this moment of reflection is not only because he knows he will only get one chance to get revenge for his father, but also because he sought a master to teach him how to fight. Chae-Yoon deeply respects this master and desires to use his teachings properly; in other words he does not wish to mess up when he kills the king. The clip below shows how Chae-Yoon does not act on impulse, but rather takes time to think about his actions.
Both Hideyoshi and Ddol Bok could be described as impulsive and troublesome children. However, they grow up to be successful. The reason for their success is because of the adults in their lives, such as Yaemon, Onaka, Chikuami, Ddol Bok’s father, and Ddol Bok’s master. Whether these adults served as an example of who the children wanted to become or of who they didn’t want to become, or even a reminder of their goals in life, each of them greatly influenced the young Hideyoshi and Chae-Yoon.
Chin, Meejung, et al. “Family Policy in South Korea: Development, Current Status, and Challenges.” Journal of Child and Family Studies (2012): 53-64.
Isono, Fujiko. “The Family and Women in Japan.” The Sociological Review (2011): 39-54.
Kumagai, Fumie. “Families in Japan: Beliefs and Realities.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 12.1 (1995): 135-163.
“Episode 1.” Tree with Deep Roots. Dir. Jang Tae Yoo. 2011.
Yoshikawa, Eiji. Taiko. New York: Kodansha, 2012.