Say what? Kite fighters!?!
Young-sup loves kites. He loves the way they float and glide, dip and soar. He loves the feel of the twitching strings in his hands. And he loves to be out flying with his brother, Kee-sup.
But one day as they are out flying, they are chanced upon by His Majesty, the King. A boy himself, the King decides that he likes the design of Kee-sup’s kite and demands that he make another like it to be presented to His Majesty. The boys are honored and comply, but they hear even more shocking news after they deliver the kite to the King in his palace. For he desires that Young-sup would fly the kite in the upcoming Kite Competition!
Will Young-sup accept the offer? And if he does, can he possibly win?
I enjoyed The Kite Fighters. I enjoyed it because it was unique – it brought to my attention a sport that I had never heard of before (kite fighting) and told its story stylistically. Of course, the story was set in Korea, so there are attending superstitions and traditions that go along with that.
Young-sup and his family believe in tok-gabis, little imps or spirits. They are mentioned several times. On one occasion, Young-sup claims that his kite spoke to him, directing him how to maneuver the strings.
Kee-sup, upon reaching the age of fourteen, was initiated into manhood by a ‘capping ceremony’. The day for this ceremony is chosen by a soothsayer, and it includes ancestor worship.
Relationships in The Kite Fighters are interesting. Early on, Young-sup experiences jealousy towards Kee-sup because their father favors Kee-sup and gives him opportunities that are denied to Young-sup. However, Kee-sup behaves wisely and, instead of fostering the jealousy, seeks reconciliation. Young-sup is wise enough to accept Kee-sup’s overtures and they are friends for the rest of the story.
Young-sup and Kee-sup insult each other good-naturedly (calling each other pig brain, etc.), and as Young-sup forms his relationship with the King and tries to teach him how to conduct chummy relationships, he teaches the King how to insult, too. It is sweet seeing how the King gradually becomes comfortable with the we’re-on-the-same-level relationship, but it is done behind the backs of his counselors and is considered a great secret from all of the adults.
The boys’ father is a man driven by tradition and family honor. Although I found parts of this acceptable (honoring the family name), it was carried to excess. The boys treat him respectfully, but do not always agree with him. In the end, they are on good terms.
Magic, luck, and omens are referenced.
One fact was mentioned that I found very interesting. And that was that everyone celebrated their birthdays, not on the actual day on which they were born, but at New Years. Regardless of when in the year you were born, that was when you added a year to your age. Isn’t that amazing?
Conclusion. A very interesting story which will teach your children about Korean culture and traditions.
Review © 2013 Laura Verret