by Hwang Sun-Won

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What does the walk together reveal about Tokchae and Songsam?

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Tokchae and Songsam walk together through most of the story "Cranes." The two men are on different sides of a conflict, and Tokchae is Songsam's prisoner. Songsam agrees to escort Tokchae to Ch'ongdan. I think he volunteers because the two men used to be boyhood friends, and Songsam wants to know why Tokchae didn't flee the same way that he did.

Songsam had had to flee the previous June. At night he had broken the news privately to his father. But his father had said the same thing: "Where could a farmer go, leaving all the chores behind?" So Songsam had left alone.

During the walk, the men encounter items that are symbolic of the men's childhood together. The first item in the story that triggers a memory for Songsam is chestnuts. They remind him of when Tokchae willingly gave up his own stash of chestnuts for his friend. The second item that triggers a memory is a field filled with cranes.

When they reached the foot of the hill, Songsam gradually came to a halt. In the middle of a field he espied a group of cranes that resembled men in white, all bent over.

The cranes remind Songsam of the time when he and Tokchae caught a crane and thought they were going to get into big trouble because of it.  The two boys freed the crane and watched it majestically fly away. It's after remembering this event that Songsam asks Tokchae if he would like to go crane hunting. Songsam turns his back and begins looking deep into the underbrush. Tokchae finally realizes that his friend from long ago is giving him the chance to escape like the crane from their childhood.

“Hey, how come you are standing there like a dummy? Go flush a crane!”

Only then did Tokchae understand. He began crawling through the weeds.

I feel that the crane is symbolic of freedom and beauty. As for the walk itself, I believe that it shows that true friendship runs deep. Songsam remembers their friendship, and I think he wants to reconnect on some level. That's why he volunteers to be the escort. It's during the walk that all of the deep, meaningful memories are triggered. The walk is what triggers all of the memories for Songsam. Those memories give him the confidence and the desire to set his friend free.

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