The Return of the Condor Heroes is a wuxia novel by Jin Yong (Louis Cha). It is the second part of the Condor Trilogy, and was preceded by The Legend of the Condor Heroes and followed by The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber. It was first serialised between 20 May 1959 and 5 July 1961 in the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao. The story revolves around the protagonist Yang Guo and his lover Xiaolongnü in their adventures in the jianghu (also called the wulin, the community of martial artists), which disapproves of the taboo love between master and apprentice. Alternate English titles of the novel include The Giant Eagle and Its Companion and Divine Eagle, Chivalric Companion. Jin Yong revised the novel in 1970 and again in 2004. There are 40 chapters in the second and third revisions. Each chapter has a title composed of four Chinese characters. Most of the revisions are either clarifications or minor alterations of character motivations or names.
The protagonist, Yang Guo, is the orphaned son of Yang Kang, the antagonist in The Legend of the Condor Heroes. The couple Guo Jing and Huang Rong put Yang Guo under their care for a short period of time before sending him to the Quanzhen Sect for better guidance in moral values and orthodox martial arts. In Quanzhen, Yang Guo is often picked on and bullied by his fellow students, and even his master, Zhao Zhijing, is biased against him. Yang Guo flees and ventures unknowingly into the nearby Tomb of the Living Dead, where the Ancient Tomb Sect is housed. He is saved by Xiaolongnü, a mysterious maiden of unknown origin, and becomes her apprentice. They live together in the tomb for many years until Yang Guo grows up. After being attacked by Li Mochou, they leave the tomb and stay on the mountain. Xiaolongnü develops romantic feelings for Yang Guo and after a while, he falls in love with her.
However, their romance is forbidden by the prevailing norms of the Confucianist society of their time. Throughout the story, their love meets with several tests, such as the misunderstandings that threaten to tear them apart and the encounter with Gongsun Zhi. Finally, after their reunion and marriage, Xiaolongnü leaves Yang Guo again, owing to her belief she cannot recover from a fatal poison, and promises to meet him again 16 years later. While Yang Guo is wandering the jianghu alone, he meets several formidable martial artists and a giant condor. His adventures gradually mould him into a courageous martial artist, whose prowess matches the Greats of his age. Yang Guo serves his nation by helping the Han Chinese citizens of the Song dynasty defeat the Mongol invaders. At the end of the novel, he is reunited with Xiaolongnü and they are recognised as heroes of their time.
Asiapac Books acquired the rights to produce an illustrated version of the novel in 1995. The 18 volume comic series was illustrated by Wee Tian Beng and translated by Jean Lim with Jin Yong's approval. The lavishly illustrated series won the Prestigious Award in 1997 during the Asian Comics Conference held in South Korea. There are also cute gag strips that poke gentle fun at some of the story's events.
In 2002 ComicsOne published the first official English translation of Legendary Couple, a retelling of the novel. The comic series was illustrated by Wong Yuk-long while Jin Yong was credited as the writer.