The Bird That Drinks Tears

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The Bird That Drinks Tears
The Bird That Drinks Tears.jpg
Cover design for the 4th volume of The Bird That Drinks Tears
AuthorLee Yeongdo
Original title눈물을 마시는 새
CountrySouth Korea
GenreFantasy novel
PublisherGolden Bough
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback, 4 volumes
Followed byThe Bird That Drinks Blood 

The Bird That Drinks Tears (Korean눈물을 마시는 새; RRNunmureul masineun sae; abbreviated as 눈마새; Nunmasae) is a series of Korean fantasy novels by Lee Yeongdo. A rare example of the genre Korean Fantasy, the stock characters and clichés of normal western fantasy such as elves, magic, dragons and Latin languages are instead replaced by Korean concepts such as dokkaebi, ssirum, and the Arajit language, which is based on Proto-Korean.


The novel was first serialized in Hitel, an internet forum site, continuing the tradition that all novels by Lee Yeongdo are first serialized in the internet. After the conclusion of the series, the book was published by Golden Bough, a publishing company of South Korea. Due to its length, the story was published in four hardcover volumes.

  • Book 1: Nagas Who Extract Their Hearts
  • Book 2: Lekons Who Pursue Their Desire
  • Book 3: Dokkaebis Who Play Their Fire
  • Book 4: Humans Who Seek Their King

Main characters[edit]

Kagan Draka (케이건 드라카; Keigeon deuraka)
A mysterious human who hunts and eats nagas. He is chosen as the pathfinder of the Rescue Party that must rescue a naga and bring the naga to Haensha Archtemple. His name consists of two animals that were made extinct by the naga; his first name 'Kaigon,' means black lion, and his last name Draka, means Dragon.
Beehyung Srable (비형 스라블; Bihyeong seurabeul)
A cheerful dokkaebi, butler to the lord of Jeumeunnuri (즈믄누리). He is chosen as the magician of the Rescue Party.
Tinahan (티나한; Tinahan)
An arrogant lekon who dreams of climbing on the back of a Sky Fish. He is chosen as the defeater of the Rescue Party.
Ryoon Pei (륜 페이; Ryun pei)
A young naga who is haunted by the murder of his father, which he witnessed when he was eleven years old. He is sent on a mission to leave Keyboren and reach Haensha Archtemple, where he must try to save all four races. Because of the death of his father, he fears extracting his heart and ran away from the heart extraction ritual. His name derives from hanja ryoon (輪), which means 'wheel'.
Samo Pei (사모 페이; Samo pei)
A female naga renowned for her dancing and swordsmanship. She is also kind to naga males, which is uncommon behavior in naga society. As a result, the Pei family is popular among males, and Samo becomes an object of jealousy among other families. She is the elder sister of Ryoon Pei. When Ryoon is accused of murder, she sets out to assassinate her brother, according to naga tradition. She later becomes the King of the northern army and fights against the Naga's invasion.


The fictional world of The Bird That Drinks Tears is inhabited by four major intelligent races - Human, naga, lekon and dokkaebi. Other than the humankind, the races that appear in The Bird That Drinks Tears are in most respects Lee Yeongdo's original creations, even though the race of naga and dokkaebi originates from Indian and Korean legends, respectively.

Each race has an individual god, who have their own element that they command. They also gave their respective races a gift.

God-at-Nowhere (Korean: 어디에도 없는 신). His element is wind; wind comes and goes, but is never at one place. His gift is Naneui (나늬), a human woman who is perceived as beautiful to all four races.
Goddess-without-Trails (Korean: 발자국 없는 여신). Her element is water; water does not leave a trail in its path. Her gift is her name, which the protectors (male naga priests) can use to directly communicate with the goddess.
God-kills-Himself (Korean: 자신을 죽이는 신). His element is fire; fire uses up fuel in order to keep burning, eventually killing itself. His gift is the power to control fire.
Goddess-lower-than-Every (Korean: 모든 이보다 낮은 여신). Her element is earth; the earth is beneath everyone. Her gift is Star-steel (별철), which cannot be broken and never rusts.


Dragon (Korean; 용 Yong)
Unlike in other fantasy novels, dragons in this world are a plant-like species that propagate with spores. When the environment is favorable for the dragon to grow, leaves and flower sprout from the spore while its root develops into a Yonggeun (Dragon root). Then the root grows into a dragon. Like plants, the growth of a dragon reflects the environment that it is raised in; if it grows with horses, the dragon may become a flying horse. If it grows in the sea, the dragon can develop webbed feet. If necessary, a dragon can become nearly humanoid. It was hunted to extinction by the naga, because dragon can set fire to the forest.
Black Lion (Korean; 흑사자 Heuksaja)
They possess fur that emits heat. They were hunted to extinction by the naga, who wished to use their heat-emitting hide as a means to attack the north.
Sky Fish (Korean; 하늘치 Haneulchi)
Huge flying fish. They carry mysterious ruins on their backs. Beetles seem to fear Sky Fish for some unknown reason.
Beetle (Korean; 딱정벌레 Ttakjeongbeolle)
Instead of horses, Dokkaebi breed huge flying beetles as a means of transportation. Dokkaebi managed to teach beetles sign language, and beetles use their antennae to communicate with Dokkaebi. They are usually large enough to carry up to two people (one if the person happens to be a Lekon).
King Eagle (Korean; 왕독수리 Wangdoksuri)
Giant eagles, bigger than alligators
Big Tiger (Korean; 대호 Daeho)


Currently, Lee Yeongdo has written only one sequel to The Bird That Drinks Tears which is The Bird That Drinks Blood.

It is expected that Lee Yeongdo will write two more sequels, because of the quote in the series that mentions four birds. In the book there is a riddle about four bird brothers. One bird drank water, one drank poison, one drank blood and one drank tears. The riddle asks who of the four birds will die first. This riddle appears repeatedly throughout both The Bird That Drinks Tears and The Bird That Drinks Blood, and is entwined with many of the themes that run through two series.

Because of this riddle, many people expect that Lee Yeongdo will write two more sequels to this Bird series, The Bird That Drinks Poison and The Bird That Drinks Water. However, Lee Yeongdo has not yet confirmed this rumour and whether he would actually continue to finish all four birds is still unknown.