The Legend of Condor Heroes (traditional Chinese: 射鵰英雄傳; simplified Chinese: 射雕英雄传; pinyin: shè diāo yīng xióng zhuàn; Jyutping: se6 diu1 jing1 hung4 zyun6) is one of the most acclaimed Wuxia novels by Louis Cha, who is better known as Jin Yong. It is first published in 1957 in Hong Kong Commercial Daily. This is the first part of the Condor Trilogy. The title in Chinese literally translates as The Legend of the Hawk Shooting Heroes. Jin Yong revised all of his novels including this one in the 1970s and again in the 2000s.
The story is set in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and at the beginning of the Jurchens' invasion of northern China. The first part of the novel revolves around the friendship of two young men, Yang Tiexin and Guo Xiaotian, who become heroes in their own right as they fight the invading Jin soldiers. The bond between the duo is so strong that they pledge to each other that their unborn children will become either sworn brothers (if both are of the same gender) or be married (if they are of opposite genders).
The story focuses on the trials and tribulations of their sons following Guo Xiaotian's death and Yang Tiexin's disappearance. Guo Jing, Guo Xiaotian's son, grows up in Mongolia, under the care of Genghis Khan. Yang Kang, on the other hand, grew up in the Jin Empire as the foster son of Prince Wanyan Honglie. Guo was mentored by the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan in martial arts but he is a slow learner and only managed to master part of the skills he is taught. Yang is mentored by Qiu Chuji of the Quanzhen Sect.
The boys' personalities are completely opposite of each other due to the different ways they are raised. Guo Jing is honest, loyal and righteous but he lacks intelligence. On the contrary, Yang Kang is clever, but scheming and treacherous. The duo eventually meet each other and the loves of their lives; Huang Rong and Mu Nianci respectively. The main plot develops with Guo Jing's adventures together with Huang Rong and their encounters with the Five Greats. Meanwhile, Yang Kang is plotting with Wanyan Honglie to destroy his native kingdom of Song. He refuses to acknowledge his ethnicity and is strongly tempted by wealth, fame and glory. His treachery is slowly unveiled throughout the novel and the encounters he has with Guo Jing and Huang Rong.
Eventually, the Jin Empire is destroyed by Mongolia and Mongolia turns its attention towards the Song Empire. Guo Jing is unwilling to assist Mongolia in conquering his native kingdom of Song so he decides to leave Mongolia for good and return to Song and help his fellow countrymen counter the subsequent Mongolian invasion of Song in the sequel. Yang Kang meets his retributive end and leaves behind Mu Nianci and their unborn son Yang Guo, who will become the protagonist of the sequel novel.
Main article: List of characters from The Legend of the Condor Heroes :
Guo Jing (郭靖) – the son of Guo Xiaotian and Li Ping. He is born in Mongolia under the care and protection of Genghis Khan. He learns martial arts from many teachers, namely "The Seven Freaks of Jiangnan", Ma Yu of the Quanzhen Sect, Hong Qigong and Zhou Botong. Although being low-witted, he possesses a strong sense of morality and patriotism towards his country and race. Towards the end of the novel, his adventures and many encounters transforms him into one of the greatest martial artists and heroes of his time, worthy of comparison with the Five Greats.
Huang Rong (黃蓉) – the daughter of the Huang Yaoshi and Feng Heng. She meets Guo Jing by chance and they go on their adventures together. During that period of time, they gradually fall in love and are eventually married towards the end of the novel. She is formally accepted as a disciple of Hong Qigong and later succeeds Hong as chief of the Beggars' Sect. She is intelligent and tactful, specializing in several other fields besides martial arts just like her father. Although her martial arts abilities are not as powerful as Guo Jing, she does become an accomplished martial artist as well at the end of the novel.
Yang Kang (楊康) – the son of Yang Tiexin and Bao Xiruo. He is raised in Jin as the son of the sixth prince Wanyan Honglie and is also known as Wanyan Kang (完顏康). He is a disciple of Qiu Chuji but also acknowledged Mei Chaofeng as his teacher as well. He is treacherous and manipulative, lusting for power and wealth such that he even refuses to acknowledge his biological father Yang Tiexin. As such, he is labelled as a traitor to his own race for acknowledging Wanyan Honglie, who is responsible for the deaths of his parents, as his father. He meets his retributive end eventually after being poisoned in the Temple of the Iron Spear. After his death, his corpse is devoured by crows and his skeleton is later buried by Guo Jing.
Mu Nianci (穆念慈) – the foster daughter of Yang Tiexin, who was known as "Mu Yi" after his apparent death. She meets Yang Kang during the contest for a spouse and falls in love with him. However, she leaves him after witnessing his acts of villainy and treachery and never saw him again. She is pregnant with his child then and eventually gives birth to Yang Guo, who is named by Guo Jing.