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List of Differences Between Modao Zushi and CQL/The Untamed

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General Concept/Overarching Differences:

  • Death, Fierce Corpses, and Puppets: Censorship means that none of the things they hunt in the Untamed are actually dead. Once, they’re even able to explicitly “free” a group of controlled puppets and they revert to being regular people. At times this means certain events are…extremely poorly…explained, such as what happens to Wen Ning, where it’s never explicitly said that he’s dead - it’s instead implied that Wen Ning was on the verge of death and that Wei Wuxian controlled him and was able to save him. However, though it’s never explicit that there are essentially zombies in CQL, it would be difficult to explain events by any other interpretation. Much like with homosexuality, they flirt as close to what the censors will allows as they can and allow a viewer to infer from there.
  • The Yin Iron: In the novel, there is no Yin Iron. Wen Ruohan’s motivation for his actions is simply more power and is entirely “human.” The Wen don’t do demonic cultivation. Xue Yang doesn’t have a piece of the Yin Iron, and his ancestor didn’t create it (obviously, since it doesn’t exist). In the novel, the “Founder of Demonic Cultivation” is clearly meant to be Wei Wuxian, whereas if the concept of “Modao Zushi” ever came up in the Untamed it would be ambiguous at best who was being referred to, since both Xue Yang’s ancestor and Wen Ruohan could theoretically deserve the title. Since there is no Yin Iron, many of the things ascribed to the Yin Iron obviously don’t happen, nor does it drive the plot in the “past,” nor does it play a part in the death of Xuanwu, nor is it what Wei Wuxian uses to craft the Stygian Tiger Amulet.
  • While this isn’t explicit, it seems (at least to me) like everyone is a few years older in CQL than they are in the novel. For example, in the novel, the Lectures start when the young cultivators are all 15 - 16 years old. That…doesn’t really fit with how they look in CQL? I personally think they’re more like 17 - 18 in CQL, and then events proceed from there. However, their ages aren’t stated in CQL canon so this is open to interpretation.
  • Technically, WangXian is subtext in the Untamed, by the slimmest of obfuscations. Seriously, it’s so borderline to being canon that calling it subtext is slightly ridiculous but since it’s never ACTUALLY explicit…I guess that makes it subtext. Also, ya know, there’s porn in the novel.

Characters and Characterizations:

  • Mo Xuanyu: Mo Xuanyu isn’t gay in the Untamed, unlike in the novel. In the novel, it’s said that Mo Xuanyu falls out of favor with the Jin clan because he’s made inappropriate sexual advances on Jin Guangyao. In the Untamed, the implication is that he made similar advances on Qin Su. In both, it’s also implied these weren’t the real reasons but it’s also never explained what actually did happen. Also, in the novel, he favors wearing thickly caked makeup to obscure his appearance (and subsequently Wei Wuxian does the same) whereas in CQL while makeup is mentioned he’s basically only ever shown or discussed as wearing a mask.
  • Wei Wuxian/Mo Xuanyu: In the novel, Mo Xuanyu sacrifices himself and Wei Wuxian takes over his body. However, in the Untamed, Wei Wuxian is more…reborn?…whole, in his own appearance (the logistics of this, or if he was ever dead, or where he was if he WAS dead, are never explained). He wears a mask because if he didn’t, everyone would (and ultimately does) recognize him. 
  • Wei Wuxian: In the novel, doing demonic cultivation clearly twists Wei Wuxian and some of his actions are either accidental but still his fault, or intentional. For example, the torture of Wen Chao is intentional and brutal, and the loss of control of Wen Ning at Qiongqi Path is accidental but still his fault - a result of his hubris and poor decisions. In CQL, a second flute is played at Qiongqi Path and also when Wei Wuxian fights the cultivation clans outside the Nightless City - both of the major times when Wei Wuxian ostensibly loses control. Though Wei Wuxian himself thinks it’s his fault, it’s actually not - the person responsible is Su She - and Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji eventually learn this. However, CQL does still show Wei Wuxian being changed by the resentment. His temper is more volatile and his trust more limited; for example, he loses his temper with A-Yuan at one point, which doesn’t happen in the novel.
  • Lan Wangji: differences in Lan Wangji’s characterization are a little harder to quantify but in general in CQL he seems more open/expressive/comfortable in his own skin, and less prone to anger. For example, when he steals Wei Wuxian’s first kiss on Phoenix Mountain in the novel, he loses his temper and destroys an entire grove of trees. This…would not be in character for Lan Wangji in CQL (and of course they don’t kiss in CQL). However, putting it in definitive terms is complicated. For another difference, in the novel, Lan Wangji confronts the cultivation clans to protect Wei Wuxian, and thus is given 33 strikes with the discipline whip. In CQL, his actions are more ambivalent in Wei Wuxian’s defense…certainly, he doesn’t stand against everyone else in a pitch to save Wei Wuxian’s life…but he’s still explicit enough for Lan Qiren, who has him beaten 300 times with a stave. (the end result is still “covered in scars,” just different punishments.)
  • Jiang Yanli: Jiang Yanli’s role is expanded from the novel. She accompanies her brothers to the Lan clan Lectures, and she carries a sword, implying she’s a cultivator, though she never uses it. The back-and-forth related to her engagement to Jin Zixuan is also expanded. Furthermore, she’s with her brothers when they flee Lotus Pier, and at Wen Qing’s outpost when they are in hiding, for at least part of the time. (but not enough of it to be involved in the Golden Core transfer). The overall result is that she feels much less “fridged” in CQL than she did in the novel (or at least, that’s how it felt to me - obviously, some of these bullet points are subjective to varying extents).
  • Luo “Mianmian” Qingyang: In the novel, she’s a member of an independent cultivation sect and she’s first introduced during the Wen Clan indoctrination. In the Untamed, she’s a Jin clan disciple and she attends the Lan clan Lectures, and is shown to have a good relationship (friendship, not romantic) with Jin Zixuan. She later renounces her membership in the Jin clan when the clans turn against Wei Wuxian after the end of the Sunshot Campaign. 
  • Wen Ruohan: In the novel, he’s just a badass mo-fo power hungry pain in the ass. In CQL he is a demonic cultivating megalomaniac who uses the Yin Iron to be, like, Comic Book Evil.
  • Wen Qing and Wen Ning: Unlike in the novel, where Wen Ning is introduced outside of Lotus Pier, and Wen Qing is introduced after Wen Ning needs a place to hide Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian, in the Untamed, Wen Qing and Wen Ning attend the Lan clan Lectures. Wen Qing is there under instructions from Wen Ruohan to seek the Yin Iron; he blackmails her by threatening Wen Ning. Furthermore, Wen Ning is unusually susceptible to spiritual influence as a result of an encounter with the Dafan Mountain Goddess/Fairy statue when he’s a child. The statue kills their parents and starts to drain him, but Wen Qing saves him. She’s not able to heal the damage to him, though, and it’s implied this is part of why it’s possible for Wei Wuxian to raise him using demonic cultivation. Wen Qing in particular has a much greater role in CQL, and she has a romantic subplot with Jiang Cheng. She bears a sword, and she’s also shown to do spellwork and influence people using acupuncture needles.
  • Song Lan and Xiao Xingchen: In the novel, we first meet them at Yi City, when their story is already tragic. In CQL, they are introduced right after the Lan Lectures, and are therefore older.
  • Xue Yang: As with Song Lan and Xiao Xingchen, he is introduced earlier in CQL than in the novel. In CQL, he also possesses a piece of the Yin Iron that he manages to keep hidden and a secret despite multiple attempts by different parties to obtain it (it’s hinted at times that he’s in cahoots with Wei Wuxian, but this is just a character smear). His ancestor created the Yin Iron, and he’s known to be an expert on demonic cultivation.
  • Meng Yao/Jin Guangyao: Meng Yao is introduced much earlier in CQL than he is in the novel, as we see him when the Nie cultivators are welcomed to the Lan lectures (and we’re shown upfront and immediately that Lan Xichen treats him more respectfully than most others do). In the novel, we don’t find out much about the evil things he’s done until Wei Wuxian does Empathy on Nie Mingjue’s head; in CQL, more of that is shown “on screen” as it occurs. For example, he’s shown conspiring with Xue Yang in the Unclean Realm, and right after that is when Nie Mingjue catches him slaughtering another officer (which none of the other characters know about). He also saves Nie Mingjue’s life during that scene, painting him as morally ambiguous and complicated from a very early point. We also “see” as it happens the incident in right after the fall of Nightless City, where Nie Mingjue goes to kill Meng Yao and is prevented by Lan Xichen, and there are more explicit indications that he’s manipulating Jin Guangshan and is involved in the plot to turn everyone against Wei Wuxian.
  • Ouyang Zizhen: Ouyang Zizhen appears only briefly in the novel, during the Yi City arc. In CQL he has a much expanded role and is a pretty much perpetual fourth to Jin Ling, Lan Sizhui, and Lan Jingyi (especially post Yi City). He’s present most of the times they meet, and involved in Jin Ling’s confrontation with Wen Ning, and is present at the Second Siege of the Burial Mounds, where he intervenes with his father on behalf of Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji. And he’s one of the best beans.

Sequence of Events:

  • In the novel, when Wei Wuxian awakes at Mo Manor, the Lan clan disciples come and they find an evil left arm that kills and possesses people. In CQL, they find a sword that does the same. This leads to changes throughout the plot in what, exactly, Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian are searching for. In the novel, they pursue the pieces of Nie Mingjue’s body to various sites. In CQL, they instead are led to the same sequence of places by a sword spirit which turns out to be Baxia.
  • When Mo Xuanyu raises Wei Wuxian in the novel, Wei Wuxian has three curse scars representing three people that need to die: Madam Mo, Mo Ziyuan, and…one of the servants I think? In CQL, Wei Wuxian has a fourth cut that represents a fourth person he must kill: Jin Guangyao.
  • Because the risen dead don’t exist in the Untamed, the Dafan Mountain Goddess/Fairy statue incident plays out a little different. For example, Wei Wuxian doesn’t figure out what’s happened by observing graves, he figures it out by seeing “spirit grass.” However, the outcomes are essentially the same from a plot point of view.
  • In CQL, the extended flashback to the lectures starts right after Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian meet (right after Wen Ning is summoned and then flees). I don’t remember exactly how the timeline/intermingling of narratives from different points in times is structured in the novel but I know it’s different. They spend far longer in the “present” before going to the past, and jump back and forth a bit more too.
  • In CQL, Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji have an early bonding period during the lectures (the lectures over all get more attention/time than in the novel) when they are drawn into a cave in the backhills that they enter through the cold spring. Within, there’s a guqin and a bunch of rabbits and the…spiritual embodiment?…of Lan Yi, who is introduced as the first female leader of the Lan Clan, a close friend of Baoshen Sanren, and the creator of the Chord Assassination Technique. Lan Yi acquaints them with the existence of the Yin Iron. Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji also engage in a symbolic hand-fasting during this scene. In the show, this is where the bunnies come from; Wei Wuxian doesn’t capture them and bring them as “presents” like he does in the novel.
  • In CQL, between the Lectures and the Sunshot Campaign, Lan Wangji, Wei Wuxian, Jiang Cheng, and Nie Huaisang do some night hunting together. Among other things, during this time they meet Xue Yang, Xiao Xingchen, and Song Lan, when Xue Yang slaughters the Chang clan. This obviously has major implications for the role and age of these characters in CQL versus in the novel, when none of the three are met until Yi City. This time spent night-hunting is also when the flower spirit mini-side plot takes place, but it doesn’t get much screen time and isn’t as prominent as in the novel, nor is the entire “Wei Wuxian woos her where no one else did” thing a feature of the show. Also, they encounter the Dafan Mountain Goddess at this time.
  • The Wen Clan attacks Cloud Recesses in the novel because of perceived improprieties, and Lan Wangji is injured while trying to protect the library. Lan Xichen disappears, and Clan Leader Lan is killed. In CQL, Clan Leader Lan is already dead at this point and Lan Xichen is in charge of the clan (while it’s never explicit, it’s implied that the age gap between Lan Xichen and Lan Wangji, and between Nie Mingjue and Nie Huaisang, is greater in the show than it is in the novel). When Wen Xu attacks, they hide in the cave where Lan Yi appeared to Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji, but the disciples who aren’t members of the Lan specifically can’t enter, so Wen Xu begins to massacre them. To prevent that, Lan Wangji emerges, and that’s when his leg is broken. (Su She is also prominent in this scene in CQL, but he’s not in the novel.)
  • During the Indoctrinations, in CQL it’s shown that Wei Wuxian is afraid of dogs after Wen Chao locks him in a dungeon room with one. This also serves as bonding time with Wen Ning, who helps Wei Wuxian with medicine that Wen Qing has provided. This scene doesn’t take place in the novel; in the novel Wei Wuxian’s fear of dogs is almost entirely shown through his interactions with Fairy.
  • Also during the Indoctrinations in CQL, there’s a lot of friction between Wen Chao and Wen Qing because Wen Qing keeps trying to help the prisoners in small ways. In the novel, Wen Qing hasn’t been introduced at this point in the story.
  • Wei Wuxian’s Death: In the novel, Wei Wuxian retreats to the Burial Mounds, the clans unite against him, storm the Burial Mounds, and kill him - Jiang Cheng gets credit for the kill, but in actuality, Wei Wuxian's own resentment-controlled undead tear him apart when his magic backfires. (see this comment below for more detail). In the Untamed, after a battle outside the Nightless City, Wei Wuxian realizes how wrong everything has gone, destroys the Stygian Tiger amulet, and throws himself from the mountain. Despite a “tease” that Jiang Cheng stabbed him, it’s later shown that no, Wei Wuxian’s death was suicide despite Lan Wangji trying to save him and Jiang Cheng deciding not to stab him.
  • Wen Chao’s Death: While it’s implied in CQL that Wei Wuxian has been tormenting Wen Chao, it’s nowhere near as explicit as in the novel. It’s loosely suggested in CQL that perhaps Wen Chao’s condition when Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji find him is the result of fear and self-neglect - basically that Wei Wuxian’s torment is causing Wen Chao to hallucinate frightening things. Instead of, you know, Wei Wuxian’s torment causing him to eat himself.
  • In the novel, Wei Wuxian is dead for 13 years. In CQL, he’s dead for 16 years.
  • Wei Wuxian’s resurrection: In the novel, because Wei Wuxian doesn’t look like himself, he doesn’t realize that Lan Wangji has recognized him because he played WangXian, so he engages in multiple behaviors to try to disgust and drive Lan Wangji away (all of which fail, of course, because Lan Wangji knows the truth). In CQL, because Wei Wuxian looks like himself, when he wakes up without his mask in Cloud Recesses he immediately knows that Lan Wangji has recognized him and there’s no further mystery in that regard (except for how Lan Wangji recognized him while he WAS masked, which is the same in both - because of the song). (Lan Xichen also subsequently recognizes him while he’s masked, at an earlier point than he does in the novel unless I’ve badly misremembered. Which is always possible).
  • The Yi City arc is quite different between the two. Honestly, I skip the most painful parts of the Yi City arc, including the entire flashback sequences, because I knew they’d fuck me up right good without being worth it, so I’m not able to go into depth here, but. Some examples include:
    • Because in CQL, Xiao Xingchen, Song Lan, and Xue Yang were introduced during the “past” timeline, they’re considerably older than in the novel.
    • Due to censorship, A-Qing is not a spirit as she is in the novel. Instead, she’s still alive but she’s had her tongue torn out and been blinded by Xue Yang. She ultimately sacrifices her life to help Wei Wuxian et al kill Xue Yang.
    • In CQL, it’s shown that Xiao Xingchen would leave a sweet on Xue Yang’s pillow every day, and when Xue Yang dies the last gifted sweet falls from his hand.
    • (if anyone reading this wants to help flesh it out please do chime in because I know it’s incomplete but I Cannot with that bit of the story.)
  • During the Second Siege of the Burial Mounds, in the novel, after Wei Wuxian paints himself with the lure talismans, he and Lan Wangji are on the verge of being overpowered when the corpses of the Wen clan members that Wei Wuxian saved rise from the blood pool and help protect them. In CQL, the Wen clan members are hung by the Jin clan and left for the birds outside of the Nightless City, so they could never have been in the blood pool, even if such a thing would have made it past censors (which it never would have).
  • The novel contains pornographic content, including an illicit kiss that Lan Wangji steals from Wei Wuxian during the Phoenix Mountain hunt, and actual sex, with their first time being before the confrontation at Guanyin Temple. 
  • During the Guanyin temple confrontation, in the novel there’s extensive discussion of Jin Guangyao’s childhood in the brothel, including information about his mother and why he spared Sisi as opposed to all the other prostitutes. Further, it’s explicit that the Guanyin temple has been built on the site where that brothel used to stand and that the coffin Jin Guangyao is digging up is meant to contain his mother’s body. The entire temple is dedicated to her. In CQL a lot of this is simply not explained or left ambiguous.
  • In the novel, Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian are married and return to Cloud Recesses. In CQL, they travel together for a time, part ways, and then are reunited. Lan Wangji becomes the Chief Cultivator, replacing Jin Guangyao.