Tale Of The Heike Samurai Honor Quotes

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Not much is known about the author or year of compilation of The Tales of the Heike, a medieval Japanese epic, but it can be agreed upon that it was compiled prior to 1330. The Tales of the Heike discusses the struggle between the Taira and Minamoto clans during the Genpei War. Throughout the text, there are various instances and examples of honor within the samurai society. It was important for samurai to not only show honor on the battlefield to gain prestige and monetary rewards, but also to protect said honor against attacks. These shows of honor allowed samurai to gain social prominence in their regions and with their lords, which was another reason why it was important for samurai to not show cowardice. TO SAMURAI, HONOR ON THE BATTLEFIELD …show more content…

For samurai, having a reputation of being a coward was fatal because the Japanese culture of honor was related to displays of violence rather than order. In the death of Atsumori of The Tale of Heike, Kumagae Naozane looking for a general of the Heike to kill in order to gain more honor and prestige, found a lone warrior wearing a finely woven battle robe and expensive armor. He called out to the general, “’Ho there, General! I see you. Don’t shame yourself by showing your back to an enemy. Come back!’” It was more important to soldiers to show honor even if they knew it would lead to their death because it allowed them to avoid bringing shame to themselves, their lords, and their families. Once Kumagae Naozane had beaten the general he took off his helmet and found a young boy of sixteen or seventeen. Even though Kumagae Naozane pitied this boy, and even found him similar to his own son Kojiro, he still killed the boy as he was duty bound to do so and in his eyes it was more merciful than letting him fall into others’ hands. Indeed, this idea that honor is more important than anything to the samurai soldier is again displayed with Sawara Yoshitsura’s displays of bravery. In The Tale of the Heike, Yoshitsura is referred to as being one of the bravest warriors because he was not afraid of anything. His prowess becomes apparent when he states “In Miura where I come from, we think nothing of galloping day and night over places like this just to get at a bird on the wing. This is a Miura-style racecourse!” and then leads the way down a plunging slope. With this declaration, the rest of the men followed but The Tale of the Heike pointedly describes the drop as “so terrifying that they kept their eyes closed as they went down. It seemed a feat impossible for mere human beings to accomplish, instead a performance by devils or spirits.” Indeed, these feats were performed by samurai to

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