I have always been fascinated by stories of warrior’s code and duty regardless of country or philosophy of origin. Gawain and the Green Knight has been a personal favorite of mine but before that particular tale, I gravitated toward the story of the 47 Ronin.
Truth be told, I am not sure how I came across this narrative, but the story of loyalty and duty always stayed with me. I suppose it was helped by my odd fascination with Japanese culture and history.
Like all good tales, 47 Ronin has been adapted to various other mediums to spread the story to a wider audience. Most recently, I believe, the story took on a Hollywood spin starring Keanu Reeves.
Yeah, definitely an attempt at a summer blockbuster that did not quite pan out. However, even this odd attempt holds a few lessons that are worthy of attention.
First and foremost, the obvious moral the story unfolds is that of a warrior, hell a man’s, duty to his honor, vow, and master. According to the code of bushido, a samurai was bound to his daimyo (lord). Under these sacred vows, a samurai had to fight to the death to defend the lands, members, and the household of his master.
Now, obviously, the vassal system no longer really exists but the concepts of duty and honor should be no lesser in the modern age. Each and every one of us has something or someone that we should hold in high regard and be duty bound to protect and honor. I don’t know what that may be for you but everyone should have such a stake in this world.
I cannot say that the new film reinvents or does anything revolutionary to the tale of the 47 Ronin, but there is one aspect that does manage to add to the narrative. In the movie, an outsider (Keanu Reeves) is the 47th ronin on the list willing to fight and die for his lord. The outsider, Kai, in the film is running away from a dark and troubled past. He has been trained in the ways of killing by the tengu of the forest. Basically, he can access a super speed form allowing him to kill his enemies seemingly at will.
For some reason, Kai regrets these teachings and gifts (something to do with the darkness and lack of feeling and love, etc.) and finds solace in being a humble beggar on the outskirts of civilization. However, it is the knowledge and skills acquired from these early teachings that ultimately prove a boon to Kai and the other ronin on their quest.
Without either of these things, the quest for justice would have gone unfulfilled. In essence, the things Kai hated about his past were his saving graces that ensured victory over his enemies. This is today’s lesson: that which we do not understand, or possibly despise, can be the one thing that sets us apart and guarantees our success. Perhaps we should nurture our eccentricities and odd gifts instead of weakening or hiding them.
Thus endeth today’s lesson. Seriously, though if you have a chance, read the story of the 47 Ronin as soon as you can.