The Loyalist Hero Archetypes In Japanese Literature Essay Example
The Loyalist Hero Archetypes In Japanese Literature Essay Example

The Loyalist Hero Archetypes In Japanese Literature Essay Example

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  • Pages: 4 (902 words)
  • Published: August 13, 2017
  • Type: Analysis
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Paul Varley's book, "Warriors of Japan as Portrayed in the War Tales," examines various war narratives from different periods of Japanese history, including the rise of the samurai culture. These tales, like the Shomonki and Taiheiki, depict changes in battleground customs and warrior society as they evolve over time. Despite the societal changes, the warriors remain a consistent element in these narratives. The stories focus on the rise and fall of honored warriors and reflect customary values including honor, respect, and reputation. Varley categorizes warriors into three archetypes: loser-hero, tragic loser-hero, and failed stalwart hero, based on their qualities and actions. Through analyzing these characters, Varley provides insight into the significance of these three original hero archetypes in Japanese history.The continuous appearance of the three main original characters in Japanese literature c


an be better understood through the analysis and definition of these characters. To begin with, the book "Warriors of Japan" highlights the loser-hero as the first original character. A prime example is found in the story of Minamoto no Tametoto, who is a unique loser-hero and not a tragic one, although they are closely related. Tametoto fought in the Hogen Rebellion as depicted in the Hogen Monogatari tales. Though possibly fictionalized, Tametoto was depicted as a fierce and merciless warrior, particularly skilled in archery. Due to his extensive war experience, he knew the benefits of a surprise attack and believed it was the best way to defeat their opponent, Sutoku. However, his suggestion was rejected by Fujiwara leader Yorinaga, leading to an enemy attack that night. Tametoto valiantly defended Shirakawa Palace alongside few supporters and the enemy's attack was barely repelled.Tametoto appeared to be

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winning the battle until the Sutoku side burned down the castle, causing Tametoto to escape and eventually be captured. Although he is a hero, Tametoto becomes a tragic loser because his defeat was not his fault, but rather the mistakes of others, particularly Yorinaga. According to Paul Varley's definition of a tragic loser-hero, Tametoto failed partially due to a fault of others causing his decreased state, reminding him of earlier times of fame and glory. Tragic loser-heroes always have an ever-faithful follower and their inaction ultimately contributes to their defeat. Such is the case with Minamoto no Yoshitsune from the Heike Monogatari narratives, who fails due to political ineptitude and poor handling of Kajiwara no Kagetoki. Despite their flaws and poor decisions, tragic loser-heroes are relatable and evoke a sense of understanding from readers.The underdog characteristic of fictionalized narratives and the warrior spirit are both linked to the concept of a tragic loser-hero in “Warrior of Japan”. This original has a significant place in Japanese literature. The Failed Loyalist Hero is a specific subtype characterized by their self-denying loyalty to Emperor Godaigo and the southern tribunal, which often leads to their death in battle. Readers are drawn to the extreme self-sacrificing loyalty displayed by these characters, which is explained as a highly respected virtue in Japanese history and literature. The failed stalwart is distinct because these characters do not become outstanding until the Taiheiki, where imperial loyalism is firmly established. Prior to this period, warriors may have had loyalty to their commanding officers and emperor but not to the extent that they could be considered failed stalwart heroes. Despite their differences, there are many similarities

between these heroes, most notably their tragic underdog status.The main contrast between a loser-hero and a tragic loser-hero lies in the fact that the latter suffers from a personal fault, which leads to their downfall. While sometimes this difference distinguishes them clearly, commonalities between the two can also blur the lines. The failed stalwart hero does not have as many similarities as the other types, but still shares traits such as being a skilled warrior and possessing loyalty. However, the failed stalwart hero's loyalty ultimately leads to their ruin. Overall, hero types may differ, but they all share characteristics that reflect the warrior culture of their time period, such as devotion, respect, loyalty, courage, and honor. The reason why Paul Varley emphasizes these differences is because they are vital to understanding Japanese literary war narratives and have been appreciated since early writings.According to Varley (56), dramatic characters play a significant role in Japanese literature. This is why he focuses on examining the hero originals which are inherently tragic and sometimes include agony, as they are an important component of the literature. The warriors' narratives, which were often fictionalized and embellished, indicate that something about Japanese culture at the time enjoyed a good story, often for reasons beyond the basic factual details of what took place. An excellent example of this is the frequently exaggerated tale of the loser-hero Tametoto. While based on a real person, his character was often greatly exaggerated and propelled to fabulous levels through retellings. In actuality, he was just a regular or even exceptional warrior. The development of Tametoto's character and other characters throughout Japanese history suggests an affinity in Japanese

culture and literature for theatrical and compelling narratives. While one can speculate about the reasons for this, Varley emphasizes that his study focuses on the three hero originals discussed because of their inherent importance and presence in Japanese history and literature.Varley.Paul H. (1994) describes the way in which Warriors were depicted in the War Tales of Japan. The focus is on the relationship between war and civilization.

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