Monday, January 31, 2011

The Eight Dog Chronicles












029-hyoshi frontispieces

029-hyoshi frontispieces a

'Nansō Satomi Hakkenden' is a truly epic novel (100+ volumes) that was published in Japan over a thirty year period in the first half of the 19th century. Its author, Kyokutei Bakin (1767-1848), was blind towards the end and his daughter-in-law had to transcribe his dictation.

Bakin was the first person to make a living solely from writing and he was the most famous writer in Japan during his lifetime. His novel, though well received at the time of its publication, fell out of favour in the second half of the 19th century as western influence gained traction and popularity.

'Hakkenden' follows the story of eight samurai brothers and their adventures - set in about the 15th century - with themes of family honour and loyalty, as well as Confucian and Buddhist philosophy.

The story has been widely adapted in movies, television shows, video games, manga and anime series. It has also been a popular theme for Kabuki theatre productions and the following description comes from the Tokyo Kabuki Theatre's notes about their play from a few years ago:

"..the original novel is an immense epic by 19th century novelist Takizawa Bakin published over many years, but eventually reaching one-hundred and sixty volumes.

The Satomi clan is being attacked and its lord offers his daughter Princess Fuse to the warrior that will bring him the head of the enemy. It is his loyal dog that kills and beheads the enemy and, saying that her father must not go back on his word, Princess Fuse goes with the dog.

Nevertheless, the Satomi clan is defeated and one of its loyal retainers goes to rescue Princess Fuse, shooting the dog, but unfortunately shooting Princess Fuse as well. The eight crystal beads of her rosary, each engraved with the Chinese characters of one of the Confucian virtues, goes flying through the air.

Miraculously, each will be found with a newborn baby. These eight children, all of whom have the character inu for "dog" in their names, eventually meet and join together to restore the Satomi clan. The play features all the stars of the company and follows the adventures of the eight dog warriors as they meet and gradually join together, leading to a climactic fight on the roof of a dizzyingly high tower."[source]


Chris said...

Beautiful stuff, Paul.

MrCachet said...

WOW! I have just finished a wonderful novel called The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. A wonderful story, and the young woman involved in the story is an artist. After looking at these images, I feel like these are what she would have created.

proyectable said...


A.K.I. Australia - Admin said...

I used to watch a puppet show adaptation of this story on TV about 40 years ago in Japan. Fantastic.

flyingtofu said...

The covers are great. Look forward to more translations. On a premodern japanese list one gentleman just mentioned the thought of translating a part of Hakkenden and another replied s/he was already up to book 77. Re. Artforms in Nature -- the mention of detail confirmed by microscope made me wonder if heckel by any chance discovered holothurian ossicles? Re the bibliodyssey = enjoyed thinking someone was walking in on his arms until looking close. You might enjoy guessing what is on the cover of my Topsy-turvy 1585.
Rise, Ye Sea Slugs!

Anonymous said...

The whole story is now being translated at this blog:

Hope you'll enjoy it. Thanks.

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