Tales Of Heike Essay

2416 words - 10 pages

Written in the middle of the thirteenth century, The Tales of Heike was a warrior tale (gunki monogatari) about the tragic fall of the Taira clan. During the Genpei war(1180-1185) two families battle for control over the capital, the Taira/Heike clan and the Genji/Minamoto clan. Although the majority of the tale highlights the defeats of the Heike clan, there are numerous tales of the downfalls of various warriors in the Minamoto clan. In book nine, chapter four titled “The Death of Lord Kiso” the reader is introduced to Lord Kiso or Minamoto Yoshinaka, a member of the Minamoto clan who was attacked and killed by his own family. Lord Kiso and what was left of his army met and together took a final stand against their enemies. His remaining warriors were of the strongest and most powerful of his army, warriors with strength that could not be compared with regular men.
Among all the warriors that stood with Lord Kiso in that final battle, no warrior has had readers grip with mystery as Tomoe, Lord Kiso only female samurai warrior. Tomoe is presented in The Tales of Heike as beautiful, fierce, and more powerful than most of the other male warriors in Lord Kiso regiment. Tomoe because she was a woman was denied the honor of a warrior’s death. What happens to Tomoe after she “fled somewhere in the direction of the eastern provinces” is a mystery, but there are various noh plays and stories that tried to fill in the blanks of Tomoe life (Shirane, pg.738) . In the noh play, Tomoe is presented very differently than the Tomoe presented in The Tales of Heike. An assessment of the noh play Tomoe and The Tales of Heike Tomoe reveals that the character was transformed from strong and beautiful warrior in The Tales of Heike version, to a victim of war in the noh play version. In an attempt to feminize Tomoe, the authors and performers of the noh play subjugated her persona and warrior-like qualities and replaced them with a character that is vastly different from the original.
In The Tales of Heike version, Tomoe is the perfect woman on all accounts. She was of “fair complexioned and with long hair, was of exceptional beauty.”(Shirane, pg 736). With such beauty it is a wonder that Lord Kiso allowed her to enter the battlefield as a warrior. Tomoe was presented as one of Lord Kiso’s female attendants, along with another woman named Yamabuki. Yamabuki was in the capital at the time of the final battle because of illness, but as a female attendant there is doubt that she would have been allowed in the field. Females rarely fought in wars making Tomoe appearance as a female warrior all the more interesting. There were other females within the tale, but none are portrayed as warriors. The female roles were confined to court life (wives and entertainers) or Buddhist life (nuns). So how Tomoe was able to advance beyond that forced status and become a warrior is another unsolved mystery. Tomoe’s rise to a warrior status is not explained in Shirane’s anthology’s...

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