Warrior heroes exist in every culture’s literature and folklore, and many of them have similarities with each other. Ireland’s Cuchulain, Greece’s Heracles and Achilles, and Persia’s Rostam have very similar stories.
Warrior heroes exist in every culture’s literature and folklore
Warrior heroes exist in every culture’s literature and folklore, and many of them have similarities with each other. Ireland’s Cuchulain, Greece’s Heracles and Achilles, and Persia’s Rostam have very similar stories. The tale of the Luo/Ugandan hero Lwanda Magere is very similar to the Biblical account of Samson – both are mighty, arrogant warriors whose weaknesses are discover ed by women in the employ of their enemies.
I’ve heard of the heroes of the Chinese wuxia [martial chivalry] novel The Water Margin (aka Outlaws of the Marsh) compared to both the Knights of the Round Table and Robin Hood’s Merry Men. The trend of the warrior hero continues in literature, pulp fiction, comic books, video games, and of course, cinema, borrowing from each other and drawing inspiration from each other to tell updated versions of older tales. (This is one of those lectures you should be glad isn’t live – I can go on for hours about this.)
Beyond the stories themselves, the characteristics of each culture’s warrior heroes have numerous similarities. The idealized knights of medieval chivalry. Also, the samurai both believed in the concept of death before dishonor, were expected to be devout adherents to their respective religions, and required to follow certain codes of conduct.
Both were even require to learn courtly skills and the arts in addition to combat.
For instance, Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, whose story was incorporated into the Arthurian legends, was renowned for his talent with the harp and his hunting abilities as well as his martial skills. The Greek hero Achilles, in addition to being a one-man army, also knew how to play the harp or lyre.
What do you make of all these parallels? What does it say about us that the warrior heroes of different societies and cultures have so much in common? How unique are the samurai, if at all? (Besides their weapons and armor.)
Also, which do you think says more about a culture and what it believes in: the warrior heroes of history that a society honors, or the warrior heroes of fiction a society creates? Why? What warrior heroes, fictional or otherwise, are value d in your own respective cultures? (I’ll leave it up to you to decide what counts as your culture.) Please write anything relate to Asian culture.
One last point, just out of curiosity: did you have any preconceived notions about the samurai or ninja before reading this week’s PowerPoint? If so, what were they, and where do you think they came from?