The Samurai’s Tale by Erik Christian Haugaard

2008
01.01

samurai's tale In this oldie-but-goodie tale of adventure and intrigue set in 16th-century Japan, young orphaned Taro is taken under the wing of the great samurai Lord Akiyama, after his father is killed in battle and his mother slain in the aftermath. By using his wits and suppressing his fierce pride, Taro slowly ascends the ranks of his lord’s household until he achieves his greatest goal—becoming a samurai like his father and Lord Akiyama, whom he has come to admire. But the life of a warrior is not easy, and Taro finds himself sacrificing opportunities of love and friendship in order to gain honor and respect. Is Taro willing to give up all the comfortable trappings of hearth and home for the dubious privilege of living–and dying–by the sword? Full of period detail that immerses the reader in the everyday life of a samurai in training, this retro-read will appeal to fans of Lian Herne’s Tales of the Otori (Thanks for the suggestion, Harry!)

3 Responses to “The Samurai’s Tale by Erik Christian Haugaard”

  1. Daniel says:

    The Samurai’s Tale, by Erik Christian Haugaard, is set in 16th century Japan. The hero, Taro, is kidnapped as a small child by Lord Akiyama’s army. He goes from slave to samurai. Taro is brought to a village where he will work. Throughout Taro’s life, he learns patience, respect and loyalty from Togan, Yoshitoki and Wada Kansuke.

    Early on in Taro’s new life, he meets and starts working with a cook, Togan. He becomes a very important person; from him, Taro learns patience. One day, Taro and Togan go to a wrestling match in a more dangerous village. Togan comments on the match and angers someone. This person does not let Togan or Taro leave and is very rude. “‘Please allow us to pass,’ Togan asked politely, at the time making a small bow towards the group. ‘Shouldn’t we make them pay a toll?’ The leader of the party demanded. … Then … he poked Togan in the stomach … ‘Please keep your hands to yourself!’” (25). Togan teaches Taro by example. No matter how rude the man is, Togan keeps his cool, being polite always. Togan did not use violence to get what he wants, because he could wait to reach an understanding with the man.

    Togan is a Buddhist, not just patient with other people but also with himself. He would stand in front of a wall and meditate, standing there for much time. “He was a fervent Buddhist and practiced Zen … Sometimes he would sit for hours facing the wall, staring at it as if he were trying to look right through it” (19). Togan leads a good example and shows Taro that being patient can help you in life. He teaches Taro that meditation and patience helps him.

    Some time later, Taro meets and exchanges poems with girl he falls in love with, Aki-Hime. Aki-Hime’s father, Lord Zakoji, became friends with Taro and Taro looked up to him. Lord Zakoji wishes him to stop with the poems and wait before they think about getting married. “‘It has occurred to me that some day I may find someone who would … become my son (191) … but let some time pass, let us see what happens.’ … I wrote several poems and letters to Aki … she did not answer … I did not mind this.” (192). Taro is so excited about this, yet he is patient and waits a long time. He does not mind waiting to hear more, as he says in the quote. Being a samurai must involve patience. It is good that Taro does not expect immediate results and can wait.

    Another person who helps Taro become a good samurai is Yoshitoki. From him, Taro learns respect. Taro meets and befriends this young samurai. “Such was the beginning of my friendship with Yoshitoki (69) … For several months Yoshitoki and I explored every path and valley within a day’s ride of the castle.” (72). Taro is a servant and Yoshitoki is a samurai. Yoshitoki shows respect towards Taro, who is at a lower social level, during this time.

    When Yoshitoki returns from battle, Taro rushes to him. Lord Akiyama, who Taro serves for, had mentioned giving Taro a new name but Taro is unsure of when to ask about it. “I rushed to Yoshitoki, and, not even giving him the slightest chance to tell of his adventures, I blurted out my problem. ‘Once lord Akiyama spoke to me… He asked about you.’ (87) … ‘He remembered me!’” (88). Taro is rude telling Yoshitoki about his problem and ignoring Yoshitoki’s joy of being home from the war. Yoshitoki does not get angered by Taro’s selfishness; but reminds Taro to be respectful.

    Finally, Wada Kansuke is essential in Taro’s life and teaches Taro loyalty. The samurai, Minbu, worked for the enemy of Lord Takeda, Lord Obu. Lord Akiyama works for Takeda, and Taro works for Lord Akiyama. At the beginning of the war, Taro is sent to work for Wada Kansuke. Minbu is caught by Wada and is killed. Wada will send Minbu’s head to Lord Takeda so that there may be a small service for Minbu. Taro does not understand why they are honoring an enemy.

    “He [Minbu] was a most brave samurai.” (118). Now I understood. It was for the sake of [his] honor that his head was now sent to Lord [Takeda] Shingen. “He would want it?” I asked… “Naturally, he would like that.” “But he was Lord Takeda’s enemy. One of Lord Obu’s men,” I argued… “He [Obu] was a traitor, but his men — The samurai like Minbu who served him — remained loyal to him. That loyalty Lord Takeda will honor.” “Then I must remain loyal to lord Akiyama, regardless of what he does — even if he is disloyal to Lord Takeda?” I asked. “Certainly!” (119).
    Now Taro would certainly understand that he must remain loyal to his Lord, even if Akiyama is disloyal to Takeda himself. Wada Kansuke explained this in the context of Minbu being honored for his own loyalty and bravery. Loyalty is an important lesson for Taro to learn. Since he was taken as a small child by Akiyama’s army, he might be unsure of how loyal he should be to Akiyama. But Akiyama had personally decided to bring Taro with him when they had invaded Taro’s town. So you would think that Taro would want to be loyal to Lord Akiyama for sparing his life. Over time and after this experience with Minbu, Taro grows more loyal to Lord Akiyama.
    Another event when Wada Kansuke teaches Taro about loyalty is when they are sitting around a fire, talking. Wada: “‘Yes, they are brave, I suppose. But they are also born traitors. Every ninja has had many masters, they serve for… gold!’” (137). Here, Wada Kansuke criticizes the ninjas for not being loyal to one lord. He says the ninjas simply do it for… gold!
    Lord Akiyama had lost the battle that Yoshitoki had later died in and had been crucified. Taro travels to the village where Lord Akiyama’s body is. “I stood in front of his cross and prayed that Lord Buddha would give him peace and that if he were to be reborn it would be as a prince. Then I bowed deeply for the last time to the master I had served and walked away.” (232). Taro is paying respect to his leader. He shows that he has learned both respect and loyalty from Yoshitoki and Wada Kansuke, for he shows these virtues here. A samurai needs to be loyal and needs to have work. These are important lessons for Taro.
    To be a good samurai, Taro must exhibit many of the virtues that his friends and mentors have started teaching him. He will learn more of the virtues a samurai needs throughout his life. Togan, Yoshitoki and Wada Kansuke have taught him some of these important virtues.
    We need to have patience, respect and loyalty today, even if we are not samurai. When we respect others equally, as Yoshitoki and Togan did, we can live in a world where people like Togan are treated nicely in return.

    Work Cited

    Haugaard, Erik Christian. The Samurai’s Tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company,

    1984. Print.

  2. alex delgado says:

    daniel’s reply was long but they story is very good i had just finished reading the book i love it its so cool

  3. alex delgado says:

    also i love the characters i especially love wada kansuke, yoshitoki, and aki-hime

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