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The 47 Ronin Story / John Allyn
In late 2013, Hollywood released its re-imagined version of the classic Japanese tale of revenge
and loyalty, 47 Ronin. The movie was a disaster, which goes to show that you can’t improve on a
great story. The story of the 47 Ronin, also known as Chushingura, was based on an actual incident
that occurred in the early 1700s.
Like all good stories and scandals of the Edo period, it was picked up by the Kabuki and Bunraku
puppet theatres, altered to avoid the wrath of the government, and enhanced it like,…
well, like Hollywood does,…to sell tickets.
The story goes that the brash young Lord Asano, in Edo Castle to learn the court procedures,
is ordered to commit seppuku having attacked the corrupt Master or Protocol, Lord Kira,
following Kira’s demands for bribes. Lord Asano’s clan and samurai were disbanded, but re-form
two years later, attacking Kira’s mansion late one night and taking the old man’s head in revenge.
For their actions, they too were ordered to commit seppuku.
That’s the traditional story, as told by the old theatre of Japan. And that’s the story told in the book,
The 47 Ronin Story by John Allyn, first published by Tuttle Books in 1970. Dr. Allyn, a former film
and music editor, and writer – director of aerospace industry films, admits that “the historical facts
of their deed are plain; the details are hazy,” and that “This novel is intended to give an account in
English of what might have happened in those colorful days when Japan was secluded from the rest
of the world and the old traditions still governed the lives of men.”
Although a great and well known story, it is not quite the truth. Lord Kira, the villain of the story
was NOT in fact corrupt, quite the opposite, he was a trusted vassal of the Shogun, Master of
Protocol, and often acted as a messenger to the Emperor on behalf of the Shogun. Lord Asano
on the other hand, was known to have been a hot-head, and for having slashed and killed some
of his own men who angered him over some trifling matter. This doesn’t detract from the loyalty
and bravery shown by the 47 at all. It just shows that mis-information can lead to tragedy.
Enjoy the book, it’s still a ripper of a yarn! Much better than that dreadful movie!
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