The Shogun and the Ninja: A Parable

The Shogun and the Ninja: A Parable

Two men encountered each other in the woods.

One, a shogun (将軍,) with formidable skill and great experience.

 The other, a ninja or shinobi (忍者 or 忍び), of equal skill and great experience.

At first, they drew their weapons, instinctively, reflexively, as expected when encountering a potential enemy or foe.

Then the shogun, battle-weary, spoke to the ninja aloud: “I am seii taishōgun (“great general who subdues eastern barbarians”). What is your business here in these woods?” 
The ninja, equally battle-weary but ready to strike, replied, “Even with my disguise, do you not recognize me?” 
“I do not, ninja”, said the shogun, “if you are not part of my shogunate, then you are my enemy” The ninja did not recoil or flinch, for in that moment, the shogun looked upon the ninja with both curiosity and apprehension. While he could not see the ninja’s face, nor the ninja his through his own shogun helmet, the shogun recognized the ninja’s voice and movements.

The shogun then stepped forward slightly, and said, “I know of a ninja whose great skill has served and protected the Emperor well.” “But” the shogun continued, “this ninja has questioned my judgment and my loyalty.” The ninja, still wary, considered his response. “I also know a shogun whose great skill has served the Emperor well, but this shogun has attacked my judgment and questioned my loyalty.”

The two men sized each other up, once more, anger, distrust and blood rising within each of them, until each realized, in their own way, that the many battles, assassinations and mercenary campaigns had clearly taken their collective toll on both of them.

“Why,” asked the ninja, “are we standing here with our weapons drawn, ready to fight?” The shogun retorted, “The reason, dear ninja, is that we are trained warriors. We both serve a higher purpose—to defend the Emperor with our lives.”

The shogun stood, pensively, not entirely sure what to do or say next, lest he miscalculate the ninja’s intentions and spoke in a whispered tone: “The Emperor has many enemies, how shall I know that you are not really my enemy, as well?”

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend”, replied the ninja. “Then”, asked the shogun, “fellow warrior, let us put down our arms. Will you not join me at my bakufu (幕府) (“tent office”) to share a drink together over stories of our great battles?”

The ninja laughed heartily, so heartily in fact, that the birds and woodland creatures began to scurry, breaking the awkward silence between the two solitary warriors. “Bakufu? Bakufu you, too,” joked the ninja and each extended to the other his hand with respect, and they then walked away together, laughing and forgetting their wounds and scars, at least for a day.

4 Responses to “The Shogun and the Ninja: A Parable”

  1. Elizabeth Miles Says:

    Israel and Palenstine? Perhaps the Emperor is Abraham.Irish Republicans and Loyalists? Perhaps the Emperor is Irishness

  2. The Trial Warrior Says:

    Elizabeth, that's a sublime interpretation. While my motivation was neither politics nor religion, I am intrigued that you read it in that context. I will say that it is about professionalism, collegiality, and reconciliation. Whether or not the shogun and ninja are archetypes, dramatis personae or real people, is best left sotto voce.

  3. Rick Horowitz Says:

    I read it as prosecutor and defense attorney, when both do their jobs well.

  4. The Trial Warrior Says:

    Thanks Rick. I find the beauty in a parable is that it invites the reader to decide both the context and the subtext. A good parable is the attainment of mere verisimilitude or plausibility, not truth.

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