chapter  5
Sacrifice and revenge, love and war, and a world without violence in The Eight Dog Chronicles
Pages 27

The preceding chapters have examined The Tale of Genji, written in the tenth and eleventh centuries, and The Tale of the Heike, compiled in the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries. The discussion will now move to the nineteenth century with an analysis of “respect for the strong” and “sympathy with the weak” as these appear in The Eight Dog Chronicles (NansD Satomi hakkenden). Author Kyokutei Bakin (1767-1848) composed this romance over a period of more than twenty-seven years from November 1814 to March 1842. The story draws upon the ideologies of Buddhism, Confucianism and Bushidd and aims both to entertain and to enlighten readers. The Eight Dog Chronicles was certainly one of the most popular romances in nineteenth-century Tokugawa Japan. In the Meiji period, however, Tsubouchi Shdyd (1859-1935), an influential critic and pioneer of modern Japanese literature, rejected its merits in his groundbreaking treatise entitled The Essence of the Novel (ShDsetsu shinzui, 1885-6). Peter F. Kornicki has noted that in the short term Bakin’s reputation survived Shdyd’s criticism. Thus, the author of the Eight Dog Chronicles became one of the Tokugawa writers venerated by scholars in the years before the Asia-Pacific War (Kornicki 1981: 463-4). However, although he was held in considerable esteem, even in prewar Japan Bakin’s reputation failed to reach the heights of other Tokugawa literary figures such as Saikaku (1642-93), Chikamatsu (1653-1724) or Bashd (1644-94). Following the Asia-Pacific War, his works did not receive as much critical or popular attention as they had in earlier times, owing at least partially to a revival of the influence of Shdyd’s negative critical assessment. Since the 1980s, however, both Bakin and The Eight Dog Chronicles have been re-evaluated in Japan, and there has been revived interest in his works, many of which have been issued in new editions.1 Academic studies in English, however, remain limited. We have only the partial translations of The Eight Dog Chronicles made in 1955 and 2002 by Donald Keene and Chris Drake respectively, Leon M. Zolbrod’s studies from the 1960s, and some comments in literary histories.2