Yamato Takeru, the Brave of Japan

Ivan Morris asserts that, among the legends of the prehistoric Japanese past, it is the aura of failure and tragedy surrounding his end that establishes Yamato Takeru as a model hero.

Prince Yamato Takeru, the archetype of Japan’s long line of lonely, poignant heroes, started his career in an unedifying style by murdering his elder twin brother in the lavatory. According to The Record of Ancient Events, the Prince’s father, Emperor Keiko, summoned him one day and asked why his brother was no longer appearing at mealtimes. Regular attendance at the imperial board was a token of loyalty, and the Emperor now ordered the young Prince to reprimand his delinquent twin.

‘Five days went by, but still the elder brother did not come. His Majesty accordingly asked, “Why has your brother not appeared for such a long time? Can it be that you did not give him my instructions?” “I have already instructed him,” replied the Prince. “And how did you instruct him?”

“Early in the morning,” said the Prince, “when my brother went to the privy, I was lying in wait for him. I seized him, smashed him to pieces, tore off his limbs, wrapped them in a straw mat, and threw them away”.’

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