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Read the Story that Inspired ’47 Ronin’

Keanu Reeves made an Internet splash today in the trailer for 47 Ronin, an action movie very loosely based on a Japanese story.

Above, we’ve embedded the trailer. The movie comes out December 25, 2013. Here’s more about the film:

Keanu Reeves makes an explosive return to action-adventure in 47 Ronin. After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and restore honor to their people. Driven from their homes and dispersed across the land, this band of Ronin must seek the help of Kai (Reeves)—a half-breed they once rejected—as they fight their way across a savage world of mythic beasts, shape-shifting witchcraft and wondrous terrors.

In 1871, Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford published Tales of Old Japan, a book of Japanese stories that opened with “The Forty-Seven Ronins.” You can also download a free copy of the book at this link.

Writer J. Noel Chiappa has more about the free book:

This detailed recounting is based on the version in the classic “Tales of Old Japan”, by Lord Redesdale, one of the first foreign diplomats to serve in Japan after it was opened to the West. This influential book was published in 1871, after his tenure as Attache from 1866-1870, and it was the first time the story of the Forty-Seven Ronin appeared in print in the West. (This account is now known to be somewhat inaccurate, historically speaking)

If you are looking for a more historical look at this period, Chiappa recommended these books:

The Taming of the Samurai: Honorific Individualism and the Making of Modern Japan by Eiko Ikegami, A History of Japan: Volume III The Tokugawa Epoch by James Murdoch and Legends of the Samurai by Hiroaki Sato.

Below, we’ve included an illustration from

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