A Benkei for Every Age: Musashibō Benkei as Palimpsest

Christopher Smith


This article traces the history of Benkei production—the production of texts concerning Musashibō Benkei—to show that the image of Benkei is not stable, but rather has been adapted and modified repeatedly since the fourteenth century according to the social, economic, political, and cultural climate, as well as the narrative needs, of various eras. Each new instance of Benkei production does not erase or overwrite the previous instances, but rather adds another layer to the cultural construct “Benkei.” This article is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of Benkei works, nor is it particularly an attempt to unearth obscure Benkei works. Instead, the article shows how literature and literary characters can be adapted and transformed over a long time frame. It addresses relatively well-known texts, but examines them in the context of a history of Benkei texts that reveal a shifting, changing image of Benkei responsive to historicized cultural environments.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jll.2021.76

Copyright (c) 2021 Christopher Smith

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