A Woman to Know: Tomoe Gozen
|Julia Carpenter||Dec 6, 2016|
She was a warrior worth a thousand, ready to confront a demon or a god, mounted or on foot. — The Tale of the Heike
(image via Wikimedia Commons)
We don't know much about Tomoe's early life in 12th century Japan: she could've married her husband as a child, or lived as the palace's lead concubine, or worked quietly in court as another nameless female attendant. And we also don't know much about Tomoe's later life: some accounts report she died on the battlefield, and others write she lived a long life in reclusion, as a nun in the country. Some say she never existed at all.
But in history's retelling of the bloody Genpei War, Tomoe's name is written everywhere. As one of a few onna-bugeisha, the female samurai warriors, she rode into battle brandishing a long, curved blade. Engravings from the era show her riding a white horse into battle, decapitating her enemies. According to "The Tale of Heike," the general treasured her skills, distinguished even from the men: "Yoshinaka sent her out as his first captain ... she performed more deeds of valor than any of his other warriors."
Add to your library list:
Samurai Women (Stephen Turnbull)
The Tale of the Heike (Helen Craig McCullough)
The Tomoe Gozen Saga (Jessica Amanda Salmonson)
Women were some of the fiercest samurai warriors (Smithsonian)
Women warriors of Japan (Japan Times)
Lady of Legacy: Tomoe Gozen (Darling Magazine)
Women Warriors (History of Japan)
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