The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'ninja'


If this article is correct, there is little evidence that the ninja, the legendary Japanese warriors/assassins, ever existed outside of mythology and popular culture:

The most reliable reconstructions of ninja history suggest that ninja denotes a function, not a special kind of warrior — ninja WERE samurai (a term, which didn't designate a class until the Tokugawa period—AFTER the warfare of the late medieval period had ended—before that it designated only an occupation) performing ninja work.
Movie-style ninja, BTW, have a much longer history than the movies (although the term ninja does not appear to have been popularized until the 20th century). Ninja shows, ninja houses (sort of like American haunted houses at carnivals), and ninja novels and stories were popular by the middle of the Tokugawa period. The ninja performers may have created the genre completely out of whole cloth, or they may have built on genuine lore derived from old spymasters. Either way, however, its clear that much of the lore underlying both modern ninja movies and modern ninja schools has both a long history AND little basis in reality outside the theatre.
Not only that, but someone else claims in the comments that the black costume traditionally associated with the ninja was actually derived from the costumes worn by Japanese puppeteers working on darkened stages unseen, and not from any sort of martial tradition.

I guess this settles the whole pirates-vs.-ninja gedankenexperiment then.

(via substitute) japan mythology ninja 1


A while ago, I picked up the box set of The Prisoner, and have been gradually making my way through the episodes I hadn't seen, one at a time.

I recently watched the episode titled "The Girl Who Was Death", which features a mad scientist who thinks he's Napoleon. As I watched it, I found myself thinking about the old cliché of delusionally insane people thinking that they're Napoleon. It seems to pop up a lot in films, TV and other media of a certain age (Looney Tunes cartoons, for example), tapering off around the 1960s (though still making the occasional appearance, in things like Highlander sequels); and there even was a famous pop song referencing it. Nowadays, one doesn't hear about nuthouses full of Napoleons; more modern sufferers of delusions are apparently more likely to think they're Jesus; either that (I once heard) or superheroes or ninjas or such.

I imagine that this has to do with the historical figure of Napoleon having cast a much longer shadow earlier in this century than he does now. When Napoleon loomed large in the public consciousness, a padded cell probably looked a lot like Saint Helena. It wouldn't surprise me if the I-think-I'm-Napoleon cliché was an old Vaudeville device or similar, dating back well before World War 2 (which somewhat demoted the French emperor's standing in the league of scourges of Europe), and the mass-media-saturated post-war world (whose brighter, more vivid archetypes undoubtedly displaced 18th-century history books from the public consciousness).

The ever-shifting landscape of public image affects how we see things. For one, the villain in The Girl Who Was Death reminded me of none other than Xeni Jardin.

history mad scientists mental illness napoleon ninja the prisoner 0

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