Meaning of HEIKE MONOGATARI in English

English The Tale of the Heike medieval Japanese heroic epic, which is to Japanese literature what the Iliad is to Western literature, a prolific source of later dramas, ballads, and tales. It stems from unwritten traditional tales and variant texts composed between 1190 and 1221, which were gathered together (c. 1240) by an unknown author to form a single epic. Its poetic prose is intended to be chanted to the accompaniment of a biwa (four-stringed lute). Based on the actual historical struggle between the Taira (Heike) and Minamoto (Genji) families, which convulsed Japan in civil war for years, the Heike monogatari features the exploits of Minamoto Yoshitsune, the most popular hero of Japanese legend, and recounts many episodes of the heroism of aristocratic samurai warriors. Its overall theme is the tragic downfall of the Taira family. Beginning pessimistically with the tolling of a bell, it carries the story to the final defeat of the Taira clan at the sea battle of Dannoura (1185), in which, along with many warriors, the seven-year-old emperor and many noble courtiers were drowned. The epic concludes by describing the subsequent life of the empress mother and ends as it began, with the tolling of a bell, as she dies in a remote convent. Throughout, there is a tone of Buddhist skepticism toward the fleeting fortunes of the world.

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