August 19, 2013 by Laird
An old review unearthed:
One of the great classics is an old book by William Dale Jennings called The Ronin. The Ronin is a bastard of the first water, raping, murdering, and pillaging across the land. There is a section in the book where a boy, a spoiled prince, is essentially orphaned by the ronin and determines his life’s work shall be revenge. The boy goes into the mountains and bursts in upon a retired sword master as the old man meditates in preparation for the day. The master ignores the brash child, but after a day and a night relents upon hearing the reason the boy wishes to receive training. Seven years of gruelling hardship and privation for a single duel. What follows is an epic account of master and pupil and the relentless and brutal training required to forge the child into the greatest swordsman in Japan.
Seven years pass. The boy spends two years chopping wood and hauling water and learning to read and write. Then two more years fulfilling these tasks whilst being randomly ambushed and savagely thrashed by the sensei. Then three more, slowly, painfully mastering the art of the bamboo practice stick, and finally the sword. It is a heartbreaking and joyous story within a story, freighted with so many unspoken things, and a melancholy sweetness and sense of devotion to the larger world that lies at the heart of true masculinity.
This book is very important to me.
The section dealing with the young man’s time of tribulation ends with this passage:
“An hour later he was gone, leaving this note behind: ‘My parents made me a child. My teacher made me a man.’ There was a long, thoughtful space, then these words: Nor does the severed limb cease to be part of the tree.’
The old man read it, carefully folded it and placed it upon the fire. Then he placed his bamboo practice stick upon the flames, watched it burn and rose to finish what he’d been doing the day the child arrived.”
—William Dale Jennings