Legend – Singapore

Folk Legend- The Japanese Muramasa Sword

Well the sword, there is a sword called the Muramasa.  It is named after the last name of the family who makes them, although there are a lot of fake ones.  There are five true Muramasa that were given to the five generations of emperors. Well, these swords, before given to the emperors, were tested.  Each sword has killed over a thousand people and were said to be cursed.  Whenever these swords were put into the river, leaves flowing down stream were not cut in half, but they circled the blade in a sort of demonic way as if the blade was drawing in the life force of nearby objects. Well, pretty much, once these swords were given to the emperors, it is said that for a time, the empire thrived because the sword was so strong that greatest general in the army could kill anyone and pretty much conquer everything.  But unfortunately, there is a side effect.  If the general happened to die, which is very possible because they said the sword slowly sucked out the person’s life force, the empire would crumble.  And the scary thing is it’s all in history.  All five generations during, I think the Tokogawa era have fallen.  I’ve seen the swords before. There very, you can say, cold.

Zhi Wei Ko told this story to me.  Zhi is Singaporean royalty with rich knowledge in Asian culture.  He said he learned it from both his father and grandfather when he was younger.  Supposedly, it is normally told to younger children to warn them not to play with sharp objects.  When I asked Zhi about his perception of the story he said, “I do think its true.  I mean, I’ve been around a lot of blades before and these swords have something, you can say, eerie about them.  The way they feel I don’t know.  I felt cold around it.  I would also say there is a lesson from it though.  Just don’t sell your soul to the devil”.

When Zhi told me this story, I did not know what to think.  It seems these swords were powerful enough to put any man into emperorship, but were so damaging to one’s life that it may not have been worth it.  From what he says, it is common knowledge these five generations of emperors existed, but he could not find any real solid documentation revealing the total truth about the swords.  He said it is something that is mostly passed on through generations.  This led me to believe it was said to teach a lesson.  Some things are not worth the risk or as Zhi put it, “Don’t sell your soul to the devil”.

The last two things to analyze about this story is what culture it’s coming from and when it is told.  In the Asian culture, it is mandatory to respect your elders.  When Zhi’s grandfather told him this story, it makes him look wise in the eyes of young children.  This will definitely maintain that sense of respect.  Also, since it is kept within the Asian culture, it forms a sense of identity within the group.  Lastly, this story is not set in modern day.  Instead, it focuses on the ancient history of Asia.  This serves as a way to teach future generations life lessons while maintaining old customs and beliefs.

This story can also be found in the following:

The Japanese Book of the Ancient Sword

Author(s): Ethel Watts Mumford

Source: Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 26, (1905), pp. 334-410

Publisher: American Oriental Society

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/59289