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IMAGE: Nansō satomi hakkenden (drawing by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1798-1861)
Nansō Satomi Hakkenden is a Japanese epic novel in 106 volumes by Kyokutei Bakin. The volumes were written and published over a period of nearly thirty years (1814–42). Bakin had gone blind before finishing the tale, and he dictated the final parts to his daughter-in-law Michi. The title has been translated as The Eight Dog Chronicles, Tale of Eight Dogs, or Biographies of Eight Dogs.
Set in the tumultuous Sengoku period (350 years before Bakin lived), Hakkenden is the story of eight samurai half-brothers — all of them descended from a dog and bearing the word "dog" in their surnames — and their adventures, with themes of loyalty and family honor, as well as Confucianism, bushido and Buddhist philosophy.
One of the direct inspiration sources of the novel is the fourteenth to seventeenth-century Chinese epic novel Water Margin by Shi Nai'an. Japanese translations date back to at least 1757, when the first volume of an early Suikoden (Water Margin in Japanese) was printed.
Bakin dramatically increased his popularity and fame with the novel Chinsetsu Yumiharizuki (Strange Tales of the Crescent Moon) which he began publishing in 1807, helped by Hokusai's imaginative and powerful illustrations. However, due to the difference of opinion on the illustration, the collaboration ended with seven works. For Hakkenden, Hokusai's son-in-law, Yanagawa Shigenobu was employed as illustrator instead.
A complete reprinting in ten volumes is available in the original Japanese, as well as various modern Japanese translations, most of them abridged. Previously, only a few chapters had been translated into English, Chapter 25 by Donald Keene and Chapters 12, 13, and 19 by Chris Drake. A full translation is currently in progress and is available on the Internet.