Are Samurai Allowed?

Samurai vs Knight

Samurai vs Knight

I’m sure I’ll anger some people with this post or within the comments.  This is a debate that has gone back to my college days and I’m still confused on it.

Traditionally, fantasy is set in a European style setting.  So, the inclusion of Samurai and Ninja are a point of contention.  It amazes me when people who are fine with dragons, fireballs, elves, and orcs go berserk because of a Samurai.  It’s like a point of disbelief that cannot be grabbed by some people.  The author has to give a reasoning behind the Far East culture being present in a fantasy world, which is something you don’t have to do for European culture being present.  Why are all castles designed with moats and turrets?  It’s tradition is what you’ll hear.  Funny how some cliches are revered tradition, but that’s a post for another time.

My personal belief on Samurai is that they’re allowed.  Yes, there is no Japan in these fantasy worlds.  There’s no England either, but the knight is still clunking around.  If your problem is with the terminology then I should point out that medieval Europe terminology is traditionally used.  So, this should allow for the Samurai and his gear to be available to the other.  It could be a different culture that this is born from, but I still think the Samurai and Ninja are viable for a fantasy setting.  The times you run into trouble is if you use Earth settings and locations by name.  For example, a recent review had issue with me calling Stiletto a ‘Noble Shepherd’.  That’s his breed because I can’t call him a ‘German Shepherd’ since there’s no Germany in Windemere.  That’s a location name, so it doesn’t work in a world without that location.

So, do you think fantasy should be strict medieval Europe or are warriors from other cultures allowed?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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44 Responses to Are Samurai Allowed?

  1. I definitely see your point Charles. Although I don’t write fantasy myself I have read it. The whole point about fantasy is that you can let your imagination roam free. I think as long as the world someone’s created is true to itself – i.e. has rules about the nature of it that the author adheres to – then you can do what you like with it. By all means have Samurais alongside knights – they existed around about the same time so why not?

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  2. It’s this sort of debate that led to my getting rid of MOST of the fantasy conventions.

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  3. Papi Z says:

    I see nothing wrong with having a Samurai or Ninja. People actually have drama over this?

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    • Surprisingly yes. There are some people who define fantasy as being a Medieval European setting and nothing else.

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      • Papi Z says:

        Who croaked and made them master of the literary universe? Some people really need a hobby. Go ahead and throw a Samurai AND a Ninja in your book Charles, then tell the haters to come chat with me. I could have a lot of fun…

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      • For some people, tearing about books of their favorite genre are a hobby. Thankfully, they’re a minority in the fanbase.

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    • JS Riddle says:

      I’m amazed at this all the time. It makes me feel we’re all in English class being given an F because the wonderful paper wasn’t done in a particular style. Isn’t the point of writing happen to be to at least partially think outside the box?
      I think fantasy is just that. Fantasy. How many subcultures of that do you see on Amazon alone? How many exist? There is no ONE TRUE fantasy, just a bare bones blueprint with lines leading toward other things. Don’t mind the silly’s you’re thinking is more open to many more possibilities.

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      • I recently read a fantasy book that took place in space with magical ships and none of the standard fantasy races. It really had a fantasy feel more than a science-fiction feel, but I still can’t tell why. Maybe it comes down to atmosphere of the book.

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  4. I think the author gets to decide what to include in his world. Subverting the norm and taking a different approach leads to the kind of high-concept fiction that readers are after.

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  5. tjtherien says:

    playing D&D we shunned the Samurai and Ninja along with a few other of the new classes, though I think in literature they are acceptable. I think it would be totally cool to have a world that was based on the flavors of oriental culture and myth…

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    • It would be cool and I think there are stories that deal with it. People seem to get agitated when you mix them up. Never tried Samurai or Ninja in D&D. I don’t even know how they work since I never saw them. Monk was the closest one to that culture we used.

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  6. Sue Vincent says:

    Your fantasy… your world 🙂

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  7. sknicholls says:

    I think including other warrior types is a marvelous idea, Asian or otherwise. Without getting into a religious discussion here, I will say that I am most fascinated with the ancient alien theories and firmly believe that there are other worlds out there with a multitude of races much like our own on this planet. The warriors that are found in fantasy worlds should incorporate those world’s warriors and races.

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  8. MishaBurnett says:

    When creating a new world there’s always the question of how many words and concepts to bring in from Earth’s history. The English concept of the Knight and the Japanese concept of the Samurai are very similar, a warrior class that has training and weapons not available to the general populace, bound by fealty to a landed noble and expected to follow a code of honor. I suspect that it is because England and Japan are very similar–both are islands with scant resources close to a hostile mainland.

    In any event, what a writer chooses to call a warrior class in a fantasy world is less important than that class being logical and consistent with the political and technological realities of the world.

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    • That makes a lot of sense. If you have a vast world and can explain how a Samurai type exists in a different area than the knights then it should be good. For my world, I put the Samurai on a small island and they’re a fairly rare warrior. I only have one in my books at this point.

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  9. Why not let everyone in, its the politically correct thing to do. 🙂

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  10. ioniamartin says:

    I think fantasy can be set anywhere, with any types of characters. This is why fantasy is an open book for lovers of the genre to explore and for writer’s to put out their creativity.

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  11. The Samurai were roaming the Japanese islands while Europe was still figuring out how to light a rock

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  12. howanxious says:

    Fantasy should not be restricted to a particular geographical area. Samurai and Ninja are some powerful figures which can be introduced in a fantasy book. They come from a long tradition and including them would only enrich the story.
    I never knew that the fantasy genre is majorly set up in or comes from medieval Europe because there are fantastical creatures present in every culture throughout the world.
    And when we talk about dragons, they have their origins from the far east (China and Japan) as far as I know.
    Good discussion, Charles. I am curious and I will research more about it.

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  13. I’d like to point out the fact that Dungeons and Dragons issued a set of books called “Oriental Adventures” that included Samurai and Ninjas so if D&D believes that they can be in a fantasy world then surely everyone should be able to believe it.

    My personal opinion is that, if knights would have evolved in this fantasy world, then Samurai would have evolved as well. It just seems like a human condition to have these things, especially if the world that is being imagined is extremely similar to the real world. Of course, they’re not going to be called the exact same thing if they evolved on a world that didn’t have the same names. If you consider the fact that the knight and samurai basically served the exact same purpose, then you could understand how they could evolve or that something even better could show up. Why not have a mix of them both in one? That’s what fantasy allows us to do. It’s so amazing. 🙂

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    • I never played those adventures. A lot of gamers tended to deny that pack because it didn’t fit the rest of world in their minds. I like how you put it though. There’s no reason variations of both would appear in a fantasy world.

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  14. There is such a rich culture and history to both, it’s a shame, not to mention short-sighted, to shun one over the other. I loved to play as a monk class (because it was cathartic, I’m cheap and I liked the glowing eyes at the epic level – computer game.) and I always fashioned that character to be more of an asian-styled warrior. It just seemed to fit better.

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  15. What’s the point in calling it “fantasy”? If you can’t have more freedom in this genre, they ought to change the name. 🙂

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    • It really is in the name of the genre. My guess is that some people have trouble accepting that their version of fantasy isn’t the standard. One the difficulties with having such a flexible genre is that ego and strict personal preference can be an obstacle.

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  16. Kaufman's Kavalkade says:

    Absolutely, they are allowed.

    And I like the idea of a wandering Ronin banished to a foreign land, hehe.

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    • Forgot about the banishment thing. The Samurai I have slated is the lone survivor of his family, so he’s on a revenge quest at first. Then he’s just along to help his new friends. I haven’t quite flushed him out yet, so I haven’t added all of the Samurai requirements to him.

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