With “Noguchi the Samurai,” author Burt Konzak – an instructor in Zen Buddhism and karate from the University of Toronto – applies some fo the principles of Zen Buddhism and Japanese martial arts to the problem of bullying.
The story is very simple. A passenger ferry is being accosted by a bad-mannered samurai, Noguchi, who is pushing around the other passengers. Also on board is an older, wiser samurai Michihara, who steps up to confront Noguchi by saying that if they will take the boat to a nearby island he will defeat Noguchi without drawing a sword. Once on the island, Noguchi leaps out and draws his sword for battle, while Michihara calmly uses the boatman’s pole to push the boat away stranding Noguchi. As promised, Noguchi has been defeated without a sword drawn. Noguchi calls Michihara a coward, but Michihara responds that he used his wits to defeat Noguchi, and that wits are more powerful than any sword. In his defeat, Noguchi is suddenly reformed, and Michihara lets him back on the boat, saying that “In losing you have won something deeper than the sea.”
The text of “Noguchi the Samurai” is very simple and appropriate for young readers. There are about four to five sentences per page, and the book runs 28 pages in total. Every page is accompanied by a wonderful illustration by Johnny Wales. The pictures are cartoonish, but Wales obviously took great pains to keep the details and costumes period-accurate. Many of the pictures have little surprises hiding in them for the careful viewer.
I like the moral lesson of “Noguchi the Samurai,” quite different to the usual “stand up to bullies.” Instead, out-wit them. I don’t know that Michihara’s tactic would work so well in real life, but it makes for a nice parable.