Jingû: Narratives of Motherhood and Imperial Rule in Early Japan



Jingû, a third-century legendary figure, was once considered the 15th sovereign of Japan. Modern historiography erased Jingû’s status as a ruler, emphasizing instead her functions as consort and mother, suggesting an incompatibility between motherhood and political power. But early narratives unambiguously endow Jingû with a divine legitimacy that affirms her sovereignty, not in spite of motherhood, but on its very basis as an essential part of Jingû’s power: first, by demonstrating her competence over the previous sovereign and father of her child; second, by safely prolonging her pregnancy rather than avoiding or terminating it; and finally, through the skillful application of her military, political and ritual power on behalf of her son as he comes of age and prepares to inherit the throne.


Unborn Child Military Leader Early Text Supernatural Power Military Campaign 
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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of IowaIowa CityUSA

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