You said he'd be a treasure in hard times. The hard times have only just begun.
Kambei says this to Gorobei after Heihachi is the first samurai to be killed. This repeats Gorobei’s earlier argument for why Heihachi should join the group (he would be a treasure in hard times, despite only mediocre swordsmanship). This event raises the stakes for the other samurai as Heihachi was the embodiment of good spirits among them, and his death now highlights the reality that they may actually lose.
This baby... It's me. This is just what happened to me!
Kikuchiyo says this while standing in the water holding an infant as the old man's home is burning down behind him. He reveals for the first time that he was orphaned when bandits murdered his farmer parents, which in many ways helps to explain his pessimism and struggle for identity. This moment of clarity allows us to understand Kikuchiyo's need for validation as a samurai.
What did you think these farmers were anyway? Buddhas or something? Don’t make me laugh! There’s no creature on earth as wily as a farmer… But tell me this: who turned them into such monsters? You did! You samurai did! Damn you to hell! In war you burn their villages, trample their fields, steal their food, work them like slaves, rape their women, and kill them if they resist. What do you expect them to do? What the hell are farmers supposed to do?
Kikuchiyo says this in a rage at the other samurai during the fight over the revelation that the farmers had hunted retreating samurai. He first critiques what he sees as many of the negative qualities of farmers, but then turns the diatribe around and asks the samurai what made the farmers act this way. He points out that centuries of oppression and abuse at the hands of the samurai have turned the farmers into desperate creatures, and that the samurai should try to consider these circumstances before they judge the farmers harshly for their actions. These wise words help the farmers and samurai come together, and forgive each other for their various trespasses against each other’s social group.
So we can kill defeated samurai but not bandits?
This ironic and cutting comment comes from Rikichi, in the first scene in the village. He is trying to press Manzo and the other villagers on why they are not willing to stand and fight the bandits. It is important because it foreshadows a major conflict between the samurai and the bandits—that the farmers used to hunt retreating samurai to steal their weapons and armor.
Good thing I wasn’t born a peasant. Better to be born a dog. God damn it. Go ahead, hang yourself and die! You’re better off dead.”
In this quote, one of the nasty men at the inn in the larger town insults the low status of farmers, comparing them to dogs. He expresses that he would hate to have been born a peasant, the lowest class, because being so low down is worse than being an animal. He also tells the farmers that they are better off dead, which echoes the cry of several villagers in the first scene. There is a common connection throughout much of this first part of the film between low status or helplessness and suicide, and this line helps to draw this out.
I have to say that although I understand the farmers’ suffering, and understand why you would take up their cause, it’s your character that I find most compelling. In life one finds friends in the strangest places.
Goroebi is the second samurai to join the cause after Kambei, and the two become fast friends. This quote helps us understand why these particular samurai agree to take on the thankless task of defending the farmers. It also helps to reveal their characters: they are more interested in what is right, helping others, and camaraderie than they are in status. Gorobei explains that he is particularly compelled by Kambei’s character, which highlights the strength of Kambei’s character for the audience, aligns his worldview with Kambei’s, and points to his intelligence.
I am Heihachi Hayashida, a modest warrior of the Wood-Chop School.
This line is a reference to the first scene in which we meet Heihachi, as he chops wood in exchange for food behind someone’s house. Gorobei comes upon him and the two exchange a few jokes before Gorobei convinces him to join the cause. Later, he says this line to Kambei, though of course only Gorobei will understand the joke. This quote is most important for the way it helps to characterize Heihachi—he has a good sense of humor and an infectiously positive personality, and he and Gorobei bond in particular over their shared sense of humor.
I know, I know. I know what you’ll say. I was once your age, you know. Hone your skills, then go to war and do great things. Then become lord of your own castle and domain. But as you dream those dreams, before you know it, your hair will turn as gray as mine. By that time, you’ve lost your parents and you’re all alone.”
This line provides rare insight into Kambei’s backstory. Kambei is typically quite reserved and serious throughout much of the film (though he occasionally demonstrates a good sense of humor), and often speaks in allegories and platitudes. Here, he is telling Katsushiro to go home to his family instead of single-mindedly pursuing adventure and glory, and wanders into a reflection of his own life: it turns out that his parents died while he was wandering and fighting, and he has become a lonely old man. This in part helps to explain some of his characteristics, such as his reserve and thoughtfulness.
I think talking is a good thing. Whatever your burden may be, talking can ease it. You, for example, seem pretty tight-lipped, but if you’re suffering, you shouldn’t bottle it up. Letting your feelings out bit by bit can work wonders.
Heihachi says this to Rikichi when he is trying to get Rikichi to open up about what upsets him every time someone mentions that he should find a wife. This line represents in many ways the final coming together of the samurai and villagers—the samurai have begun to take a genuine interest in the well-being of individual villagers. Heihachi and Rikichi, in particular, form a close relationship, but we see other close pairings across the two groups in other individuals (Kikuchiyo and Yohei become close, and Shichiroji and Manzo). This also ties into the theme of individualism that runs through the film, as this scene seems to support the idea that talking openly about one’s struggles will help one develop and grow personally.
There’s nothing heroic about selfishly grabbing for glory. Listen to me: war is not fought alone!
Kambei says this to Kikuchiyo after Kikuchiyo abandons his post to steal a musket. This draws out a character trait of Kikuchiyo’s that is pitted against the traits of the other samurai and which makes him stick out as less-than-honorable in comparison—he is selfish and excessively proud. In many ways, this is Kikuchiyo’s greatest character flaw, as this same pride is the same cause of many of his other failings that keep him from being a ‘true’ samurai, such as his outsized obsession with proving his birth-status. Further, this quote ties into the theme of unity in warfare, and in particular reflects Kambei’s speech in response to the attempts by Mosuke and several other men to abandon the rest of the village because their houses lie outside the defenses.
Seven Samurai Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Seven Samurai is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.