) was a warrior-monk
whose legendary and even superhuman exploits in the service of his master, the famous warrior Minamoto Yoshitsune
, made him one of the most popular figures in Japanese history
and a favourite in many traditional stories and plays and even in motion pictures.
His name appears twice in documents from the period, thus affirming his actual existence. However, Benkei is better known as a figure of legend.
He is said to have met his master while attempting to collect 1,000 swords from passersby whom he nightly challenged to duels on the Gojo Bridge in the capital city of Heian-kyo (Kyoto). Having collected 999 swords, he was foiled in his attempt for the 1,000th by Yoshitsune, whose follower he then became. (This in fact seems based upon the encounter between Sakyamuni Buddha and the mass murderer Angulamala in the Pali suttas.)
After aiding his master in many battles, Benkei is said to have died defending Yoshitsune, who was surrounded and forced to commit suicide at the Battle of Koromogawa. According to legend, Benkei's body was bristling with arrows but remained erect, even after death.