With today’s episode of Warriors Wednesday introducing Zhu Rong for the first time, I thought she’d make an ideal subject for a Waifu Wednesday article. And it’ll probably make my podcasting partner in crime Chris happy too, because he likes her. Y’know, like likes her.
Ahem. Anyway. Zhu Rong (or Zhurong, as her name is more correctly localised in later Warriors games) has been part of the series since 2001’s Dynasty Warriors 3, putting in an appearance in pretty much every major installment as well as all the Warriors Orochi spinoffs.
Despite her obviously… appealing elements, she doesn’t seem to be a massively popular character, however, if popularity polls from over the years are to be believed. Let’s show her a bit of love, shall we?
Look up “Zhurong” online and you’ll probably find two separate, seemingly disparate entries, seemingly connected only by the fact that they’re both Chinese. One is a legendary figure from Chinese mythology who is represented as a god of fire, and the other is a fictional character from the 14th century novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms: that which the Dynasty Warriors series is mostly based on. The two are generally distinguished as “Zhurong” and “Lady Zhurong” respectively, and the latter claims to be a descendent of the former.
We’re primarily concerned with Lady Zhurong from the perspective of the Warriors series. It is seemingly pretty well established that she is a fictional character dreamed up for Romance of the Three Kingdoms, rather than a true historical figure — though some suggest she was inspired by the historical figures of Lady Triệu and Zhiyuanduo — but there are numerous questions over whether or not her husband Meng Huo, whom she is rarely seen separated from, actually existed either.
The reason for this is that the legend surrounding Meng Huo, as reported in ancient chronicle The Spring and Autumn Annals of the Han and Jin Dynasties and similarly ancient gazetteer The Chronicles of Huayang, is that he was captured and released no less than seven times by Zhuge Liang in an attempt to make him swear allegiance to Shu. For some reason, historians find this implausible, particularly when combined with the knowledge that the Chinese character for the name “Huo” just happens to mean “captured”. But I digress.
Regardless of whether Meng Huo and Zhurong were real, their depiction in Romance of the Three Kingdoms portrays them as barbarian tribal leaders. Zhurong is particularly noteworthy in this regard, as she is the only female character in the whole novel who actually takes up arms and fights; the other fighting ladies of the Dynasty Warriors series tend to be based loosely on historical figures or characters from the novel, but their ability to kick ass is entirely fictional. Or, at least, we never heard about it previously!
Zhurong is depicted in the Warriors series as being fiercely loyal to her husband — and, in many regards, considerably more capable than him. While she wields a boomerang in the Warriors games, in the novel she was depicted as a master of throwing swords, wielding at least five of them at a time, and a proficient rider.
Meng Huo is depicted as being deferential to her and trusting her advice over everyone else’s — indeed, in Warriors Orochi, while he is initially resistant to join forces with Zhao Yun and his friends from Shu against Sima Yi, Zhurong’s intervention and rational words convince him without too much difficulty.
Her appearance in Warriors Orochi is actually rather interesting as, like many other groupings in that game, it’s somewhat at odds with the story she follows in Romance of the Three Kingdoms and, by extension, the Dynasty Warriors series. Her role in the Three Kingdoms story is typically fighting alongside her husband in a campaign of conquest, initially with Shu as an enemy but gradually spreading their territory to cover much of northern China, and taking the time to kick the snot out of representatives from Wu and Wei as well as Shu. In Warriors Orochi, meanwhile, it is Shu who comes to their aid, forming an immediate and powerful alliance.
Zhurong’s personality is typically depicted as being aggressive and assertive, but without crossing a line into actually bullying her husband. Instead, she tends to make decisions with the best interests of her people at heart, and Meng Huo knows this. So while he tends to go along with her decisions and end up doing whatever she asks, the results tend to be a positive for their people.
The interplay between Zhurong and Meng Huo is a particular highlight of the scripts in the Warriors series, and indeed this is seen in their appearance during Warriors Orochi. While outside of the mainline Warriors series, in strategy game Kessen II, Koei took the decision to cast Meng Huo and Zhurong as real-life couple and comedy duo Daisuke and Hanako Miyagawa. This was part of the game’s overall strategy to incorporate the likenesses and voices of numerous famous (in Japan) people to distinguish the game from its PS2-launching predecessor, but it also made perfect sense for the characters, whose interactions with one another are an important part of their inclusion in their respective games.
Zhurong is a fun character to play as in the Warriors games as her imposing size and quick but powerful attacks give her a really satisfying feeling of carving out a path to glory. The range of her boomerang weapon makes her an ideal unit to clear out large groups of enemies, and her powerful moves make her a valuable part of any Warriors Orochi tag-team combination.
I hear she can cook pretty well, too. Try the roasted snake!
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