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Ninja - also known by a variety of terms including shinobi, suppa and Iga-mono - are semi-mythological figures originating in Japanese culture and folklore. Whilst there is no doubt a factual basis for the existence of ninja, there are also many exaggerations - some represented as fact, some obviously fiction - which relate to this archetype.

Usually, ninja are held to be individuals who were specially trained in a variety of unorthodox arts of war, including assassination, espionage, and a variety of martial arts. They are usually depicted as masters of stealth and subterfuge, as well as combat techniques bordering on - or even blatantly - supernatural. "Realistic" ninja might simply be clever, steathy fighters; supernatural ninja are often depicted as having abilities like teleportation, invisibility, transformation, or super-speed.

One view of ninja casts them as an "evil" opposite to samurai, but this is not necessarily historically accurate. It is more likely that the true divide was between nobility and peasantry, as the samurai were not necessarily warriors but were certainly nobles - as often as they are depicted as cold-blooded killers, ninja are also represented as cunning peasants operating outside the law, set in opposition to a corrupt noble class.

Fiction and folklore depict both moral and immoral ninja - one character might function as a hired killer, whilst another might assassinate an enemy leader to avert a terrible war. Certainly, both are valid interpretations of the archetype, and both are welcome in this category.


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