“A prey that has provided such an intense and noble hunt has earned its right to run free.”
– The Imakandi Hunters, Samurai Jack
Season 2, Episode 9, “Jack vs the Five Hunters”
The hunters say this at the end of the episode, after they have caught their most challenging prey: the samurai called Jack. They were summoned to hunt him by the evil Aku, to whom Jack is a constant thorn in his side and the only true threat to his person he knows of. Having seen Jack captured, he comes to take him, and end him. But the hunters of the Imakandi live for the thrill of the hunt, and they love the challenge of worthy prey. To their mind, the hunt which Jack gave them proved his worth in their eyes, and proved that he is worthy of keeping his life and his freedom, and they could not keep their honor if they took it from him. So they deny Aku, and leave that evil creature screaming in frustration as they spirit his enemy out of his grasp just in the nick of time.
It strikes me how honor and freedom go hand in hand so often, especially as we often think of honor as something which binds and limits us. But gravity limits us as well, yet it enables us to move instead of just float aimlessly. The experience of it makes us stronger, while its lack makes us weaker. And learning how it works has enabled us to fly, even to soar amongst the stars. That which limits us also enables us.
Even more, I believe that all of us inherently have the right to be free, but it does not come free. Obtaining, enjoying, and keeping our freedom often involves doing things which earn it. There’s a tremendous irony there, that we must earn by our actions what is naturally ours by right, or else we won’t have it at all. And yet, the he right to freedom is what makes it worth paying for, and that is why there is honor to be found in the earning of it. Which, in turn, demands that the soldiers and patriots who do the earning be honorable people, to not sully their sacred cause.
Thus do honor and freedom support one another.