The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks Characters

The main characters in The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks are the two ducks, the lord of the district, Shozo, and Yasuko.

  • The two ducks are the drake and the female duck, a mated pair. They are separated from one another at the beginning of the story.
  • The lord of the district captures the drake because he wants to display the drake’s beautiful feathers.
  • Shozo, the lord’s steward, takes the blame for freeing the drake. He and Yasuko fall in love.
  • Yasuko is a kitchen maid who releases the drake.


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Last Reviewed on April 21, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 579

The Drake

The drake, a male duck, has beautiful and brightly-colored plumage; his beauty sets off the series of events that make up the story. He loves his mate, the female duck, and is loyal and kind. He has gone out in search of food for his family when he is captured by the lord. In his cage in the manor, the drake pines for his wife and natural home, and his plumage becomes dull. He is eventually set free by Yasuko.

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The Female Duck

The female duck is the drake’s wife. In contrast to the drake’s brilliant feathers, she has earth-toned plumage. The two live together in the trees near the pond. When the book begins, the female duck is protecting her eggs, which contain the children she will eventually raise with the drake.

The Lord of the District

The lord of the district is a wealthy, greedy, and cruel man. He thinks that he has the right to own anything he lays his eyes on, and when he sees the drake, he wants to take him for himself and show off the drake’s plumage. The lord, thinking only of himself and his pride, disregards Shozo’s protests that the drake will be unhappy at the manor.

The lord is a shallow and power-hungry man who values the ownership of physical beauty above all else. He is quick to anger, and he grows frustrated with the drake when the drake’s plumage begins to dull in captivity. The lord also becomes angry at Shozo and Yasuko for freeing the drake, and he sentences them to death. In this way, he abuses his power for his own evil ends. By the end of the story, both his servants and the drake escape him.


Shozo is one of the lord’s stewards. He was once a mighty samurai, but he lost an eye in battle and is now forced to work as a servant. He discourages the lord from capturing the drake, knowing that the drake’s rightful home is the woods, not the manor.

Shozo is kind, selfless, and heroic. He takes the blame for freeing the drake, even though the crime was actually committed by Yasuko. Shozo falls in love with Yasuko, eventually living with her in the hut in the clearing and raising children with her.


Yasuko is a kitchen maid at the lord’s manor. She is knowledgeable about wild animals, and she can tell that the drake is suffering and mourning for his mate after being captured and brought to the manor. Because she is a kind person, this upsets Yasuko.

One night, Yasuko seizes the opportunity to free the drake back into the woods. Like Shozo, Yasuko is also generous, humble, and kind: she wants to take the blame for her crime, but Shozo will not allow it. In the end, Yasuko falls in love with Shozo, lives with him in the hut in the clearing, and has children with him.

The Imperial Messengers

Two finely dressed imperial messengers save Shozo and Yasuko just in time, claiming that the emperor has abolished the death penalty. Later, these mysterious messengers rescue Shozo and Yasuko from being lost in the woods and provide them with food and shelter. Although it is never explicitly stated in the story, the reader is led to believe that the drake and his wife are the imperial messengers, transformed in order to pay back the good deed that was done for them.

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