Nansoo Satomi Hakkenden, , roughly translated "The Legend/Biography of Nansoo Satomi and the Eight Dogs," was written by Takizawa Bakin (1767-1848). It took Bakin almost 30 years to finish Hakkenden. The amazing fact about this is that he wrote the last third of Hakkenden while he was totally blind.
Nansoo Satomi Hakkenden is a complex story spanning 181 chapters and is considered one of the great literary works to emerge from the Edo/Tokugawa Era. Bakin was heavily influenced by classical Chinese romances (yes, like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Anthony), and thus, Hakkenden is a unique fusion of the classical Chinese romance, a Confucian text, and the Tokugawa Shogun culture. It is the longest work of Japanese fiction and possibly the longest written romance ever.
For those of you who've missed any episodes or are just plain confused, here's a summary of what has happened:
In an area of Japan called Awa, there are two families that control the area, the Satomi Clan and the Anzai Clan. The Satomi fall upon hard times and ask the Anzai for help. Rather than sending aid, Lord Anzai sends troops to destroy the Satomi, who, overwhelmed by hunger and the Anzai forces, barricade themselves within their castle. Finally, after numerous failed attempts to assassinate Lord Anzai, the Satomi realize that they have no other choice than to surrender. In joking desperation, the head of the Satomi clan (Satomi Yoshizane) promises to give the house dog (Yatsufusa) his daughter's (Fusehime) hand in marriage if Yatsufusa brings Lord Anzai's head. Amazingly, the dog goes off and returns with Lord Anzai's head, allowing the Satomi to finally overwhelm the Anzai forces. However, Yoshizane refuses to uphold his promise, but Fusehime, a stickler for promises, insists on upholding it and leaves with Yatsufusa for the mountains.
A year or so passes, and Fusehime finds out in a vision that she is with child (a litter of 8) and that the Satomi clan has a curse upon it. About this time, a former retainer of the Satomi clan comes into the mountains to save Fusehime. Tragically, in his attempt to shoot and kill Yatsufusa, he instead shoots Fusehime, who, realizing that she is dying and fearing what she may give birth to, kills herself (Thus, in an "honorable act," she has avoided her fate and paved the way to lift the Satomi curse). As she dies, the 8 beads on a rosary that she wears begin to glow and then fly off into the night. Here the anime doesn't really mention it, but within a few years, 8 sons are born to fathers whose last names begin with the kanji for dog, "Inu."() Each of these sons is born holding one of the 8 beads from Fusehime's rosary. Within each of those beads is written a kanji that represents a Confucian ideal. These boys grow up as the embodiment of that particular ideal. These "Eight Dog Warriors" are to lift the curse from the Satomi family.
Here's a list of the Eight Dog Warriors and their beads.
So, I hope this has given you some useful information about Hakkenden. Oh, and don't ask me how Fusehime got pregnant because if you don't know, I won't tell you, and it's not really all that important.