Sakumo Hatake’s life and death set an example for his son Kakashi, who would later become one of the guiding forces in the story of Naruto.
In the world of Naruto, few ninjas are truly exceptional, and those who are tend to die early and tragically. Sakumo Hatake, the father of Kakashi Hatake, is one of these ninjas, and had he stayed alive, he may very well have held enough power to sway the cyclical course of events plaguing the ninja world. Sakumo’s power was legendary, but he is most well known for his demise and the course it would eventually set his son Kakashi on.
Sakumo Hatake was known as the “White Fang” of the Hidden Leaf and first officially debuted in Naruto chapter 425, titled “Hatake Kakashi.” Sakumo was referenced much earlier in the series however, with Granny Chiyo recognizing Kakashi as a descendent of “Konoha’s White Fang” in chapter 253. It’s implied that Sakumo was the ninja solely responsible for killing Sasori’s parents, sending the child into a deep depression that would only lead him towards the mercenary group known as the Akatsuki.
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Sakumo Hatake’s power was feared by every single nation by the time of the Third Great Shinobi War. It is stated in the Fourth Official Naruto Databook that Sakumo’s power managed to surpass that of the Sannin, which is to say that he was stronger than Jiraiya, Orochimaru, and Tsunade all by himself. Simply being stronger than the power of Orochimaru himself puts Sakumo around the level of the Three or Four Tailed Chakra Cloak used by Naruto. Even more surprising is that as far as readers know, Sakumo was able to reach this level of strength without the aid of powerful techniques like Sage Mode or Kekkei Genkai. Some of this talent was clearly passed down to Kakashi who was a prodigy himself at a young age.
Even with all of his power, Sakumo Hatake could not escape the fate of a ninja. Many of Naruto’s central themes deal with one’s “Ninja Way,” or their guiding morality and the conflict created when that morality is pitted against the harsh reality of war. Sakumo exemplified this when his own moral compass doomed him. On a high profile mission, Sakumo ran into trouble and made the decision to abandon his mission in order to save the lives of his comrades, something that he was eventually shunned and ridiculed for when he returned to the Leaf Village. Due to this hatred he experienced, Sakumo fell into a deep depression and eventually took his own life, which had a major effect on the life of his son Kakashi. Despite all of his power, fame, and accolades, Sakumo’s undoing came from those who he fought to protect turning their backs on him.
Sakumo Hatake’s tale is one of deep regret and sorrow. He may have very well been looked upon as a hero to the Leaf Village if he had let his friends die along the way. Other famous ninjas like the Fourth Hokage and Jiraiya became heroes most notably due to their violent actions and the destruction they were capable of inflicting on enemy ranks. Sakumo could have easily been one of these noble and lauded ninjas, but the path of a ninja is not an easily trodden one. His death set an example for his son Kakashi to later learn from, and teach Naruto the value of camaraderie, something that set the tone for the entire series and established the dynamic between Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke from the beginning. Although Sakumo was only briefly shown, may have very well had one of the greatest influences of any single ninja on the events of the story as they played out. Sakumo Hatake’s power may have been awe inspiring and feared, but the father of Kakashi Hatake was the first ninja in Naruto to demonstrate that true strength comes from the belief in one’s Ninja Way.
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Source: Fourth Official Naruto Databook Translations
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