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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Gifts of the Little Sparrow

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The tale of the tongue-cut sparrow is a traditional folk story in Japan and has been retold by a number of commentators on Japan including A. B. Mitford and Lafcadio Hearn.

Gifts of the Little Sparrow.


It goes something like this:

Long ago on the Tango Peninsula in the north of Kyoto Prefecture lived a little old man and a little old woman. One day, the little old man found a sparrow that could no longer fly. He carefully took care of the bird and nurtured it with love.

A few days later, the old man went to the mountains to cut wood, and the old woman went to the river to do the washing. When she returned home she noticed that the glue she had made that morning was completely gone. The sparrow had eaten it all up!

The old woman became very angry, and in her rage cut off the little bird's tongue with her scissors. The sparrow escaped off into the woods, shrieking all the way. When the old man returned from the mountains and heard this story he quickly set out to look for the sparrow calling out, "Where do you stay, my little tongueless sparrow?" When the old man reached the woods, the sparrow recognized him and greeted him with great happiness.

Then the bird showed him great hospitality by offering him food and doing a special dance for him. Finally when it came time for the old man to go home, the sparrow pulled out two boxes, one large and one small.

"Please take home whichever one of these you like as a souvenir," said the sparrow. The old man took his pick explaining, "I will take this smaller light box since I am getting to be an old man."

He took his box home with him and when he opened it up, he found a shining gold coin. And when the old woman saw this she also went off to the woods singing, "Where do you stay, my little tongueless sparrow?"

She was also greeted by the bird, but chose the larger box when it was time to go home. The box was so heavy that she had to stop on the way back. It was then that she opened up. And out from the box jumped snakes and centipedes which mercilessly pursued the old woman for all her remaining days.

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