Tag Archives: Crane

Korean Proverb: Sparrow Following a Crane

A sparrow tried to follow a crane and split its crotch


The direct translation of the proverb tells of a Korean Crow-Tilt (closely related to a sparrow) who tries to be as elegant as a crane. In doing so, the crow-tilt ends up making a fool of itself. Crow-tilts are often known for having short, stubby legs unlike the crane. So if the crow-tilt were to walk the same strides as a crane, it would split the crotch of its pants and completely embarrass itself. The moral of the proverb is to not try to put so much effort into the way that you look and to be satisfied with who you are, otherwise you’re going to fall flat.


I feel like this is a clever proverb with a beneficial lesson. Admittedly, I was a bit taken aback when I first heard the English translation. My source was very kind and patient with me in explaining what the actual meaning behind it is. After a little explanation I was able to value it for what it is.

“The Crane Maiden”

“A long time ago in Japan, there lived a young and poor farmer. One day while working, he comes upon a beautiful, hurt crane. The crane had an injured wing due to an arrow. He takes the crane back home and nurses it back to health. Once its injury mends and it is healthy enough, he lets it go back into the wild. Around a few days after this, or something, a beautiful woman appears at his house and tells him that she is lost. Since the winter is harsh, he invites her to stay. He falls in love with her and allows her to stay the next night, and the next, and so on. Shortly after, they get married. Although they love each other, money is difficult to come by, especially due to the hard winters making his line of work difficult. So then, the woman offers to, make cloth and weave silk to help support her husband. However, she gives one condition, the request to be left undisturbed while she’s doing the whole time she is doing her whole weaving thing. The husband isn’t allowed to see at all. Each time she goes in the room to weave, she stays inside for days at a time and the husband respects the promise he made and doesn’t really disturb her. She comes out with a really, really nice and expensive, shiny looking cloth that they’re able to sell for more money than they’ve ever really had. With the popularity of the cloth the wife was able to make, the other farmers and neighbors began to wonder more of how she made it. This also made the husband wonder and wonder, as his greed for more money also grew.  So, one day while she was at work, he actually opened the door. Surprise! He opened the door to find a crane sitting there, taking and using its own feathers to be woven into the cloth. Having been identified, the crane changed into the wife, who told her husband that she had to leave now because he had found out her identity. Even if the husband repented, she flew back into a crane and left the husband, flew far away, and is never to be seen again.”

This story was told to my informant by her mother when she was a little child. She would listen with her brothers as her mother told the story, and they would listen to it as if it were a fairytale. Her mother pointed out that the man’s kindness to the crane was rewarded as a beautiful woman appeared the next day. My informant learned that kindness is rewarded and being a good person is beneficial for the self too. She remembered wondering about this beautiful cloth that the swan would weave and what it would look like, a cloth made of feathers.

This story seems to have to different parts. One is the reward for doing good deeds, but the other is the opposite, the consequences for bad deeds. Once the man takes in the hurt crane and nurses it back to health, he is rewarded for his actions by the reappearance of the crane in the form of a beautiful woman who becomes his wife and weaves beautiful cloth for him that he makes a great profit off of. However, once he starts to become greedy and eventually breaks the promise he made to his wife opening the door on her weaving, he is punished as he loses his wife and the profit from the cloths. For me, it is a cautionary tale as it illustrates that once life leads to a more successful path, people often change and forget the mindset they had before of thankfulness.