Tongue Cut Sparrow


This is a Japanese story titled Tongue Cut Sparrow. It starts out with an elderly couple the old man is kind, while the old woman is cruel. The old man has kept a sparrow in their home but one day the sparrow eats the old woman’s rice glue she becomes very angry so when the old man leaves for work the old woman cuts off the sparrow’s tongue. Chasing the sparrow flies away. When the old man returns home he hears about what has happened to the sparrow and goes into to the woods to search for the bird as he is worried. In the woods the old man finds the sparrow with his family. The family of birds perform a dance for the old man to show their gratitude for caring for their family member. They also offer him a big or small box to pick from and bring back home, the old man takes the small box stating it is easier to carry home. When he opens the box he finds it filled with money, the old woman sees this and decides to search for the sparrows. Once she finds the sparrow and his family they also offer her two boxes, but she takes the big box. In the end when she opens the big box she finds it filled with bugs and monsters.

Background & Context:

This story was told to me in a casual interview style in the evening on a weekday. It was told to me by a Japanese American USC freshman, who has grown up in Honolulu, Hawaii but has visited Japan several times. This student has grown up listening to these stories as bedtime stories or just for entertainment. These stories were told by her parent or grandparents who reside with her family. She explains to me that rice glue is crushed up rice people used in the past for glue. The moral of the story is be kind to all creatures and share with others. My informant also explained that she did not remember the original Japanese for the title of the story.

Final Thoughts:

I agree with the student’s perspective that the moral of the story is to be kind to all creatures and share with others and I would also add that another underlying message is don’t be greedy. As the old man was rewarded for being kind and sharing with the sparrow, he was also rewarded again by not being greedy and picking the smaller box. While the old woman was punished for being greedy and taking the bigger box. Overall this story holds many different important life messages.