Bibliographic Information:  A. B. Midford, Tales of Old Japan, (London:  Macmillan and Company, 1871), vol.1, pp. 249-250.


Ethnic Origin:  Japanese


Running Time:  6 minutes


Power Center(s):  The cutting of the sparrow's tongue

                               The receipt of gold and silver

                               The sparrow's revenge


Charaters:  The Sparrow

                    The Old Man

                    The Old Woman




-The Sparrow pecks the starch and tongue gets cut by Old Woman

-Man goes in search of his lost Sparrow, finds him and stays with him

-Old Man and Woman receive gold

-Old Woman visits the Sparrow

-Old Woman recieves gift that is filled with goblins and elves.


Synopsis:  An Old Man owns a Sparrow, whose tongue gets cut by the mean Old Woman for eating her starch for her linen.  When the Sparrow flies away the Old Man goes in search for him and finds the Sparrow safe.  The Sparrow gives the Old Man a choice of two, one heavy and one light, wicker baskets as a gift.   He chose to take the light wicker basket as a gift which was filled with gold and silver when he opened it.  This prompts the Old Woman to want to visit the Sparrow.  Upon her visit she also recieves a choice of two gifts.  She chooses to take the heavy wicker basket with her which turned out to have goblins and elves instead of gold and silver.


Rhymes/Special Phrases/"Flavor":  Sparrow, Oh Sparrow!  Where are you living my tongue-cut Sparrow!

                                                              Well I pray, where have you been many a day?

                                                              Heavy wicker basket

                                                              Light wicker basket


Audience:  According to Huck and Piaget, children in this stage are still egocentric and this story can teach the older children to be more aware of others' feelings around them.  Huck also mentions that children at this age make absolute judgements about right and wrong.  This story teaches that greed is never rewarded with something good.


Bibliographic information on other versions/variants (at least two)?


Williston, Teresa Peirce.  My Book House Up One Pair of Stairs.  Vol. 2


 Translated by Myriam Dartois of the University of Library Science and Information in Tsuboku, Japan.


Brief comparison of all versions/variants:




Her story does not have as much repition and rhyme as Mitford.  In this version, when the old man and woman set out in search of the tongue cut sparrow, they do not call out "Oh Sparrow, Oh Sparrow!".  Instead, they stop and ask the animals in the woods if they have seen the sparrow with no rhyme.  However there is more scenery detail in this version, such as "the old women slid open the screens which form the sides of the Japanese houses" or "each morning, when the pink on the mountain tops told that the sun was near, the sparrow perched on the roof of the house and sang out his joy".   


                Variants:  The neighbor is the antagonist in this version and the old man and woman are the protagonists.  




Dartois uses very vivid imagery through the mentioning of details that Mitford leaves out.  She explains that the Sparrow's tongue was cut by scissors and mentions that the Old Woman actually scorns her husband for not choosing the heavy trunk.  She also uses the repitition of the number seven, which is the number of buckets of water the Old man has to drink after meeting each person, the Cowherd and the Stable Boy,  on the wayto find the Sparrow.  The same sequence of events is repeated for the Old Woman when she meets the Cowherd and then the Stable Boy.  This repitition plays a key role in tellability.  However, this lengthy attention to too much detail, that had nothing to do with the plot, could have made the ending of the story more dramatic.  The ending seemed hurried with not enough detail which is a contradiction of style compared to the rest of the story.  Mitford gives each section of his telling the same amount of attention causing the story to flow evenly from one scene to another creating a steady rhythm.  Dartois' telling is too abrupt.


                Variants:  The Sparrow's name was changed to "Birdie".  Two extra characters:  The Cowherd and Stable Boy were incorporated.  The Sparrow offered one "heavy trunk" and one "light trunk" instead of wicker baskets as told by Mitford.