10 Minute Biographies Chapter 5 (Absolute Beginner Book Club)

Me too. I understood it as something like ‘acting with wisdom’.

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I also read it like this. Literally I read it as the “intelligently working wolf” - but in English that would just become “clever wolf”.

I don’t remember seeing a noun act this way on a verb before though, and I couldn’t find it mentioned in articles about Japanese adverbs.

This is a feature of relative clauses, actually.

What you would usually expect is 知恵が働く , right? If you use this as a relative clause, this が might be confusing because it might look like 知恵 is the subject of the main clause. Therefore, in relative clauses (and only there!) が can be replaced by の. That’s how we get at 知恵の働くオオカミ in this case.

Regarding the meaning of the phrase itself, I found this: 【知恵は働いている】はどういう意味ですか? - 日本語に関する質問 | HiNative which confirms that it means “clever”.


Thanks for finding the hi native post, where 知恵は働いている is reported to mean ずる賢い - a term jisho translates as “devious; cunning; sly; crafty​”.

To me these words are subtlety different to “clever”. They imply using your intelligence to create plans that are successful, or that outwit your opponent. Cunning and sly are terms often associated with foxes in children’s stories.

So this translation to me fits nicely with the sense of “intelligently working”.


Thanks for elaborating on this! I didn’t actually look up the full expression :woman_facepalming: only the 賢い part, so I missed out on that bit…

Now I have a question regarding the English terms :rofl: To me, “sly” bears a negative connotation, and when I looked up “devious” (which I did not know before), I also got quite a bunch of negatively connotated German terms for it. They go along the lines of outwitting the opponent by using “illegal” means, by not acting straightforwardly. I think an English term for this would be “deceitful” or something? But your description does not have this connotation at all. Is this more a German thing of seeing these personality traits and abilities as being negative?


When I think of German terms like „gerissen“, which in my opinion corresponds to „sly“, I don’t think the connotation is negative by all means. There might be also admiration for the „gerissene“ person.
And if somebody thinks of themselves as „gerissen“, „wenn sich jemand für gerissen hält“, then the person probably doesn’t think of him or herself in a negative manner or at least not in moral terms like bad and good. :thinking: So I think the negativity can be one aspect of this word but it’s not the focus or quintessential.
(Sorry for das ganze German!)


Ah, I see. Well, “gerissen” does not have a negative connotation to me either.

I was more thinking of words like
“verschlagen” slyly - LEO: Übersetzung im Englisch ⇔ Deutsch Wörterbuch,
“unaufrichtig” etc. devious - LEO: Übersetzung im Englisch ⇔ Deutsch Wörterbuch
“durchtrieben” cunning - LEO: Übersetzung im Englisch ⇔ Deutsch Wörterbuch
But it probably depends on which aspects of the range of meanings one focuses here. Thanks for the explanation!

OK, end of German lecture for now, I promise!


Just one little thing. The Duden for example defines „durchtrieben“ as „in allen Listen, Kniffen erfahren, eine entsprechende Art erkennen lassend“, with no negative connotation at all.
But I understand what you mean. I liked @Micki s reference to the foxes because in my opinion the wolf here is a little bit like these tricksters from fairytales. He’s morally ambivalent and while he is Seton‘s enemy and kills the cows, we can at the same time admire his cleverness (especially if we consider that the wolves started killing the cows only after humans killed all the natural prey …)

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There you go. Looks like I need to get back to my German study books :joy_cat:

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To me as a native English speaker, “devious” definitely carries the sense that someone is carrying out a bad/evil action through clever means. Wanikani teaches the translation “devious” for the word 悪賢い which contains those exact kanji - bad and clever. The word makes me think of the evil genius in a children‘s story.

Sly also usually carries a negative connotation. I found a definition - Clever or cunning, especially in the practice of deceit. The word “sly” immediately conjures up the picture of the fox trying to catch the hen in a fairy story.

Crafty and cunning have less negative connotations. They certainly can be associated with deceit, but not necessarily. There is a famous idiom “as cunning as a fox” which means “exceptionally clever, cunning, or shrewd, especially in devious or underhanded ways.”

But you can also use your cunning in a positive way to find your way out of a tricky situation. Perhaps most famously this was the catchphrase of Baldrick in the Blackadder TV show - “I have a cunning plan!”

Crafty is the least negative term to me, it can imply deceit as the intention, but can simply mean being good at crafts.

p. 81

The captured Lobo was so magnificent that even Seton was impressed.
He didn’t take any of the food and water given to him, and before long, he quietly died, staring at Currumpaw Creek.
Seton thought …:


The end of this sentence is tricky. 堂々 is an adverb meaning magnificent. It takes the と particle afterwards, like many onomatopoeic adverbs.

していました is presumably from する, which has umpteen meanings dependent on context, let’s go for “to be (in a state, condition, etc.)“

So ignoring the middle clause in the sentence, literally we have: “the captured wolf was magnificently being”. Which you’ve translated in natural English as, “the captured wolf was magnificent”.

Does that sound about right?


I’m not sure if I understood you correctly but your wording seems to imply that 堂々 is an onomatopoeic word. As far as I know that is not the case, it’s just one of those words where the sound gets doubled (色々, 別々 etc.).:v:

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Yeah, I was assuming it was onomatopoeia for 2 reasons - it’s a doubled sound, it’s described as an adverb taking the と particle in Jisho. I maybe wrong, the above was my guess at trying to breakdown the end of a sentence where I didn’t really understand how it worked.

I did find this in an article on onomatopoeia usage. This would support I might be on the right lines if どうどう here is acting like onomatopoeia:


The ADJECTIVE usage (describing an object/condition) is actually a specialized application of an adverb. Grammatically speaking, the onomatopoeia wants to be an adverb, so we need to do some linguistic acrobatics to make it modify a noun.

How do we turn an adverb into an adjective? We “format” it with either とした or している. Don’t concern yourself with the meaning of とした/している here because there really isn’t one, we’re just using the formless verb する as an intermediary between our onomatopoeia and our noun.

とした is kind of the “correct” way to make an adjective usage, and している (usually abbreviated to してる) is the “casual” way, but they’re both doing the same thing: taking a sound and “formatting” it so that it can modify a noun.

Onomatopoeia are not defined by doubled sounds or by taking と. :v:From the same article (堂々 is mentioned in the last paragraph):



One of the things that complicates the issue of learning onomatopoeia is that in addition to words like ちょっと and ゆっくり, which are so common that we don’t really think of them as onomatopoeia, there are also words that sound like and which may even be used like onomatopoeia, but aren’t.

You probably know a couple of these already too: いろいろ is an example. For all intents and purposes, you could consider this word an onomatopoeia, but its meaning is derived from the kanji (色々) rather than the “sound” of the word. Other examples of this kind of pseudo-onomatopoeia are 段々(だんだん) and 次々(つぎつぎ).

Since these words aren’t really onomatopoeia, you have to be much more careful about which particle you select (if any). The above-mentioned three can all optionally take と, but others such as まだまだ(未だ未だ), 別々(べつべつ), and 元々(もともと) can never take と. Still others such as 堂々(どうどう)、延々(えんえん)、and 朗々(ろうろう) will always appear with と. Don’t worry about remembering all the specifics, just understand that not all words which sound like an onomatopoeia are.


“Great Wolf King, I will not forget your wisdom, your great pride, the way you cherished your wife.”
And it made him sad.
How did Lobo’s wolves reach the point to attack domestic animals?
That is because humans have destroyed the wolves’ natural habitat, and the prey animals for Lobo’s wolves have been steadily decreasing in number.
You cannot say that wolves are all bad.


To me sly is not inherently negative or bad. It has more of a secretive nuance than a deceitful one. “doing something on the sly” can be somewhat negative as one is doing something in secret (not being upfront about something), possibly lying a bit (or lying by omission). In some cases it can even be taken as a charming trait (“Han Solo, you sly dog you”). To me it’s not the same as clever really at all, but is certainly not devious, which is the most negative of the lot. This is my perception though and based on my experiences and opinions.

Seems like most dictionaries disagree with me though and label it as cunning and deceitful with a markedly negative undertone. I guess I just don’t use it that way. I use it more as like just cunning and secretive. If I want to be negative I’ll use more common words for that in my own expression. I don’t think sly is as commonly used these days though to describe anything other than a fox… so it’s usage is pretty limited for most people. (edit: I am specifically meaning when talking, not in writing where it is more commonly used)

p. 83

He [thought that he] wanted to make that known to many people.
And then Seton published Lobo’s story as a tale called “Lobo the King of Currumpaw (Wolf King Lobo)”.
This work became popular.
After that, Seton wrote a lot of animal stories.
In Japan, they are popularly known as “Seton Animal Chronicles”.

p. 84

These stories touched the heart of many people.
“Let’s protect wild animals” - the thought was spread all around the world.
And also today, it raises people who love animals and nature.

Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946)
He made his own field guide
As a child, Seton steadily saved up money and bought a field guide called “Birds of Canada”.
As he observed birds while looking at the field guide, it became clear that there were many mistakes.
So Seton corrected these mistakes with red ink.
At the end, with those additions, the field guide ended up bright red.


Chapter 6 thread is up ready for tomorrow.