10 Minute Biographies Chapter 5 (Absolute Beginner Book Club)

Oh. Sorry. I completely overlooked that.

That’s a shame. Do you mean that you don’t understand much when you first read it, or that even after looking up words, analysing the sentences and looking at other people’s translations you still don’t understand how the sentences work?

Have you discovered the vocab spreadsheet (linked in the opening post)? Have you tried using ichi.moe to parse out the sentences?

I’m honestly just trying to get used to actually reading, so I try to get the gist of it, look up some key vocab and grammar concepts but I am still missing so much vocab and grammar that looking up everything is just too much. TBH I’m happy with identifying basic verb conjugations, identifying the infinitive, and just getting a bit faster at reading longer sequences of hiragana.

(I also only started yesterday so I had to kind of skim over seven-ish pages to catch up with everybody else, so I can start to be more thorough now, but tbh I realize I’m in a bit over my head and I’m okay with that.)


Well that’s a good way to get started. If you want to drill down in more detail to understand particular sentences then do shout out. There tend to be a few things that come up repeatedly that are hard to get your head around initially in these books, in particular sentences where a whole clause modifies a single word. (ChristopherFritz was talking about this yesterday in another book club - link).

Heads up - page 80 is quite tricky and there is another character name to throw you off track (ブランカ - Blanca). I added more words than usual to the vocab sheet.

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p. 80

“Damn Lobo, what a wise wolf you are.”
The annoyed Seton changed his strategy.
If Lobo cannot be caught, he decided to catch in a trap Blanca, Lobo’s careless wife.
Then, when Blanca was caught, he set traps with her scent all over the place.
Finally, after two days, Lobo was found caught in a trap!
In his desperate search for his beloved Blanca, Lobo was caught in a trap that he wouldn’t have fallen in normally.


I think Seton was introduced as the topic before and is the subject of all these sentences while the wolves are the objects. But I guess it doesn’t change the meaning much.

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is 知恵の働く a way of saying “clever”? I am confused by the の働く part…

thank you!

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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