Help understanding this phrase from the short story 大きなかに

I recently managed to reach level 10 in WK and decided to start trying to read some native material. brought to my attention the short story 大きなかに from Aozora Bunko and I decided to give a try.

There I ran into the following sentence that is giving a hard time to figure out.

「おじいさんは、どうなさったのだろう? きつねにでもつれられて、どこへかゆきなされたのではないかしらん?」

(Some context: this is something that the main character, Tarou, thinks to himself when he gets worried because his grandfather has not returned home yet and it is snowing heavily)

Here’s my breakdown of how I understand things so far:

おじいさんは、 => Grandfather (+topic particle)
どうなさったのだろう => polite version of どうしたの (what’s wrong / what’s the matter) + だろう (conjecture / puzzlement)

So the first part, in my understanding, translates as “What could have happened to grandfather?”.

Things start to get confusing in the next part:

きつねにでもつれられて => きつね (fox) に (particle) でも (but) + …

I have two theories about つれられて:

Either, it is the passive conjugation of 連れる (to bring along) + te form, or… it is simply the te-form of 釣られる (to be lured). So, Tarou seems to be either thinking:

“Even if grandfather is being accompanied by the fox” or
“Even if grandfather was lured by a fox”

I feel the second option makes more sense since there was no mention of grandfather going out with a fox at the start of the story when he leaves, nor is it common for foxes to be companions. Then again, this is kind of folk tale, so I cannot completely discard the first option, I guess.

どこへかゆきなされたのではないかしらん => どこ (where) へ (direction particle) かゆき (!?) なされた (polite version of to do + passive conjugation + past tense) の (normalizer) ではない (is not) かしらん (wonder / puzzlement).

Figuring out what かゆき is seems to be the key to understand this phrase. doesn’t have an entry for かゆき, though it points me to かゆい (itchy); however, I am having trouble thinking かゆき can be an adjective since there doesn’t seem to be a noun it could be describing.

In a big stretch of my imagination and my meager understanding of grammar, I could theorize かゆき is the noun “itch”, and かゆきする, the verb to “to itch” or maybe “to be itchy”. However, I cannot see how being itchy fits in with the previous sentence about the fox, or why the particle へ, which is usually associated with movement / direction, is being used there.

Any help figuring this out is greatly appreciated :slightly_smiling_face:

On a side note… isn’t it ironic that when a sentence is completely in hiragana it is actually harder to understand than when it has Kanji in it, even if you are not familiar with those kanji? I feel pure hiragana makes it way more difficult to parse a sentence >.<

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Maybe I’m wrong but my first guess would be どこへか 行きなさる or something like that, though I’m not the greatest at keigo. Or literary Japanese. It just struck me as かゆき not really making any sense at all.

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This usage of でも isn’t well represented by the English word “but”. でも can also be used to give an idea of vagueness to what is being said. A better English equivalent in this case would be “or something”.

“Was he taken by a fox or something?”


You’re not, that’s exactly what’s going on there.

That’s exactly it.
でも means “or something”

The 連れられて part means “taken away”, and 連れる doesn’t always mean “by free will”. Now we’re also dealing with foxes, who are tricky and deceiving, so it doesn’t matter which what degree of potential force gramps was taken away.


That sentence finally makes sense =^.^=

I had never seen どこへか before, only どこかへ, so probably my brain was too fixed on the idea that どこか was always written together like that.

It is also very interesting to know about that nuance for 連れる. I will keep it in mind!

Thank you all for the help!

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どこへか does sound strange to me as well, but this probably shows it’s not 100% wrong. I guess we all learned something today :grin:

it’s not used often nowadays. どこへか (question “where to”)
in a normal conversation you’d go with something more primitive like どこに行ったか

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Probably just repeating what:s already been said at this point, but it’s pretty straight forward despite the keigo and writing style. Let’s break it down:

You got this in the opening post. なさる is the honorific form of する, so the speaker is wondering what what’s happened to his grandfather.

As pointed out above, 連れる is in its passive conjugation here (連れられる), and then in the て form in addition to link it to the next clause. Since it’s passive, it means the grandfather himself was carried off/taken away. In addition, 連れられる is pretty common verbiage for people being whisked away by spirits. に is indicating that he was taken by a fox (with all their demonic connotations) and でも is an emphasizer with a bit of uncertainty (sometimes; sometime’s it’s just a straight-up emphasizer; depends on context).

You can think of it in terms of “even a,” which could then less literally equate to “or something.” “Was he taken by a fox or something…?” “Could he (even) have been taken by a fox?” Those are too literal as translations, but they help illustrate the logic of でも in those situations.

This is pretty clear once you realize that ゆき is 行き. You’ll hear this reading all the time at the end of train destinations, etc. It’s a little formal, fitting the rest of the voice here. どこへか could be rearranged into どこかへ, if it helps (so, “to somewhere”), and then we have a repeat of なさる now in its passive voice. The end of the sentence, ではないかしらん, is one of infinite ways in Japanese to combine negative endings and question/wonder vocabulary into a sense of uncertainty.

So altogether, we wind up with something like: “What happened to grandfather? I wonder if he was spirited away somewhere by a fox.”

And from there however you want to naturalize it: “I wonder what happened to grandfather. Could he have been taken off somewhere by a fox?” Etc., etc.

You’re not alone there. The whole point of kanji is that they make Japanese text scanable. Even all-kana text with spaces aimed at children can be a nightmare as a learner. It might be aimed at children who haven’t learned many kanji yet, but that all-kana approach is only useful if you already have the vocabulary of a native speaker to make sense of sounds at a glance!


well, that’s their target audience: japanese kids. they’re usually already on a native speaker level, with low vocab.


Thanks for posting this and for everyone’s responses. I learned a surprising amount from this discussion!


どこへか where to?
どこかへ somewhere to


Oh totally! Not arguing it’s not effective for the target audience. Just noting that while early learners tend to want more kanji-free writing, it’s actually counter-intuitive unless you have a native-level of vocabulary (low compared to adults, but still high compared to foreign learners).


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