Is was wondering whether there are any dictionaries around that explain what the “inventors” of certain kanji meant when they first sketched them. Most of the time the WK stories are really ok, but sometimes it would be nice to read something more “real”.
Or: what does a Japanese teacher tell a 5th grader about the inner workings of a certain kanji?
Kanji go back far enough that we don’t really know what the “inventors” thought. The earliest versions we have are things that were able to survive because they were carved into turtle bones (hence the turtle motif here). But there are lots of resources for seeing those ancient forms and how they morphed over time to the shapes they have now.
But, just be aware, sometimes things did just get arbitrarily changed because of sound similarities, ease of writing, or transcription errors.
If a kanji looks kind of random and unrelated to its meaning… sometimes it’s just because that’s the way it is.
For a free kanji origin dictionary, I recommend the site okjiten.jp