Week 1: 小川未明童話集 - Ogawa Mimei’s Collection of Children’s Stories

Yes, I think that is a fair translation. In my head I translated it as If it was a real war, I wonder how it would go. because for me that is closer to the “what kind of” meaning of どんな but I might have been confusing the かしれん ending here with かしら.

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It took me ages to make sense of しれん. It’s しらない, isn’t it? I wasn’t expecting it among all the polite language. I’m still not absolutely sure what he means though. If it was a real war, I don’t know what it would be like?

These both mean “wondering if someone is (can be called) a friend or foe”, right?

I don’t think I understand the use of the conditional なければ here. If he couldn’t hear the sound of firearms, there was no shadow of black smoke to be seen? Even though he strained his ears, to see whether there was the sound of firearms?


That’s sort of how I interpreted too, but I was having trouble with these sentences as well. My thought was that he is saying here that they are feeling/thinking in terms of allies and foes (in contrast to later when they simply become friends regardless of their affiliations).


Thanks for pointing this out. When I read this part I did not think much of it, but it seems like it is quite an interesting grammar point. I think that in this case it acts purely as a conjuntion and not as a conditional statement. I found this and this. Our example doesn’t 100% line up, but I think it still applies. Maybe someone else confirm/deny my theory.


I’m glad I’m not the only one having difficulty :blush: (I was completely stumped on that かいだ too - but I now see that my editor suggests the 嗅いだ spelling for it, so maybe I should have spotted that :sweat_smile:).

Here’s another sentence that I am having trouble with on the second page of the PDF version when the old man is losing the Shogi game, he says:


What I have found so far:

  • I sort of get that the last part of the sentence means something like having a very hard time and not being a match for
  • I don’t understand the use of 逃げる here, but my Japanese dictionary does refer to 逃げ切る as one of the possible meanings of 逃げる (something like “to eke out a win”).
  • I don’t really understand the use of では here.

So, the best I can come up with so far is: I’m having a hard time to continue to eke out a win in this way and I’m no match for you.

But I’m really not sure if that is correct in any way. :sweat_smile:


The most important piece you are missing is that in this case the “てかなわない” is actually a set grammar point that translates to “can’t bear to” (further reading). For the 逃げる it could be that there is another meaning, but without knowing much about shougi I would probably go with the common meaning.


I really enjoyed this story! The vocabulary is definitely a bit of a challenge but I like that the sentences are rather short for the most part.

Most questions I had were already answered but there’s still one part of the first sentence I don’t get:


I’d translate it (a bit roughly) as something like “A large country and a somewhat small country were neighboring.” What’s the second と doing here grammatically?


Ooh, the addition of “in terms” makes so much sense. That would be the role that という plays, I suppose.

Thanks for that. Frustrating how I can’t seem to find more explanations in any of my grammar books, but I’m sure that’s what it is.

Funny how I didn’t properly participate in the Ayumu book club because I didn’t want to spend time learning shogi terms, and now here it is again. 逃げる seems indeed to be a shogi term according to this list, although it still means “escape”. 苦しくてかなわない, as @Shadowlauch pointed out, would mean “too painful to bear”, so “Continuing to escape like this is too painful to bear” would be my understanding. は marks the topic, I’m pretty sure, but what is で?Particle? Te form of the copula? Is it では after all? Funny how the more I look at some sentences, the less I understand them…


The second と is part of the listing function of と - all items in a list are marked with と, eg: appleとorangeとbananaと

Often the final と is left off unless someone is speaking formally or something like that, but it does show up from time to time

Also your translation seems fine broadly

I think maybe it’s marking a repetitive action? So suggesting that he is having to move his pieces repeatedly to avoid being checkmated?


Or is かしれん simply the same as かもしりません? So that the sentence becomes “What kind [of war] might it be if it were a real war?”.


After a lot of research, I tend to think it’s maybe usage 3 from the page you linked ( to give one’s negative comments or express one’s negative opinion towards the topics.). There is indeed a negative opinion (苦しくてかなわない) following では。My real question though was why で. The te form of つづける is つづけ, so I’m guessing that, for reasons unknown to me, 逃げつづけ is used as a noun (verb stem), thus being followed by で instead of て。My head hurts. Googling the phrase 逃げつづけでは, by the way, only brought up results from this story and nothing else.

I found a mention of かもしれん being a contraction for かもしれない, but nothing without the も。I’m not sure かもしれません goes well with どんな anyway. But I believe you’re right that it’s probably しれない instead of しらない。 So, “I can’t know what it would be like”? All of our various translations amount to the same thing more or less anyway.


I agree. Maybe で is simply the particle で after all and used in the sense of “indicating the use of s.t. for doing s.t.”

So こう逃げつづけで is ‘by continuing to run away like this’ and は indicates that this clause is the topic of the sentence. The full sentence then becomes something like “[Avoiding a loss] by continuously running away like this has become unbearably painful.” It’s still not really a complete sentence without the bit that I added in brackets, but maybe this comes close to the intended meaning.


A few more sentences that I think I understand, but I’m not completely sure of:

At the start of the third page of the PDF after the war started the old man says:
Now I assume 持ってゆけば is the conditional form of 持っていく and I was wondering whether 首 here is just literally used meaning head so that the old man is literally saying ”If you take my head [you can get a promotion].? Or is this some idiom or set phrase with a different meaning?

Near the end there is a sentence that goes:
I am unsure why たてません is used here. The only thing I could find is that my Japanese dictionary lists よく響く as a possible meaning for 立つ (which doesn’t seem to be listed on Jisho). So this sentence becomes something like ”The squadron was extremely silent and not a single voice resounded”. Or am I missing something more obvious here?

And finally in the last paragraph the following sentence:
That’s a lot of kana and very few kanji :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:, but I interpreted this as ”When the old man was about to say something, he woke up.” I’m not completely sure about the いおうとする construction. Is that a grammar point?


This is たてる、and definition 3 on Jisho is to make (a noise)。In another book I had come across the phrase 音をたてる (which is also listed on Jisho) and means to make a sound - which is why I recognized it immediately.

It is indeed. Volitional verb + とする means to try to do/be about to do something.

I don’t think this is a set phrase. 持っていく has the sense of going somewhere with what you’re holding, so I think the meaning is more “take them (your superiors I assume) my head” instead of just “take my head” (which would probably be 取る), but basically it’s the same thing. And I don’t think he’s being literal necessarily, he -hopefully- just means if you kill someone of my standing and let them know.


I imagine he is very much being literal considering that it is a war - taking the head would be proof of having killed him


Very true, especially depending on when the story takes place. I just meant it’s not necessarily literal.


I should have known I had misread it… There’s always a simpler explanation when it is so hard to find :sweat_smile:

In that case I seem to have guessed the meaning correctly :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Thanks for the replies!


Considering he follows up with だから(ころ)してください。, I am pretty sure he meant it literally. :pensive:


I see. The author seems to have left the details to the reader’s interpretation. It still remains unclear in the end whether the old man will return to guard the border, although to me it seems he probably won’t.

Thank you, that was very helpful.

I’ve learned so much just reading the discussions, it’s awesome :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


I’m not even sure there is a border any more.