Week 10: 小川未明童話集 - Ogawa Mimei’s Collection of Children’s Stories

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Week 10


Start Date: Oct 30th
Previous Part: Week 9
Next Part: Week 11


Week Start Date Chapter Pages 1951ed. Pages 2013ed. Page Count
Week 10 Oct 30th 2. 黒い旗物語2 13 11

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Here’s some nice grammar:

That’s the N3 も〜ば、〜も grammar point meaning roughly "just like X, Y as well: https://jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/も~ば~も-mobamo-meaning/

〜ずに is back: https://jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/ずに-zuni-meaning/

There is quite a bit going on with でも in this story, but I have a feeling much of it is this: https://jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/でも-demo-meaning-something/

Return of 〜げ: https://jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/げ-ge-meaning/

Another も〜ば、〜も, but this time with negative tenses:

This one has surely come up somewhere as well, since もの is aplenty in this story: https://jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/ものではない-mono-dewa-nai-meaning/

Thoughts on the story

I’m a little slow with those stories, because I can’t exactly relate to the cultural circumstances from that time, but as far as I understand the old man and the boy came from a country in the south and were actually fairly affluent, but somehow ended up in poverty and traveled to the North, because they thought the people there were hospitable.

But they weren’t, and they wouldn’t believe the boy even as he came back loaded (literally and figuratively), and robbed him of his valuables instead.

I’m not exactly sure why the fire started. Was it arson or was the ship with the black flag a warship and just unloaded a volley on the town due to the hostility the kid received?

The plot at the end was good, though!


Interesting perspective. I hadn’t looked at it like that yet.

My thoughts

I was thinking of this story more like a ghost story (appropriate timing by the way). I was even wondering if the old man and boy weren’t ghosts or spirits from the start because they were leaving the town every night in the freezing cold with seemingly nowhere to go (unless I missed something) and reappearing the next day. I thought they might be spirits who came to test the townspeople.

I think they are definitely ghosts when they return later in their ghost ship and I took the fire to be conjured up in some supernatural way as punishment for the town.

It is mentioned at the end that the black flag is still spotted on the horizon now and then, so that definitely sounds like a ghost ship to me. :pirate_flag:

Man, those townsfolk sure were unpleasant and mean, by the way.


Considering it’s Mimei we’re talking about here, you might be onto something :smiley:

My 推理

The descriptions of the old man and the kid were somehow quite precise and their interactions with the townspeople very personal and physical. I can’t explain, though, why they were supposedly disappearing somewhere and coming back to the town. I thought they were just sleeping somewhere in a cold sad place :frowning: .

But for instance in 牛女, it was very obvious she’s a ghost at some point. Maybe the old man and boy were some demons actually? I’m not yet familiar enough with Japanese folklore to tell, though. Even though I’ve read Noragami, MAO, etc.

And then there is this moment when they come to the harbor, dip their toes in the water, which is a completely human thing to do, but then they disappear and only the 胡弓 remained.

The volley from the ship was definitely me reading too much Kingdom :smiley: . The explanation with the ghost ship makes more sense.


As I didn’t particularly like some of the latest stories I hesitated starting this one (the beginning didn’t bode well), but it ended up being rather good, and perfect for Halloween. I completely agree with @wiersm 's interpretation, although it didn’t occur to me that they were ghosts or yokai or whatever they were from the start - that was an interesting take, and entirely possible. So basically the townspeople had a second chance to act as decent human beings and blew it, so up in flames they went. It somehow felt quite good . Great descriptions of the sea and weather once again, I thought. I’m surprised the text can conjure up such vivid images for me even as I struggle through it with the constant help of a dictionary.


I have to admit that I’m starting to lose interest a little bit as well, but we’re almost there so I’ll stick with it. And we still have to do 赤いろうそくと人魚 which I think is one of his more famous stories. This story didn’t jive that much with me because I thought he was laying it on a little thick with how mean the townspeople were. But the descriptions of the sea and storms were indeed nice. Lots of new vocabulary :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


Oh absolutely, and if it ended up on a pitiful note about the fate of the poor beggars I’d have a major problem with it, but in order for the total fire destruction to make sense they really had to be all awful, or we’d end up pitying them instead.


I think after reading あゆみ a lot, I was a little less phased than I probably should’ve been by the overarching theme of the story. But like, was that a “happy end” or just a “true end” at this point? :joy:
I’m happy that it wasn’t at least a clearly sad ending.


Vivid images like millions of rabbits running around, right? Did he really describe the sea like that or did I misread that? :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: :rabbit2:


That he did:

On a vaguely related note, I tried reading the HTML version of the text from Aozora on my phone recently and they are not only very easy to find online without needing bookmarks, but also render extremely well, including furigana.


Here’s another one:


A combination of https://jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/ねばならない-neba-naranai-meaning/ and https://jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/ぬ-nu-negative-verb-meaning/

A sentence that I was having some trouble with is this one (said by the mean townspeople):


But I found this example sentence in the Wisdom dictionary under なりと(も):

Get out of here [my sight]! / Get lost!

I think the meaning is probably pretty similar. I get the impression that なりと(も) is a hard to translate expression that is another one of those “wherever” or “it doesn’t matter where as long as it is somewhere” words.

Two sentences near the end (when the ghost ship appeared) that I wasn’t completely sure of:

Some 老人 says: 昨日は怖ろしい海鳴りがしたから、なにか変わったことがなければいいと思った

The bold part seems a bit vague. He’s basically saying he hoped nothing had changed, but I guess he really means that he hoped nothing bad had happened, right?

A little further someone else says: なにか用があって、この港にきたものだろうか。

Here, the first part is part of the question, right? What I mean is that the だろうか at the end also applies to the なにか用があって so that it becomes something like “Could they have had some kind of business, coming to this harbor”?


One of the side meanings of 変わる, especially in past tense is “to be unusual/uncommon”, so that might work here in the case of 変わったこと. But the rest of the translation checks out, I think.

I think it’s more of a “I wonder” rhetorical question, but yes, I would also interpret it that way:

They probably had some kind of business and came to this port/harbor, I guess/wonder?

There is plenty of もの in this story and I’m not yet too comfortable with the more grammatical uses of it :confused: .


Yes, quite! :sweat_smile: