Week 11: 小川未明童話集 - Ogawa Mimei’s Collection of Children’s Stories

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小川未明童話集 - Ogawa Mimei’s Collection of Children’s Stories Home Thread

Week 11


Start Date: Nov 6th
Previous Part: Week 10
Next Part: Week 12


Week Start Date Chapter Pages 1951ed. Pages 2013ed. Page Count
Week 11 Nov 6th 15. 黒い人と赤いそり1 225 10

Vocabulary List

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This week gets us into quite some action right from the start! But then the end… takes us back to a “normal” Ogawa story once again…

My take on the morale

While the five guys who go out to search for their comrades rather feel like a suicide squad, in the end the villagers get punished for not having attempted to help more, it seems… So the morale would be you need to risk everything to try to help your friends if they are in danger?
While I support this claim to a great extent, I think there is a limit when it comes to risking your own life in trying to help without even knowing how this help could be carried out… Sounds a bit futile to me, this morale. :woman_shrugging:

Grammar-wise I did not find that much interesting stuff, so here are only very few points I’d like to highlight:

見殺しにすることができるものでない。- I think this is this grammar point: https://jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/ものではない-mono-dewa-nai-meaning/ (this is direct speech, so I guess the は just got swallowed). - We simply cannot let them die without doing anything.

五つのそりにも変わりがあったのだぞ - We touched upon this last week already: 変わり - Jisho.org can mean “bad thing” or “accident” or something like that.

「捜しにいったがいいものだろうか、どうしたらいいものだろう。。。」- The meaning is “I wonder” with a strongly negative connotation. I couldn’t find a nice link so here is the relevant page from DoJG:


一人として、自分がいくという勇気のあるものはありませんでした。- https://jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/として~ない-toshite-nai-meaning/ - There was not even a single one who had the bravery to say “I’ll go.”

Finally, I guess I discovered another typo :scream: Strangely enough, this time it’s in Aozora and also in the Bookwalker version… but I have no idea how this could be correct:

なんの物影も目に止まるものと はありませんでした。I suspect this is supposed to be で instead. What do y’all think?
Nope, it’s for real; see below.

Thoughts on the story

I really enjoyed reading this story, but the ending left me with the now familiar “huh?”. It seemed to be in a similar vein to the previous story, town doesn’t do the right thing, gets punished, but the right thing isn’t as clearcut this time, nor does the town (country?) actually get punished as such. Only some random boats sink when they encounter the ghosts, and that seems to be it.
Chasing after three men on a drifting ice float? How would you even go about it? Then going to search for 5 men who took the town’s only sleighs and disappeared? On foot? That certainly is a suicide mission with absolutely no chance of success.
So all in all it was a natural disaster that hit the town, and I tend to agree with the townspeople that there wasn’t much they could really do about it.
There’s certainly some symbolism that, as usual, evades me. The sleighs are red, and the clothes the people wore are black, and that’s important enough to even be in the title. It’s powerful imagery, sure, seeing black figures riding red sleighs on white snow, but if there’s anything more in it, I couldn’t tell.

Maybe the problem is just me looking for meaning. Maybe it’s just a story about a disaster, and the ghosts it left behind.

Maybe it’s とて?

Oh good because for a moment I thought he was suggesting they’d have to replace the lost sleighs.


Ooooh nice find! I was a bit insecure at first because all the example sentences seem to include a full sentence after とて, but I just asked a Japanese friend and she agreed with your interpretation.

I think that would be a different kanji, though? Jisho says: “to take the place of; to substitute for; to take over for; to represent; to hand over (telephone )​esp. 代わる, 代る”


That’s what I think as well. There is a couple of those かわる/かえる and I think each means something a little different.


I’m glad it got the seal of approval by a native speaker, I didn’t feel very confident about it myself. :slightly_smiling_face:

Good point, but then we’ve seen so much unusual kanji usage by Mimei (or the subsequent modernizers of his texts) that I wouldn’t think it impossible. There’s many other reasons why that initial interpretation of mine doesn’t make sense, it was just my first impression, and I’m glad it turned out to be wrong or it would have been a very callous remark indeed.


Yes, this week was quite an easy read! I still have to go through it a second time to check if I understand everything, though.

Regarding the story

I agree that it would have been unwise for the villagers to keep sending more people on suicide missions :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:. Maybe this was more a case of wanting to tell a ghost story and needing an origin story for them. On the other hand, the people who stayed behind refused from the start to join the search and they seemed to have mostly selfish thoughts about it (instead of discussing it rationally as a group) so maybe that’s why they deserved the punishment. Well, and duty is very important in Japanese culture, right?


Would love to see 物 and 者 more often in children stories (or at all :sweat_smile: ), otherwise at some point we’ll get もののものであるものであります。 :joy:

'bout dem story
  • Fairly clear take-home at the end.

  • Until that point, the story feels very forced. As if the entire plot was artificially constructed to push that one specific moral forward.

  • Why do Ogawa stories always have to involve someone dying? :joy:
    Why not show the bravery of the five Rescue Lads who saved the ice wreckers and contrast that with the “fear >>> duty” attitude of the remaining 人々?


Even after a second read-through I don’t have that many questions. Really an easy read this week!

The only tricky parts were at the start and I have two questions just to check if my interpretation is correct.

The second paragraph of the story ends with the following sentence: だから、どんなに寒いかということも想像されるでしょう。
This is basically the narrator saying ‘so you can imagine how cold it was’, right?

And in the paragraph after it, Ogawa is basically saying something like that it’s so far north that the sky seems closer, the stars are bigger and brighter and their light beams are frozen like silver rods hanging down from the sky, I think? Another really nice vivid description of the scene :blush:


I think you got so much better at reading instead :+1: Keep up the good work :slight_smile:

For your questions, I agree with how you interpreted it. (TBH I don’t remember all details of the second one, and I‘m too lazy to look it up right now, but your descriptions sound familiar :sweat_smile:)

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Thanks! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: I have to admit that the last few weeks have definitely helped with the vocabulary (for Ogawa Mimei stories at least :smiley:).


I got curious and checked my Anki deck (where I tag the words by where I find them, and because I find many more words than I can learn, I “find” many words multiple times and collect their tags :sweat_smile:) and I must say, there is a large amount of overlap with other books and manga that have totally different genres. Many of the words are also on the JLPT vocab lists for all levels, and many are marked as “common” in Jisho. Of course a small percentage is outdated or obscure or generally rare, but for the majority of words I’m convinced that it will also help you with other reading material.


It was one of the easier reads for me as well (although as always there are still several parts I lack understanding of; hopefully (but, based on experience from previous weeks, probably not…) I’ll find time to post questions). As usual the visuals seem to stick with me for some time which is kind of nice :slight_smile:

On the morale (if there is *one*):

Perhaps rather than the statement that one should risk everything to save others, the “moral”/point is simply to bring up the question of duty and to what extent one have to sacrifice one’s well-being for the sake of others not as well-off (by telling the story from one of the more extreme perspective as if to provoke the discussion). I’ve amateur-philosophised about it quite a bit so I would’ve enjoyed some more insight to the answer though :cry:


Finally caught up again!

My take on the morale is that blind duty and bravery won’t always be met with reciprocity, no matter how noble your cause. When our five brave rescuers brought themselves in as tribute to save the lost people, the remaining townspeople didn’t show any willingness to do the same. So, of course as it happens in such circumstances, they got lost themselves and not even a single person wanted to go out and search for them. Even when someone suggested to do a lottery to pick out the persons who would go on that mission, they collectively decided against that.