Week 13: 小川未明童話集 - Ogawa Mimei’s Collection of Children’s Stories [END]

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

Week 13


Start Date: Nov 20th
Previous Part: Week 12


Week Start Date Chapter Pages 1951ed. Pages 2013ed. Page Count
Week 13 Nov 20th 6. 赤いろうそくと人魚123 7 53 15

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To finish off the book club, this week we saw yet another of Ogawa’s weird stories (who would have thought that! :upside_down_face:) But I think it was a nice story after all.

A mermaid who decides to have her newborn daughter raised by humans because “humans are the nicest creatures on earth” :eyes:… Luckily the daughter finds a pair of very nice humans, but after a while it turns out that they are susceptible to superstition (and money), and so they decide to sell off the mermaid daughter. Of course disaster follows :woman_shrugging:

TBH I’m still not clear about how a mermaid can live on land… she cannot walk after all, can she? Of course she is depicted as being embarrassed because of her being different, but I mean technically, how would that ever have worked out otherwise? :thinking:

The morale seems to be never to betray your loved ones and those that are dependent on you. Which sounds like a very nice and meaningful ending for our book club.


I can finally share this video with you:

Some people put a lot of work into it and recreated the scenes from the story beautifully. I was very impressed. I think the text is still 1:1 the original, but they added images, animation and sounds. Very recommended!


I can see why this is one of Mimei’s most famous stories, it was beautiful and definitely not as strange (in its structure at least) as some others. Thanks, @KazeTachinu, for sharing that video, really beautifully done.

@NicoleIsEnough, I also had the same questions on how a mermaid can survive on land. I suppose she couldn’t walk, but it’s never addressed. And do mermaids breathe air or water? I suppose it’s air, they’re apparently mammals after all. But still, you’d think they’d need to be kept wet or something, like whales? :thinking:

I’m also wondering, was this a happy ending after all? It’s strongly implied that the ship sank, but wouldn’t the mermaid survive in water? Hmm, I now realize she was in a cage, so probably not…But I still like to imagine that she continued her life as a free mermaid, appreciating the aquatic life that her mother had denounced. This is a Mimei story though, so probably not.


I was wondering about that too. There’s the fact that some unknown mermaid pays for a red candle that night (pays with shellfish), so I feel there’s some possibility her mother knows what’s going on and sinks the ship so that she can rescue her. I mean, otherwise I have no idea why the mermaid would buy a candle and lit it otherwise. There’s the fact that she might want revenge on them since they sold her daughter, but she probably knows she’s on the ship, so I don’t see why she wouldn’t also rescue her too?

Personally I feel the whole scene about the old couple selling off the mermaid makes very little sense. I could maybe understand if the only reason was greed, but the text very specifically say that they eventually believe the 香具師 words. The text says “それに大金になりますので”, which makes it feel like the money was a secondary reason.

No matter how superstitious they were, they were clearly blessed with having the mermaid in their home, their business was thriving, the mermaid was very helpful and docile and didn’t seem to cause them any trouble. She had lived with them for years and nothing bad had happened.

The story says they were poor but they didn’t seem to be in a dire situation that needed money. They also seemed to strongly believe in the god of the mountain, that’s why they adopted the mermaid in the first place. Why would the words of a random stranger from another country sway them? I just feel this part of the story is just too forced and very illogical.


Well, there are many people that survive without being able to walk. As to the need of being kept wet, there seems to be different kinds of mermaids in “history”. Some need water, some don’t, some even transform when coming in contact with water and are human otherwise.


Yes, sure, but they‘d either need to be carried around (babies, for example) or often have some devices to help them, or of course they just drag themselves across the floor. But there was no description of any of this, so I just started wondering.

Oh, I wasn‘t aware of that type. But didn’t the description say that the baby girl had a fish tail? So this type doesn’t seem to apply here.

When thinking about this further, maybe she could use her tail like a seal and move around that way?


Oh no, I never suggested you can’t survive without being able to walk :flushed:, I just thought that a mobility issue would be mentioned in the story. Instead, she apparently comes and goes with ease, and nothing in the text or the illustrations suggests a wheelchair or other aid, so apparently she can hop on her tail or something? In any case, yes, mermaid biology is an under-researched area of science :slight_smile:

That’s what I thought. The whole thing seems to be revenge on humans in general for being, basically, human, prone to superstition and greed and liable to betray even those closest to them. Who knows, maybe she did free her daughter, but I suspect that the revenge wouldn’t be that fierce in that case, being reunited with her daughter would have mellowed her heart a little.

Agreed, but it’s not the superstition part that got me, it was the money part. Their business was thriving just because of the mermaid and her paintings. Without her, they’d just go back to normal, selling one candle here and there. Whatever money they were given by the peddler, it surely wouldn’t be enough to retire on?
On the other hand, superstition is a powerful thing. Even nowadays, with science so prevalent and information so easy to reach, people believe all kinds of nonsense. The more outlandish and scary the lie, the easier it is to believe apparently. And these were old simple people, possibly more susceptible to this kind of thing.


See here: H2O: Just Add Water - Wikipedia


Here you can find a paragraph on mermaid science and some references:


Finally a scientific article on mermaid biology:

Banse, Karl, (1990), Mermaids—their biology, culture. and demise,
Limnology and Oceanography , 35, doi: 10.4319/lo.1990.35.1.0148.


Just finished reading and my first reaction is definitely “how could they?!” (and I guess the answer is that it’s and Ogawa Mimei story and they are human). It seemed to be going so well at the start… but it was bound to end badly.

Regarding the walking: apparently the mother (if it is her mother) can walk well enough that the old woman only realises something is off when she sees the wet sparkling hair. I did wonder as well how this works :upside_down_face:

Thank you for sharing! It is indeed beautifully made and narrated.

I watched it with the text on the side and it is slightly abridged but not much. There are also some interesting differences in word choice (maybe a different “modernisation” of the text) and some places where the pronunciation is different from the furigana on Aozora.


I think I managed to understand all of the text this week, but I have some language questions just to check that I didn’t misinterpret anything.


This phrase is part of a long sentence at the start when the mother mermaid is contemplating the fate of her child. At first I was confused because I thought that this was saying “I don’t wish for a bright, lively country” but later realised that “I don’t have any hope for” is probably meant (whereas there is still hope for her child). Is that about right?


This is in the part where she is summing up all the good things she heard about humans (oh irony). I couldn’t find any dictionary entry for 手づけた, but I guess it is a verb form of 手付け so that you get something like “she had also heard that once something is entrusted with them (humans) they never abandon it”?


This is in a part describing the candles that the mermaid has painted. I was having some trouble breaking down the words and particles, but I think that the part after the second comma breaks down into 美しさ, particle と, particle が and then a conjugation of こもる: 篭る meaning 2? So that we get that they were filled with a mysterious power and beauty?

Q1: I would maybe have said something like “I don’t expect … any more” (望む together with もはや) but your version of “no hope” sounds fine to me as well (it sounds a bit more melancholic and therefore might fit her mood better after all).

Q2: I did not find that word in my dictionary either but did not worry too much about it as I came to the same conclusion as you.

Q3: Yep, that sounds correct to me. (Those trailing と after the last option are a bit confusing sometimes but I guess we slowly get the hang of them :wink: )

(It’s a bit funny but whenever you post your questions, I know that it’s about bedtime for me :grin:)

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For me too… :sweat_smile: I usually only have time for this in the evenings and I always take too long writing my posts…


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