Week 2: 小川未明童話集 - Ogawa Mimei’s Collection of Children’s Stories

I believe he literally means that the pole’s skin is thicker because he is so much larger, and thus he wouldn’t feel the brambles. Or maybe he literally means insensitive, because he is wooden? In any case, I didn’t think it was intended to be insulting.

いられない is the negative potential or いる (いられる → いられない), so it means something like can’t be/stay. He may be saying he can’t stay like this, or that he can’t continue like this, it’s not absolutely clear to me. The gist in any case is that he needs to go back at once, as you said.

The translations suggested by jisho are: scolding; telling-off; rebuke; lecture; complaint; grumbling; fault-finding, so I’m sure you’re right.

If it was I missed it too. It was a very funny addition, I thought. Further proof that he needs everyone to keep away maybe?


Oh, sorry, I’ve somehow missed that!

Thank you both @omk3 and @wiersm for explaining. Phrasing it along the lines of “I can’t go on like this” makes it much easier to understand.


I’m also slightly wondering if the reason they seem a little weird is because we’re used to the modern, cleaned-up, Disneyfied version of all of our various fairy tales. In the original version of The Little Mermaid, for example, she doesn’t get the prince - instead, she gains an immortal soul, which (to Andersen) was the point.

I mean, the Pied Piper of Hamelin story is kinda weird - guy kidnaps all the kids in town in retaliation for being stiffed on the job they hired him for. It probably just seems less weird because we’re used to it.


When I saw the illustrations I though that the style was like the one in these Japanese readers, but I was wrong they are from a different book. I wonder if it is the same illustrator.

P.S: I wanted to reply to omk3 post but wasn’t able to edit the reply to field to fix it sorry :sweat_smile:


I had a few more questions/remarks about specific sentences.

The first one isn’t so much a question, but more a remark that might help others. When the pole suggests that he can lift the little man onto the roof, he says:


At first, I didn’t really know how to interpret について here (I only knew について in the sense of about, maybe from listening to too much Teppei :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:), but then I found ついて行く which means to accompany, so I guess this is just that with 行く replaced by 歩く and means something like to walk along [the eaves] here.

The sentences that I am having the most problems with are when the little man gets scared and he says


and the pole replies


I think it’s partly that I’m having trouble picturing the scene, but I’m also really at a loss how that second sentence should be broken down.

On the conceptual side, I don’t really understand what the little man might be referring to here. He says that the pole’s face is pale (or bright blue?) but I don’t really understand what that might be referring to (is the top painted white or does a telegraph pole have white parts?) and what could be the thing that he mistakes for a wound? In his reply, the pole says that he becomes pale/bright blue if electricity surges through him, I think, so it could also be that we are talking about sparks here? Does the little man then mistake the sparks for a scarred face? If anybody has a better explanation, please share. :sweat_smile:

As for the grammar of that second sentence:

  • The word order seems strange: why is みんな at the start without any particle?
  • What is the さ at the end? Is that simply the male assertive sentence ending particle さ? It seems very informal… or might it indicate his frustration with the little man’s rudeness?
  • I think a だ is implied at the end here? (Or does さ replace だ?)

The best I could come up with as a translation for the sentence is ”This wound is a scar that is constantly prodded by everyone with wires”, but that doesn’t really make sense to me both conceptually and grammatically. I would expect the Japanese to be more along the lines of この傷口はみんなに針線でつつかれた痕だ then, right?


I have found 付く to be a very versatile verb that is used in all sorts of combinations. With its main meaning being to be attached/connected, and a secondary meaning as to accompany/follow, it easily follows that 軒について歩く would mean walk along (or following, or staying close to) the eaves.

I’m a little confused about that みんな too, because it’s not followed by a particle. I think it’s one of those words that are sometimes used without though, and I took it to mean “all telegraph poles”. 針線でつつかれた seems to mean “being poked with wires”, so it seems to me he’s saying that all telegraph poles have scars from being poked by wires. I’m not well versed in telegraph pole anatomy, so I’m not sure whether wires actually go through the pole, or are just tied around it, but in any case, I’m sure he’s being literal here. Either there’s a scar where wires go through, or a scar from where wires tied around him occasionally poke him. The さ I’m not sure about. I suppose it’s just the sentence ending particle, although it’s the first one I’ve seen in these stories if I remember correctly. As for the face, I think he may be bright blue from electricity as you suggested (do telegraph poles have electricity though? are these electrical wires?). Or he may actually be pale, because, well, he’s made out of wood, not flesh and blood. Too bad the illustrations don’t help with that.

Edit:Look at his face on this cover though. Hmm… :thinking:



Thanks! And that’s a pretty cool cover :grin:


I’m not sure but could it mean “all these wounds”? Maybe wires are often getting connected to and disconnected from the telegraph pole, leaving unsightly “wounds”.

I would imagine a 電信柱 would only have telegraph cables and no electricity but googling for it brings up the wiki page for “utility pole” so maybe electricity passes through as well. When the strange man realizes this, he becomes scared and doesn’t want to come into contact with the telegraph pole again. Just my guess.


This made me seriously doubt my interpretation. It does sound like a better translation, so I thought I’d read up on みんな a little. It’s surprisingly hard to find grammar explanations on it. It means everyone/all, pretty straightforward, what more is there to explain? Until you come across a sentence like this one. So I searched for “みんなこの” to see what would come up. I found this on Hinative and multiple example translations on Reverso that seem to support that みんな either stands alone as “everyone”, or follows a noun+particle as “all”, so it can’t be connected to the この following it. Deepl also translates this sentence as “They all have these scars…”. I realize that none of the above sources are absolutely reliable, so if someone more knowledgeable could confirm how みんな is used here I’d be grateful. Funny how it’s often the simplest words that end up giving me the most trouble.

(A breakdown from the page previously linked by @ChristopherFritz (thanks!) also seems to support this:)


Very interesting. It seems みんな is not directly connected to what follows it but instead it’s describing the topic/subject of the sentence. Would that be 痕 or 傷口 in this case? Pretty confusing.


So I checked an English translation of this story, and I’m now even more confused. The sentence in question is translated like this: “And this injury is from where everyone pokes me with wires.” Basically what @wiersm had said from the start.

The face by the way, is described as pale. “Sometimes when a terrible jolt of electricity passes through me, my face turns pale”

And here’s an interesting note by the translator: 電信柱 is an old derogatory term for someone who is extremely tall, so the whole story is basically based on a pun.

Edit: Looking at the translation, I realized I had misread a particle here: 電信柱をたたいて、ははははと大口けてった。I thought that it was the little man who slapped away the pole’s hand and laughed, when in fact it’s the pole who clapped his hands and laughed instead. So the little man didn’t actually mock the pole as I thought. In which case, maybe the moral of the story is that you should probably stay with your own kind instead of trying to befriend unknown creatures/things that may turn out to be dangerous?" I don’t know, I’m second-guessing myself a lot today.


I was thinking that みんな might indeed be as simple and straightforward as a generic “everyone” instead of “all of X thing”. The English translation you found seems to support this. I’ll be keeping an eye out in the future how みんな is used in different contexts. Such a simple word, so many doubts.


Yay, +1 for me (even though I still don’t understand the grammar) :sweat_smile:

Okay, -1 for me :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Me too, I also had to read that sentence twice before I got it right.

Hmm, I’m not so sure about that as a moral. I think that at this point the little man has been rude enough to deserve some rudeness back. :grin:

Thanks, that is indeed interesting background information, thank you for sharing! I guess stories like these often have some underlying pun (which will usually be completely lost on us non-natives.)


First of all, thanks for the rich information you provided in this thread! :slight_smile:
About the moral: What I understood goes along the lines of what @NicoleRauch said: even if some of the things the weird man stated were indeed true, he was always demanding and rude towards the the pole, never trying to understand it.
In the end, if I got it right, the pole also quit the nightly walks due to their conflict, so: don’t be rude to others, or else everyone loses.


This was exactly my take in the beginning too, but I don’t know, the more I read this story, the more I get some vaguely sinister vibes from the telegraph pole. Take this sentence: 電信柱は、軽々げて、ひょいとかわら屋根ろしました。軽々 can mean easily, but it also can mean carelessly. ひょいと can mean lightly/nimbly, or it can mean suddenly or casually. Is the telegraph pole careful and respecting in the way he treats the man, or does he treat him carelessly? I don’t know. And what about his walking in the water suggestion? If terrifying jolts of electricity run through him turning his face blue (or pale), what would happen to anyone standing near him on the wet riverbank?

At first I read this and thought, okay, an absurd but amusing little story, and was eager to move on, but it has somehow caught my attention much more than I expected. Maybe it’s that there’s too many stories about war already, but not that many about telegraph poles and recluses. It intrigues me, maybe more than it should.

Back to the language though, how would you all translate 気 here? おまえさんは、りこの屋根にいるかね。Again, it’s the simplest words that give me pause. It doesn’t help that there’s no verb attached. Is it, have you realized? Is it, do you intend? Do you mind? Something else entirely?


I interpreted 気 here as doing something similar as in やる気, i.e. meaning something like “willingness to”. So I would translate it as something like “you really want to be alone on this roof, huh?”


I completely forgot to ask about this sentence because I wanted to know about it as well. I just did some searching in my dictionaries and I think your translation hits the nail on the head @NyappyTiramisu. I found a couple of example sentences that end with 気か and it indeed seems to be a sentence ending for asking about someone’s intentions and I get the impression that it adds a challenging tone.

Here are some of those examples (from the Genius and Wisdom J-E dictionaries):

  • 俺に逆らう気か - Are you trying to defy/go against me?
  • 「ちょっと, 君の着ているその上着, 僕のなんだけど」 「いちゃもんつける気か」. - “Hey, that’s my jacket you’re wearing.” “Do you want to make something of it?”

A little fun fact:
I am reading the bookwalker version, which has integrated google translate. When the telegraph pole laughs はははは, google translate just can’t stop laughing:


And the roumaji! :woman_facepalming:
Wawawaha :rofl:


It’s all those doves that can’t stop laughing that are always perched on telegraph poles :dove: