Week 8: 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 8


Start Date: Oct 16th
Previous Part: Week 7
Next Part: Week 9


Week Start Date Chapter Pages 1951ed. Pages 2013ed. Page Count
Week 8 Oct 16th 4. 牛女12 143 38 10

Vocabulary List

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This week’s story is a bit long-winding in my opinion, but at least we have a clear plotline and also a nice morale: You should respect your elders and the dead and pay tribute to them, and they will protect you and help you in dire times.

For grammar points, there were only very few that stood out to me, but I’m sure you will have questions about others as well :blush:

子供をだれが見てくれようと思いました - here, 見る - Jisho.org takes on meaning #3 - to look after - and the causative has the meaning of “will”. Put together: Who will take care of the child?, she thought.

死にきれない - see the next comment below :grin:

子供は、口に出して、このことをいいませんでした - this is another case of “the negative applies to both parts of the sentence” (like we discussed the other week), resulting in “the child did not say it out loud”

今年にかぎって - [spoiler]https://jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/に限って-ni-kagitte-meaning/[/spoiler] - “particularly / especially this year”


I’m still only halfway through the story (and it seems to be another happy one…), I just wanted to point out that Jisho has the whole phrase “死んでも死に切れない” as an idiomatic expression meaning "I can’t die and leave things this way*.


Oh thanks, that adds a bit of a different nuance in fact!

To be honest, when I ask my 先輩 questions about something I’m reading, 80% of the time the first comment is “did you look up that phrase in jisho?” - I should really know better by now :woman_facepalming:


That can go both ways, though. Jisho isn’t always 100% right, right? :smiley:

I am just about to read the story. It doesn’t seem too long, though.

EDIT: The initial sentences of the story sound kind of rude :joy: . Especially that あります。

Some weird sentences:

In the village, Spring came, Summer came, (then) Autumn happened, Winter happened.
き seems like the stem form of 来る and 〜となる means that something out of our control happened. Usually used in news reports when stating facts.

Not sure if typo again or… :thinking:


Finally finished the story. Below my thoughts:
  • It’s nice that it’s finally a story with a happy end, even though I had some serious doubts halfway through it. :sweat_smile:

  • The take-home was fairly straightforward so I didn’t have to go on a research binge to figure out “the bees and bats”

  • Didn’t really like the depiction of the mute woman at the beginning. It felt like she has it extra hard only because she’s big and a mute (and hearing impaired, I think?)

  • Language wasn’t too hard, but switching from a more modern text made it a bit of a challenge.

  • Sometimes I wasn’t sure how many kids the woman had and whose kids did what. But at some point there was 彼 so I’m assuming it was 1 boy. Strange 息子 was not used at any point.

Also, vocab list populated :wink:

Thoughts on the story

Not one of my favourites. I felt the description of the woman was needlessly specific. She was huge, she was mute, she had a child from someone unknown. Why all that? In the end she was just a mother who died worrying about her child’s future, all the rest was incidental. And although the villagers were kind to her and her child, I’m not sure whether the nickname 牛女 was supposed to be derogatory or not at that time and place, but it does feel so to me now. (I know I shouldn’t be judging the story by today’s standards. Maybe that was the whole point, that strange and different as that woman was, she just was a good caring mother after all.)
I’m also not sure I’m happy with her being spiteful to her grown kid (and the whole village by extension) just because he didn’t do a memorial service or didn’t ask what was basically a mirage for permission. Shouldn’t she just be happy that he grew up healthy and successful? And it wasn’t even that he forgot her or his village, he even came back expressly to give back to the village where he grew up, and he didn’t seem to have stopped thinking of her his whole life.
I did like the image of the bats protecting the apples though.

Some Illustrations



Apparently there was a flamenco performance based on the story?

found here:http://arte-y-solera.com/new/5472/


This video narration at least has it as やったのす, so it might be a typo, yes. On the other hand, apparently is an abbreviated form of です anyway.


In my experience Jisho is pretty good actually. Also, one can report errors to JMdict, the underlying data pool, so it’s getting better all the time.

I was also a bit worried initially whether this would throw us into the depths of Japanese discrimination from 100 years ago (which I think has not improved as much as in other countries anyways…) But luckily it was just the initial depiction that I perceived as somewhat off compared to today’s standards.

Spot on :woman_facepalming: :sob: It’s of course やったのす。


Oh well, life I guess :man_shrugging:

If anyone’s curious about 訝しい, I found this website with some explanations and example sentences: 「訝しい」とは?意味や使い方を解説します! | 意味解説
This blog has explanations of some other terms as well. Might be useful!

I forgot to mention this before, but there is a sentence in the text - 人々ひとびとあつまって、牛女うしおんな葬式そうしきして、墓地ぼちにうずめてやりました。

Perhaps your 先輩 will know this, but:

In Tobira “to be burried” is お墓に入る, which I think is a fairly polite and “normal” way to put it. 埋める sounds as if our 牛女 was literally “put” into the cemetery. I’m going by the other meanings of 埋める and 埋まる which deal more with objects.

Here’s the entry from a JP-JP dictionary and it specifically points to 物 as category of things that can be 埋める: 埋める(うずめる)とは? 意味・読み方・使い方をわかりやすく解説 - goo国語辞書

There is also 埋まる as “to overflow” and apparently that’s okay to use in reference to groups of people. The above native dictionary entry also mentions items and people that can 埋まる.


I was wondering about that too. At the start of the story it says


Unless I am misunderstanding this part, basically it means that she was given the 「牛女」because she was big and kind. The story also seems to imply that she was liked a lot, so at the first glance it doesn’t seem derogatory.

The next sentence does mention that the village children would make fun of her behind her back with the


but it didn’t seem to me that calling her was 「牛女」was exactly what they were using to mock her - it just says that they would say various unspecified things.

I guess I can see how you could associate a cow with kindness, despite how nowadays hardly anyone would like to be called that.


I don’t really have much to add about the story. The start indeed felt a bit uncomfortably close to prejudice and the rest was a fine fairy tale but not very thrilling.

I also found it not too hard to read (maybe it does get better over time :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:) but I did have two small questions.

The first one is about our old friend もの in the sentence that was already quoted by @2OC3aOdKgwSGlxfz above:

Even after reading a number of web pages about ものか, I still don’t understand how I should interpret だれがいったものか. Any suggested translations are welcome!

My other question is about a phrase in the part where the jobs that 牛女 does are described:


I just can’t figure out what the verb is here (is it かつ+が+したり, but then which meaning of かつ is meant? or is it something else?)…

I think so too. Jisho is very complete and often has entries and meanings that are hard to find elsewhere. The only real downside in my opinion is that it uses example sentences from tatoeba which (I’ve heard) are not always trustworthy and in any case don’t always illustrate the meanings that well. That is an area where the paid-for J-E dictionaries (like Wisdom and Genius) have the upper hand: they have many example sentences and they really illustrate how a word is used in different situations. I feel they give a much better idea of the nuances (both in how it is used in Japanese and in how the English translation should be interpreted). I also really like reading all the little Japanese explanations of English usage :sweat_smile:


A good hint is the たり ending which is the past-tense た + り, so the verb in this case should be 担がす … which doesn’t exist in jisho nor 大辞林, but at least my IME seems to know it :sweat_smile: Maybe it’s an outdated form of 担ぐ - Jisho.org ?

For the もの business, I can try to look into this tomorrow if nobody else has answered until then.


Thanks! My IME does not know it and that combined with being unable to find it in any dictionary meant that I didn’t even dare to suggest that it could be a conjugation of かつがす but yes, some form of 担ぐ makes perfect sense! (My leech comes back to haunt me again :sweat_smile:)


I also struggle with translating those ものか clauses, but hmm let me try:

大女でやさしいところから、she was a big woman and gentle so,
だれがいったものか whoever said it (“I wonder?”)
「牛女」と名づけたのであります。named her “cow woman”

Hot take: another typo? :joy:

I initially also thought it’s かつ+が+した+り, because nothing else would come to my mind, but literally nothing fits.


I think it may be the classical causative form of 担ぐ. Apparently it was formed by adding す or さす to the ない stem.


I listened to the audio version yesterday. Is this the first story that more or less has a happy ending?

And it’s all about 親孝行, huh? In a way this felt more like a story you’d see in a Grimm fairy tale collection or something.