The tale of the Woodcutters wife and the tongue-cut-sparrow


In our latest exploration of “The stories behind the art”, we tell an abridged version of the Tale of the Tongue Cut Sparrow. It is a popular Japanese story of kindness, humility, jealousy, rage, betrayal and, ultimately…karma.


We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.


There was once a kind woodcutter who one day whilst out working, found an injured sparrow. The kind-hearted man took the sparrow home to care for it. One day, the woodcutter went out to work and asked his wife to feed the bird while he was away.



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She did not. Out of hunger and desperation, the sparrow ate from the rice store and when the wife found out, she flew into a rage, cut out the birds tongue and banished it back to the mountains where it came from.


Later that day, the woodcutter returned and was saddened to hear what had happened. He set off to find his friend and ask for forgiveness and after a long journey, he met a group of sparrows who led him to his feathered companion. They sang and danced for the wood cutter and offered him a choice of two baskets as a reward for his kindness.



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As a humble man, he chose the smaller of the two and when he returned home, he opened it to discover it was full of treasure.


When his greedy and jealous wife learned of the existence of the other, larger basket she set off to claim it for herself. She stole the basket and impatiently opened it before she returned home to find it was full of venomous snakes. It scared her so much she fell down the mountain to her death.


Cloisonne ware


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