The Tongue-Cut Sparrow
by A. B. Mitford
Tales of Old Japan
Once upon a time there lived a little
old man and
a little old woman. The little old man had a kind
heart, and he kept a young sparrow, which he
cared for tenderly. Every morning it used to sing
at the door of his house.
Now, the little old woman was a cross old thing,
and one day when she was going to starch her
linen, the sparrow pecked at her paste. Then she
flew into a great rage and cut the sparrow's tongue
and let the bird fly away.
When the little old man came home from the
hills, where he had been chopping wood, he found
the sparrow gone.
"Where is my little sparrow?" asked he.
"It pecked at my starching-paste," answered
the little old woman, "so I cut its evil tongue and
let it fly away."
"Alas! Alas!" cried the little old man. "Poor
thing! Poor thing! Poor little tongue-cut sparrow!
Where is your home now?"
And then he wandered far and wide
seeking his pet and crying,
"Mr. Sparrow, Mr. Sparrow, where are you
And he wandered on and on, over mountain
and valley, and dale and river, until one day at
the foot of a certain mountain he met the lost bird.
The little old man was filled with joy and the
sparrow welcomed him with its sweetest song.
It led the little old man to its nest-house,
introduced him to its wife and small sparrows, and
before him all sorts of good things to eat and
"Please partake of our humble
fare," sang the sparrow, "poor as it is, you are welcome."
"What a polite sparrow," answered the little
old man, and he stayed for a long time as the
bird's guest. At last one day the little old man
said that he must take his leave and return home.
"Wait a bit," said the sparrow.
And it went into the house and brought out
two wicker baskets. One was very heavy and the
"Take the one you wish," said the sparrow,
"and good fortune go with you."
"I am very feeble," answered the little old man,
"so I will take the light one."
He thanked the sparrow, and, shouldering the
basket, said good-bye. Then he trudged off
leaving the sparrow family sad and lonely.
When he reached home the little
old woman was very angry, and began to scold him, saying,
"Well, and pray where have you been all these
days? A pretty thing, indeed, for you to be
gadding about like this!"
"Oh," he replied, "I have been on a visit to the
tongue-cut sparrow, and when I came away it
gave me this wicker basket as a parting gift."
Then they opened the basket to see what was
inside, and lo and behold! it was full of gold,
silver, and other precious things!
The little old woman was as greedy as she was
cross, and when she saw all the riches spread
before her, she could not contain herself for joy.
"Ho! Ho!" cried she. "Now I'll go and call on
the sparrow, and get a pretty present, too!"
She asked the old man the way to the sparrow's
house and set forth on her journey. And she
wandered on and on over mountain and valley,
and dale and river, until at last she saw the
"Well met, well met, Mr. Sparrow," cried she.
"I have been looking forward with much pleasure
to seeing you." And then she tried to flatter it
with soft, sweet words.
So the bird had to invite her to its nest-house,
but it did not feast her nor say anything about a
parting gift. At last the little old woman had to
go, and she asked for something to carry with her
to remember the visit by. The sparrow, as before,
brought out two wicker baskets. One was very
heavy and the other light.
The greedy little old woman, choosing the
heavy one, carried it off with her.
She hurried home as fast as she was able, and
closing her doors and windows so that no one
might see, opened the basket. And, lo and behold!
out jumped all sorts of wicked hobgoblins
and imps, and they scratched and pinched her to
As for the little old man he adopted a son, and
his family grew rich and prosperous.