Friday, 1 August 2008
Shitakiri Susume (The Sparrow Whose Tongue Was Cut Out)
This image is my interpretation of a nishiki-e print by Utagawa Yoshimori from 1864 and is based on an old Japanese fairy tale. It depicts the story of a old man and his mean old wife. The old man befriends a wounded little sparrow and nurses the bird back to health. One day the old man goes out and his jealous wife gets angry and cuts the sparrow's tongue out. The bird flies back to his parents and when the old man returns and finds out what his wife has done he travels to find the bird and beg forgiveness for his wife's cruelty. Once the old man finds the sparrow he apologises and they make him dinner. Then the sparrow offers the old man two trunks, one large and one small. "I'm very old, so I am not strong. I will take the small trunk". The old man takes the small trunk and when he returns home and opens it, it is full of treasure. The old lady curses her husband for not picking the biggest trunk and goes in search of the sparrow. When she finds the sparrow they make her dinner. "I must be going now. Bring me my treasure" said the old lady. She chooses the big trunk and says "I'm also old, but I'm strong". She returns home with the trunk and her spite is justly punished because demons and ghosts pour out of the trunk when she opens it. Each one more terrifying than the last, forcing the old lady to repent her ways and be kind.