Artist: Utagawa Yoshimori (歌川芳盛)

Print: The Old Story of the Tongue-cut Sparrow (Mukashi-banashi shita-kiri suzume - 昔ばなし舌切雀)

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Dates: 1864,created
Dimensions: 30.0 in,14.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Yoshimori giga (芳盛戯画 - on right sheet)
Yoshimori ga (芳盛画 - on center and left sheets)
Publisher: Kogaya Katsugorō (Marks 262 seal 17-006) - shown on two sheets only
Combined date-aratame censor's seal: 1864, 7th month

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Edo Tokyo Museum; Shizuoka Prefectural Central Library; National Diet Library; Database of Folklore Illustration;

Physical description:

A triptych illustrating the legendary folk story of 'Shitakiri suzume' - the Tongue-cut Sparrow. A greedy old woman chooses the heaviest chest, which she believes to be full of riches, but which turns out to be full of demons, goblins and spectral sparrows.

Version in collection of Kumon Institute of Education.

The Kumon Museum of Children's Ukiyo-e says of this print: " "Old-fashioned tongue-cutting sparrow" is a representative story of old tales, but the development of the story varies depending on the region and the times. However, at the end, a treasure comes out from the light kudzu basket that the kind grandfather gave to the sparrow. On the other hand, a youkai appears from the heavy kudzu basket given by the greedy old lady and attacks the old lady. It is a story of animal welfare and moral discipline."


Illustrated in black and white in Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections: Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Brussels, vol. 9, Kodansha, 1989, p. 203, #125.


Here is the description given by Christie's auction house: "The Tongue-Cut Sparrow, is a story about an unpleasant old woman who was doing her washing when a sparrow that belonged to her gentle and pleasant husband ate some of her laundry starch. The angry old lady cut off the bird’s tongue and chased it away. Saddened by the loss of his sparrow, the husband set off to find the it. He eventually found its house where he was warmly received by the sparrow and his family. As an omiyage, the sparrow offered two wicker baskets of different sizes. The unselfish husband accepted the smaller basket and went home, whereupon gold and silver treasure appeared in the basket. In her greed, the nasty old lady wanted more and therefore set off to the sparrow’s house and accepted the large basket. However, when she took the lid off, a troop of demons appeared from inside and killed her."


There is another copy in the Muzeum Sztuki i Techniki Japońskiej Manggha in Krakow.