• The Old Story of the Tongue-cut Sparrow (<i>Mukashi-banashi shita-kiri suzume</i> - 昔ばなし舌切雀)
The Old Story of the Tongue-cut Sparrow (<i>Mukashi-banashi shita-kiri suzume</i> - 昔ばなし舌切雀)
The Old Story of the Tongue-cut Sparrow (<i>Mukashi-banashi shita-kiri suzume</i> - 昔ばなし舌切雀)
The Old Story of the Tongue-cut Sparrow (<i>Mukashi-banashi shita-kiri suzume</i> - 昔ばなし舌切雀)

Utagawa Yoshimori (歌川芳盛) (artist early 1830s - early 1880s)

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


30 in x 14 in (Overall dimensions) 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
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Shizuoka Prefectural Central Library
National Diet Library
Database of Folklore Illustration
Royal Museums of Art and History, Belgium (via Cultural Japan) - right-hand panel only - yellow ground edition
Edo-Tokyo Museum 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.

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."



1) 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.

2) in color in Japanese Yōkai and Other Supernatural Beings: Authentic Paintings and Prints of 100 Ghosts, Demons, Monsters and Magicians by Andreas Marks, Tuttle Publishing, 2023, pp. 118-119. .


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 of this triptych in the Muzeum Sztuki i Techniki Japońskiej Manggha in Krakow.
Kogaya Katsugorō (古賀屋勝五郎) (publisher)
Yūrei-zu (幽霊図 - ghosts demons monsters and spirits) (genre)
comic prints (giga - 戯画 / kyōga - 狂画) (genre)