Japanese Tales Questions and Answers

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Explain the theme of the "The Sparrow with the Split Tongue."

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The dominant theme of this folktale is that of kindness being rewarded with kindness, or, perhaps more specifically, reciprocity. After the old lady cuts the sparrow's tongue for pecking at the paste she had left out, her husband is outraged, and goes to pay the bird and his family a visit. The sparrow is so moved by his concern that he gives him a basket full of fabulous riches. When the old lady goes to see the sparrow, she receives a basket full of "hobgoblins and elves" that proceeded to torment her. She is repaid for her cruelty, and even more so for her greed in visiting the sparrow after her husband. 

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