The Boy Who Drew Cats

by Lafcadio Hearn

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 369

The Boy

The main character of this story is an unnamed little boy who is captivated by drawing cats. He is the youngest child of a poor farmer and his wife who have trouble feeding all of their children. The other children can help around the farm, but this little boy is of a weak constitution—though he is very smart and clever—so he is not well-suited to farm labor. As a result, his parents take him to the village priest to ask him if he would be willing to take the boy on as an apprentice. Because the boy cannot stop drawing cats, however, the priest eventually tells him that he is not cut out for the priesthood either and that he should become an artist instead.

The boy leaves to find another temple because he does not want to go home and disappoint his parents. This next temple, however, has been terrorized by a giant goblin-rat for some time, though the boy does not know this. Alone in the temple, the boy draws cats on the screens, and those cats come to life and kill the huge goblin-rat as the boy sleeps, hidden in a small crawlspace. No one has tried to change the boy from the artist that he has proven himself to be, and with his talent, he has ended up solving a problem that not even a group of warriors could handle.

The Priest

The priest in the boy's village temple is the only significant character in the story other than the boy. The boy is so clever and impresses the priest so much that the priest is willing to take him in and educate him. Though the boy is a good student, the priest is wise enough to realize that he will not make a good priest but ought to be an artist instead. He even gives the boy some very valuable advice—that it is not safe to make himself vulnerable by staying in large, open areas at night—that ends up saving his life. The sagacious priest never tries to change the boy but encourages him to follow his talent and passion, and this results in a happy accident that saves lives.

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