The Boy Who Drew Cats

by Lafcadio Hearn

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The story is written in the simple style that characterizes most fairy tales or folktales. There is not an abundance of description or detail; even the characters are nameless. As a result of this, the reader is free to focus on the message of the tale. Given the prevalence of sentient animals in the story, we could even call it a fable: a short story that conveys a moral and usually has animal characters. However, there is also a magical element to the story, especially with the cats the boy has drawn which come to life to kill the goblin-rat.

But what is the moral of this fable? The boy is different from all of his brothers and sisters, but rather than try to eliminate or ignore his difference, his parents actually recognize and embrace it, seeking to find him a more suitable path in life.

The boy also comes from a poor family in a small village of farmers. Given his humble and inauspicious beginnings, it hardly seems likely that he is destined for greatness. So many elements could have quashed his talent or denied his differences—his parents, the priest, the family's poverty, even the boy himself, who does not want to fail or disappoint his mother and father—yet everyone seems to accept him for who he is. In the end, he becomes a famous artist whose work is shown all over Japan as well as to people who come to the country to visit.

We see, then, how everyone has a contribution to make; everyone—whether they are wealthy or poor and whether they meet or defy expectations—should be valued and accepted for who they are, because unique talents are worth pursuing. In this case, the boy's artistic genius not only results in the death of the goblin-rat—a monster that not even warriors could slay—but the saving of his own life and his successful career.

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