The Boy Who Drew Cats

by Lafcadio Hearn

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In The Boy Who Drew Cats, why didn't the boy return home after leaving the temple?

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In this Japanese folk tale, a boy who is the youngest of many siblings is deemed by his parents to be too small and frail for farming and is sent to a temple to study with Buddhist priests. This child happens to have a particular passion: drawing cats.

The boy does not apply himself to his studies at the temple but instead continues to focus on his passion for drawing cats. When the priests of the temple see that the boy is not cut out for their way of life but has a special skill and purpose as an artist, they tell him to go back home so that he can pursue his calling. One of them gives him a bit of parting advice: to avoid large places at night and to keep, instead, to small places.

The boy, however, is ashamed that he has been sent away and does not head home. He wanders away instead. Needing a place to shelter for the night, he finds an abandoned temple and draws cats on its walls. He has no idea that a monster, a goblin-rat, is the reason why there are no longer any priests in this place.

Heeding the advice he had received to keep to small places at night, the boy goes to sleep inside a cabinet he finds in the temple. He hears frightening noises during the night. In the morning, the boy leaves the cabinet to discover a dead goblin-rat on the floor and blood on the mouths of the cats he had drawn on the temple walls. He is recognized as a hero by the vilagers.

In an older, traditional version of the tale, the boy stays on to care for the temple. In an 1898 retelling of the story by Lafcadio Hearn, he eventually becomes a famous artist.

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In "The Boy Who Drew Cats," when the boy entered the temple, he did not see anyone. What could be the reason?

When the boy is thrown out of his own temple for drawing cats after he has been forbidden to do so, he travels to a big temple he has heard of twelve miles away to ask if the priests there will take him in as an acolyte.

When the boy gets to the temple at night, it is dusty and empty. The reason, though he does not know it, is that it is haunted by a goblin rat. Priests have gone into the temple and never been seen again, so everyone is now afraid to enter the temple.

The boy sees white screens and is happy because he can draw cats on them. This he does and then falls asleep, only to awake and find that the cats he drew killed the goblin rat.

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In "The Boy Who Drew Cats," when the boy entered the temple, he did not see anyone. What could be the reason?

When the boy enters the temple in the next town, after having been dismissed by the priest to whom his parents delivered him, he hopes that the priests there are willing to take him on as their acolyte. He does not know that a giant goblin rat has scared all of the priests away and made its home in the temple. Some warriors had gone into the temple to try to drive the rat away, but they were never seen again. Therefore, when the boy gets to the temple, he does not see anyone because all the priests have been driven away and because everyone else is too scared to enter the temple. It's a good thing that he follows the old priest's advice and finds somewhere small to sleep or else he might have been killed by the goblin rat when it returned.

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