Last Reviewed on August 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 386
The poor farmer and his wife in this little Japanese village have such a large family that they have difficulty feeding all of their children. The children quickly learn to help around the farm or the house, but the youngest child, the little boy of the title, is rather weak and small, and he is not cut out for physical labor.
So his parents thought it would be better for him to become a priest than to become a farmer.
His parents, despite their hardship, recognize that their youngest son needs a different life than their older children. They do not attempt to force him into a life that is inappropriate for him, something that might ultimately damage him physically or emotionally. They accept his differences and try to help him find a different profession for which he is better suited.
The priest to whom they bring their little boy is very impressed by the child's cleverness and intelligence. However, it does not take him long to realize that the boy is not suited for the priesthood, because he prefers drawing cats to studying. The boy
had what is called "the genius of an artist," and just for that reason he was not quite fit to be an acolyte; a good acolyte should study books.
Genius of a different sort is in the boy's nature, and his talent and genius are not only recognized, but also accepted by the authority figures in his life. Their acceptance eventually helps him become a great artist. When the priest sends the boy on his way, he says,
You will never make a good priest, but perhaps you will become a great artist. Now let me give you a last piece of advice, and be sure you never forget it. Avoid large places at night; keep to small!
The priest's sage advice, as well as the boy's respectful remembrance of it (even though he does not understand it), keeps the boy safe when he enters the temple that has been taken over by the goblin-rat. Between the boy's obedience and his talent, he manages both to survive the rat and to create the thing that can defeat it. This makes it seem as though the qualities of obedience and staying true to oneself are of the utmost importance in life.
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