Many moons ago, in a small village in Japan lived two farmers: an old man and his wife. The old man was a kindhearted, hardworking fellow, but his wife was often angry and she liked to complain.
The old man kept a young sparrow, which he tenderly took care of. But one day, the wife caught the sparrow pecking at some starch she was going to use for the laundry. She flew into a rage and cut the bird’s tongue out with a pair of scissors. The poor little bird, bleeding from its mouth, flew away into the hills.
When the old man found out what had happened, he was reduced to tears. He wandered the hills looking for his beloved sparrow, but he couldn’t find him.
Years later, the man eventually ran into his old friend, the sparrow, and they both greeted each other happily. The sparrow led the old man back to his home, thanked him for his past kindness, and treated him to food and drink. The sparrow’s wife played the guitar, while Mr. Sparrow danced with his daughters. The old man was on cloud nine, and felt like a youth again.
It was getting late and the old man said it was time for him to go home. The sparrow brought out two wicker baskets as a goodbye gift. He asked, “Will you take the heavy one or the light one?”
The old man replied, “I’m old and weak, so give me the light one. It will be easier to carry.”
When he got home, his wife was furious. “Where have you been all day? There is work to be done!” she cried. The old man answered, “I visited the sparrows, and as a gift, they gave me this wicker basket.”
They opened the basket to see what was inside, and it was full of gold and silver. The wife’s scowl turned to a greedy smile. “I think I’ll go and get my own present from the sparrows.” she exclaimed.
The next morning, she set off on the road to the sparrow’s home.
As before, the sparrow brought out two baskets and asked, “Will you take the heavy one or the light one?” Thinking the heavy one would have more gold, the greedy woman replied, “I’ll take the heavy one.”
She started home with the heavy basket on her back, with the sparrows laughing at her as she went. When she got home and opened the basket to see what was inside, horrible creatures burst forth. They stung her, bit her, and tore her to pieces.
The good man buried his wife, adopted a son, and lived the rest of his days at ease with his wealth.
(based on a Japanese folktale called The Cut Tongue Sparrow)