The Boy Who Drew Cats by Margaret Hodges
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I learned about this Japanese folktale from the book Wild Things by Clay Carmichael. This is a story about a Japanese boy who is the youngest boy in his large family. Because he isn’t physically built for farm work like the rest of his family, his parents decide to have him apprentice to the town’s priest so that he might become a priest one day.
However, the boy has an odd desire to draw cats all of the time. When he’s at the temple, he draws cats everywhere—enough to make the priest tell him that he would be better off as an artist—so he gets sent away. Before the boy leaves, the priest tells him to remember to not sleep in big spaces—to only sleep in small spaces. The boy doesn’t understand, but doesn’t ask the priest to clarify.
Rather than go home and shame his family, the boy decides to go to the temple in the next town. When he arrives, it appears as though no one is there. While waiting for someone to arrive so that he could ask to be apprenticed to one of them, he finds some ink and draws cats all over. When it gets late and the boy grows tired, he remembers the priest’s words and decides to sleep in a small cabinet.
During the night, the boy wakes to the awful sounds of screaming and fighting. Terrified, he stays still in his cabinet and doesn’t even peek through the crack until daytime. When finally does, he sees the dead and mutilated body of some sort of huge goblin. The boy wonders who could have killed this evil being until he looks around and sees that all of the mouths of the cats he had drawn are red with blood.
He then understood the priest’s advice…and was able to grow up to be a famous artist!
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