Cat Folk-lore(猫のフォークロア)


Cat Folk-lore

(11S. xii. 183, 244, 286, 330, 369, 389, 428, 468; 125. i. 15)
125. i, Mar.25, 1916

Probably Mr. Quarrell will find his question (11S. xii. 369) solved in G. J. Romanes's 'Animal Intelligence’, 1881, wherein, if my memory deceives me not, the author has essayed to ascribe to her excessive maternal affection the cat's devouring her little ones sometimes when they happen to be too frequently handled by on-lookers.

Out of Mr. Ackermann's five queries I can answer the following four:-

1. In this part it is a common belief that as soon as a young cat is taken in its new master's dwelling, it would invariably disappear thence and return to its native house. The best way of preventing this is to convey it in a sack via a bridge after turning round with it three times thereon, which is said to throw its sense of direction into irrecoverable confusion.

3. The Japanese say nothing about the cat's eating flies, whereas some of them opine they would be much invigorated by eating ants, which sometimes crowd upon their food.

4. In 'The Encyclopaedia Britannica,' 11th ed., vol. v. p. 489, we are told:-
“In one direction the tabby shows a tendency to melanism ... while in the other direction there is an equally marked tendency to albinism. ... A third colour-phase, the 'erythristic' or red, is represented by the sandy cat, the female of which takes the form of the 'tortoise-shell,' characterized, curiously enough, by the colour being a blend of black, white, and sandy ..."

Thus far the European tortoise-shell cats would seem all to be females. But in Japan the males of this colour are said to exist, though exceedingly seldom. Formerly, traditions say, all wealthy sea-captains vied with one another to procure one, even from one to three thousand ryôs of gold being offered for it. So exorbitant a price did it fetch because its ascent of its own accord to the main mast's top was believed to portend a stormy weather unerringly. The great novelist Saikwaku, in his 'Shin Kashôki,' 1688, tom. iii. ch. iii., tells how a lord of Echigo incurred a serious expenditure and general clamour by adopting an idle boon companion's counsel and compelling his subjects to search for a tortoise-shell tom throughout the region:-
"It proved bootless, all people were exceedingly distressed, and consequently the search was stopped, its original projector being prohibited from approaching the lord. Thus everybody was convincing himself that there existed no male tortoise-shell cat, when suddenly a man found one and presented it to the lord.”

5. If I remember aright, Charles Darwin, in his ‘Origin of Species' or 'Descent of Man,' adduced as a very inexplicable example of the contingent associations of animal traits the fact of all white cats with blue eyes being deaf. Whether recorded by others or not, during my eight years' stay in England (1892–1900) I repeatedly observed another such association in a peculiar breed of cat, which was not rare in London, but does not occur in Japan. It was dull grey, closely spotted with rather indistinct dark livid marks, had its chin somewhat protruded and its lower teeth grown a little before the upper, and uttered a very characteristic murmur whenever called from its slumber. I am desirous of being told what English name is applied to this breed.

That the Japanese since olden times considered the cat as a very peculiar animal is borne out in the following passages:-
"The cat differs from all other mammals in these nine points. First, it cleanses its face when it feels contentedly. Secondly, it purrs to express gladness. Thirdly, it sharpens its claws when full of valour. Fourthly, its female nurses the kittens of any other females with a perfectly good will. Fifthly, its pupils change their shapes according to the hours of the day. Sixthly, its nose is always cool at the tip. Seventhly, it rejoices when one strokes its throat. Eighthly, it perishes in a place quite out of human sight, as if it wills not to let man see its dying look, which is nusually ugly. Ninthly, it is very passionately fond of the Matatabi-not only does it eat it, but also it rubs its body with the roots, stems, and leaves of the plant, well knowing it is its superlative panacea.”-Kaibara, 'Yamato Honzô,'1708, tom. xvi.

The Matatabi (Actinidia polygama) is a climbing shrub of the order Ternstroemiaceoe, which also comprises the tea-plant and Camellia japonica. As its pentapetalous flowers bear a certain resemblance to those of the celebrated Japanese plum (Prunus Mume), its blootning branches, intentionally deprived of the leaves, are often used in the art of flower arrangement and called summer Mume. Its fruit resembles the jujube, but with acrid taste, and is salted and eaten by mountaineers. Besides, the plant produces a sort of gall flattish in form, and tasting more acrid than the fruit. It is dried and sold by druggists under the name of Matatabi. The cat is so fond of it that a widespread proverb compares one's dotingness to the cat and Matatabi. When it is given the gall, it behaves as if suddenly possessed-caressing and rolling it about before its tasting, and drivelling and ejaculating during its eating. All its distempers, no matter how serious, are cured thereby. Moreover, the burning of the Matatabi is held to be the surest means of recalling a stray cat. It appears from the following quotation that a similar plant occurs in Ceylon:-
"In connexion with cats, a Singhalese gentleman has described to me a plant in Ceylon, called Cuppa-may-niya by the natives; by which, he says, cats are so enchanted, that they play with it as they would with a captured mouse; throwing it into the air, watching it till it falls, and crouching to see if it will move. It would be worth inquiring into the truth of this; and the explanation of the attraction,”—Tennent, 'Sketches of the Natural History of Ceylon,' 1861, p. 32, note.

I shall close this reply by noting that here we have an old usage of feasting a cat that has attained the bodily weight of one kwan (=8.281 lb.). Some folks still cling to the superstition that cats, when grown very old, acquire a demoniac power and do various mischiefs. Hence one uses to tell it how long he would like to keep it when he gets a cat in his house; when the term draws near its expiration, it is said to disappear on its own accord.



おそらくクアレル氏は、G. J. Romanesの『Animal Intelligence』(1881年)で自分の疑問(11S. xii. 369)が解決されていることに気づくだろう。もし私の記憶が私を欺いていないならば、著者は猫は時々、彼女の小さな子供らがあまりにも頻繁に野次馬に扱われることが起こると、彼女の過剰な母性の愛情のために、子供らをむさぼり食うとエッセイを書いています。


1. この地域では、若い猫は新しい主人の家に連れてこられるとすぐに、必ずそこから姿を消して元の家に戻ってしまうというのが通説である。これを防ぐ最善の方法は、袋に入れて橋を渡り、その上で3度回った後に運ぶことで、猫の方向感覚が取り返しのつかない混乱に陥ると言われている。

3. 日本人は猫がハエを食べることについては何も言わないが、猫は時々餌に群がるアリを食べると元気になるという意見もある。

4. 'The Encyclopaedia Britannica' 11th ed. vol. v. p. 489には、次のように書かれています。
"一方では、タブビーはメラニズムの傾向を示している......一方で、他方ではアルビニズムの傾向が同様に顕著である。... 第三の色相、'エリスリスリスティック'または赤は、砂猫によって表され、そのうちのメスは、'亀の甲羅'の形を取り、特徴的な、不思議なことに、色が黒、白、砂のブレンドであることによって、十分に...."


5. 私の記憶が正しければ、チャールズ・ダーウィンは彼の『種の起源』または『人間の降臨』の中で、動物の形質の偶発的な関連付けの非常に不可解な例として、青い目の白猫はすべて耳が聞こえないという事実を挙げています。他の人が記録したかどうかにかかわらず、私は8年間のイギリス滞在(1892年から1900年)の間に、ロンドンでは珍しくないが、日本では見られない特殊な猫の品種で、このような関連性を繰り返し観察した。鈍い灰色で、斑点が多く、黒っぽい斑点があり、あごがやや突き出ていて、下の歯が上の歯より少し前に生えていて、まどろみから呼ばれると、とても特徴的な鳴き声を発していた。私は、この品種に適用される英語名を教えていただきたいと思っている。

"猫は他のすべての哺乳類とは、以下の9つの点で異なる。第一に嬉しいと思ったら顔を清める。第二に、嬉しさを表すために鳴く。第三に、勇猛さに満ちているときには、その爪を鋭くする。第四に、そのメスは他のメスの子猫を善意で育てる。第五に、その瞳孔は一日の時間によって形を変える。第六に、その鼻は常に先端が冷たい。第七に、喉を撫でると喜ぶ。第八に、人の目に触れないところで死んでしまうのは、まるで人間にその死にゆく姿を見せたくないかのようである。第九に、マタタビがとても好きで、マタタビを食べるだけでなく、マタタビの根や茎や葉で体をこすり、それが最高の万能薬であることをよく知っている" -貝原『大和本草』(1708年)第十六号。

"猫に関連して、あるシンガル人の紳士がセイロンにある植物について説明してくれた。原住民にはCuppa-may-niyaと呼ばれている。猫はこれに魅せられて、捕獲したネズミと遊ぶように、空中に放り投げたり、落ちるまで見張ったり、動くかどうかしゃがん見ていたりするそうだ。これの真偽と、猫が魅了される理由を確かめる価値があるだろう" Tennent, 'Sketches of the Natural History of the Ceylon’, 1861, p. 32, note.


田辺、紀伊、日本  南方熊楠

Translated with (free version) 一部、私が修正

「Plague in China」は『南方熊楠全集 第10巻 』に所収、邦訳は『南方熊楠英文論考「ノーツ・アンド・クエリーズ」誌篇』

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