Know Your Picture Characters Entry #37

January 3rd, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 雁 B. 雉鳩 C. 卿 D. 黒歌鳥 E. 鼓手 F. 小間使い G. 淑女

H. 白鳥 I. 笛吹 J. 雌鶏 K. 山鶉 L. 指輪

And now, after having delayed a week in order to allow everyone to become thoroughly sick of Christmas stuff, we present the answers to this “Twelve Days of Christmas”-themed puzzle (hopefully everyone figured that part out).  This challenge would be somewhat intimidating even to a long-term student of Japanese like me, simply because of the sheer quantity of birds.  A full half of the types of things given in the song are birds.  You’ve got birds staring at you from every direction.  It’s just like that Alfred Hitchcock movie with all those birds in it.  I think it was called Psycho or something like that.

Thus, the intelligent thing to do is to avoid our fine, feathered friends altogether, which is why the smart money in the early running should have been on Theoman, who is more interested in girls than he is in fowl (and who can blame him?)  He correctly spotted the nine ladies dancing (NOTE: the kanji are only for the most basic parts of the gifts, without the descriptors, i.e. “ladies,” “lords,” “pipers,” etc.) as G.  This means that A Fan’s guess that G was lords a-leaping is incorrect, which is too bad, because he seemed so sure about it for some reason.  The lords are hanging out at C, wedged in between the pair of turtledoves (B) and the quartet of colly birds (D).  Yes, that’s right, I said “colly birds,” which is what there were originally four of in the song (it’s another word for blackbird). Look it up.

We will forgive Shirley for being busy with travel preparations, which meant that she only had enough time to make five times as many guesses as anyone else did.  Contrary to typical KYPC results, however, the shotgun method failed to yield a correct answer.  Overall she was pretty good at identifying which ones were birds and which weren’t, but the specification of species eluded her.  To be fair, if I was trying to do this without a dictionary, I would probably have similar results.  A is our goose a-laying and H our swan a-swimming.  C, as has already been explained, is our wacky lords, who probably told everyone that they were only smoking pipe tobacco, and hey, who’s going to argue with a lord?  Those stuck-up foreign hens can be found at J, and F is our milking maid.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: “Hey, the characters in F do mean ‘maid,’ but it’s a maid like a housemaid, not a milkmaid!”  And you are correct (I think).  But where is it said that it has to be a milkmaid?  All the song says is “maids a-milking.”  It is not specific as to the type of maid.  This is Christmas time, remember.  Sometimes crazy things happen.  Just look at those lords.  How often do you see lords leap?

Dragon came at this puzzle from an interesting angle, attempting to read hidden meanings into my every statement.  As a matter of fact, she was correct: the things are listed in alphabetical order.  Unfortunately for her, it is the Japanese alphabetical order (which is a misnomer, since it has nothing to do with the English alphabet), and therefore it did not help her.  But it was a good thought nonetheless.

Let’s see, what’s left . . . people seem to have mostly ignored the musicians.  E is the drummer and I the piper–at least they have the sense to be doing things that suit them.  L is the ring, significant in that it is just about the only item on the list that a sane person would give as a gift.  And, last but not least, our most famous pear tree-dweller is sitting there at K.

A new year is upon us, a time for looking ahead to the future.  Ah, forget the future.  Let’s look at the past instead.  Here comes the second official Periods of Japanese History Quiz!  Your options this time are the Yayoi Period (300 BC-250 AD), the Tomb Period (250-538), the Asuka Period (538-710), the Northern and Southern Courts Period (1336-1392), the Warring States (or “Country at War”) Period (1467-1573), and the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568-1603).  I’d like Theoman to look for Asuka, because . . . because I said so, that’s why.  You may notice that some of these overlap with times covered in the previous quiz; several of them are smaller divisions sometimes identified within a larger historical era, such as the Muromachi.  And sometimes, looking back at things centuries later, historians can’t always decide exactly in which year one period ended and another began.

A. 飛鳥 B. 安土桃山 C. 古墳 D. 戦国 E. 南北朝 F. 弥生

Posted in Know Your Picture Characters | 4 Comments »

4 Responses

  1. A Fan Says:

    E must be the Azuchi-Momoyama Period, because it looks just like the position of the warring armies immediately prior to the Battle of Sekigahara, the key event of that time period (Go Tokugawa! Establish that enduring Shogunate!)

  2. TheomanZero Says:

    I can figure out a few of these, and it seems to me that “Asuka” should be fairly simple. Therefore, I’m going with C.

  3. Trying to Get Caught Up (TGCU) (a constant condition in my life) Says:

    I have no idea what any of these are–even after doing some boning up on earlier ones (but never having had the nerve to post)–so I am going to guess that C is the Warring States period because it looks like two warriors.

  4. Shirley Says:

    I expect the most primitive time period to be the most simple and C, is certainly the simplest of the kanji, so I am calling that the Yayoi period. There is something in D. that sure looks like a tomb, so I call D. the Tomb period. There is even a lonely cadaver laid out in it, God rest his or her ancient soul. Of course, he or she may feel two and a half thousand years is sufficient rest for now. E. has two similar and yet different characters separated by something. Shouldn’t that be the Northern and Southern Courts separated by geography?

    I tend to guess at several because I always feel that I need all the help I can get in these puzzles, so I try to get an extra shot or two for better odds.

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