‘The Mountain that Ate People’ is a Japanese folk story about a feudal lord and the impact of his decree on his people. The highlight of this story is a wise woman who answers and solves all the puzzles put forward by the overlord. A summary and solutions to the book exercises re given here.
Chapter: The Mountain that Ate People
Video: The Mountain that Ate People
Summary: The Mountain that Ate People
A Japanese feudal lord decided that every person older than sixty-one was useless and needed to be disposed of. He issued a decree under the threat of severe punishment that everyone had to leave their family members over that age in the dangerous forests of a high mountain near the city. One farmer, who loved his mother dearly, was absolutely distraught when his mother turned sixty-one. The mother persuaded him to take her away anyway, but halfway through the journey, the farmer turned back and hid her in a small room under the ground. Two years thence, the feudal lord was overrun by a neighbouring overlord. The former pleaded for mercy
for his people. The overlord set him a riddle to solve as the condition for his clemency. However, it was too tricky for the feudal lord and he proclaimed that anyone in the land who could solve it would be rewarded. The farmer’s mother solved it easily, winning the reward for her son and saving the lives of the people. The overlord then repeated the same exercise twice with the same result. The final time around, the feudal lord grew suspicious of the farmer and asked him how he found the answers to the riddles. This time, the farmer decided to confess to the truth. On learning about the woman’s sagacity, the lord withdrew the cruel decree
Word-Meanings: The Mountain that Ate People
feudal – Person owning a lot of land
nuisance – very annoying or causing trouble
utterly – almost completely
decree – an official order from the ruling government
severe – very bad or serious
at the mercy of – completely in the control of the person who can harm
terrified – afraid and, in fear
jubilant – extremely happy
foliage – the leaves of a plant
dismal – gloomy and hopeless
gladly – happily
hardships – difficulties of life
dreadful – dangerous and threatening
dumbfounded – unable to speak because of some surprise
proclamation – an official announcement in public
intact – not harmed or damaged and almost in the original shape
ransack – to steal by causing damage to things around
harass – to make someone’s life unpleasant
petrified – become stone like, very frightened
quack – shake and vibrate
Solutions to Book Exercises
Exercise A(Comprehension) : Answers
1. The people took their parents to the dense forests on the high mountain near the city, and left them in the cold and rain, at the mercy of wild animals.
2. Since she was unable to go up by herself, the farmer’s mother was taken by the farmer on his back as he climbed the mountain.
3. The mother was busy breaking twigs and throwing them down so that her son could follow the trail and find his way back home.
4. One day, the mighty overlord of the neighbouring state, came thundering with his army and horses, and waged war against the feudal lord, defeating him.
5. The victorious over lord told the feudal lord that if he could solve correctly the problems he set for him, he would spare the lives of his subjects.
6. The feudal lord revoked his degree because he realised that the old are wise and should be valued.
Exercise B : Answers
- a. There were very few old people left because they had been left by their families on the mountainside to die.
b. ‘Soon’ emphasises how complete the feudal lord’s tyranny was.
c. The feudal lord was jubilant because he thought that now his state would surely prosper as the people in it were young and energetic, and there were no aged folk to hinder and trouble them.
- a. The farmer’s mother said this to her son.
b. He was carrying her to her death and she was only thinking of his welfare and how he would get back home safely.
c. The speaker thinks it is perfectly natural for her, a mother, to always think of her son’s wellbeing.
- a. ‘Me’ is the feudal overlord and ‘you’ is the farmer.
b. The speaker is asking about the help the farmer had in getting the right answers.
c. The listener’s mother helped him in this situation
Exercise C : Answers
- The mountain got the name because the old people who were left there often met their deaths at the hands of wild animals.
- The son defied the order because he did not want to see his mother die. He realised how much she loved him and he wanted to save her life. This tells us that he had a great love for her, as well as strength of character.
- He sent a proclamation that anyone who could answer the neighbouring overlord’s questions would be rewarded handsomely.
- The first question was how to burn a bundle of a thousand strings to ashes and yet, keep the bundle intact. The farmer’s mother said that the bundle had to be soaked in seawater and dried out before burning.
- The overlord wanted a drum that could play by itself. The farmer’s mother suggested that they take an ordinary drum and put some bees in it. They would move inside the drum and make it seem like the drum was playing itself.
- He realised that the farmer had done the right thing by saving his mother. He took back the decree.
- He learnt that the old can be wise and their wisdom must be valued.
- Subjective question. Any logically argued answer is acceptable.
- To have courage of conviction means to stand up for what one believes in, even if it might mean having to face hardships or trouble. In the story, the farmer displays this quality when he decides to defy the feudal lord’s decree to desert his mother on the mountainside. In doing the morally upright thing, he chose to run the risk of severe punishment.
- Subjective question. Any logically argued answer is acceptable.
A. 1. immoral 2. immobile 3. uninformed 4. unintentional
- immoveable 6. impersonal 7. immodest 8. unimportant
B. happily; heartily; stealthily; severely; dearly; hardly; terribly; quickly; fearfully; correctly; silently; extremely;
really; folly; courageously; honestly; surely; merrily; suddenly; only; quietly; perfectly; funnily; shabbily; slowly
- cruel: quality 2. that: demonstrative
- dismal: quality 4. stony: quality
- narrow: quality; seven: number 6. many: quantity; correct: quality
- lots: quantity; lovely: quality 8. ordinary: quality; some: quantity
- There is an old blue German wooden radio with my uncle.
- The bear has beautiful long brown fur.
- The procession contained twenty-four massive handmade floats.
- Gayathri has an ill-tempered tiny orange cat.
- Neel just bought a smart brown woollen coat.