A young acolyte fond of drawing cats spends the night in an abandoned temple. “The Boy Who Drew Cats” is a classically spooky tale from Japan. This version was translated by Lafcadio Hearn.
Hearn is an interesting translator. His early life was very sad, with abandonment by his parents and a tumultuous adult life. He traveled to Japan at 40 years old in 1890 and remained there for the rest of his life. The writer only lived to be 54, but is considered in some circles as a Japanese writer, despite his European origins. He seems to have found a home in Japan and is credited with providing a view into a relatively unknown world to the United States in the late 19th Century.
In Japanese, the original folktale is called “Eneko to Nezumi”, Picture-cats and the rat. It’s interesting that originally, the acolyte takes over the temple at the end of the story, but Hearn has changed the ending to have him live out his dreams, instead. Perhaps the author saw himself a bit in the little boy who felt so very alone, and wanted the happiest ending possible.