I am reading the book of Kadono Eiko, Kiki's Delivery Service (魔女の宅急便) and I do not understand the meaning of the word "くわえる" in the following sentence:


Jisho and Kenkyuusha both give two translations: 1.to add up, 2.to hold in one's mouth. Does the sentence means that Jiji put his forelegs onto the door of the cage? Or did he put the door into his mouth? Or his forelegs into his mouth?

Context is as follows: Kiki (a young witch) and Jiji (her cat) are flying together on a broom. On the broom they hung a bird's cage which they want to deliver to a certain "わんぱくぼうず". In the cage there is a stuffed toy cat similar to Jiji. Jiji likes the toy and opens the cage causing the toy to drop out.


1 Answer 1


The clue to how to understand the main verb here is in the noun 口 and the use of the particle に (here meaning into). Something is being placed in Jiji's mouth. I would guess that it's Jiji's forepaws.


He slowly drew in his paws, and held them in his mouth.

The effect would seem to be "oops, I screwed up!"

Something to that effect.

Regarding figuring out what was placed in the mouth, first consider what the topic of the sentence is: Jiji. Now, if no topic were specified in this sentence, the topic of a previous sentence would still be in effect. So for example, if the topic had just been the door, then it might be possible that it was the door which was in Jiji's mouth. (But I think that would be a tough call to make.)

But with Jiji being the topic, we need to find the object closer at hand (or at paw). The most natural choice is 前足 which has already been marked as the object for ひっこめて and can thus also be inferred as the object of くわえました. And this sort of behavior (putting one's hands in one's mouth or in this case forepaws) is almost a motif in anime and related genres (written and otherwise).

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