So I'm reading "Norwegian Wood" by Haruki Murakami and I came across this passage this line :

"Like the way a crow collects chunks of glass in a hollow tree."

In context:

"Don't be silly," said Midori. "You don't have to know anything to pass college entrance exams! All you need is a little intuition - and I have great intuition. 'Choose the correct answer from the following three.' I know immediately which one is right."

"My intuition's not as good as yours, so I have to learn systematic thinking to some extent. Like the way a crow collects chunks of glass in a hollow tree."

I'm not sure what he's trying to say here. Is this some strange idiom I'm unfamiliar with? Crows tend to be intelligent creatures, however, I don't believe they are systematic.

What do you guys think?


  • 1
    This was translated from the Japanese, so maybe you should ask on japanese.se ... it's a well known fact that crows collect shiny objects, but it beats me what this has to do with systematic thinking. – Peter Shor May 17 '16 at 16:01
  • The reason it probably sounds like nonsense is because it probably IS nonsense. Occam's razor. – user180089 Jun 16 '16 at 17:41

The image I glean from the passage is that the crow gradually builds up a hoard of glass, and the narrator gradually builds up an opinion, rather than gaining it in a single flash of insight.

It's not a recognizable American English idiom, and knowing Murakami it's likely to be an original image rather than a standard one.


I would assume it means that crows are attracted to valueless but pretty or distracting objects and try to carry them home.

In British English, calling someone 'a magpie' indicates the same thing - that they are easily distracted by shiny things, have lots of sparkle, jingle, or flash, or have a short attention span.

  • So you're saying that he's not describing his ability to systematically think, but his flaw in not being able to choose the correct answer based on intuition? The line would say "I have to think systematically to answer questions, if not I would get distracted by other things." I dig that. – playthisocarina May 17 '16 at 16:09

"Like the way a crow collects chunks of glass in a hollow tree."

The best answer would come from a Japanese translator telling us the original text.

Systematic thinking defined by Barry Richmond:

the art and science of making reliable inferences about behavior by developing an increasingly deep understanding of underlying structure.

The word glass is probably a translation from the phrase 'looking glass', meaning mirror.

Therefore, the text could mean that the he must piece together various parts in order to see the whole picture. In other words, he needs to see the underlying structure before making a decision. Midori, on the other hand, is stating that he intuitively knows which piece is best.

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