This set of two dolls tells the story of "The Tongue-Cut Sparrow," a traditional Japanese folktale. The first figure (a) represents the old man from the story, whose humility is rewarded by the second figure (b), the Lady Tongue-Cut Sparrow. They both appear to be made of a composition-like material (which was commonly used during this time period), and are wearing silk clothing. The man is wearing orange pants with a green top and purple overcoat and hat. He has a wooden cane, and is wearing a large, rectangular dark brown basket on his back, in which he carries the fortune gifted to him by the Sparrow. His hair is gray and he is wearing sandals and tabi (split-toe socks). The sparrow is anthropomorphized and nearly human-sized; she is wearing a red kimono with several inner layers and a brocade obi (sash).
"The Tongue-Cut Sparrow" is a Japanese moralistic folktale in which an old man is rewarded for his humility and kindness while his wife (or his neighbor, in some versions) is punished for her greed and cruelty. The couple kept a sparrow as a pet, but after the sparrow ate from the woman's cleaning supplies, she cut its tongue out and set it loose. The old man, distraught, sought out his cherished pet and when they reunited the sparrow offered him hospitality and a gift. Upon returning home, the couple discovered that the gift contained riches, and the woman decided to seek out the sparrow as well to demand riches of her own. After this rude request, she received a basket that contained not riches but demons who tormented her.