Writing about the tiger
The last time I wrote about tigers, it was about how a particularly greedy selfish one helped to create the sun and the moon, and whose blood dyed buckwheat roots red. This was the very first story I can remember hearing about tigers when I was a kid, and so I spent a lot of my childhood thinking that they were sort of the Big Bad Wolf equivalent — the predatory animal that lurked in the shadows to eat misbehaving children.
And while in Korean culture, tigers are considered benign guardian spirits, some aspects of Buddhism considers them a symbol of anger — whether the transformative sort or the mindless kind. Sources vary, of course. But for my own (very basic, at this point) research, it seems like that is the thread that reconciles the stories I heard growing up versus the much more noble and dignified beast that one sees in the wider cultural beliefs.
Because see, other than the sun and moon story, the other two folk stories about tigers that I remember from my childhood were all kind of — not. There’s one that I don’t like very much, about a man who is so angry at his puppy for essentially being a puppy that he leaves it for tiger bait. The story ends happily for the man (and for the dog), but not so much for the tigers.
The one that charms me till this day, though, is the story of the tiger versus the dried persimmon.
(As a side note, I really dislike dried persimmons. That is not a taste I ever acquired. These days I really do like red bean and sesame candies, though it took me years to get over my childhood betrayal, where I bit into a red bean popsicle thinking it was chocolate.)
The dried persimmon story, though, goes a little like this:
One night, a tiger was slinking around a small human village. His hunting that day had been poor, and his belly was empty. His pride was low enough that he was hoping some of the humans had left something out for him to scavenge.
But as he was searching, he heard the sound of a young child crying, and he was drawn to that noise. As he lurked, he could hear the mother, increasingly frazzled, trying to soothe her child. Finally, perhaps driven to a snapping point, she cried, “If you don’t hush, I will feed you to the tigers!”
Of course this excited the tiger very much. While he was not a man-eater by preference, he was very hungry, and a child was far easier than an adult. He lurked as close as he could, his stomach growling and his tail lashing as the child began to cry. He could hear the mother moving around the small cottage and he was certain that at any moment, she would open the door and bring the child to him.
Instead, the mother said, “Shhh, shhh, here’s a dried persimmon for you.”
And at once, the child stopped crying.
The tiger was stunned. What sort of thing could be so incredible, so terrifying, that it would stop a child’s tears more than the threat of a tiger?! Surely this dried persimmon was a beast so great that — even though he had heard of no such thing — it might even pose a threat to him. He held his breath and strained his ears, but still he heard nothing. The dried persimmon had succeeded where he had not.
This in turn weighed on his mind as he turned to look around. What if the dried persimmon was also lurking in this village? He had to be sure to avoid it. So he flattened himself to the ground as best he could, and began to carefully creep his way out. As he went, through, a sudden weight dropped upon his back, nearly knocking him to the ground.
The dried persimmon had come for him!
So he ran as fast as he could out of that village, as fast as his legs could carry him, thrashing as he ran to try and knock the dried persimmon off his back. He bucked, he reared, and he roared; he ran straight into the woods and it was only after that he was able to free himself from the terrible being pursuing him.
And once he was free, he swore he would never, ever return to that village ever again.
(As it turned out, the thing that had fallen upon him was a thief who meant to break into the house he was lurking around. The poor man had dropped down, not knowing a tiger was under him, and once holding onto the tiger, he was too frightened to let go, knowing that the beast could easily attack him in its confused rage. It was only after the tiger entered the woods, and the thief was able to grab a tree branch, that they were both saved.)
And now, my own personal writing tigers — the beasties that I am torn on how to tackle, lest I be sacrificed to the dried persimmon.
Which is to say, I’ve honestly been going back and forth on what I want to do with this blog. I miss blogging! I miss writing in my own voice, versus my narrative voice. But as far as writing meta goes, I don’t think I’m the sort who can give advice; nor am I someone who’s great at writing reviews. I feel like I do a lot better giving that on a 1×1 basis. I’d like to do some blend of short flash fiction and chatting about the thing.
If anyone else has input, I would love to hear it. ╰( ･ ᗜ ･ )╯I’d love to write more short things, but I’d also like to be able to chat with people. Please let me know!