Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chinese Proverbs About Horses for the Year of the Horse

Happy Lunar New Year--the Year of the Horse!

The following are some of the many proverbs, metaphors, and other folk expressions that mention horses.
Before we get to them, let's start with the most felicitous of all for this season:

馬到成功 or the other version 馬到功成 The arrival of the horse means/signifies success, achievement, accomplishment, etc. In other words, success shall swiftly arrive. (This is what people might write in black ink on red paper to hang on their doors to signify the imminent arrival of the Year of the Horse. Indeed, some anonymous kindhearted friend posted such a message on my office door this morning, much to my pleasant surprise.)

百福骈臻 A hundred blessings arriving with a pair of horses. (May you be blessed.) 

好马不吃回头草 A good horse doesn't head back to eat the remaining grass. (A person with determination to succeed doesn't look back. Baseball player Satchel Paige said, "Don't look back; something might be gaining on you.")

老马识途 The old horse knows the path. (Those who are experienced can be trusted.)

万马奔腾 Ten thousand horses stampeding as they ascend. (Memorable, grand, thunderous display.) 

龙马精神 The spirit of a dragon and a horse. (A compliment said of seniors who possess much stamina and energy.)

神龙马壮 The strength, robustness of a god, dragon and horse. (Said of one who is physically powerful.)

香车宝马 A wagon of sandalwood with splendid equines. (Said of an impressive display of magnificent horses in a procession.)

马不停蹄 The horse's hoofs don't stop. (Said of those who persist and persevere, who work without stopping until the goal is met.) 

青梅竹马 Green plums and bamboo hobbyhorses. (Said affectionately and sentimentally of small girls and boys playing and growing up together.)

天马行空 A heavenly steed that traverses the sky. (A metaphor for anything that possesses graceful majesty, especially calligraphy.) 

悬崖勒马 To rein in the horse at the edge of a cliff. (To come to one's senses just in time. Contrast this with the one directly below.)

好马崖前不低头 A good horse doesn't shy away from the edge of a cliff. (A person of integrity and courage, in other words, does what needs to be done regardless of the risk.) 

长安何处在?只在马蹄下! How may one get to Chang'an (Ch'ang-an)? By the hoofs of horses! (In other words, nothing is accomplished without some energy and sweat, or, some "elbow grease." Chang'an, by the way, was an ancient capital of China.)

And then we have:

牛头不对马嘴 An ox head doesn't tally with a horse's mouth. (Referring to that which is irrelevant, incompatible or incongruous.)

指鹿为马 To point to a deer but mean a horse. (To confuse right and wrong.) 

露出马脚 To reveal horse hoofs. (To "show one's true colors.") 

走马看花 Like a horse passing by looking at flowers. (Said of individuals who make a hasty judgment based on superficial observation.) 

愿附骥尾 To attach oneself to the tail of a swift steed. (To "hitch oneself to someone's wagon" or to "ride in on someone's coattails.")


請給我有關馬的成語 - Yahoo!奇摩知識+





I don't normally post material that is thematically linked to the seasons, but I couldn't help resist as the Year of the Horse is my own "year." In keeping with the spirit of a new year, I left out some of the more negative proverbs.

Once again, Happy New Year! May you all enjoy excellent health, continual happiness and unceasing prosperity. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Xibe/Xibo Proverbs From Xinjiang

In life, it takes just once to be kicked by a bad horse and once to be cheated by a wicked friend. (Proper vigilance will stave off disaster.) 

A single strand of silk doesn't make a thread. (To "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.")

Pants that are too long entangle the feet; a tongue too long binds one's life. (Many Chinese-language proverbs deal with the dangers of outspokenness, rumor mongering, and slander. Hence, Mandarin speakers say, "Disaster comes from out of the mouth.") 

The wise can be happy while being poor; the unwise are still miserable while rich. ("The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven"--John Milton.) 

Neither land nor a great city are big enough to fill the pupils of a greedy person's eyes. (Like gluttons whose "eyes are bigger than their stomachs.")

The longer the torch, the less danger your hands will be burned. ("Better safe than sorry," we say.) 

To depend on others is to freeze one's hands. (To depend on others will prevent us from helping and, thus, empowering ourselves.) 

To mouth the words of a saint but to do a demon's work. (Said of hypocrites.) 

To be pecked on the bum by the hen you raised. (To "bite the hand that feeds you.") 

To those who seek wisdom, time is gold; to the stupid, time is a mound of dung. ("Make hay while the sun is out.")

Just as beautiful snakes may be venomous, people who smile all too often may be carrying knives. (A Chinese proverb warns us of "those who smile yet carry a dagger within the girdle."  A rather cynical Korean proverb just tells us to "beware of those who are always smiling." We are reminded of "wolves who come in sheep's clothing.") 

Sometimes it can be easier to move a mountain than to accomplish one's goals. (Perhaps this hearkens to the Chinese proverb of the "Foolish Old Man Who Tried to Move a Mountain." When the mountain got wind of what the old man was up to, it became so discouraged that such an indefatigable foe existed that it picked itself up and moved.) 

The frog that croaks first gets struck by lightning. (An English proverb states that "an ounce of prudence is worth a pound of gold.")

While one may acclaim the greatness of one's land, the land, in return, says nothing. (Sometimes  love and affection are a one-way street.) 

The fiercest tiger still doesn't eat its own cubs. (In the end, "blood is [still] thicker than water.")

A beating merely hurts the flesh; a scolding hurts the heart. (Mongols say: "Sometimes it's easier to recover from a knife wound than a wound caused by words.") 

A determined person, even tied to a rock, will still not starve to death. (The motto of the famed British Special Air Services [SAS] Regiment is "He who dares wins.")

A boastful doctor doesn't really have any great medicine; a cocky friend doesn't really have any words worth hearing. (What do Texans say about braggarts and poseurs? "All hat and no cattle.")

Xinjiang Folk Literature, Vol. 3[新疆民间文学第三集]; Urumchi: Xinjiang Renmin Chubanshe; pp. 139; 212-215.

The Xibo (or, Xibe, Sibo, Sibe) are originally from China's Northeast. Many were sent to the Far West, Xinjiang, during the Qing Dynasty to man border garrisons. They are renowned for their prowess in archery. To this day, the Xibo, an ethnically Tungusic people like the Manchus, continue to use a modified Manchu script. 

More Xibo proverbs can be found at the the posting for 7/31/07. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! 圣诞节快乐!
Fred Lobb & family

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Little Flying Swordsmen of the Mountain (Taiwan)

Yushan (玉山) is the tallest mountain on the island of Taiwan, its height peaking at 12,966 feet. During the era of Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945), it was known as Niitakayama (新高山), or "New High Mountain," for in those days it was the tallest mountain in the Japanese empire, surpassing famed Mt. Fuji.

It is on this mountain, on its highest mountain path, on the fork that differentiates the approaches to the Main, Front and South Summits, that something weird, unsettling, and hazardous occurs, something bizarre that has played out more than once--the materialization of the Little Flying Swordsmen. Don't let the cuteness or quaintness of the name given to them fool you; they are malevolent and can be deadly, according to the lore.

The core story goes something like this:

It's anything but a clear day--it's foggy, damp, or snowy, and so on. Or, it might be a dark dusk. A party of mountain climbers approach the fork in the paths. A climber is lagging behind. Nearby, three figures appear. The three are wearing yellow raincoats, and each wears a conical bamboo hat, what the Taiwanese call a douli (斗笠). Their faces are obscured by the hats, the lifted collars of the coats and the poor visibility. These three appear to know where they're going as they move along one of the steep paths. The straggler may call to them, asking them if they could lead him or her to the hostel below, the staging point for forays up into the mountain. Maybe one of the three will make a hand gesture suggesting the climber can come along and follow them, or maybe the climber lagging behind the group will just figure he or she should follow the three. After all, they seem to know where they are going.

If the straggler is lucky, he or she will be merely misled onto the wrong path, where, if he or she is careful in the darkness or fog, there will be no mishap. Otherwise, the straggler might never make it back to the hostel. A search party is formed, and each member is equipped with strong lanterns. The party breaks up to scour the different paths. Amazingly, all the lanterns malfunction during the search. The lost climber is never seen again . . .

What exactly do these beings look like? Those who have witnessed them and have survived to tell the tale say that they are of small stature and, as mentioned above, they wear high-collared yellow rain coats and conical hats. Oh, yes . . . and they are also faceless.

A Sample Story:

A Professor Dai took some people up the mountain. He was apparently more experienced and familiar with the terrain and thus went farther ahead of his group, so far that he and they lost sight of each other. He stopped to take a break and wait for the others to catch up. After tarrying at the spot, he decided to move on when he saw three men on the path not far ahead of him, three men with their backs turned towards him, each wearing a yellow raincoat and a douli. 

Probably many of us, if not most, would assume these three were fellow mountain trekkers. They appeared to be walking along this particular path in a purposeful manner that would make anyone think they knew to where they were headed. Everything looked normal; nothing was amiss; these three men were likely rural residents familiar with Taiwan's greatest mountain and its various paths.

So, the professor followed them.

He continued to follow them for a while when he suddenly heard shouts from behind: "Professor Dai! Professor Dai!"

Only then did the professor slow down. Behind him were the people he was supposed to be leading. He turned around again to discover he was right on the edge of a precipice. A step or two farther and he would have gone right off the edge of the cliff.

Professor Dai, totally beguiled, had been following the three men in yellow without deviating. Where could they have gone? The only answer is off the mountain and into thin air, for they had totally vanished sometime before the professor had come to his senses, thanks to his party behind him who had snapped him out of his reverie.

This Professor Dai, whoever he was, lived to tell the tale. Many others, however, would not be so lucky.


▶ 12/10新聞龍捲風 飄緲黃色小飛俠雨衣 玉山最毛骨悚然傳說!part2 - YouTube

玉山小飛俠 我怕你們 行吧 - IntronExon狗吉拉顧門口at 附中496 - udn部落格

有關玉山黃色小飛俠的傳說?(20點) - Yahoo!奇摩知識+

The Little Flying Swordsmen (小飛侠--the name also used in Chinese for "Peter Pan") are a class of malicious forest and mountain spirit entity known in Taiwanese Hokkien as mo-sin-a (魔神仔), and they delight in leading travelers astray, even causing them to vanish. (See Professor Zhang Xun's A Study on the Folklore of Mo-sin-a in Taiwan [ 台湾魔神仔傳說考察]; Taipei: National Chengchih University, 2010.)  They might very well be a more modern version of the ancient wangliang (魍魉), a sprite of rivers, swamps, forests and mountains, or a similar being of the mountains, the chimei ( 螭魅),  both of which were said to "mislead" or "delude" unwary people and to be avoided (see the entries in The Dictionary of Chinese Folk Religion and Customs [中国民间信仰风俗辞典], Wang Jinglin & Xu Tao, eds; Beijing: Zhongguo Wenlian Chubanshe; 1997).

The people of Xiamen, or Hsia-men, the port from which the ancestors of many today's Taiwanese left Fujian to travel to Taiwan, knew of the mo-sin-a. Back in Southern Fujian, China, just as on Taiwan today, these entities were regarded as responsible for causing others to vanish without a trace. The mo-sin-a perhaps represent the personified deep-seated human fear of the desolate, seldom visited and lonely mountains and forests, the same fear that, while not preventing organized expeditions to the New World, also manifested itself among the European settlers in North America who saw the deep woods as hostile territory full of fearsome beings. We see cognates of the mo-sin-a in the fairies of Europe, who could beguile a traveler or nearby farmer with their music, causing him or her to lose decades of time, as well as in the many types of dangerous goblins and demons that were thought to inhabit the forests and mountains of Japan, all of which have been so lovingly and creatively cataloged by Mizuki Shigeru. Jacques Vallee in his Passport to Magonia links primarily traditional European folklore, anomalous visitations similar to the mo-sin-a and UFO sightings.

Motifs: cE272.5, "Ghost misleads travelers"; F402.1.1, "Spirit leads person astray"; S147, "Abandonment on mountain."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bamboo Ghosts -- an Urban Legend From Taiwan

According to Taiwanese folklore, say the authorities below, there is a type of invisible malevolent ghost that lurks within bamboo groves, waiting to snare passers-by. This bamboo ghost is most active at night and sometimes emits an eerie laughter. The ghost may be more prevalent within groves where unfortunate individuals hanged themselves. The spirit of a suicide victim, nursing resentment for the living and desiring to find a replacement, may leave a bamboo stalk lying on a path. When a traveler comes upon the stalk and attempts to step over it, the stalk might snap upwards, killing the person on the spot. The haunted bamboo stalks have also been known to whip around a person's throat, throttling him or her.

Locals where such occurrences are thought to occur will tell you that these possessed bamboo stalks are incredibly powerful and are able to fling a hog to its death.

Can a bamboo ghost be circumvented from taking someone's life in the ghost's quest to find a replacement? It is said that they can be dispelled if the potential victim sprays urine or throws a rock in the general direction of where the haunting seems to be coming from.

According to someone who says he or she knew the person involved the following story, there was a young fellow who was attending night classes. One night, on his way home after classes, he took the path home that went through a bamboo grove, the only road, it seems, that most directly connected his home with the school.

On his way home on this particular night, he stopped when he came to a large bamboo stalk lying in the middle of the path. It was twitching, shaking. Recalling stories he had heard of bamboo ghosts, he turned tail and ran back down the way he had come, back towards school, then taking a very long, roundabout way to return home. Upon returning home, his parents scolded him for coming back so late. He told them about the bamboo stalk shaking on the path.

The next day came the report that the corpse of a suicide victim had been found hanging nearby where the bamboo stalk had blocked the student's path.

Another story, told by someone who also purportedly knows the person  involved, tells of a mother who had to get up very early in the morning, at about three or four A.M., to sell vegetables at the market. Her route would take her through a bamboo grove. She admitted she would walk through with her eyes closed.

Early one morning this woman was walking through the grove to market while in the midst of a thick fog that had suddenly descended on the area.

What had been clearly one path now suddenly became two with a fork in the road. She stopped in her tracks and dared not go farther, market or no market. She waited until the early morning rays of the sun finally dispersed the fog. Only then right before her eyes did the two paths merge into one . She was mindful of what is said about mysterious pathways that appear in bewitched forests: To take the wrong road or path would be to disappear forever.

In the safety of the day, she resumed her journey to the market and arrived without being harmed.

from◆台灣都市傳說 有跨台湾都市传说:跨过就会死的竹子鬼 - 

要常来過就會死的竹子鬼?! @ 鬼道‧伊藤翔&Ghost Theory :: 痞客邦 PIXNET ::

The first source is from Taiwan; the second one is basically the same but from China and retold in simplified Chinese characters. 

These stories of bamboo ghosts haunting groves and waylaying travelers to find new ghosts as replacements seem to be a new variation of the deadly water ghosts. Stories of water ghosts appear in my ebook, Taiwan Folktales. Water ghosts are likewise believed to draw in unwary men and women to replace them in their watery haunts, such as a lake or pond.  

Are bamboo ghosts actual folklore being transmitted regularly, or are they what is known as "fakelore," spurious legends such as those made up about Paul Bunyan? Indeed, are any of the previous posts on ghost stories gleaned from the Chinese Internet fakelore instead of folklore? Time will tell. If such stories continue to be transmitted, if some didactic meaning (e.g., a warning) can continually be derived from them to make their transmission purposeful, and if such stories are believed in the community in which they are told (grammar and middle school students, perhaps?), they'll probably be accepted as legitimate folklore. 

Urine is a powerful apotropaic, or magic, like an amulet, to ward off evil in Chinese folklore. 

The motifs below are largely approximate.

Motifs: c E266.1, "Ghost of suicide leads people to commit suicide" ; E711.2.6, "Soul in bamboo"; and cF95.1, "Path to the world of the dead."  Without the "Halloween" connection, this would also be very close: c1099.2, "Roads miraculously appear on Halloween." 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Internet Ghost Stories From Taiwan -- Series Two

(1) Don't Thank Me . . . Yet

A young man wanted to take out a young lady he had just met on an evening drive in the mountains and enjoy a scenic view of the city.

It wasn't long before they were well in the mountains when they realized they were lost. Suddenly, the young woman began giving him directions. Owing to the darkness and the narrowness of the road, he kept his eyes peeled on the road ahead as he followed her directions in what forks in the road to take.

 Then, out of the blue, the girl blurted out: ""Go any farther and the car will go off a cliff!"

The young stopped the car. He got out and saw that they were indeed mere feet from driving right off the cliff.

Back inside the car, he took a deep breath, only to hear the young woman mumble, "If only we had died!"

In shock, he turned his head to look at his female traveling companion. She was deep asleep and had apparently been so for quite a while . . .

from 都市傳說』警告 - 每日星球報

For the first in this particular series of internet urban legends, see the posts for 8/17/13. 

From the same site comes a different version. A carload of young men are driving on a very hazardous hairpin road up in the mountains, the kind of road that demands one hundred percent attention. (I was thinking about California's Pacific Coast Highway up around Big Sur, Monterey, and Carmel as I read this.) Suddenly, a girl totally dripping with red blood flies onto the windshield and, just as suddenly, totally vanishes. The driver just about  loses it but manages to stop the car after it nearly skids out of control. The boys get out; sure enough, just ahead of them is the edge of a cliff. One says to the others, "I bet whoever she was she lost her life here in an accident." The others concur. Each places the palms of his hands together,  and the foursome together solemnly thank the spirit of the dead young woman. Then, in their ears, they each hear a mumbling female voice say, "You should have all died . . ." 

In keeping with traditional Chinese ghost lore, we have here a spiteful ghost, jealous of the living, apparently possessing a sleeping young woman. The redness of the ghost in the second version is probably not coincidental since, as other readers have pointed out, female phantoms in red seem to be the most malignant. 

Motif: E725, "Soul leaves one body and enters another." A similar motif would be E725.2, "Ghost possesses girl and she speaks in dialect unknown to her." 

(2) The Slit-Mouthed Little Girl (Version 1)

One evening two young men from Neipu, Pingtung County, took their motor scooters out to a hot spring.

Leaving the hot spring and almost back to Neipu, the second man whom we'll call X, yelled to his friend, Y, on the other scooter, "Hurry up! Go faster!"

They both sped as fast as they could, though Y could not fathom the reason behind his friend's haste to leave the area.

Before reaching their respective homes in Pingtung City, Y followed X as he pulled up and parked next to the local Mazu temple.

"What's going on?" asked Y. "Why are we stopping here?"

"I'll tell you why," replied X. "Something happened at the hot spring. I already felt uncomfortable while there.  After we left, as we were heading back, I heard something, a girl's shrill laughter. Then, I saw something I wish I had never seen."

X told Y a girl had followed him as he rode his motor scooter, a girl in red, gliding in the air right behind him, a girl with long fissures for eyes, no nose, and her mouth, a bloody gash from ear to ear, spurting gobs of blood.

from 台版都市傳說 (文-慎入)(舊文) - 靈異檔案 - 台灣綜合論壇 - NewTwbbs

The "Slit-Mouthed Woman" is a well-established Japanese urban legend, the source of many stories and at least one movie. The above Taiwanese story, as well as probably others from Taiwan that are gradually coming to the attention of folklorists may be a foreign graft on top of the foundation of traditional Taiwanese mountain goblin lore. The Wikipedia for the Japanese Slit-Mouthed Woman is as follows: Kuchisake-onna - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The side trip to the temple, a holy site, presumably precluded the girl's ghostly attachment to X. 

The author of this story, who goes by 夏町雪女 (Xiading Xue-nu, "Snow Woman of the Summer Street"), claims to know a relative of one of the participants. 

(3) The Slit-Mouthed Little Girl (Version 2)

Two young women together rode a motor scooter into Tainan one night, looking for a certain street. The driver was a Tainan native, yet she couldn't find this street that she and her passenger were supposed to go to. So they drove on in this area that this girl who had been born in Tainan did not recognize, an area not far from what is known as the "New X" quarter.

They drove along a street and spotted a solitary little girl, her head down, standing on the deserted street, apparently sobbing.

They slowed down and stopped beside her.

"Little girl! What's wrong?" they asked. "Why are you crying?"

The two young women felt their hearts just about stop. The little girl looked up. Her mouth was a slash from ear to ear. She stopped crying and began laughing.

The motor scooter took off like a rocket, with both young women as scared as a crocodile in a wallet factory.

Perhaps a block or two later, the driver turned to the passenger and asked: "Is she there? Is she following us?"

The passenger turned her head. Right behind them, running, was the little girl, holding a knife and laughing.

The driver headed to one of Tainan's 7-11 shops, ubiquitous on Taiwan. They parked and rushed in, observing the little girl still outside. There they stayed through the night into the morning, when more customers were entering and leaving.

The little girl was gone . . .

As it turns out, the the driver and her passenger had probably strayed into the New X neighborhood, well known by the residents of Tainan. And what exactly had been this new area in older times? It had been an execution ground. In its latest incarnation, it now boasts some blue-collar eateries, where, as one eats alfresco, one might have the sensation of being watched, hear odd noises, or witness items inexplicably fall to the ground. Then, there's the danger of being called by your name while there. The trick is not to turn your back and to respond. Of those who aren't aware of this and do turn around to return the greeting, many are suddenly hit with a high fever and have to be sent to an emergency ward. One man, in a movie theater in the district, was accosted by a very small person, while another claims that in a fountain located nearby there was someone bathing in blood . . .

from 台版都市傳說 (文-慎入)(舊文) - 靈異檔案 - 台灣綜合論壇 - NewTwbbs

This urban ghost legend, recounted by the same author as the one above, in some ways resembles Lafcadio Hearn's "Mujina," in which a Tokyo businessman at the beginning of the twentieth century unwisely decides to take a shortcut home after work through a haunted area of Tokyo, encountering faceless entities. See  Mujina by Lafcadio Hearn

The author also claims that the driver of the motor scooter in this tale is a friend of a friend, a telltale hallmark of urban legends. No mention if anyone in the 7-11 likewise saw the slit-mouthed girl. Is New X, the name used by the author, an actual area? Perhaps. However, my wife, a native of Tainan, said she has never heard of it. 

Both versions share these motifs: C0, "Tabu: Contact with the supernatural"; E265.1, "Meeting ghost causes sickness." Similar is E272.2, "Ghost rides behind rider on horse." Historically, such stories would be about riders on horseback with a ghost right behind them or following close by. Since urban legends are not static, today we have the same story with motorcyclists and the like. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Animal Wars: Three Fables (Buyi & Lisu)

Note: It might be best not to share these stories, especially the last one, with very young, impressionable and sensitive readers. 

(1) The Tiger and the Frog  (Buyi/Bouyei)

A tiger had crept out to a rice field to lap some water. He heard a "croak . . . croak . . . " and looked around to locate the source. Soon, below him, he spotted a little frog.

"Frog? Was that you?" asked the tiger. "Ha. Where does a pipsqueak like you get off  making such a big noise?"

The frog was little, but he had what we would call today a "big attitude." "Don't look down on me, Tiger, just because I'm smaller than you. Why, I eat creatures bigger than you every day."

"You'd better watch your mouth." The tiger's intelligence was as small as the frog's ego was large. "With a mere swipe of my tail, I could turn you, Frog, in a meat paste."

"Tiger, save  your bullying for other animals. None of that works on me. Sometime we'll match our skills, and then you'll know you're not as great as  you think you are! I'll show you that I can leap farther than you ever can!"

"All right, then," said the tiger, "let's have a contest right now. The victor shall eat the loser!"

"Not right now. I'm a bit tuckered. I still have to sing my evening songs at the pond. Let's have our contest tomorrow."

"Tomorrow it is, then!" said the tiger. "Just know this: If you don't show up tomorrow and I get a hold of you, you'll be as good as dead."

The tiger returned to his mountain, leaving the frog where he was. The frog immediately regretted opening his big mouth and bragging about how he could best the tiger and how he could eat an animal bigger than the tiger himself. He fell into a deep blue mood.

His mood had slowly turned into panic when along came the farmer. The frog leaped into the air to catch the farmer's attention. After he did so, he told the farmer the story of what had just happened and asked the farmer to save him.

"Ah, my little friend," said the farmer, "you don't need me to save you. Don't worry; you can save yourself!"

"Oh? How so?" asked the frog.

"The tiger is big, strong and arrogant but also very stupid. Just make sure just before the contest begins that you squat on top of his tail. As soon as the tiger pounces forward, his tail spring upwards. He'll catapult you far beyond him! Believe me--you'll beat him in such a contest."

The next day came soon enough.

"All right, pipsqueak," said the tiger, "on the count of three."

"Got it. On the count of three," replied the frog.

"One . . . " said the tiger.

The frog tiptoed back to the tiger's fuzzy tail and planted himself within.

"Two . . ."

The tiger tightened and stretched his body to launch himself forward; as he did so, his tail, working like a lever, lifted up, sending the little frog sailing forward just as the tiger called the third number.

"Three!" cried the tiger.

"Threeeee!" shouted the frog,  now many feet beyond the tiger's snout.

The tiger conceded he had lost.

"All right, you were lucky that time," said the tiger. "The contest we just had won't count. Let's see who can jump farthest across the river instead."

"Whatever you say, Tiger."

They sat on the bank of the river, facing the other side.

"One . . . two . . . three!"

The same thing happened again--the frog allowed the tiger's tail to propel himself far across the river, far beyond the length of the great leap the tiger was able to accomplish. On the other side of the river, the  two animals once again came face to face. All kinds of things were now running through the tiger's limited brain.

Looking at the frog, the tiger now thought, He's won again . . . He's going . . .  to . . . eat . . . me!

The tiger then took off for the hills. As he ran and ran for what he thought was his very life, he passed a wolf.

"Slow down there, Brother Tiger!" said the wolf. "What's chasing you?"

"A frog's after me, and he's going to eat me!"

"Oh, my word! What are you afraid of? No such thing'll happen. Listen. Just lead me to this frog."

"Wait, Wolf. You don't understand. I'm afraid! When you go up against that little devil, you'll take off too and leave me behind!"

"No, no, no. This is what we'll do. I'll tie myself to you with a rope. There's no way one of us will desert the other. Now, come on! Take me to this frog!"

Off they went down the hill to where the frog was. The frog spotted the tiger and wolf before either caught sight of him.

"Tiger! Tiger!" said the frog. "You're back! You lost and returned to let me eat you, as agreed. Fine! Don't run away again. Let me finish sharpening this stone so I can skin you . . ."

As soon as the tiger heard this, he turned tail and fled the scene even faster than before. The poor wolf ended up being dragged to death.

The frog watched his enemies disappear and then headed out to his favorite spot by the marsh. Once there, he suddenly felt very grateful for the farmer's original advice which had saved his life and then had inspired him to use his cunning against the tiger. He wanted to thank the farmer but didn't know the man's name. So,  he contented himself by munching on his favorite insects and croaking out a song in the farmer's honor, singing to whoever was nearby about the wonderful man and his helpful advice.

from Zhongguo minjian gushixuan, Vol. 1, pp. 393-394. (See 2/26/08 for complete citation)

This story shares some common motifs with the Mongolian "The Peasant and the Lion" (see 12/18/07). The Buyei or Bouyei live in Guizhou and Vietnam and speak a Tai language. 

Motifs: J1706.1, "Tiger as stupid beast"; K1715.2, "Ogre or larger animal deceived by bluffing."

(2) The War Between the Monkeys and Locusts  (Buyi/Bouyei)

This happened back in ancient times, when animals could speak as we do.

A monkey happened to come across locusts living on the embankment of a rice paddy.

"Off with you, little children, off to the mountains!" said the monkey, disparagingly. "I'm bigger than you runts. The embankment's going to belong to us monkeys."

"Hang on a minute, Monkey," said one of the locusts. "The embankment here has always been our home since our ancestors first arrived. We're not going up into any mountains!"

"Oh? Fine, then. We'll fight over it."

" Yes, indeed, we'll fight over it. Tomorrow--here!" replied the locust.

The monkey left to go back and report to his brothers and sisters his encounter with the locusts.

The war was on!

The next morning the monkey force, armed with clubs, headed for the locust camp on the edge of the paddy.

The monkeys arrived and could find no sign of the locusts.

"All right, runts, where are you?" asked a club-wielding monkey. "Come on out and fight!"

"We're here, all right," replied a hidden locust. "We'll be out by and by, as soon as the sun's up and the dew's evaporated."

Before long the sun was up and the dew had evaporated.

"All right, so are you coming out to fight us or not?" asked the same monkey.

And then, with the roar all the locusts emerged and roared at the monkeys.

"So, let's fight!" cried the monkey.

A flying wall of locusts swarmed over the monkeys as the monkeys swung their clubs wildly.

Now, I don't need to tell you that monkeys are wily, agile devils, but on that day the whole lot of them had to yield the ground to the humble, lowly, and decidedly small locusts. The quick locusts found a clever way to defeat their foes: they would dart in and out of the monkeys' ample nostrils before any harm could befall them.

"Get 'im!" screamed the chief monkey. "He just flew up my nose!"

The monkey nearest to him swung his club and hit his teammate squarely in the face, seconds after the locust had exited, putting his leader out of action forever.

This scene repeated itself over and over all morning until one monkey out of the whole group was left standing. He surveyed the ground littered with dead, dying and severely injured monkeys.

"Well, Monkey," said a locust, "shall we finish the fight? Do you still insist on taking our area instead of going back to the mountains to your own home?"

"You . . . you can . . . can  keep your embankment! You locusts scare me!" the monkey replied. "I'm going home, home to the mountains!"

He was gone in a flash.

So, the locusts got to keep the rice paddy and its embankments, while the monkeys stayed in the mountains.
And that is how it has always been and will always be.

from Zhongguo minjian gushixuan, Vol. 1, p. 395. 

In this "just-so" tale, why were the locusts so insistent upon waiting for the dew to evaporate? Were they afraid their bodies wet with dew would make them cling to the monkey's fur? Or, were they waiting for the sun to be higher up in the sky so as to attack the monkeys from the direction of the sun, while their foes were blinded? This narrative, like those of many Chinese-language folktales, doesn't say and prefers to leave much to the imagination.

Motifs: B263.6, "War of monkeys and grasshoppers (locusts)"; B268.8.2, "Army of locusts."

(3) Why the Barking Deer Is Red  (Lisu)

Believe it or not, tigers and muntjacs, or barking deer, were once neighbors. Not only that but they would help each other out in a neighborly spirit with chores.

One day a barking deer was out helping his neighbor, the tiger, dig a hole.

"Say," said the tiger, "we've been out here for a while. Let me go home and prepare you a lunch. I'll bring it to you here."

The muntjac thanked the tiger and continued to dig away as the tiger headed back. What the barking deer did not know was that the tiger went to the barking deer's home, caught one of the smaller barking deer, killed it and cooked it up while his friend toiled away.

The treacherous tiger returned with this lunch, saying, "Muntjac, stop working! Come and eat while it's still hot!"

The barking deer stopped what he was doing and went to eat. To his great horror, he discovered that the steaming lunch before him was meat from a young barking deer--one of his own children. He was totally under the watchful and baleful eyes of the smiling tiger. Not wishing to reveal his shock and sadness and fear, he ate the lunch without letting on, biding his time, thinking of revenge.

The time for revenge came the very next day.

On this day, the muntjac asked the tiger for his help in digging a hole. The tiger obliged.

"Tiger, my friend," said  the muntjac, "let me bring you some lunch as you toil away. I'm going to return home. I'll be back in a jiffy with a meal for you."

The tiger thanked the muntjac. The muntjac, instead of returning home, went to the tiger's den, where he slaughtered one of the tiger's cubs. He took the carcass home, cooked it and made a meal of it. He then carried the grisly lunch out to the tiger.

The muntjac, by now, was trembling all over with great fear for what the tiger would do. Even though he was about to exact a gruesome vengeance, he was still deathly afraid of the tiger. He gingerly set the meal down on the edge of the pit farthest from where the tiger was digging. He then ran off to an area from which he could observe the tiger from afar.

"T-Tiger!" said the muntjac. "I've . . . I've troubled you enough f-for now! Go ahead and eat!"

The tiger approached the hot lunch awaiting him, discovered it was made of the remains of one of his dead cubs, snarled, and roared. He bounded out of the hole and ran after the muntjac, who immediately took off into the brush.

Though the muntjac had a good head start on the tiger, he still ran for his life. He shot through the jungle, reaching a spot where a boar happened to be.

"Brother Boar," cried the muntjac, "you've got to save me! The tiger's after me! Hide me!"

"All right," said the boar, "follow me."

No sooner had the boar safely hid the muntjac away in his lair the tiger showed up.

"Have you seen the muntjac around here?" asked the tiger.

"No, I haven't."

"I don't believe you! I think you've got him tucked away somewhere."

"Since you don't believe me, Tiger, I guess we'll just have to fight and see who's more powerful."

The tiger, self-proclaimed local king of the animals, guffawed at the notion.

"You wish to duel with me, Boar? Am I hearing correctly?"

"Yes, Tiger. Just give me nine days to prepare."

"Very well. Just remember that after I whip you and then find that no-good, cowardly muntjac, I'll be coming back for you. See you in nine days!"

The tiger returned home and for nine days did nothing but lounge, eat and sleep without a care or fear in the world. What was a fat, bristly boar to him, the King?

The boar, however, did not take the upcoming challenge so lightly. For nine days, he rolled around in the mud. Every time a fresh layer of mud dried, he would roll around again, until the new layer dried. He did this constantly for nine days until his entire body was caked with tough, thick mud.

 The day of combat came soon enough, and the two combatants squared off against each other.

With a roar, the tiger leaped forward to attack the boar. The tiger succeeded in taking a bite out of his foe--a bite of thick caked mud which filled up his mouth. With the tiger now preoccupied with spitting out the mud, the boar ripped into the tiger's throat, inflicting a fatal injury.

The tiger staggered and fell dead upon the ground.

The boar then went to call the muntjac to come from out of hiding.

"Hey, Muntjac, help me carry the tiger back home," Boar asked.


There was a problem: the dead tiger was too heavy to budge. The boar decided to cut the tiger's carcass into what should have been easy enough sections to carry.

"Muntjac, carry the tiger's head."

"Oh . . . no . . . I can't . . . " replied the muntjac.

"Why not?"

"What? With the tiger's dead eyes staring at me, with his open mouth and fangs still dripping . . . ? How could I? No, let me carry something else . . . "

"Well, carry his arms and feet, then."

"No . . . no . . . I can still picture those claws of his trying to rip me apart . . ."

"Then carry his entrails!"

"Are you joking, Boar? I can just imagine them encircling me, choking me . . . "

"All right, fine! Here, let's drain the blood from his body and have you carry the blood in this vessel. Surely, you can do that!"

"Yes, I can do that."

And so the muntjac carried a large container of the tiger's blood back to the boar's home. On the way back, though, something happened. Did he feel a sudden breeze on his back and imagine it was the hot breath of a dangerous, vengeful jungle cat? Did he hear a rustling in nearby bushes? In any case, he suddenly imagined the tiger ready to pounce upon him. And what did he do? He panicked, stumbled, and ended up showering himself with the tiger's blood!

From head to food, he was completely drenched in red.

It is said that from then on, barking deer, or muntjacs,  all have red fur because their ancestor had accidentally bathed himself in the blood of the tiger.

from Lisuzu minjian gushixuan [A folktale anthology of the Lisu ethnicity],  Xiong Faqing, et al, eds.; Shanghai Wenyi Chubanshe, 1985; pp. 349-351.

Lisu live on both sides of the Thai-Chinese frontier. Their language, like that of the Buyi, belongs to the Tai family of languages. Lisu women are renowned for their silver finery. The last motif below is shared with at least one other folktale, one from India.  

Motifs: A2411.1.6.5, "Color of deer"; A2494.2.4, "Enmity between leopard (tiger) and deer"; A2494.10.2, "Enmity between tiger and boar"; B414.1, "Helpful boar"; cD1318.7, "Flesh reveals guilt"; cG61, "Relative's flesh eaten unwittingly"; and K97.1, "Boar in duel with tiger cakes mud on body; defeats tiger."