Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Bamboo Grove of the Loyal Dog (Guangdong)

There were once two brothers, Zhang Lan and Zhang Qin, who lived with their elderly parents on a farm. When both parents died, they then had to split up the family farm between themselves.

The elder brother, Lan, took the best and most expensive things for himself. He grabbed the house, the ox, the chickens and most of the land. All the younger brother Qin received was a shack, the little bit of land his brother didn't want, and the dog.

Lan clearly got the better of the bargain, but he was lazy and foolish. He spent most of his days and nights drinking rice wine and eating his own chickens. When the ox refused to go along with his bullying, he killed the poor creature and ate it. Now he was in a fix. He had no beast to pull his plow and nearly no chickens, hence, no eggs, to speak of. He decided to pay Qin a visit.

Qin, it turned out, was himself struggling to survive on his portion of land, but he was still able to make ends meet. Not only that, he was earning a small profit. Ingenious and hardworking, he had gotten his loyal dog to pull the plow for him. Though his land was hard, he had enough food to eat and to take to the market.

"Little Brother," said Lan, "let me borrow the dog for a few days."

"Very well," said Qin, "but take good care of him!"

What could he do or say? Lan was, after all, his older brother.

Zhang Lan took the dog back to his farm and hitched his plow to the dog. Scream and yell as Lan might, the dog would pay him no mind and not pull the plow. He then beat the dog, but it still would not listen to him. Enraged, he then picked up a club and killed Qin's dog. He then dumped the dead dog in front of Qin's shack, cursing his brother.

"Your stupid dog decided to die just when I needed him most!" snarled Lan, stomping away.

Qin tearfully picked up his dead dog and buried it in a spot on the edge of his garden. In time many shafts of sturdy bamboo sprouted from the dog's grave, forming a small grove, and Qin would rest in its shade.

One particularly hot day, Qin was resting by the grave when he felt a plunk on his head and then another and another. He looked down and saw upon the ground several gold coins which had fallen on his head. More and more coins poured out from the tops of the bamboo stalks. The entire grave was soon littered with gold coins. Qin scooped them up and took them inside. With the money he was then able to buy a larger and better piece of land. He also had a nice farm house built on his new land.

Qin's newly found wealth didn't escape the attention of his brother Lan, of course. He again paid Qin a visit, and the ever-honest Qin told his brother all about the bamboo at his dog's grave and how it continued to yield gold coins even as they spoke.

That evening Lan crept over to the grave and clumsily pulled out the bamboo stalks, hoping to carry them home and get some gold of his own. As he tried to bundle the stalks, foul-smelling dog dirt sprayed out from the top and covered him head to foot. Lan turned purple and gritted his teeth in anger. He broke each stalk over his knee and stormed off his brother's land.

Qin found the broken stalks of bamboo the next day. He was angry and sad, but what was done was done. He gathered up the broken bamboo and fashioned the broken stalks into a sturdy basket. He then discovered that whenever he turned the basket over, a basket full of gold coins would fall out.

Before long Lan heard about the basket, and relying on his brother's kindness and mercy, he was able to borrow it. As soon as Qin had handed him the basket, Lan hurriedly turned the empty basket upside down. He heard loud hisses. Upon the ground were many hideous three-horned snakes, wriggling and writhing before him.

Lan was absolutely scared out of his wits and fled screaming. Once home, he jumped into his bed and stayed there, shivering and feverish. After a few days, he was well again, and from then on, he thought twice before ever trying to take advantage of his younger brother again.


Guan & Wei, p.284-285

A common theme found in from folktales around the world is the kind and generous brother and the cruel and greedy brother. In written Chinese, "Lan" and "Qin" mean, respectively, "lazy" and "industrious." Variant of AT 834, "The Poor Brother's Treasure," and AT 834A, "The Pot of Gold and the Pot of Scorpions." Motifs: B580, "Animal helps human to wealth"; Q42, "Generosity rewarded"; Q51, "Kindness to animals rewarded"; Q200, "Evil deeds punished"; and Q272, "Avarice punished."

No comments:

Post a Comment