Thursday, July 5, 2018

A Cat With Black Fur AND a White Nose (Taiwan)--Another Version of "The White-Nosed Cat"

There once was an unbelievably lazy fellow. He had had the luck (or, in his case, misfortune) of being born into a fabulously wealthy household. He grew up unwilling to do the most basic chores that all of us when we were very small had yearned to do on our own. Everything was done for him, whether it was being bathed, clothed, or fed. At least everyone knew just where to find him--he always stayed in his bed all day and night.

As it so happened, he became orphaned as a young adult but not before his parents had had their assets put into a trust that would continually pay for the manor and its upkeep, for the servants, and for their son himself. The servants, one by one, eventually left for greener pastures, but the young man did end up with one loyal old servant to take care of his needs.

Life continued on for this young man as it had had for all of his short life--sleeping, eating, drinking, and performing bodily functions, all in his bed.

Now, one day, the old servant had gotten word that his own family desperately needed him back in his own hometown. The servant was faced with a dilemma: needing to leave but also needing to make sure his master was taken care of.

Ah, this is what I'll do, the servant told himself. I'll tie a bunch of large biscuits loosely around his neck, enough to feed him for a good while. Whenever he feels like eating, he can reach down and pull a biscuit up to his mouth and feed himself. Surely, he can do even that!

So, that's what the servant did before leaving for home.

As it turned out, the servant's efforts were in vain; when the servant finally returned, he discovered the young master had still ended up starving to death. How? Why? The young man had been just too lazy to move his hand down to a biscuit to feed himself.

And so, despite his youth and all his wealth, his spirit still departed from his body . . .

His spirit was sent to the court of the king of the dead, King Yanlo. The king looked in the massive Book of Life set before him on a lectern. Here, the king would see what had led to this young man's demise.

"Hmm . . . "said the king, looking at the relevant page in the book, "so you basically died from sheer laziness! You hadn't committed any acts of evil; you just allowed yourself to remain totally lazy for your whole short life. All right. I'll assign you your next incarnation. You shall be reborn as a cat. Do you have any comment?"

"A cat would be fine, Your Majesty," said the lazy young man. "I just request that the cat have black fur and, if you would, please, a white, white nose!"

"And why do you want to have black fur and a white nose?"

"Well, Your Majesty, such a cat could hide in and blend in with the dark corners of the house. Any mouse would think the white nose must be a few grains of rice. I could then pounce upon these mice while expending as little energy as possible!"

"So be it!" said King Yanlo.

And so, not long after, somewhere in our world, such a kitten was born into a litter in somebody's house!

[溫故] 白鼻貓 - 看板 tale - 批踢踢實業坊

"The White-Nosed Cat," the eponym for this blog, appears in my e-book Taiwan Folktales, available from Amazon. The above version differs most noticeably from the older version in several ways. Here, a servant plays a major role. In addition, the character in this tale is emphasized as being indolent in a more graphic manner. Both characters die due to their laziness, with the character in "The White-Nosed Cat" dying after missing an opportunity to collect gold rather than from neglecting to eat. 

Motifs: A2233, "Animal characteristics: punishment for laziness"; D14, "Man transformed to cat"; 
E722.2.1.0, "Soul taken away by a god"; M201.0.1, "Bargain with a god"; Q321, "Laziness punished."

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