Big Tiger

Fou Sio Saephan

In the old days, tigers could talk with humans. At that time there was a Mien couple who had two children, a boy and a girl. One day, they had to leave their children home while they went to work in the field. The daughter wanted to go along with them, but they didn’t want to take her. The parents left her home with her brother. After they left, the brother could not make her stay home, and she chased after her parents.

As the daughter was following her parents to the field, some tigers saw her and chased her. When they saw how precious and young she was, they decided to rear her. Anyway, she was too small and would not be enough for them to eat.

To feed her, the tigers would put meat in their own mouths to let it heat up before they fed it to her. When she wanted to eat rice, the tigers went to steal rice from the people.

When she got a little older, she noticed the embroidery on her clothes. She wanted to learn to embroider, but there was no one to teach her and no supplies to use. So the tigers went to steal from the Mien.

The Mien women left their embroidery bundles in the field huts while they worked. The tigers would steal them and give them to the girl. She eventually learned how to embroider and learned the designs from looking at the sample cloth. She learned how to embroider turbans, pants, and coats.

One day a man went hunting in the jungle. While he was hunting, he noticed a girl sitting and embroidering under a cliff across a stream. He looked and looked but couldn’t see who it was.

When he got home, he told the villagers. Soon word got to the girl’s brother who wanted to go see if it was his sister. Upon reaching the place where she was, he realized there was no way to go down the cliff.

As she sat embroidering below him, he spat down on her. The spit landed right beside her. Not bothering to look up, she scolds, “stupid little bird. Don’t poop on me!”

He spat again. This time, the spit landed right on her arm. She still didn’t bother to look up, but she scolded, “You no good bird, you pooped on me!”

When he spat the third time, it landed right on her palm.

This time, she yelled, “What’s wrong with that bird today? It keeps pooping on me!”

As she yelled out, she looked up and saw a man.

She asked, “Who are you? Please come down here to play with me, I’m very sad and worried. My tiger parents brought me here. I’ve been living here all alone, and I’ve never seen any people. I’m so sad and worried.”

He told her, “I can’t get down there. Wait a minute.”

At first, he thought he couldn’t reach her, but he found a vine and climbed down it to where she was. They began to talk. The man said, “I had a sister who followed our parents to the field. She got lost, and we couldn’t find her.”

The girl replied, “That was me! The tigers caught me and brought me here. My tiger parents raised me. They didn’t harm me.”

The brother said, “I’m going to take you home.”

Before he could take her home, she asked him, “How can I go home? I’m married to a tiger husband. We have two children already. If I leave, they’ll kill me. How can I escape?”

The brother assured her, “Don’t worry. I have a plan to get you out of here. I’ll bring something for you tomorrow.”

He climbed up the vine and went home. On the way home, he cut some bamboo. When he got home he used the bamboo to make a basket. It was the kind that is loosely woven so that there are big look-through holes. The holes are as wide as a person’s palm.

The next day, he took it to his sister.

He asked her, “Do they feed you everything that you want to eat?”

She said, “Yes, they steal rice from people’s lunches to give me.”

“What about learning to embroider?”

“My tiger parents stole sample cloth and supplies for me.”

“What about fish? Did you get to eat any fish?”

“No, I haven’t eaten any fish yet.”

Her brother told her, “Then why don’t you ask them to get you some fish? Here, take this basket. Tomorrow, ask them to get you some fish to eat. When they use this basket to catch fish, the fish will pass through the big holes. They won’t be able to catch any fish all day. While they are busily trying to catch you some fish, I’ll come to take you home.”

After telling his sister the plan, he left for home.

When her tiger parents came home, they asked, “It smells like humans around here. Did anyone come here today?”

She said, “Oh, my brother came. He came to visit me because he hadn’t seen me for a long time.”

They said, “Oh, if it was your brother then you should have asked him to stay.”

She told them, He was too afraid to stay. He was afraid that you would eat him. When he comes back tomorrow I’ll tell him to stay.”

They assured her, “If your brother comes, we wouldn’t harm him. He would be more than welcome here.”

Then she demanded, “Can you go catch some fish for me tomorrow? I went to eat some fish.”

They replied, “What do we use for catching fish? We don’t have anything.”

She told them, “I have something you could use. My brother made me this basket for catching fish. He gave it to me. You just put it in the water, then drive the fish into it. When the fish go in the basket you can catch them.”

She took the basket out and let her tiger family see it. They were very pleased and said, “We’re going to catch some fish tomorrow.”

The next day, the tigers took the basket and went to catch fish. While they were gone, the brother came and took his sister and her children home. When they got home, he locked her in the bedroom of his house. He told the villagers that he had found his sister and that she had two children. The children were human on one side and tiger on the other side. The tiger side of their bodies had hair, the human side didn’t.

Meanwhile, the tigers were trying to catch fish in the stream. They put the basket down and drove fish into it. When the basket seemed to be full of fish, they would lift it up, but all the fish would go out of the holes. All day they could not catch any fish. When it was getting dark, they got lucky. A Fish accidentally got hooked on a bamboo barb on the basket. They caught the fish and hurried home.

When they got home, the girl was gone. They smelled human scent so they followed it to the village. The tiger husband smelled house after house until he came across the house where his wife was staying. He went to the back of the house by the bedroom and smelled her scent. He started to cry.

He begged, “Please come out to let me see you for a minute.”

His wife said, “I don’t want to go out. I have come home to live with my brother. I don’t want to go back with you.”

He said, “It’s all right if you don’t want to go back with me. I just want to see you for a second.”

She said, “I’m afraid to go out. You might harm me.”

He said, “I promise I won’t harm you. If you just let me see you for a second, I will be satisfied.”

But she still wouldn’t go out.

Finally, he told her, “If you don’t want to come out, it’s alright. Just stick one of your fingers out so I can see it.”

When she stuck her finger out, he grabbed it. Holding onto her finger and biting the fish with his teeth, he cried, “You told us that you had eaten all kinds of meat, but you hadn’t eaten any fish. You told us to go get you some fish because you wanted to eat some. While we were gone, you ran away from us. If you want to eat this fish, take it in through the hole. Go ahead and cook it to eat. I’m going to kill myself. I don’t want to live anymore.”

After he finished talking to her, he hit his head on the wall and died.

The next morning the girl and her brother called all the villagers to come look. They saw a huge dead tiger lying there. They didn’t know what to do with the body.

They finally decided, “We should get a coffin and bury it nicely. Even though he took the girl away, he didn’t harm her. He helped to raise her. Then he married her, and she has two of his children.”

The villagers helped make a huge coffin and put him in it and buried it.

The sister stayed with her brother, and her children grew older. One day her brother, the children’s uncle, felt that his head was itchy. He asked the children to help him pick lice. They climbed on their uncle’s back and began to look for lice. After they had picked for a while, their uncle’s scent attracted them. They licked his head. They licked once, “sat”, and part of his hair disappeared.

He told them, “Don’t do that! My head’s going to be bald.”

They said, “Uncle’s head smells very good. We want to lick it.”

He said, “Then don’t pick lice anymore.”

The next day he wanted them to pick his lice again. They searched and searched in his hair. Then they licked again, “Sat”. He scolded them again.

They said, “Uncle’s head smells really good. We like licking it.”

He told his sister, “This doesn’t look good. When these two children grow up, they’re going to eat people. We should kill them. They’re beginning to be like tigers. Let’s not raise them.”

The sister felt very sad and cried. She didn’t want her children to be killed.

The brother said, “If we don’t kill them, they’re going to eat us when they grow up. I just asked them to go pick lice from my head, and they licked my hair off. They said they liked the smell of my head. It’s getting scary.”

The sister sadly agreed, “All right. If you must kill them then go ahead and do it.”

They started to grab the two children. They caught one but the other one ran away. The uncle chased after him but couldn’t catch him. Finally, he gave up.

As he turned back to go home he called out to his nephew, “It doesn’t matter. You got away from me this time. When we meet again, we’ll settle this.”

The nephew heard him and yelled back, “Uncle, can’t you catch up with me? If you can’t catch me, go home. I’m not going back home to you. I’ll go off to learn some skills. In a few years when I’m older and stronger, I’ll come back and fight you.”

He ran off into the jungle.

Many years later when he grew older and stronger, he came back to the village to look for his uncle. He searched around the village, but he couldn’t find him. It had been so long that he could no longer recognize him.

One day, the uncle took his buffalo with him to work on the farm. The tiger nephew, sitting on the bank, watched his uncle using the buffalo to plow the field. After the uncle left in the evening, the tiger nephew came out to talk to the buffalo.

He said to the buffalo, “You’re so big and strong. You have two huge horns. The cross-eyed man is only as big as your thigh. How can you let him torture you, dragging you here and there to plow the land? If I were you, I would just smash him to pieces!”

“You don’t say! Well, Cross-eyes is very clever! You can’t beat him!” replied the buffalo.

“How is he clever? How can you be afraid of him? You’re so big!” asked the tiger.

The buffalo answered, “I’m not afraid to fight him. If we fight, I can beat him, but I’m afraid of this string here. It pierces my nose. When I don’t follow him, he drags on it very hard, and it really hurts! It aches all the way to my brain until I almost feel like I’ll die!”

The tiger said, “I don’t believe you. He only has that one string piercing your nose. I’m not afraid of Cross-eyes. If you think he’s so clever then tell him to fight with me.”

The buffalo asked, “Do you really want to fight with him?”

The tiger readily said, “Yes, yes! I really do. I have all these long nails on my feet. How can I be afraid of him?”

The tiger went up to the hill to rest.

When the farmer returned, the buffalo told him, “Master, Brother Tiger came out to the field to make fun of me. He ridiculed me. He said I have two huge horns, so why do I follow you all over the place to work just because you have a string through my nose? He said if he were me he would just smash you to pieces. He would not work for you. I told him not to say anything because you cross-eyed people are very clever. But he said if I think you are so clever, then I should tell you to fight with him. His feet have strong claws, and he’s not afraid. He wants to fight with you.”

The man said, “Then, where’s the tiger? Tell him to come out.”

The buffalo called, “Oh, Brother Tiger! You said your feet have sharp claws, and you want to fight with my master. He has arrived. You can come down to discuss things with him now. I want to see you two fight.”

The huge tiger roared as he powerfully walked down the hill toward the farmer and the buffalo.

The man asked, “Did you make fun of my buffalo because I used him to work?”

The tiger said, “Yes, I see he’s so big and you’re so small. He follows your command and does all your work. You just pull on that little string, and he follows you. If I were that buffalo, I would not work for you. I told him that, and he said that you cross-eyed people are very clever. So I told him that I want to challenge you to a fight.”

The farmer said, “All right. I agree to fight with you, but wait until tomorrow. Come early! Don’t change your mind. Go invite your tiger brothers, sisters, children, and nephews. Invite the cows, buffalo, deer, elk, and all the other animals to come see us fight tomorrow.”

The tiger went back to the jungle. Early the next morning, the tiger returned. He was eager to begin the fight.

But the farmer said, “I’m too hungry right now. Let me go home to eat first, then we can fight. You wait here for a while.”

The tiger agreed, “I’ll be waiting here.”

The farmer went back home. When he returned he brought with him some rice, a hammer, and some rope. He told the tiger, “I’m back, but wait for me to eat first. When I’m full, we can fight.”

As the farmer began to eat, he turned over his burning hot iron plow and told the tiger to sit on it. After a while, the tiger began to shift his weight.

The farmer said, “Hey, you’re moving! Are you planning to run away?”

The tiger said, “No, I”m not planning to run away. It’s just that your plow is too hot.”

The farmer said, “I don’t believe you. I think you’re trying to run away because you keep on shifting your weight. Just don’t move! Just sit there and wait until I finish eating.”

A minute later, the tiger moved again because the hot iron plow was burning him.

The farmer protested, “I think you’re trying to escape. You’re afraid that when I’m full, I’ll beat you up. I need to tie you first.”

The tiger agreed. “Go ahead and tie me up.”

The farmer told the tiger to go sit next to a stump. Then he brought out his ropes to tie him up. After tying one rope, he said, “This might not be enough to hold you still. Maybe you’ll break it and run away.”

The tiger said, “Go ahead, tie another one.”

He tied another one, and he continued to tie one after another until he was certain that the tiger was completely tied down. Then he called out to the animals to come watch them fight.

When all the animals had come, he told the tigers “Let’s fight.”

The farmer didn’t untie the tiger. He picked up his hammer and began to beat the tiger. He broke almost all of the bones in the tiger’s body. The tiger screamed loudly but couldn’t be killed. The farmer kept on hammering him until the tiger finally told him, “If you want to kill me, you need to hit my head. Otherwise, you can’t kill me.”

Upon hearing that, the farmer lifted his hammer and smashed the tiger’s forehead and killed him.

Seeing the foolish tiger get beaten and killed by the farmer, the buffalo started to laugh and run around. He laughed so hard that he couldn’t see where he was going. He stumbled on a dike and fell. He bumped his mouth on the dike and broke his incisor.

This is the reason why today buffalos don’t have incisors. They got broken off when the buffalo ran into a dike while laughing at the tiger.