KOREAN TIGER FABLE #547
A long time ago, a young girl who had just become a wife, named Sohji Varbutra, was feeling emotional. Her young, nice husband was “Gwapo” meaning handsome. He married Sohji and left for battle in the war and came home from the war, a mean, disgruntled soldier who had become abusive. He had been a nice guy, loving, slow and gentle, a real life mate partner, but now he was cross, upset and had temper tantrums.
She was now afraid to live with him. She loved the old him but not the new him and was afraid for her own safety.
All the people in the village would visit the medicine man who lived on the side of the mountain. Sohjo had never been there, always taking care of her own self and her ailments. Now, it was serious enough to go visit for a cure for this anger. She seemed helpless on her own and the husband was getting worse.
She climbed the many steps to the temple on the side of the great mountain. The healers door was open and she approached and heard him say, “ What is wrong?”
As Sohji approached the hermit’s hut, she saw the door was open. The old man said without turning around: “I hear you. What’s your problem?”
She told him about her husband. He said, “This is common on returning from war. Why you come to me about it?”
Whatever you do, potion, charm, medicine, amulet, good luck string or rock? I don’t know, just please do what you do to get my old nice husband back.
“This is not a health problem like a toothache or bellyache. You know?”, he informed her.
“I know”, She dropped her head in despair.”
“Give me three days and I will study it. Come back in three days. .”
She came back on the third day. He sat her down and said, “I have some good news that a potion can help you but the ingredient is hard to find. Are you ready to go find the ingredient?”, He asked.
She said, “Yes I will do anything to get him back.What do I do?”
The old man smiled and said, “You must bring me a whisker from a live tiger.”
She almost fell to the ground knowing this was nearly impossible.
“I must have it or the potion won’t work.” He yelled at her, “You get it or I cannot make the potiion. Come back when you get it or I can’t help you.” You must go now, I have other patients.
She went home, down the mountain, dejected. She couldn’t sleep.
Sohji had an inspiration early in the morning, cooked some rice, added meat flavor and headed up the other mountain to where a live tiger was known to have a cave. She slowly and carefully crept up to the cave opening. Setting down the bowl in the cave, she panicked and ran away as quietly as possible.
She went back home and prayed. The next morning, the same thing, she rose early, cooked meat rice and headed back up the mountain to the tiger’s cave. She went to the same place she sat the bowl down. The one from the day before was empty and so she took it and placed the new one there. She again panicked at the thought of a live tiger. She ran softly and quietly down the mountain and back home.
She did this every day for months. Never once did she see a tiger. Until one day, when she entered the cave and the bowl was a little deeper in the cave so she went in and placed the new bowl of food and picked up the other… then she saw the tigers eyes looking down at her from a rock perch. She turned in fear of her life and started making a clicking sound with her mouth.
Soon on another day, she noticed the tiger would come out of its cave as it heard her softly walking, even then it was softly walking. She was scared and cautious and the thought came to her. Leave and come back every day and the tiger will become accustomed to her and then when close and comfortable, she could then take the coveted tiger whisker. Sohji was scared but brave.
A whole month went by and she visited every day. They became comfortable with her feeding him and getting closer. So close they could smell each other.
She and the tiger became closer every time and soon she was petting the beast on his head and he liked it. She would replace his bowl and go home. He was more like a kitty cat pet you would have at home.
Sohji woke this night earlier than usual. she thought to herself, this is the day I get the whisker for the live tiger and take to medicine man for to make potion. She brought a little pocket knife to cut the whisker with. She traded bowls and he let her pet his head. She looked at the tiger and whispered in his ear., “Hon, I need your whisker. Just one little whisker and smoothly, she clipped one whisker off. Slowly standing and saying bye, she left and went home. This was her last visit with the tiger.
The next day, her husband was angry as he left for work in the rice fields. She kidded him and said bye. Soon after she ran and climbed the steps to the medicine man’s temple. Arriving, out of breath, winded and anxious, she said to him , “Here it is. It’s the whisker from a live tiger!”
“Really?” He came back. “Is it really from a live tiger?
“Yes doctor, yes!”, She exclaimed.
“How did you do it?”, The shaman medicine man asked.
Sohji to him every detail about how she feed the tiger every day for six months and finally clipped the whisker. She told about how she secretly went daily with food, without her husband or anyone knowing, and earning the tiger’s trust, she finally was able to cut a whisker. She was so proud and happy when handed the prized whisker to him. He smiled and flipped it into the fireplace where it evaporated into smoke, vanishing.
“Okay, Sohji, let me explain. The whisker was your payment for my service, there is no more charge.”, the doctor softly confided.
“Then where is the potion, the cure?”, She begged.
“Let me know this and I can help you. Does your husband behave more vicious than a tiger can? Listen, if this great dangerous beast can be tamed by your soft and loving demeanor and your compassionate care, don’t you know you can tame your husband the same way?“ ”
Sohji stood crying with tears rolling down her face. She stood speechless. Turning and thanking him, she had one last thing say.
“I can see the tiger and I can see my husband. There is not much difference. I think it will be easier and quicker to tame my husband and…. Now, I know I can!” , Stepping out the door, turning, and saying to the shaman,
“Now, thanks to you, I know what I can do.”
A Traditional Korean fable as retold by Mark Steven Wardrip