A folktale from Tibet


 

Frog was enjoying his breakfast, eating flies along the river, when Tiger emerged from the jungle.

"How are you today, Tiger?"

"I'm miserable. I'm hungry. I haven't eaten anything in three days. Normally I wouldn't consider eating you, Frog, because you're so small. But today is your unlucky day. I'm going to eat you."

Frog had to think quickly. "Oh, Tiger, you don't want to mess with me. I'm... er... King of the Frogs, and I have special powers, that frankly, you are no match for. Let's face it. I am stronger than you, Tiger."

"Riiiiiiiiiight."

"I can prove it. Let's have a contest."

"What sort of contest, Frog?"

"A jumping contest. I can jump farther than you."

Tiger smiled. "You may be a good jumper, Frog, but I am much larger than you. I could jump across this river easily, which is much too far for you."

"You go first," said Frog.

Tiger crouched low, and tensed his muscles, ready to spring. His tail flicked back and forth. Then, he leapt, but as he did so Frog jumped up and bit the tip of Tiger's tail as hard as he could. Tiger did not feel a thing, but, when he landed on the other side of the river, his tail whipped around and threw tiny Frog farther into the jungle. Tiger turned back to the shore we he assumed Frog was. "Your turn! But you can't jump this far," called Tiger.

"I've already jumped farther than you, Tiger. I am the stronger beast," said Frog, emerging from the brush. Tiger was confused. How had Frog beaten him?

"I will admit you are the superior jumper," said Tiger. "But I am still hungry. I am larger and stronger than you, and I will eat you for my breakfast."

"One more contest," said Frog.

"What kind of contest?"

"Vomiting."

"Vomiting?"

"Vomiting."

"What th--"

"You heard me. We'll each regurgitate the contents of our stomachs. You go first."

Tiger forced himself to bring up some bile, but it was mainly saliva that fell to the ground. He had not eaten in three days. Then it was Frog's turn. Up came the flies and the beetles and the wings and the carapaces and, mixed among all of these... golden tiger fur, from the Tiger's own tail.

Tiger eyed the pile carefully. "What are those golden hairs?"

"That, my friend," said Frog. "Is yesterday's breakfast. A tiger challenged me to a contest of strength and I devoured him."

"Gotta run!" said Tiger, and in a blink of an eye he was dashing off into the jungle. He did not stop running for several minutes, afraid that the King of Frogs might be following him. Finally, he came to a halt when he saw Fox.

"What's the matter with you?" asked Fox.

"The King of the Frogs was about to eat me!" said Tiger. "I only just escaped with my life."

"You are kidding me."

"No, I'm not. That frog... oh, what a horrible fate I've avoided."

Fox shook his head. "Tiger, you are a fool. Frog has tricked you. He is not strong. I could crush him with a single paw and eat him myself."

"Do not attempt such a thing!"

"Tiger, come with me. I will show you that there is no reason to fear frog."

"I'll do it. But I think you will quake with fear and flee faster than I did. So I have to insist that we tie our tails together, so that you do not run."

The two creatures tied themselves together by their tails, and made their way back to the river.

Frog heard them coming. He greeted them. "Ah, Fox, I wanted to thank you once again for the Tiger you delivered to me for breakfast yesterday. She was delicious. And what's this? You've brought me another? You are a great friend!"

Tiger turned and ran, as fast as he could away from that spot, dragging Fox along with him.

And as far as I know, he is still running to this day.


You can find versions of this story in Tibet, India, China, and Laos. Anne Rockwell adapted the story for a children's book, Big Boss.

Other sources in print:

Obang Tayengs, Mishmi folk tales of Lohit Valley

A. L. Shelton, Tibetan Folk Tales, http://www.sacred-texts.com/asia/tft/tft05.htm

Carol Kendall, Yao-Wen Li, Shirley Felts' collection: Sweet and Sour: Tales from China

Hmong variant: http://hmongrp.wisc.edu/culturaltexts/text4.html