3.  Tale of the Tiger that ate Grandpa Wildsnake's Child

A long time ago, there lived an old man named Grandpa Wildsnake who was a very poor farmer working by the foot of a mountain with his wife. It took them a long time to have a child, a son who they lovingly raised from infancy until he safely grew to one year of age.
       One day Grandpa Wildsnake and his wife left the boy in their hut to sleep after feeding him, like they had done many times before without incident. They took their farm tools and went to work in the field from morning until noon, leaving the child to sleep by himself. As soon as Grandpa and Grandma were out of sight, a large tiger who lived in the nearby mountain jungle snuck into the hut. Seeing the child sleeping alone, he decided to take the child with him to eat as a meal. The child did not even cry since he was still sound asleep.
       Grandpa Wildsnake and his wife kept busy working hard under the hot sun harvesting the rice since morning without resting for even a moment. By afternoon, when they could no longer tolerate the heat from the sun, they collected their rice harvest into bundles and tied them together. Grandpa Wildsnake lifted the bundles onto his shoulder and walked home behind Grandma, who was carrying her bundles on her head. After they got home and set down their harvest bundles, they looked into the house and did not see their child. Both husband and wife felt immediate despair and despiration. By the place where they kept their child, they saw only the print of a large tiger's foot. From the place their child slept all the way to the foot of the jungle were blood drops. Grandpa Wildsnake and his wife knew for certain that the tiger had taken their son to eat and felt deep sorrow for their small helpless child.
       Everyday from dawn until dusk, Grandpa Wildsnake and his wife experienced no joy. They reflected on their situation saying, "Spending our time constantly crying and pitying ourselves serves no purpose whatsoever. We should stop weeping and wailing and think about a foolproof way to kill that tiger." The next morning, after resting their tired spirits, they set their sights on finding and killing the tiger that ate their child. From that day forth, every morning Grandpa Wildsnake's wife woke up at dawn to prepare food and water for her husband so that everyday he could pursue the savage tiger that took the life of their child. And so, each morning, after his wife finished preparing and packing food for the day, Grandpa Wildsnake would leave for the mountain jungle. On one shoulder he would carry his small bag of food; on the other shoulder he would carry his ax as he walked into the mountain.
       Grandpa Wildsnake searched for that tiger from the foot of the mountain to its peak, looking for it behind every rock, small or large, across thick woods and open meadows, from open meadows back into thick woods. He looked for that tiger from the dry season until the rainy season, when the monsoons flooded the fields to the foot of the mountain. Fearing they would drown, all the animals in the jungle ran onto the mountain to find shelter.
       One day, as Grandpa Wildsnake was walking, he caught sight of the tiger that ate his child. He thought to himself, this is surely the tiger that ate my child because the footprint that I saw and this tiger's feet are about the same size, and I have never seen another tiger as large as this one. Only the largest of tigers would dare enter my home and eat my child in broad daylight. Grandpa Wildsnake considered, if I try to use brute strength to kill this tiger, there is no way I can win. To succeed, I must use my wit and wisdom. With this in mind, Grandpa Wildsnake spoke loud enough for the tiger to overhear, saying: "Use small vines to tie up pots and pans, use long vines to tie up family members onto the trees." As he spoke, his eyes kept watch all around. His right hand held the ax, his left hand pulled on the vines acting as if he was really collecting vines. He continued in this manner until the tiger took notice.
       Tiger became curious and asked Grandpa Wildsnake, "Grandpa, what are you taking all those vines to tie up?" Grandpa Wildsnake replied, "I am taking the vines to tie up my pots and pans, my family members, to hang them from the trees, because in only 2 days from now the waters that have flooded the fields and flooded the jungles will flood the mountain killing everyone, including you." Upon hearing this, Tiger became fearful of drowning and pleaded for Grandpa Wildsnake to tie him up to a tree as well. Grandpa Wildsnake refused saying, "I will not tie you to the tree, Tiger. I will let you drown. If you do not believe me, climb onto the highest boulder and look down the mountain and you will see the waters that are rising all around."
       Tiger quickly ran to the highest boulder he could find at the top of the mountain and saw the flood waters just as Grandpa Wildsnake described. Hebecame desperately frightened and ran back down to find Grandpa Wildsnake and begged him again and again, pleading Grandpa to tie him up to a tree. Grandpa Wildsnake taunted Tiger saying, "I am willing to tie you up but I will use only the small vines so that you will fall into the flood waters and die." This compounded Tiger's fright as he continued to beg Grandpa Wildsnake, pleading with his paws pressed together in prayer. Grandpa Wildsnake, viewing the situation as ripe, said to Tiger, "Don't worry, Tiger. I will find an extra large vine to tie you up." Hearing this made Tiger excited with joy.
       Grandpa Wildsnake instructed Tiger to lie down, then took a very large vine and tied Tiger's four legs together and tied him up to a tree just high enough that a club could reach him. Afterwards, Grandpa Wildsnake went to find the largest club he could in order to beat the tied-up tiger. When Tiger saw Grandpa Wildsnake chop at a tree to make himself a club, he became curious and asked, "Grandpa, grandpa! Why are you chopping away at that wood?" Grandpa Wildsnake lied saying, "I'm chopping the wood in order to make a yoke to carry the vines back home." After Grandpa Wildsnake finished chopping the wood into a club, he went and beat Tiger from that afternoon until nightfall, breaking Tiger's ribcage until it caved in, using both hands to wield the club as he exclaimed, "Take that Tiger! See if you'll ever bite a child of mine again."
       No matter how hard Tiger struggled, he could not get loose. After the beating, Grandpa Wildsnake collected kindling and firewood into a pile beneath the tiger and set fire to it, singeing Tiger's fir and burning patches of skin. The vines that held up the tiger caught fire and eventually broke, dropping Tiger to the ground, whereupon he dashed off into the thicket. Grandpa Wildsnake returned home and told the tale to his wife of how he beat the tiger with satisfaction. Thereafter, he lived contently with his wife until the end of their lives.
       From this story comes the explanation for why tigers today differ from all other animals in the following 3 ways:

  1. Whenever a tiger dies, its rib cage appears as if it has caved in.
  2. The tiger prays twice a day that it will not encounter us humans, fearful of people since the day Grandpa Wildsnake tied and beat it up.
  3. The tiger's markings come from being burned by the fire set by Grandpa Wildsnake.
©2010 Khmer Buddhist Relief