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Republished with permission from World Scientific Education (WSE)
How did a village manage to save itself from the scary attack of a tiger? Read the story to find out more.
The Tiger's Folly: A Korean Folktale is part of The Malay Annals: Pop! Lit for Kids collection originally published by WSE.
Here are some of the main characters you will encounter in The Tiger's Folly. Let’s meet them!
I am a fearsome tiger. My home is in the forested region of the mountain. I have the loudest roar and I am a good hunter. I am famished! Is there anything to eat?
I am a farmer who has a loving wife and a baby. One night, I am awakened by a noise. I want to go back to sleep. I think I know of a way to stop the terrible noise.
I am the farmer’s wife. My husband is unsuccessful in his attempt to stop the noise. Suddenly, I remember something that one of the other mothers told me that helped their babies to quieten down.
I am the noise maker. I am a baby, and cannot help myself when I cry.
Many years ago, majestic tigers used to roam freely in the mountainous regions of the Peninsula of Korea. On rare occasions, a tiger ventured into one of the villages located along the foothills. One such tiger was named Horangi who thought he was the cleverest and fiercest tiger that ever lived.
“I could sneak undetected into a village, kill one of the animals there, and drag it back into the forest to feast!” Horangi bragged aloud.
“Aren’t you afraid of Man?” asked one of the other tigers.
“If a man had the unfortunate luck of meeting a tiger, especially one as fearsome as I am,” roared Horangi, “I’m positive that it would be the man who would run for his life!”
“But we’ve heard stories about Man from our fathers,” said another tiger, “They warned that Man can be dangerous!”
“Hah! I’m not scared of anything!” Horangi smirked, “There is nothing to be afraid of, and I will prove it to you.”
That night, Horangi resolved to venture into a small village, where the villagers were asleep, for his dinner.
“I can smell the oxen and cows, but where has Man hidden them?” Horangi asked himself, “I’m very hungry. I think I shall easily eat two animals tonight.”
The tiger moved stealthily around the village. All of a sudden, a piercing noise made him stop in his tracks and cover his ears!
“What’s that? It sounds like screeching cats!” Horangi moaned. The noise came from an open window above where Horangi stood. In the midst of the noise, there were men's voices!
“Not again!” exclaimed an agitated male voice. “What’s wrong with the baby, Sun-Hi? He’s going to wake the whole village again,” Hak-Kun sighed.
“Maybe, he’s hungry. I’ll feed him,” said Sun-Hi.
Horangi’s stomach growled softly. “How interesting...” the tiger whispered. “If I screeched like the baby, would the man feed me too?” Before Horangi could take another step, he had to cover his ears again. The horrible noise was giving him a splitting headache!
“Seung doesn’t want milk,” announced Sun-Hi disappointedly.
“Hush now, dear son,” soothed Hak-Kun as he carried the baby in his arms. “If you don’t stop, a fierce wolf or wild boar will come and get you!”
The baby looked puzzlingly at his father and was quiet for a brief moment. Then, he wailed again, this time his cries were louder, stronger and more insistent.
“Stop it! You’ll give Seung nightmares!” Sun-Hi scolded.
Horangi shook his head in disbelief. Why is Man so uninformed? Wolves and wild boars were not fierce at all. Why, a few nights ago, he had effortlessly hunted down one of each for dinner!
“I’m trying to scare him so he’ll stop crying,” explained Hak-Kun.
“That’s silly!” responded Sun-Hi.
“It’s not! What if a tiger was led into our village by this terrible noise? It would not think twice before pouncing on any one of us with its sharp claws!" Hak-Kun surmised.
Horangi’s ears perked up. The tiger was impressed now. The man spoke truth! A tiger’s roar could paralyse his prey with fear. Then, the tiger would leap at his prey and kill it or shatter its spine with one swipe of his sharp claws!
“Hak-Kun, it’s clear our baby is not afraid of any wolf, wild boar or tiger,” concluded Sun-Hi as she rocked the unhappy baby in her arms.
Poor Horangi was confused. If a tiger met a fearless baby, would the tiger be the one that ran away? Surely not! The noise was getting louder and louder!
“If the baby doesn’t stop this noise, I’ll jump through the open window and devour all of them!” Horangi told himself.
Suddenly, Sun-Hi cried out, “Gotgam!”
Moments later, all noise ceased. The baby was quiet and the silence was deafening! Strangely, Horangi thought he could hear loud thumping sounds now. They were not coming from above or around him. Where were they coming from?
Suddenly, the tiger froze. Oh no! They were the frantic beatings of his heart! Was he... fearful?
"What kind of a beast was a gotgam?" muttered Horangi. How could the mere mention of its name scare the miserable, crying baby into immediate obedience, he wondered.
“Peace, at last,” Hak-Kun sighed with relief. “So, only gotgam can quieten Seung!”
“Yes, and there are more gotgams in each of the houses in the village,” revealed Sun-Hi. “We made them ourselves and stored them to last us a few months before the next harvest.” Horangi couldn’t believe his ears!
“How many more fearsome beasts are there? How did Man make these beasts and store them?” he muttered as he slowly backed away.
Suddenly, something hard and hefty landed violently on the tiger’s back! A loud, deathly scream followed that sent shivers down the tiger’s spine! Then, something cast a long shadow on the ground beside the tiger.
“Gotgam!” roared Horangi in fright, as he threw the object off his back. Terrified, the tiger bolted away!
All of a sudden, the tiger was met by screaming villagers. They held flaming torches and threw spears and rocks in his direction.
“What a horrible gotgam to attack defenceless me,” whined Horangi, his voice quivering as he licked the cuts on his legs and sides.
Back in the village, everyone was relieved that no one was hurt and that all their livestock were safe in their sheds. “What happened?” asked Sun-Hi, when Hak-Kun returned home.
“A tiger and a thief were in our village, but nothing was taken. Something must have spooked the thief to drop his bags by the side of our house. As for the tiger, it ran away.”
“Oh?” gasped Sun-Hi. “So, it was the thief who screamed?”
“Just before the roar,” added Hak-Kun.
“What a horrible and sad end for the thief if he was a meal for the tiger,” said Sun-Hi sadly.
“We don’t know if that happened. There was no trail of blood at all. There were clear paw prints and footprints by our house but they went in opposite directions.”
“Then there is hope that nothing unfortunate happened to the poor thief!” she said, relieved. “I’m just pleased that Seung didn’t cry again from all that commotion,” said Hak-Kun. “Who would have thought that Seung wanted a gotgam?”
“Apparently, sucking the gotgam or dried persimmon soothes the gums when the child is teething,” explained Sun-Hi.
That night, and many nights thereafter, the family and the village had undisturbed sleep. Seung had no reason to cry again while he was teething, simply because of gotgam. He liked the sweetness of the dried fruit. Thankfully, the village did not have another visit from either a tiger or a thief. In fact, it became known as the safest village to live on the foothills.
As for Horangi, he never left the forest again. He also dissuaded his friends from venturing into any villages for a long time afterwards.
All they would dare do was look at the village from the edge of the forest, and hope that they remained safe from the gotgam.
"I don't want the frightening and fearsome gotgam to get me or my friends!” Horangi decided. “And I don’t want any of us to face any crazy villagers either!”
Once upon a time: A small boy saved the island of Singapura from a terrifying garfish attack. A clever Melakan Prime Minister outwitted a Chinese Emperor. A poor coolie was challenged by a water demon to do the unthinkable. These are all stories of valour, wit and intrigue from the literary Malay Annals. Handed down and cherished from generation to generation. Now made accessible to modern readers.
Taking classic stories from Asia and the West, Pop! Lit for Kids reimagines them into easy-to-read stories that provide the perfect introduction to classic tales. The most well-loved stories from around the world have been adapted into a form that will excite and entertain children everywhere. Readers can embark on new adventures with famous beloved storybook characters. In addition, the books come to life with augmented reality features, giving readers an enhanced experience that they'll never forget!
The Tiger's Folly is one of the many stories featured in The Malay Annals: Attack of the Garfish and Other Adventures which can be purchased here. Learn more about the Pop! Lit for Kids series here.
Hidayah Amin is an award-winning author whose first short story, The Funny Accident was published when she was 11 years old. When the Singapore government acquired her childhood home, Hidayah resumed writing and published Gedung Kuning: Memories of a Malay Childhood. She has written eight non-fiction books and seven children's picture books since 2010.
Eliz Ong is an freelance illustrator cum designer based in ever sunny Singapore. She has worked with various publishers and design companies both local and overseas. Doing children’s book illustrations is her first love, with her second love being lino printing!