“He came back from the war a changed man. I don’t know what to do. He hardly speaks to me. He doesn’t listen. He’s angry all the time … hardly touches what I cook. When he storms out of the house for no reason, I don’t know where he goes.”
There’s an old story from Korea, where a young woman describes her husband thus. In desperation, she travels to a distant mountain to get help from a famous hermit who has a reputation for magic potions that work. She truly wants her husband back to the gentle, loving man he used to be.
“Everyone needs potions! Can we cure a sick world with potions?” the hermit declared.
However, he listened to her complaints and offered to make such a brew, provided she supplied one essential ingredient – the whisker of a living tiger! The woman gasped and shook her head. She had always been afraid of tigers.
After many months she overcame her fears, persisting with her task. Night after night, she brought food to a tiger that lived near her village. She was able to get closer and closer to that wild creature. She always spoke gently to him and never reproached him. She gained the tiger’s confidence till she was able to rub his head and smile with him. He didn’t even notice when one moonlight night, she finally snipped off one whisker.
When she gave the hermit that whisker, he inspected it and then tossed it into the fire. The woman cried out that now she had lost that which she held most dear … the love of her husband… it all had been for nothing.
When she was quiet and while the fire crackled, the old hermit replied,
“Is a man less responsive to kindness and understanding? If you can win the affection and trust of a wild and bloodthirsty animal with gentleness and patience, surely you can do the same with your husband.”
All photos and text by Meg (except quotes highlighted in italics).
Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
I’ve read this story in many folktale compilations. Here, I have abridged the tale and quoted text from this version –
CROSSLEY-HOLLAND, Kevin (ed.) “The Tiger’s Whisker” in The Young Oxford Book of Folk Tales. Oxford, OUP, 1998: 15-18.
There are many other versions available on the www.