28 June 2008

ANNALOG STORYTIME: The Rabbit's Judgment

The following is a translated excerpt from Once Upon a Time in Korea: An Elementary Reader by In Ku Kim-Marshall. If you're wondering about the choppy sentences and odd organization of paragraphs, it's because I've tried to translate the text as closely as possible. The story is followed by my own amateur analysis.

The Rabbit's Judgment
토끼의 재판

Long ago there was a kind-hearted farmer walking along a mountain trail. On this mountain, there was a trap. In this, snare was a trapped tiger. The farmer saw this tiger. The crying tiger said to the farmer, “Farmer, please save me!”

The farmer was afraid of the tiger. But, the farmer felt sorry for the tiger. The farmer asked the tiger to make a promise. “Tiger, if I help you, do not harm me.”

The tiger answered, “Yes, of course. Please help me quickly.”

The farmer found a long tree branch. The farmer lowered the tree branch into the trap. The tiger grabbed hold of the branch, and came out of the trap. However, as soon as the tiger came out of the trap, he tried to devour the farmer. The farmer thought to himself, “Ah! I am an idiot!”

The farmer plotted a ruse.

“Tiger, in that case, let’s plan a trial.” The tiger agreed.

First, the farmer asked the pine tree to help him. The pine tree didn’t like people. The reason being, people chopped up trees for firewood. That’s why the pine tree spoke like this: “Tiger-ya, if you really want to save [the farmer], eat him. That’s why Tiger-ya, even if you caught and devoured the farmer, that would be good.

The farmer was greatly disappointed. That’s why the farmer next sought out a cow. The cow also made a similar verdict. “People make us work day and night. Additionally, they eat us later. Also, people use us for leather. Even with all that, people do not even think of thanking us.”

The tiger immediately tried to devour the farmer. But, lastly, the farmer when to see the rabbit. The rabbit listened to what the farmer had to said, then replied, “Mr. Tiger, I don’t really understand. How did you come out of the trap? Can you please show me once?”

The tiger became angry. That’s why the tiger jumped straight back into the trap. Also, he yelled loudly from the trap. “You idiot! I was like this!”

The rabbit said, “Ah ha, now I know. Then, Mr. Farmer, you should just go. This tiger doesn’t need saving. This tiger doesn’t know gratitude.”

The rabbit went hop, hop, hop, into the forest. Because of the rabbit’s wise judgment, the farmer was able to live. Inside the trap, the tiger cried and yelled, “Please save me!”

I'm not quite sure what to make of this story. On one hand, the message about gratitude is quite clear. I will help you out, but if you screw me over and are unappreciative of my help, then you can very well rot in the trap the next time you're in such a predicament. Okay, maybe that's not the moral, just a personal philosophy.

I'm not sure what to make of the fact that the farmer had to ask two other sources before he finally found a "verdict" that suited him. The first two potential arbiters of justice had basically called the farmer an ingrate who deserved to be eaten. Is that what the story advises us to do in life? If at first you don't find an answer that pleases you, try, try, again?

What's with the rabbit? He is indeed clever, but was he being helpful, or simply eliminating a great threat to his personal well-being.

I know that I shouldn't read much into the story, but it's set up in such a way, that you can't help but wonder about any allegorical meaning. I don't have an answer for you, but I do have a couple of take away points.

  1. Never negotiate with tigers.
  2. Don't forget to say, "Thank you," especially to the little people. You never know when some disgruntled pine tree will come after you with an axe.
  3. Cows have feelings too. It is unfair to mark all of them as diseased or "mad."
  4. Rabbits are indeed a thing to be feared. (Just as I've always thought).


Anonymous said...

Maybe the point with the two other verdicts was to show that no matter how undeserving of gratitude (the farmer), when it is due it should be given.

Anonymous said...

To clarify...The a person's past actions aren't as important as their actions now.