Context: Informant is a mother with two daughters. She was telling this story as a bedtime story to the younger daughter. This is a traditional bedtime story for Taiwanese people. The story is normally told when the child is refusing to go to bed. Since it’s a has a scary plot in it, the child will usually get scared and then complied.
Informant: Once upon a time, there was a tiger who wished to become human through magical practices, which involves eating human children. One day, the tiger heard that a mom left the home to visit the sick grandma, leaving the house with only two kids. Before she left, the mom reminded the kids that they should not open the door for anyone other than her. The tiger saw this as an opportunity, but he needed to figure out a plan to trick the children to open the door for him. He used his magic power to transform into an old woman. He knocked the door and yelled, “Open the door. Your mom asked me to come take care of your guys.” The kids responded through the door, “Mom said not to open the door for anyone.” “But I’m old and walked so far to come here. Please let me in to rest and drink some water.” The kids opened the door for the old woman. As the old woman was resting in a chair, the kids asked more about who she is and where she is more. The old woman, played by the tiger, answered with her hoarse voice, “I’m your distance relative. Your mom told me to come take care of you two while she is away to visit your grandma.” Hearing what she said, the kids let down their guard; they thought no stranger would know about their grandma being sick. They invited the old woman to stay the night. At night, when everyone was asleep, one of the kid heard an unusual noise. Crackling noise coming from the other side of the bedroom. Through the shadow projected on the wall, the kid discovered the scariest thing. The old woman was eating the other kid. She ran out of the bedroom and climb all the way up on the nearby tree. The tiger noticed the kid was gone, hurrying out to chase her down. The kid was stuck in the tree with a tiger pacing around underneath; fortunately, the tiger don’t know how to climb a tree. The kid came up with a plan to get herself out of danger. She said to the tiger, “Eat me raw is too plain. How about you heat up a pot of hot oil and carry it here? I will jump in the pot and you can enjoy the tasty fried meat afterwards. I promise I won’t runaway while you are heating the oil” The tiger couldn’t resist the idea of the delicious food he could get, so he went in the kitchen and brought out a big pot of hot oil. The kid was still on the tree. She asked the tiger to use a rope and hang the pot all the way up where she was so that she could jump in the pot herself. The tiger found a rope and hung the pot up onto the tree. The kid said,”Now close your eyes and imagine the delicious meat while I get into the pot.” The tiger close his eyes. The kid dumped the whole pot of hot oil onto the tiger. The tiger screamed in pain and died beneath the tree. The kid slowly climbed down the tree, walked out the front yard, and found her mom who just got back home.
The story can also be found in Southeast China where most of the Taiwanese came from. The story is classified as AT333, same as Little Red Riding Hood. There are numerous variations of the story. In some, the kid was offered a piece of her siblings to eat. Sometimes the older kid was eaten, and other times the younger one. The genders of the two children also vary from version to version. The gender of the tiger is unknown, but usually portrayed with deeper voice and more male-like manner. The tale was meant to terrorize the kid to go to bed, but many times it causes the kid to be too scared to full asleep. The parent usually would say something along the line with “If you don’t sleep right now, Grandaunt Tiger will come and eat you.” However, that is exactly why the kid got eaten in the story: they went to bed and the tiger ate one of them. The contradiction is interesting and seemingly illogical. One possible explanation is that because the parent is present in these situation, they will protect the kid. It is more like “I will let bad things happen to you if you don’t do what I say.” The story of Grandaunt Tiger is adapted into traditional Taiwanese puppet show and there is a lullaby evolved from the story also named Grandaunt Tiger. The lyric attached below:
The story from long, long time ago. My mom told me
In the deep deep night, there will be Grandaunt Tiger/
Baby who cries do not cry. He will bite your little ear
Baby who don’t sleep quickly goes to sleep. He will bite your little pinky.
Still remember. Still remember. Squinting my eyes and say
“Grandaunt Tiger don’t bite me. This good kid is already falling asleep.”