The Tiger and the Persimmon

E.H. is a 20-year-old Chinese student in my fraternity. He was sharing a few old Chinese stories he used to hear a bunch. His mom told him this story when he was 9 or 10, and she told him this to provide him some guidance and life lessons. It was a way for him and his mom to bond, and this was one of the last childhood stories his mom ever told him.

E.H.: So, deep in the mountains, there is a mother and a newborn child. The newborn child was crying for days and days, and a tiger was roaming outside, he was hungry, he was enormous, his roar would scare all the animals and people away, he was honestly the scariest tiger there ever was. By the time the tiger was roaming around the mountains and heard the baby crying, he thought to himself “what an annoying baby, I am going to go eat him.” So, one day, the tiger hopped into the room and saw the baby, and was about to leap inside, when he heard the mother speak “look a fox” pointing at the scary tiger. She said to the baby “stop crying, stop crying, or he’ll hear you and eat you up.” The baby did not care at all, kept on crying as loudly as he was, probably even louder, and the mother kept on trying to comfort him, saying “look it’s a bear” and yet the child kept on crying and crying. The baby wasn’t frightened at all and kept on crying without the slightest interuption. Finally the mother said “look the big tiger is her, right outside the window”. At that point, the tiger paused, knowing how scary he was, and thought “this baby is going to stop crying, I am the meanest, scariest, angriest animal in the mountains.” The baby, again, kept on crying without the slightest bit of fear. The Tiger is not used to this because he’s used to people being scared and running away when they see him. When he was about to pounce, the mother cried out “look a persimmon”, and again the baby stopped crying. The tiger thought that the persimmon was a creature bigger and scarier than him, so he ran away.

It is interesting how when the baby is crying, it does not stop for the scary animals that would harm him. Instead, the baby stops for a fruit, which then the Tiger then thinks is this insanely scary animal and runs away, since the baby stopped crying for it and not him. It speaks towards the Tigers arrogance, thinking nothing else is stronger and then being scared when he believes something is, even though it was just a fruit. The baby on the other hand is naïve, and doesn’t even know what it is crying about. It does not know the danger by it, and continues on its business. There is something nice about being able to slow down and not worry about the world around you. You can see another version of the story in the book The Tiger and The Dried Persimmon by Janie Jaehyun Park, that has some variations in it.