Told by Yang Xiu-gong.
In reading this story, and in several others that use the word "rang", it should be remembered that the letter "r" in the Pinyin convention for writing Miao, is pronounced as "z " in English.
In this story the bear became a victim of the "rang", which was a mythical animal whose one characteristic was a delight in playing spiteful tricks on others. All enquiries as to what a rang looked like, simply provoked laughter, and the answer, "I donít know". It seems to have been thought of, sometimes as a quadruped, and sometimes as a monkey. From the stories it appears that on the one hand the rang was small enough to be carried in a basket on a personís back, and to be able to move about inside the basket, and also small enough to get into a woodpeckerís hole in a tree. On the other hand it was big enough to put a bridle over a tigerís head, and ride him as a man might ride a horse, and to lie on a bed dressed in an adult womanís clothes and to look sufficiently realistic to deceive the womanís own daughter. Fortunately mythical animals are not required to be self-consistent. This kind of "rang", pronounced in a high falling tone, is not to be confused with the "rang" pronounced in a low rising tone. The latter is the Miao word for a dragon, and is identified with the rainbow.
The opening sentence of the story seems hardly relevant. The rangís motive was sadistic not gastronomic.
The Miao regularly felled pine trees for fuel. The top would first be lopped off, and then the stump split down with wedges and cut off at ground level. The tree in this story had been left overnight with the wedges holding the split open. The Miao kept bees in hives made from hollowed tree trunks, but they would also take the honey of wild bees, an operation which always began by poking a stick into the hive to discover whether there was any honey there. This was the point of the bear poking its tail into the crack in the tree. Though he did not realise it, his tail went right through the tree so that the rang was able to sprinkle it with salt. The bear withdrew his tail, and, licking it, was puzzled by the taste. Accordingly the rang bade him try again and put his tail in as far as it would go. The rang then pulled out the wedge, and the bearís tail was caught in the tree as the crack sprang closed.
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