The Miao man and the seven brothers of the tiger family hold a contest of strength.

Told by Yang Xiu-gong.


The Miao have a number of stories in which the strength of the wild animals is pitted against man. The usual pattern is that some kind of a contest takes place in which the man is shown to be superior because his wits more than compensate for his lack of physical strength. In this story the following points need a little further explanation.

The two sides of the front of a Miao gown were crossed over like a jacket, but there were no buttons. The gown was held in place by a girdle, tightly bound around the waist. It was quite normal to carry all kinds of articles inside the flap of the gown above the girdle. A broody hen would find itself warm and comfortable in there, and being broody, would not try to get out.

After resting, and having had his smoke beside the ploughmanís plot of land, the Miao man crossed over to the undergrowth at the foot of the rocks on the other side, where the tiger had hidden himself. The Miao text, by using the phrase "ncheu mao", "desired to go", delicately implies, without actually saying so, that the reason for this little excursion was to relieve himself, and not because he suspected that the tiger was there.

In, or near, many Miao villages there were small pieces of ground where the earth was rolled down smooth and hard for the purpose of threshing corn and beans. The threshing was done with flails made of two stout sticks some four or five feet long and fixed together with a leather thong. As the work progressed a considerable pile of straw and chaff accumulated at the edge of the threshing floor, a good hiding place for a field mouse, but about the last place one would expect to find a tiger, and therefore ideal for the tigerís purpose. It was just bad luck that the Miao man should have chosen it as a place to sit and rest. But then it was not the tigerís lucky day!

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