Grandfather tiger finds a wife for his grandson.

Told by Yang Xiu-gong.


Yang Xiu-gong was not able to say exactly in what sense the orphan lad was the tiger’s grandson, beyond affirming that he was the tiger’s "real" grandson. In Miao society, however, an adopted child would be described as a "real" son, just as a natural child would be, so that the relationship in the story remains open to speculation, with a number of possibilities. The tiger might merely have adopted the boy, enticing him away from his family without permission, as he later took the girl away by force. It could be that the tiger was indeed the boy’s natural grandfather, who, for some reason, had turned into a tiger. There are many examples of such transformations in the songs and stories, but they are normally only temporary and the person usually changes back to human form fairly soon. That does not happen in this story. Possibly the boy’s father was the child of a union between the tiger and a woman whom the tiger had abducted to be his consort. However, this would require the tiger to be a good bit older than he apparently was, and in the other example we have of such a union, the offspring were tigers not humans. (See M481) Could the tiger have been a reincarnation of the boy’s dead grandfather? Perhaps, but transmigration does not figure in any of the songs, and it is not found in any of the accounts which deal with the worship of the ancestors. Of all the possibilities, the first, adoption, seems the most likely.

In the course of the negotiations which took place to fix a marriage settlement, or the reparation to be paid in the case of divorce, the middlemen used conventional code words and avoided actually naming cattle, sheep, goats, etc. The reference to the dog in this story as "a little white wine" is a further example of this kind of circumlocution.

The girl whom the tiger seized was already married, and Hmao-nji-ve was her husband’s home. When she turned up again in her own home, married to someone else, the family from Hmao-nji-ve came, ostensibly to take her back, but actually to claim repayment of the marriage settlement together with reparation for the broken marriage. In the case of a divorce such matters would be talked over by the middlemen and an agreement reached. This would be ratified by the exchange of ploughshares by the parties concerned. This explains why, in this story, the signal to the tiger that there was trouble over the previous marriage, was a ploughshare hoisted to the gable of the house.

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