The Tiger's Whisker
A Korean Folktale
Once upon a time in the Lun mountains of Korea, there lived a husband and wife. They were the best of friends and very much in love. They lived and laughed together, worked on the land together and had been happily married for two years when the husband was called upon to go to war. It was a sad day for the couple and neither of them wanted to part but the man knew he had no choice.
While he was gone, his wife worked the land herself and waited patiently for her husband’s return. He saw, and was forced to do, many terrible things but eventually the war ended and he was sent back home.
However, the man that returned was not the man that his wife remembered. Everything had changed. They no longer laughed together. He was no longer affectionate and spent his days sitting alone looking out towards the mountains while she worked. He was short tempered and miserable and often snapped at his wife for the smallest reason. She did not understand this change in her husband and she began to lose her patience with him.
One day, the wife was at the end of her tether when a friend told her of an old hermit that lived way up in the mountains. Many people sought his advice for he was a font of wisdom and was knowledgeable in the magical arts. The wife decided to pay him a visit. It took her a day to climb the mountain until eventually she found the hermit sitting alone in his house. She described the situation and asked if the hermit could help her husband.
"He was so loving and caring before he left for the wars," she explained. "He has returned after three years but now he is cold and aloof. He does nothing but sit all day while I have to keep the house and work the land. He won’t eat, he barely sleeps and he won’t talk to me about what is bothering him."
"War does these things to men," said the hermit.
"They say you can make a potion that can kindle love in the person who consumes it," said the woman.
"I could make such a potion, it is true, but I lack one of the ingredients that go into its making."
"What is this ingredient?" asked the woman.
"It is a tiger's whisker," replied the hermit, “Almost impossible to acquire.”
The woman was desperate to help her husband, so she left promising to get what the hermit had asked for. The very next day she went in search of a tiger and finally saw one on the banks of a river. The tiger snarled when he saw her and she retreated. Just how was she supposed to do this?
However, she didn’t give up. She returned to the spot the next day with a bowl full of rice and meat which she left for the tiger. Once again, the tiger snarled at her so she retreated and hid behind a rock while she watched him eat. Every day she returned to that spot and left the bowl of rice and meat for the tiger to eat. She would hum a gentle lullaby as she did so and eventually she noticed that the tiger would be there waiting for her. He would snarl until she backed away and would not eat until she was out of view.
After months of doing this the woman returned to the spot and noticed the tiger there waiting for her. She hummed her tune as she put down the bowl of rice and meat and observed that the tiger no longer snarled.
As time went by the tiger began to get closer and closer to the woman until she could eventually stand beside him as he ate his bowl of food. Eventually, he even let her touch his coat and gently stroke him, purring like a domestic cat as she gently hummed her lullaby to him.
One day, after he had finished eating, the woman sat down by the river and the tiger settled beside her, laying his head on her lap. She gently stroked his soft fur and realised that this was her chance. With great care, she took out a knife and cautiously cut one of his whiskers. The tiger didn’t even seem to notice.
As soon as she had done this, she said goodbye to the tiger and she rushed back up to the hermit's house with the whisker.
"I've got it!" she said, triumphantly.
"Good," said the hermit.
He took the whisker to the fireplace and to the astonishment of the woman, he dropped it into the fire where it sizzled.
"W-what have you done!" said the woman, aghast. "Do you realise how much I have been through to get that and how long it has taken me? You promised to make me a magic potion!"
"You don't need one," said the hermit, softly. "Tell me, how did you win the tiger's affection? Through gentleness and a great deal of patience. Would a man be less responsive than a savage and blood-thirsty beast? Go and win over your husband as you did the tiger."
The woman considered what the hermit had said as she slowly made her way home. When she saw her husband her first instinct was to turn away. However, she remembered the tiger and the hermit's words, so she took a deep breath and slowly moved towards him, humming her lullaby with a gentle and caring smile on her face.
This story teaches us how some gentleness, compassion and patience can help so much in helping others overcome trauma and grief. I wonder if you can relate to this at all and whether you have experienced this in your own life with someone you love. Perhaps it is you who is overcoming some kind of trauma.
Hypnotherapy can help us develop patience and compassion if we are dealing with someone we perceive as "difficult" for some reason. It is also an effective way of coming to terms with our own grief or trauma. You can read more about PTSD and hypnotherapy here.
If you would like to talk about it or think hypnotherapy might be able to help you, please get in touch for a free phone consultation.