The Rabbit's Judgment

Long, long ago, when plants and animals talked, a tiger fell into a deep pit while roaming through the forest in search of food. He tried over and over to get out but the walls were too steep for him to climb and he could not jump high enough to reach the opening. He called for help but none came.

The next morning he called for help until he was hoarse. Hungry and exhausted he slumped down on the ground, thinking that he was doomed to die in the pit. But then he heard footsteps.

"Help! HeIp!" he cried desperately.

"Oh! A tiger!" said a man, peering over the side of the pit.

"Please! PIease help me out of here!" pleaded the tiger. "If you help me, I won't forget you as long as I live."

The man felt sorry for the tiger but he was afraid of being eaten. "I would like to heIp you but, I'm sorry, the thought of what might happen makes me refuse. Please forgive me. I must be on my way," said the man and he began walking down the path.

"No! No! PIease don't think like that! Please help me!" cried the tiger. "You don't have to worry! I promise! I won't hurt you! Please heIp me out! Please! I beg you! If you get me out. I'II be forever grateful to you! Please!"

The tiger sounded so pitiful that the man turned around and walked back to the pit. He Iooked around until he found a big log. "Here, climb up this," he said, lowering the log into the pit.

The tiger climbed up the log and came face to face with the man. His mouth watered and he began circling him.

"Hey! Wait a minute! Didn't you promise not to hurt me? Is this your idea of gratefulness? Is this how you repay a kindness?"

"What do I care about a promise when I'm starving! I haven't eaten for days!"

"Wait! Wait!" cried the man. "Let's ask that pine tree if it is right for you to eat me."

"All right," said the tiger. "But after we ask, I'm going to eat you. I'm awfully hungry."

The tiger and the man explained the situation to the pine tree.

"What do men know about gratefulness?" said the pine tree. "Why your kind take our leaves and limbs to make fires to heat your homes and cook your food. And it takes us years to grow big but when we finally do you cut us down and cut us up to make timber and planks for houses and furniture and the like. Moreover, it was a man that dug that pit. Gratefulness. indeed! Don't give it another thought, Tiger. You just go ahead and satisfy your hunger!"

"Now what do you think of that?" asked the tiger, smacking his lips loudly and slinking toward the man.

Just at that moment an ox wandered by. "Wait! Wait!" cried the man. "Let's ask that ox to Judge?"

The tiger agreed so they explained everything to the ox and asked his opinion.

"Well, as far as I'm concened. there's no question about what to do." said the ox, turning to the tiger. "You should eat him up! You see from the time we're born we oxen work diligently for men. We carry heavy loads on our backs and plow up the ground so they can grow food. But what do they do when we're old? They kiIl us and eat our flesh and use our hides to make all kinds of things. So don't talk to me about being grateful to him. Just eat him!"

"See! Everyone agrees. Now get ready to die," said the tiger, crouching to pounce.

The man thought that it must surely be his time to die. But then a rabbit came hopping by.

"Wait Tiger! Wait!" shouted the man.

"Now what?" roared the tiger.

"Please give me one last chance." begged the man. "Let's ask that rabbit to judge whether l should be eaten or not."

"Oh, what's the use? You know the answer will be the same."

"PIease, please," pleaded the man.

"Oh. all right. But this is the last time. I'm starving!"

So the tiger and the man told the rabbit their story. The rabbit listened carefully. Then he closed his eyes and stroked one of his long ears. After a few seconds he opened his eyes and spoke slowly and deliberately. "I well understand what the two of you have said. But if l am to make a wise judgment we should go to that pit and you should tell me again what happened. So lead the way."

The tiger and the man led the rabbit the few short steps to the pit.

"Well it certainly is deep," said the rabbit. Iooking down into the pit. "Let's see, you say you were down there and you were standing here like this?" he said to the tiger and then to the man. "Well, get in the positions you were in at the time and then I can make a judgment."

Without giving it a second thought, the tiger jumped down into the pit. He was so hungry all he could think about was getting the decision-making over so he could eat the man. The man peered over the edge of the pit.

"So, that is how the two of you were. You, Tiger, had fallen into the pit and couldn't get out. And you, Man, having heard his cries of help. came and helped him out. Now I can judge. The problem started when this man helped that tiger out of this pit." explained the rabbit as if talking to someone else. "In other words, if the man had not shown any kindness and had left the tiger in the pit. there wouldn't be a problem. So what l think is that the man should continue his journey and the tiger should remain in the pit. Now, a good day to the both of you," said the clever rabbit and he hopped away.

Suzanne Crowder Han, 1991, Korean Folk & Fairy Tales

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