The peasant, the buffalo and the tiger: a tale of strength and wisdom

A long time ago, when animals still had the power of speech, the buffalo used to have sharp front teeth while the mighty tiger was a pure golden beast. A young peasant was resting under a mango tree one fine afternoon. He and his water buffalo had plowed the rice field the whole morning and stopped for a while to have something to eat. While the buffalo grazed and the peasant is enjoying his meal, a tiger came up to the buffalo, demanding answers for something that had puzzled him for a long time now.

“I have watched you everyday from the edge of the forest,” the tiger said, “I noticed the quite curious spectacle of your toil. How is it possible that that Man, a small and upright being who neither has great strength, sharp vision or a keen sense of smell manages to lead you and make you work for him? You are ten times heavier and stronger. Your horns are sharp enough to cut him and your hooves are mighty enough to trample him. The only weapon he carries is a flimsy bamboo stick, yet he rules you and you never run away.”

Calmly, the water buffalo answered, “I have not been able to solve that puzzle myself, mighty tiger. No matter how I ponder the situation, I only know of one thing. I can never free myself from his mastery. Whatever power he possesses, only he has knowledge of it.”

Eager to have such powers, the tiger resolved to ask the peasant. If he could rule all animals like how the man ruled the buffalo, he would no longer need to hunt for food. Instead, he could just order the animals to come and then choose a suitable meal.

“Please tell me, Mr. Farmer, what power do you have over the buffalo that makes him obey you so willingly?” the tiger asked the peasant.

“I will tell you, mighty tiger,” he answered, “I posses something that allows me to rule over all animals, making them do as I say. It is called wisdom.”

“I would do anything to see this amazing thing you call wisdom. Would you be kind enough to show it to me?” asked the tiger.

“Unfortunately, I left it at home. Wisdom is too precious for me to carry around the fields. Instead, I keep it in a gilded box carved with dragons and a golden phoenix to make sure it’s well protected. But if you want it so badly, I can go back and fetch it for you.” replied the young peasant.

Delighted by the peasant’s words, the tiger agreed. “I will gladly stay and watch over your water buffalo while you are gone.”

But the young man said, “I have heard your stomach rumble and I am greatly concerned over the possibility that you might eat my buffalo while I am gone. I have great need of it in my daily work. If you agree, I will tie you to a tree so my mind will be free. Then I would willingly go get the wisdom you want to see.”

Eager to see wisdom so badly, the tiger was willing to agree to anything. He strolled up to the palm tree, held up his legs and said, “Go ahead and tie me up.” So the farmer passed ropes around his body, secured him tightly to the palm tree and left. But sly as the tiger was, he planned on jumping on the man when he returns to untie him. He then, would eat his water buffalo, take his magic box of wisdom, and spend the rest of his days commanding the cows and dears and the delicious wild boars to come and be eaten as his meal. He would never have to hunt for food again.

Soon after, the farmer returned carrying bundles of straws behind his back. Eagerly, the tiger asked, “Did you bring the wisdom for me to see?”

“Oh yes, foolish tiger, and I am about to show you.” replied the peasant. “I never keep my wisdom in a box, it is here in my head all along. Now I will teach you to stay away from my precious water buffalo.” He then piled the straws around the tiger, and with a burning torch, he set them on fire.

The tiger roared in pain and raged as the ropes burned around his golden body. As the air filled with smell of the tiger’s singed fur and as the fire burned through the ropes, the beast finally managed to free himself. He quickly leaped away from the flames and dashed into the jungle. The sight of this spectacle amused the buffalo so greatly that he laughed so hard and fell, hitting his mouth against a rock. This caused the buffalo to knock all his front teeth out.

Though his burns have healed after some time, the tiger could no longer rid himself of the long black stripes that now circle his golden body. But most importantly, the tiger realized that his strength could never defeat man who has wisdom he knew he could never have. Up to this day, the tiger has his stripes and the water buffalo never grew back his teeth.