The second book in the Animal Stories series by Barefoot Books is just like its predecessor: delightful.
Based on a story from Korea, Never Trust a Tiger tells of a merchant who, while on his way to market with his bag of spices, frees a tiger trapped in a pit.
Big mistake! Now the tiger wishes to eat the merchant. But can a good deed be repaid with a bad one? Is life really that unfair? The tiger and merchant agree to ask the next passerby if it is. If bad can follow good, the merchant will let the tiger eat him. If it is deemed that only good can follow good, then the tiger must let the merchant go. The first passerby, the Ox, says life is unfair, since in spite of all the toil he performs on behalf of the farmer who owns him, his only reward he can look forward to is to be eaten. Obviously, the merchant is not happy with this, and manages to talk the tiger into letting him ask someone else. They ask a tree by the side of the road, who deems that life is fair and only good should follow good, citing the symbiotic relationship she enjoys with the local birds.
To break the one-all tie, they ask the same question of a passing hare, who has them re-enact how they got into the dilemma in the first place. The tiger goes back into the pit. The hare then sagely advises the merchant to continue on his way to market, leaving the tiger pondering whom he should ask to help him out of the pit next time.
The moral of the story depends on how you read the book. I like that it all depends on whom you ask. Life can be unfair, or fair, depending on your view of the world, and whether your business- and personal relationships are exploitative or mutually beneficial. And what better way to discover this than by reading Lari Don’s book with its amazing illustrations by Melanie Williamson. As with The Tortoise’s Gift, this is written for early readers, with simple sentences and easy vocabulary.
The source material for the story, a website, is cited on the copyright page; but I couldn’t access it, apparently because the site was taken down between when this book was typeset and when I read it. I wonder if it is entirely necessary to include the source material for a folk tale of this sort in this, or any other form. Unless they represent some sort of legal obligation, such notices could be missed out in future instalments.
On the whole, though, another lovely read from the Animal Stories series – and far safer than rescuing your own tiger from a pit.