This humorous folktale from Vietnam, retold by Rob Cleveland, tells the story of Tiger, who was once the proudest animal of the jungle. He was even prouder than the peacock. Of course what Tiger was most proud of was his beautiful golden coat. But unfortunately for Tiger, he did not have wisdom and was jealous that only Man seemed to possess it. So Tiger approached Man and demanded that he give Tiger his wisdom. Man then uses his wisdom to outsmart Tiger when he finds himself tied to a tree with a rope. While trying to escape, Tiger burns his coat on the rope, leaving permanent stripes on his beautiful golden coat.
How Tiger Got His Stripes is a “pourquoi” folktale or a fictional narrative that explains why something is the way it is. In this case, the story explains why Tiger has stripes on his beautiful golden coat. Of course, this is not really how Tiger got his stripes, but the story creatively employs humor to teach valuable life lessons about character values such as courage, caring, and resourcefulness. Tiger quickly learns that you can’t use intimidation to gain wisdom and someone else can’t just give you wisdom. Instead, you have to earn it through experience. Tiger gains a little wisdom when he acts unwisely and makes foolish decisions. His experience teaches him wisdom – the hard way.
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