"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lion's Whisker/Tiger's Whisker--Too known?

There are so many versions of "Lion's Whisker" and "Tiger's Whisker" around the world that sometimes I pause considering this story as part of the "Family Famine: Hunger for Love" narrative production.

Back in 2005, this story was debated and I even put my own twist to it with a child being the wise one instead of the traditional old woman. Let us see the thoughts I had then on concepts and outlines. . .

Wife (Jane) notices that Husband (Chad) is coming home later and later from work. By the time Chad gets home, supper is cold and he is quiet at the table. Even his face looks fierce with it being unshaven and rough. Jane is afraid to even speak because, for the first time, she is afraid of his anger. He even turns his back to her in bed.

Jane turns to her sister, Suzanne, for comfort. Jane's niece, Emily, overhears from behind the doors, as children often do. Suzanne asks Jane to watch Emily for an hour as she has quick errands to do. While Jane plays with Emily, the girl tells her aunt that a tiger's whisker is needed. Jane laughs and sees this as a game. Emily said that her mom read a story from Japan last night and that was what a woman did for her husband. Jane softly smiles and asks where she is to get a tiger's whisker.

Emily, knowing the seriousness of the task, says that there is a fierce tiger in her bedroom. Emily instructs Jane to bring a ham sandwich tomorrow. Jane, willing to play along, comes by the next day with the sandwich. Suzanne once again goes on errands. Emily drapes the living room in blankets and gives green and brown bits of construction paper to Jane for camouflage. The sandwich is placed in the hallway while the aunt and niece hide behind the blanket in their camouflage. They never site a tiger but they did have to be careful of snakes and quicksand. Emily tells Jane to come again and with another sandwich.

Jane returns and notices that only crumbs on left where the ham sandwich once lay. She places a turkey sandwich in its place and again Emily and Jane are in camouflage. This happens for three weeks. Every time, the sandwich disappears.

Now Emily says that they can get closer to the tiger's lair. Emily asks Jane if she knows how to play any instruments. Jane mentioned she used to play the piano and Emily reminds her that a piano is awfully hard to take through the jungle. Jane said that she thought she has a recorder somewhere when she was a kid. The next day, Emily and Jane creep carefully to the hallway but still holding back since the lair is on the other end of the hallway. Jane plays--as best she can--on the recorder. This continues for another three weeks with the food and music.

Jane says she feels ready to approach the lair. Emily says she will pray for her and for the tiger. The next day Jane gets to the doorway and plays the recorder and places down the sandwich. A huge stuffed tiger, like the kind you win at carnivals, sat on the bed. For three weeks she is in the tiger's view at the doorway.

Finally Jane slowly approaches the bed and sits on it. Music plays and the two stare at each other. After three more weeks, Emily places the stuffed tiger's head on Jane's lap. Jane reaches out to touch the tiger and the tiger continues to lay. No attack is made. Then three more weeks, Emily gives Jane some scissors and while the stuffed tiger rests on Jane's lap, Jane cuts off one of the plastic whiskers.

Emily and Jane go back to the living room--excited to have done it. Emily tells Jane that Uncle Chad is nicer than a tiger but his whiskers can be quite rough. Emily also tells Jane that she's still welcome to bring sandwiches. . .for the tiger.

Jane learns from this little wise one and has patience and love for her husband. After four months, Jane sits at her table, the supper warm, and her husband smiling with a smooth and shaven face.

This is a rough version but at least you see how things would connect.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com


Anonymous said...

Hi- you're smart to recognize that story so favmiliar to other tellers requires a fresh, honest treatment. Unless this is based very closely on specific experiences of your own, with the details & feelings taken directly from your own life (David Gonzalez did a superb adaptation of this story)than the truth must come from the original text & culture. OTH, many people in audience will not be tellers, will not know the story & will find this version cute and parable-like. Good luck, Yvonne

Professional Storyteller Rachel Hedman said...

Dear Yvonne:

Perhaps my version of "Tiger's Whisker" is meant for another program.

I have the child mention that she heard the story elsewhere and that could be an opening to tell the whole traditional story and then carry on with the rest of the "present-day" story.

The story, how it is now, is on the border of too cute and sentimental. Probably not the mood I would like to have for the audience of "Family Famine: Hunger for Love".

I know you already know this--but there are versions with lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) as well as mountain lions. And now a stuffed tiger version!

Thanks for commenting.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman