A Person Transformed into a Tiger 人變虎

Wang Yong, of Black Fish Gorge, in Wangcheng County, Guo Prefecture, was a charcoal-burner by trade. He often walked in the valley by the stream and saw two black fish, a little over a chi (c. 33cm) in length, swimming on top of the water. Yong, tired and hungry from cutting wood, then gutted and ate one of them. His younger brother was shocked and said: “This fish is a spirit being belonging to the valley; how could my elder brother kill it?” Soon after this, his wife brought food to them, but Yong kept on wielding his axe, and when he did eventually turn around, his wife realised that his appearance had changed, and called his brother over to look at him; Yong suddenly shed his clothes, calling and leaping, and, changed into a tiger, headed straight for the mountains. He would sometimes kill roe deer and stags, throwing them into the house at night; he was like this for two years.

One day at dusk he knocked on the door and announced himself, saying: “I am Wang Yong.” His younger brother replied: “My elder brother has been transformed into a tiger for three years now; what ghost is taking my brother’s [230] name?” He spoke again: “I previously killed a black fish; the officials of the underworld banished me as a tiger, and, because of harming people, they gave me a hundred lashes; now I have obtained return to my body; you have a look, there is no doubt.” His younger brother was delighted, hastily opening the door. He saw a person with a head just like a tiger’s and died of fright. The whole family screamed and yelled, and fled, and in the end the villagers beat him to death. His wife’s family confirmed that his body bore a distinctive black mark, and that it was truly Wang Yong; his head never changed back.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.229-30 (Tale 412):

人變虎

虢州王城縣黑魚谷王用,業燒炭。於谷中有水方數步,常見二黑魚,長尺餘,遊於水上。用伐木饑困,遂宰一食之。其弟驚曰:「此魚乃谷中靈物,兄奈何殺之?」有頃其妻餉之,用運斤不已,久乃轉面,妻覺狀貌有異,呼其弟視之,忽脫衣號躍,變為虎焉。徑入山,時殺麞鹿,夜擲於家,如此二年。一日昏暮,叩門自鳴曰:「我王用也。」弟應曰:「我兄變為虎三年矣,何鬼假吾兄 [230] 姓名?」又曰:「我往年殺黑魚,冥官謫為虎,因傷人,又笞予一百,得復人身,汝視予,無疑也。」弟喜,遽開門,見一人,頭猶是虎,因怖死。舉家叫呼奔避,竟為村人格殺之。其妻屬驗其身有黑志,信王用也,但首未變爾。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

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A Woman Transformed into a Tanuki and a Donkey 婦變貍驢

Old Woman Zhang, resident under Feicheng County in Jiningfu, her husband having died young, lived together with her son Zhang Lü’er. By day she watched over baskets of spun hemp, by night she transformed into a raccoon dog, going everywhere to steal and eat small children from people’s homes.[1] Those lost numbered eighteen or nineteen. One day she also turned into a white donkey, eating someone’s wheat seedlings, but was caught by the owner of the wheat, chained by the neck and dragged to a millstone, where she was given a severe thrashing. Finally released she was able to return, moaning and groaning, and lie down, at which her son questioned her, and she related all and was beaten to death by the people; this is truly something to marvel at.

[1] This character is presently used to refer to the tanuki, a prominent trickster animal in Japanese folk culture, but seems more likely to refer to a cat of some sort. On the tanuki, see Adrian Burton, “The Transformations of Tanuki-San” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10 (2012): 224. Present-day populations seem expected to be broadly omnivorous, their living prey limited to smaller animals. Research on the mandibles of extinct raccoon dog subspecies suggests that their diet may have varied greatly in the past (but the researchers don’t mention human babies). See Masakazu Asahara and Masanaru Takai, “Estimation of Diet in Extinct Raccoon Dog Species by the Molar Ratio Method”, Acta Zoologica (Stockholm) 98 (2017): 292-99. As noted by by Barend Ter Haar, the story is also related to the child-eating elderly female cannibal or were-animal ‘Auntie Old Tiger’ story, a tale comparable to Hansel and Gretel. See Barend J. ter Haar, Telling Stories: Witchcraft and Scapegoating in Chinese History, Sinica Leidensia, LXXI (Leiden: Brill, 2006), pp. 54-91.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.230 (Tale 413):

婦變貍驢

濟寧府肥城縣管下張婆兒,夫早歿,與子張驢兒同活。此人日則守筐緝麻,夜則變作貍,徧去偷喫人家小孩兒。所失者十有八九。一日又變作白驢,食人麥苗,被麥主捉獲,鎖項拽磨,極其鞭打。既放得歸,呻吟而卧,其子問之,具以狀告,被人打死,甚可怪也。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).