Ancient Chinese fable – The Wolf of the Zhongshan Mountain





The Wolf of the Zhongshan Mountain

There once lived a scholar by the name of Dongguo, who was known for his compassion.

One day, he was riding along on a donkey on his way to Zhongshan, when he saw a group of hunters. A little while later a wolf came running up to him in great fright. “Kind-hearted master,” it begged. “Please let me get into your bag and hide for a while. If ever I should emerge alive from this crisis, I will for ever remember your kindess.”

Hearing this, the master emptied his bag of books, pushed the wolf inside, and packed the books in around him.

Presently the hunters arrived. Not finding the wolf, they went away.

The wolf then asked Master Dongguo to let him out of the bag, which the master did.

Thereupon the wolf bared his fangs and said, “I was being chased by wicked men and I am grateful to you for saving my life. Now I am starving and will die unless I have something to eat. You’ll have to let me eat you, if you want to save me.” So saying, it fell upon the master, catching him completely by surprise. The master was defending himself as best he could when, to his intense relief, he saw an old man approaching. Extricating himself for a moment, he ran up to the old man, begging him to save him.

“Why, what’s up?” asked the old man.

“That wolf had the hunters on his trail and asked me to help him,” said the master. “I saved his life. But now he wants to eat me. Please talk to him and tell him he is in the wrong.”

“When the master hid me away,” said the wolf, “he bound my feet, pushed me into the bag and pressed the books in after me. I curled up as tightly as I could, but I couldn’t breathe. Then he had a long conversation with the hunters, intending that I should suffocate in the bag. Why should I not eat him?”

“I think perhaps you are exaggerating,” said the old man. “Show me what happened, and let me see if you really suffered as much as you say you did.”

The wolf gladly complied and crawled into the bag.

“Do you have a dagger?” the old man whispered to Master Dongguo.

The master produced one. Whereupon the old man signed to him to knife the wolf.

“Won’t it hurt him!” demurred the master.

The old man laughed. “This is a most ungrateful beast, yet you don’t have the heart to kill it. You are indeed a man of compassion, but you are also very foolish!”

So he helped Master Dongguo to slay the wolf.

Story of the Wolf of the Zhongshan Mountain

(杨宪益、戴乃迭 译)

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