The Tiger that Wants to be Human




A long, long, very long time ago, there lived a lonely tiger on a distant mountain. Though summer had just arrived, the weather on the mountain that the tiger had lived on for a long time was always raining. Whether it was summer, fall, winter, or spring, it was always, always raining on the mountain. Though the tiger lived on the mountain, they had always wanted to see the sun. Every day the tiger cried to the sky:


“Eung, eung~ it’d be great if I could see the sun~ I want to live under the sunlight~ eung, eung~”


Also, at another place there was a village. On one day, the tiger climbed down the mountain and found the village. At the village, there lived many people and the weather was clear and nice. While the tiger watched they said this:


“Wow, the sunlight is so beautiful! I want to live in the village! If I become a human, I get to live here! Wow!” And so, the tiger found a child and asked him this question: “Child, how do I become a human?”


And so, the child answered like this: “Oh? Uncle doesn’t have clothes, right? If you want to become a human don’t you have to wear clothes?”


Because of that, the tiger went to the market and found a very pretty white dress shirt. However, the tiger didn’t have cash, right!! Because they had no money, they went to work in the fields with other humans. Since the tiger wanted to become human, they worked for three months in order buy the white dress shirt. When three months passed by, the tiger finally bought the white dress shirt! Even so, after three months, summer had left and it became fall. While the rain came once again, because the white dress shirt became wet, our pitiful tiger cried again.


~Eung, eung~ I can never become a human! Eung, eung~





Living between two geographical/cultural landscapes, my body coexists in flux between conflicting ideologies and behavioral standards. So often, I try to be either one or the other, both evolved over time into a canonized idol of accepted stability and “comfortability” according to the standards of homogenized and heteronormative culture.


To be “human” is to be something impossible: beautiful and desirable, while funding capitalist national powers that find bodies outside of the canon to be unacceptable. Panthera tigris tigris is the national animal of South Korea, although most, if not all, have gone extinct due to extreme hunting practices during the Japanese Occupation and further Western urbanization of the Korean landscape. Since ancient times, the tiger has been the other, to be feared and ridiculed and worshipped through folk tale, theatre, and works of painting.


As a child, I loved reading Korean picture books of folk tales depicting tigers, as storytelling became the most important way for me to translate my external influences into expressing identity. I wrote this folk tale in subpar Korean, edited by my Korean professor at Brown University and my mother. The awkward, unsupposing translations are reflective of my current lack of words that describe the gap between two languages. In effect, through visual imagery I look for overlap, layering, and collaging to write in a new language in which I am fluent.


A recording of the folktale performed in front of my Korean language class taken at Brown University.