Neath the trees the Elder told us the story that his father had told him, of a Monk who was found in the forest wandering. A short man with a shaven head and the leathery skin of one who has travelled widely. Under a simple, rough brown cloak he was wearing yellow and burgundy robes, the brilliance of which delighted the villagers whose own clothes were all brown and green. As was their custom of hospitality they brought him to the village to provide a meal. The monk was a calm and friendly soul with a broad smile and the animals of the forest became quietened in his presence. Unable to communicate in his language they thought him lost and made clear through gesture that he could stay in the village and the head man showed him to his hut which being the largest he was very proud of. The Head man and his daughter and grandson lived there and had soon partitioned a sleeping area for the monk. At first they communicated with gestures, the monk would go out for daily walks in the forest and return each night, always bringing some fruit, nuts or berries he had gathered. He was very quick to learn their dialect at which he seemed naturally gifted and within two weeks he was having broken conversations with them.
When questioned about his origins he said he was from a temple in a place called Tibet. He was travelling in search of a certain flowering plant which had a very strong medicine. The plant was very rare and is what he goes out searching for every day. When he described the tree and it’s purple and red flowers which look like upturned hands, the whole village laughed as they knew a sheltered hollow half way up the mountain there was a forest of trees blanketed with these flowers which weren’t rare at all. They never went into the forrest as the trees bore no good fruit and tigers made their homes there.
The monk then smiled and laughed too, he had a deep but musical laugh and said that he would go to the forest the next morning and furthermore he would teach them how to harvest a medicine that his fellows would trade happily for. The villagers looked surprised, We will not go into the forests because of the Tigers!
He smiled again and said with a steady certainty.
“The Tigers will not attack you in the forest, for it is the one place that is sacred to them and they are soothed there. They will go out of the forest to hunt and the forest is the safest place you could be! You should make your home in the forest and live with the Tigers.”
They looked shocked and said they would not live with Tigers! The monk and the villagers then all burst into laughter.
In the morning the Monk gathered the villagers and asked if there was anyone who would dare to come with him into the forest so he could prove his tale. It was at this point that they all looked at a villager called Muk, he was the largest of them and known for his strength. Although fearing the tigers he stood up as he had come to trust the monk. Another also stood, he was Buk, a rival in love for one of the Headman’s daughter’s and although not as strong was famed for his bravado and would not be out-shone by his bitter rival. Thus it was, the next morning the Headman said a prayer and the three of them walked slowly into the forest.