Tigers are main characters in books, children’s television programmes and even
London theatre shows, with The Tiger Who Came to Tea being one of the best theatre shows for families. They’re strong, fierce and beautiful to look at with bright orange fur and distinctive black stripes. Let’s check out five of the top mythical tigers from stories and folklore.
According to Chinese culture, there are five basic substances that make up the material world. These are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. This is known as the Theory of the Five Elements. Some Chinese myths follow this Five Element idea, believing there are five different coloured tigers who balance the energy of the universe. Folklore says there’s a black tiger governing water and the winter, a green tiger governing Earth and the spring, a red tiger governing fire and the summer, a white tiger governing metal and autumn and a yellow tiger ruling the others.
A lot of tiger-related myths have arisen from Chinese culture. Legend has it that a tiger’s tail would turn white when it reached the age of 500 years old. For this reason, the white tiger has become a kind of mythological creature. It was believed that the white tiger would only appear when the Emperor ruled with absolute virtue or if there was peace throughout the world. White tigers are real but they’re now extinct in the wild. Their extremely rare nature could explain how the myth of the white tiger started.
Tigers are hugely important in Japanese culture and there are loads of Japanese phrases that relate to these animals. For instance, if you take a big risk in life, you are said to be “stepping on a tiger’s tale.” And if you’re a person pretending to have more power than you have, you’re a “fox borrowing the power of a tiger.” But was there ever a Japanese tiger? There are quite a few myths and legends around this theory. A tiger species could have crossed from Russia to Japan via land bridges. But it’s thought that it died out before humans existed.
According to the beautiful story by Judith Kerr, a very hungry and thirsty tiger comes for tea with Sophie and her mummy, eating and drinking everything in their house. He then says thanks before heading on his way. On her next shopping trip, Sophie buys a can of tiger food in case he ever comes back. But he doesn’t. Where did he go? Is he having tea parties with other families? Why was this tiger so different from other more beastly and fierce tigers in the wild? There’s definitely a mythical, mysterious element to this popular story.
Tigers in Korean myths are portrayed as being silly and prone to making mistakes rather than strong and ferocious like in other stories. The moral of many Korean stories is that intelligence and approach is more important than size and strength - but the tiger definitely gets a raw deal here.
If you’re a fan of tigers, don’t miss The Tiger Who Came to Tea live on stage. Theatre tickets for children’s shows are readily available, so book yours now and make memories to last a lifetime.