It was another cold, rainy night in the month of Wakching. The winter rain was relentless as it battered on the eaves of the thatch cottage roof. Inside the cottage, a five year old boy was crying while his mother tried in vain to console him. It had been a tiring day for her and the last thing she wanted was to spend all night coaxing a tantrum-throwing 5 year old to have his dinner and go to bed. She'd already exhausted herself narrating all his favorite stories and was now getting to the point of trying to scare him, hoping that he'd eat something and not go to bed hungry.
"Have your food, or the fox will get you!"
The boy cocked his head to one side for a moment, and paused a bit and then resumed his wailing again.
"Stop crying now, or the bear will take you away!"
This didn't have any effect on the boy.
"Look, if you don't stop crying, the tiger will come!"
She said this in the scariest sounding voice she could muster up. At that moment, outside the cottage, a tiger was lurking in the shadows of the cowshed, hoping to snatch away some unfortunate cattle for his dinner. And he overheard the mother take his name and smirked that his name struck fear in the hearts of mothers and their children. Lo! but what was this? The boy didn't stop crying for even an instant! How in Taibangpan was this possible? The tiger contemplated roaring to scare the nitwit child, but also thought better of it, for that would attract the attention of the villagers and thus spoil his chances of getting easy dinner. He fumed inside the cowshed and tarried a little longer to see what the mother would do next.
Inside the cottage, the hassled mother was at almost at her wit's end. She just drew back and then kept very quiet pondering her next move. Suddenly, inspired by the rhythmic tip-tap of the raindrops outside, she shrieked out saying, "Emaa! Tap-taa has come!"
Hearing the word "Tap-taa" for the first time, the boy stopped crying. Relieved, the mother coaxed him to finish his dinner quietly.
The tiger, who overheard the goings on was stunned that a mere child wasn't scared of him, the tiger, the most powerful of all animals in Taibangpan. But what is this Tap-taa that such a child kept quiet on the mere mention of his name? Surely, it must be a more powerful being than him. He shuddered at the thought, and crept among the cows in fear. "I hope Tap-taa does not come inside the cowshed..."
Just then, a thief, taking advantage of the rainy night, came inside the cowshed and started groping in the darkness for the fattest cow he could steal. His hands touched the frightened tiger's flank.
"Aha! what a fat cow! I will steal this one!"
He dragged the tiger out by the ears and climbed onto the back of the terrified animal.
The tiger thought, "Merciful Taibang Mapu! Did you have to make Tap-taa catch me when all these cows were around? What can I do now? I better go along quietly so he doesn't kill me." So he allowed the thief to harness him and went along quietly.
By this time, the torrential Wakching rain had become a mere drizzle. The thief, smirking at his easy catch and thanking his lucky stars stroked the terrified tiger's head. "Oh, what a fat one I got this time! Let me inspect the animal better." He touched the tiger's ears and thought, "Oh, its ears are so short--maybe it got torn in a fight...I hope it's tail is in place. He groped behind and wondered, "What a strange cow! no tuft at the end of its tail..." Just then, the full moon burst out in all its glory from behind the clouds.
The thief looked looked down. "Strange, this cow has such an unusual pattern--stripes!" He looked down again for a closer look and suddenly became aware that the cow didn't have horns for its size. His brain, suddenly spurred into action and put all the pieces of information together: "Holy Taibang Mapu! I'm astride a tiger, not a cow!" At that thought, he shrieked in horror, "Aaaaaaargh! Aaaaaaaaaaargh!"
The terrified tiger bolted at this horrific sound and leaped high in the air. The thief fell down in a thud on the mud. Without looking back, the tiger skirted to freedom and the safety of the forest ahead. He ran and ran, only stopping when he reached the water hole. "Whew! what a narrow escape! I nearly died tonight!" and he vowed to stay away from the village, so the Tap-taa could not catch him again.
Meanwhile, the thief had managed to get up. No bones broken. He was still shaken but relieved and he muttered under his breath, "Whew! what a narrow escape! I nearly died tonight!" He trudged home, vowing not to steal again--"Oh Taibang Mapu, thank you for your mercy! I will not steal again--it's too dangerous!"
And inside the cottage, the woman went to sleep in peace, unaware that her brilliant inspiration of Tap-taa had saved the villagers a lot of bother, unaware that the tiger and the thief wouldn't bother any of them anymore.