This is intended as a story for children. You will notice that it uses the traditional 'rule of three' for estabilshing a pattern and warning against predjudice and making assumptions. The problem I encountered during writing was that it was difficult to focus on a precise age for the target audience - I think the reading age increases towards the end of the story! Still, this is not a final draft...
'Shau Long' : Chinese for 'Small Dragon'
'Da Hey Mao': Chinese for 'Big black cat'
The tale of Shau Long and the Darhay Mao.
A long time ago, on the shores of the Yangtze River, there was a small village. In that village, there lived a young woman called Shau Long.
Shau Long had spent many years at diligent study with the teachers in the temple, and had recently graduated at the top of her class. Her parents had been very proud at the graduation ceremony when the principal had awarded her gifts of a magic katana, and also a magic writing brush and slate -- "For," said the abbot, "strength lies not only in the arm, but also in the mind."
Although she was successful and respected by the entire village for her achievements, Shau Long was not content. She had a lively and enquiring mind, and was always asking questions -- and not always ones that could easily be answered. However, her biggest question was always the same -- "What lies over the mountains to the North?"
Each time she asked this question, she received the same answer:
"To the North are demons and monsters. And, further on, the evil Darhay Mao, who captures people, hypnotises them, and then chops them up and eats them with rice and black-bean sauce!"
Shau Long would reply -
"Have you ever seen any of these demons and monsters?"
"Do you know anyone who has seen these demons and monsters?"
"So how do you know there ARE any demons or monsters?"
"Well... EVERYONE knows that there are!"
This did not satisfy Shau Long, so she decided to travel north to find out for herself. Her family were frightened, and were sure that she would be eaten by demons or the evil Darhay Mao, but she said -
"I have my magic katana to protect me, and I am old enough to spot any tricks. I will come back and tell you exactly what lies to the North."
So, Shau Long set out to the north. Although she did not know if there were any demons or monsters, she was sensible enough to keep an eye out, just in case - but she saw no monsters.
Eventually she came to the mountains, and there she met a ragged-looking man. Drawing her katana, she stood in front of him and asked:
"Are you a demon or monster?"
"No!” he replied.
"Are you the evil Darhay Mao?"
"No!” he said.
"Well, what are you?"
"I'm a poor shepherd," he replied. "All the demons and monsters live in the town at the foot of the mountains, there are none here."
Shau Long was surprised. "So," she thought, "there aren't any demons or monsters in the mountains after all."
Then she asked the shepherd,
"Have you seen the demons and monsters in the town?"
"No, I'm not so foolish as to go there!"
"Do you know anyone who HAS seen any demons or monsters there?"
"So how do you know that there ARE any demons or monsters?"
"Well... EVERYONE knows that there are!"
This did not satisfy Shau Long, so she decided to go and investigate the town to see for herself. She set off down the mountain, and the shepherd shouted after her,
"Watch out for the evil Darhay Mao! He will hypnotise you, and chop you up and eat you with rice and black bean sauce!!"
At the foot of the mountain, Shau Long came into the town. She was not sure if there were any demons or monsters, but she though it safest to be cautious, just in case.
The first person she came across was a small boy. She drew her katana, stood in front of him and asked:
"Are you a demon or a monster?"
"No!" he said.
"Well, are you the evil Darhay Mao?"
"No!" he shouted.
"Well, what are you then?"
"I'm just a little boy," he replied. "The demons live with the evil Darhay Mao in that big house on the hill outside of the village. Watch out for him -- he will hypnotise you, chop you up, and eat you with blackbean sauce!"
Shau Long thought to herself, "So, there were no demons or monsters in the town, either."
Then she asked the boy,
"Have any of your friends or family been eaten by the Darhay Mao?"
"Well... no..." he replied.
"Do you know of anyone who has been eaten by him?"
"Not personally..." he said.
"So how do you know that he eats ANYONE?"
"Well... EVERYONE knows that!"
This did not satisfy Shau Long, so she decided to go and investigate. Now, Shau Long was inquisitive, but she was not foolish. Many people had told her that the Darhay Mao was dangerous, so she resolved to take extra care.
"If I find out that he is evil," she said, "I will pierce his heart with my katana, and free the world from the danger."
With this thought, she proceeded through the town to the house of the Darhay Mao.
"Don't go there!" she was told by villagers, "The Darhay Mao is an evil sorcerer -- he has placed evil spells on our cows and they are all becoming sick. And, he will eat you with rice and blackbean sauce!"
But, when she asked, Shau Long could find noone who had actually seen the Darhay Mao do anything evil. They just replied,
"Well, EVERYONE knows that!",
and so she continued on to the big house on the hill.
At the house of the Darhay Mao, Shau Long drew her katana, and knocked on the door. The huge iron knocker made a loud, crashing BOOM, which echoed away through the house. After a while, the door creaked open, and there in front of her was the Darhay Mao!
He was very tall, and dressed all in black. His dark hair swung about his face as he looked down and said,
"Well? Who are you?"
"I am Shau Long," she replied, remembering her manners.
"Aren't you afraid that I will eat you with blackbean sauce?" asked the Darhay Mao in surprise
"Do you intend to try?" challenged Shau Long
"Not really," replied the Darhay Mao, "since I'm a vegetarian -- I don't even eat chicken, let along people. Why don't you come in and see?"
Shau Long hesitated. Should she enter the house of the Darhay Mao?
Everyone had warned her that he could not be trusted... but how else could she know for certain what he was like? So, she would go in, but keep her guard up.
"It's very rare for me to have visitors," said the Darhay Mao, as he offered some tea to Shau Long. "The local people all think I am an evil sorcerer, who casts evil spells on their cows, and refuse to talk to me. Why don't you stay here for a while, and then you can see for yourself?"
So, Shau Long decided to stay for a while, and see what the Darhay Mao was truly like. However, each time she went into the town to go to the market, the people there said to her,
"Oh! Thank heaven you are still alive and uneaten!"
"But the Darhay Mao is a vegetarian, and has promised not to eat me." she replied.
"Oh no!" they said, "The Darhay Mao has hypnotised you, and you do not know how much danger you are in! Quick, run away now before he chops you up and eats you with rice and blackbean sauce!"
As the days went by, Shau Long began to wonder if the villagers were right, and she was had been hypnotised to think she was safe. So, she decided to secretly spy on the Darhay Mao that night to see if he could be trusted.
She followed him out of the house under cover of darkness, and saw him walk down to the fields. There, he raised his staff, murmured some words, and a soft glow came out of his staff and touched all the cows before fading away.
"Oh no - he is casting an evil spell on the cows!" she said to herself. "It is true!"
Quickly, she crept back to the house, to investigate further.
Sneaking into the kitchen, she looked in the cupboard. There, she saw many bags of rice, and a big jar of blackbean sauce!
"Oh no!" she thought, "He is getting ready to eat me with rice and blackbean sauce! Thank heaven that I found out soon enough! I will confront him and end his evil ways before he does any more evil or eats anyone else."
She drew her katana, and went back to the door to wait for the Darhay Mao.
When the Darhay Mao came up the path, Shau Long confronted him.
"I have broken your hypnotic spell," she said, "and I now know what you truly are!"
"What do you mean?" asked the Darhay Mao.
"I saw you cast your evil spell on the village cows!" she said.
"AND I saw the rice and blackbean sauce in the kitchen!" she said.
"Let me explain..."
"You won't have another chance to hypnotise me!" shouted Shau Long, and leapt to attack.
Oh, what a battle that was! Shau Long swung her katana, and the Darhay Mao fired sparks from his magic staff and held her back. For a whole hour they fought, and though many times Shau Long almost pierced the heart of the Darhay Mao, each time he managed to escape. The noise awoke the villagers, who came up the hill to see the battle, and to cheer for Shau Long as she fought.
Eventually, as Shau Long tired from her long battle, the Darhay Mao swung his staff and knocked her katana from her hand! Up into the air it flew, spun around, and came down... to be caught by the Darhay Mau!
The Darhay Mao advanced on Shau Long, holding the katana, as she looked around for a way to escape. The villagers, all cowards, fled to leave her alone and powerless in front of the Darhay Mao.
"So... you wish to kill me for my evil deeds?" asked the Darhay Mao.
Shau Long nodded, fiercely.
"Well... do so!" said the Darhay Mao, dropping the katana at her feet, as she stood there in shock and surprise. "Pierce my heart and destroy me, for I am so weary of living this life of constant dislike. But first, hear my words."
"I was not casting an evil spell on the cows, I was curing them of the disease they had contracted. Several times have I secretly helped the village people in this way, although they do not appreciate it.
"Also, the food in the kitchen is there for a party I was planning in your honour. Did you also see all of the mushrooms, tofu and peppers? I had hoped that the villagers would come to see me with your eyes, and would cease their hostility. It seems that I was mistaken.
"So, kill me now, and rejoice that you have ended the threat of the Darhay Mao. I must be evil -- EVERYONE knows that!" he snapped, bitterly.
Shao Long listened to the Darhay Mao in surprise. Could this be another trick? Or had she played the trick on herself, believing what she was told to believe instead of thinking? Time stood still as she used all of her knowledge, all of her experience, and all of her intelligence to work out what she should do.
She swung her katana up...
... and buried it point-first in the ground.
"I do not believe you are evil," she said. "I let myself be led like a sheep, and did not think past the unfounded words that the villagers spoke. I have seen no real evidence of you being evil, only my imagination. I will stay here, and help to spread the Truth about all things to all people, and teach them to think!”
And so she did. With her magic brush, she created many leaflets and notices stating the true facts, which she distributed around the village. She also became a teacher, and taught the people of the village to think about things, and never to believe something just because "EVERYONE knows it!" She was highly respected in the village because of her wide personal knowledge of the world, and many people came to ask her advice. With her support, more people came to know the Darhay Mao, and to realise that he was not evil at all.
Eventually, he too became a much-respected member of the village, and the word of Shau Long spread as far as her home village -- where people now realised that the land to the north was empty of demons and monsters. As a result, more people travelled over the mountains, and trade blossomed.
Both villages benefited, and became prosperous, all thanks to the inquiring nature and agile mind of Shau Long!
Darhay Mao ai Shau Hwoar Long!