S: The Story of Nian By Nina Cheng
FC: The Story of Nian Retold by Nina Cheng
1: The Story of Nian By Nina Cheng April 2012
2: A long long time ago, in a faraway land called China, there was a beast. He was a monster, grotesque and very unsightly. The Chinese gave him a name; Nian.
4: Why was this name given to him? Every new year, the beast would come and eat the people's children, along with their livestock. He would also destroy property. In Chinese, the word "nian" meant "year", and thus the monster got its name.
6: And so, everyone feared the beast. But some children who had never seen it before thought it was a mere folktale. After being dared to do so, one child snuck out of his bedroom and ventured outside in the night. ... Would the he see the beast?
8: Outside, the air was clean, refreshing. There was a bright moon in the sky, illuminating the houses and the roads. Perhaps Nian will not come tonight, if he exists at all, the young boy thought.
10: Then, Nian suddenly appeared before the boy's eyes, as if by magic. "Well, well," he exclaimed. "This is the first time I have been given a sacrifice willingly! Perhaps I shall demand of this from now on." He lunged for the boy. But something stopped him.
12: The boy had started to scream at the top of his lungs, stamping his feet on the floor. And though it was hard to see in the dim light, he was wearing a bright red jacket. Nian ran away, and the boy ran back home as well, with only a few cuts and bruises.
14: Was Nian scared of children? The elders pondered long and hard. It couldn't have been; he ate them all the time. Then...it must have been something about the boy that had frightened him away. They finally came up with a conclusion; that Nian was afraid of loud noises, and the color red.
16: The next year, the people decided to do an experiment. Everyone dressed up in red, and the town's smartest people invented the firecrackers, to set off very loud noises. | If the Nian came again, the townspeople would be afraid no longer.
18: That night, the beast arrived once again in the neighborhood. He was greeted with loud noises and people dressed in red, all over. "How could they have discovered my weakness? I must eat them all!" he exclaimed. But all that red....all that noise....he started to feel mildly dizzy, and suddenly had the urge to vomit. He couldn't stand it any longer. He turned around and fled into the darkness, like a coward.
20: This was a victory! The people were overjoyed and very proud. From then on, they would do this every year, and Nian showed up less and less, until he was never seen again. | Today, firecrackers and wearing red during the new year has become a well known Chinese tradition. After all, the story of Nian is just a folktale....or is it?