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Story behind the idiom: 狐假虎威 – Using powerful connections to intimidate others

In this HSK 3-4 story, a crafty fox (狐狸 hú li) escapes being eaten by playing a cunning trick on a mighty tiger (老虎 lǎo hǔ).

In this HSK 3-4 story, a crafty fox (狐狸 hú li) escapes being eaten by playing a cunning trick on a mighty tiger (老虎 lǎo hǔ).

The idiom 狐假虎威 translates to “The fox pretends to have the might of a tiger”, and it is used to describe the act of hiding behind powerful friends. When you finish reading the story, you’ll see why.

Source here, I edited to make it a little easier.

Some language stuff

There’s quite a few words and language elements here that appear in other beginner posts, so if you’re a frequent reader, rejoice: you’ll get to use a few things you’ve learned already.

Those include this usage of the character 得. In this story, 得 is used in the phrase 吓得撒腿就跑.

吓 xià – to frighten or scare
得 de – To the point that, to the extent that
撒 sā – to scatter
腿 tuǐ – legs
就 jiù – then
跑 pǎo – run

If you’ve ever watched Loony Tunes, you’ll know exactly what is meant by “scattering legs”. You know when a cartoon character is about to run away, and their legs scramble around frantically before their body starts moving? That’s basically what 撒腿 is describing. So 吓得撒腿就跑 means “frightened to the point that one scrambles to run away”.

We’ve also seen this definition of 原来 yuán lái in a couple of other posts, which sometimes means “originally”, but in this case means “turns out”, as in “Turns out I wasn’t the only one who left early.”

We’ve also covered 胆子, which means “courage”.

But there’s some new vocab as well, notably:

老天爷 lǎo tiān yē – Literally: “Old Sky Grandfather”, a high-ranking Chinese deity which I’ve simply translated here as “God”.

百兽 – bǎi shòu – Literally “one hundred beasts”, but this doesn’t literally refer to 100 animals. It means “all the birds and beasts” in the forest.

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狐假虎威

在森林里,有一只老虎正在寻找食物。一只狐狸从老虎身边跑过。老虎扑过去,把狐狸抓住了。

狐狸问老虎:“你敢吃我?”

“为什么不敢?”老虎怀疑地问。

“老天爷派我来管你们百兽,你吃了我,就是违抗了老天爷的命令。我看你有多大的胆子!”

老虎很纳闷,松开了爪子。

狐狸摇了摇尾巴,说:“我带你到百兽面前走一趟,让你看看我的威风。”

老虎跟着狐狸往森林深处走去。狐狸骄傲地往前走;老虎半信半疑,东张西望。

森林里的野猪啦,小鹿啦,兔子啦,看见狐狸骄傲地走过来,跟平时很不一样,都很纳闷。再往狐狸身后一看,呀,一只大老虎!大大小小的野兽吓得撒腿就跑。

老虎相信了。其实他受骗了。原来,狐狸是借着老虎的威风把百兽吓跑的。

Show English translation »
In the forest, there was a tiger looking for something to eat. A fox ran past on one side of the tiger. The tiger pounced upon it, and caught the fox.
The fox asked the tiger: “You dare to eat me?”

“Why wouldn’t I dare?” the tiger asked suspiciously.

“God sent me to manage all the birds and beasts, if you eat me, you’ll be opposing God’s command. The way I see it you’ve got some nerve!”

The tiger was befuddled, and opened his claws.

The fox swished his tail, and said: “I’ll toke you walking before the [other] birds and beasts, and let you see my might.”

The tiger followed the fox and walked into the deep parts of the forest. The fox walked proudly ahead; the tiger [followed] half-believing and half-doubting, looking in every direction.

The forest’s wild boars, deers, and rabbits all saw the fox proudly walking over, [in a manner] very different than usual, and they were all puzzled. Then they looked behind the fox, agh, a big tiger! Wild beasts big and small were terrified and took off running.

The tiger believed [the fox]. Actually, he had been tricked. Turns out, the fox was borrowing the tiger’s might to scare the other animals into running away.

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