This study examines the images of tigers in late Chosŏn stories as they relate to ecological changes during the late Chosŏn period. As a popular literary topic, tigers have held various and sometimes conflicting roles, ranging from Heaven’s sacred agents to brutal beasts. The increase in human population and the expansion of farmland caused the loss of tigers’ habitats and narrowed their food sources, which eventually increased tiger-human encounters and intensified state-led tiger extermination policies. This study shows that the images of tigers generally shifted from formidable and mysterious beings to controllable, wounded, and even obedient animals over time. The frequent descriptions of tigers killed by women, tigers asking for people’s help, and porridge-eating tigers in late Chosŏn stories reflect people’s modified view of tigers, even though actual tigers remained a threat during that period. A consideration of the ecological factors depicted in tiger stories over time suggests that changes in the societal point of view regarding these animals impact how tigers’ characters were portrayed.
- Ecological crisis
- Late Chosŏn
- Literary representation of tigers
- Tiger ecosystems