Jia’er: A Tale of Fox Spirits and Deception

Explore the intriguing story of Jia'er, a tale filled with fox spirits, deception, and a family's struggle against supernatural forces.

In the land of Chu, there was a merchant who conducted business in a distant place. His wife lived alone at home, and one night she dreamt of an intimate encounter with a stranger. Startled, she reached out to touch the person sleeping beside her, only to find a short man lying there. Upon closer observation, she noticed that this man’s demeanor was unlike that of an ordinary person. She realized that she had encountered a fox spirit. After a moment, the man jumped off the bed and disappeared without opening the door. The next night, the merchant’s wife asked an elderly lady who cooked for her to keep her company while she slept. She also had a ten-year-old son who usually slept in another bed, but now he was called to sleep together with them. In the middle of the night, after the old lady and the child had fallen asleep, the fox spirit slipped in again. The merchant’s wife began to murmur in her sleep. When the old lady heard this, she screamed, and the fox spirit hastily departed. From that day on, the merchant’s wife seemed to be in a daze, as if she had lost her soul. At night, she dared not blow out the candles and warned her son not to fall asleep. One night, when it was already very late, her son and the old lady were leaning against the wall, dozing off. When they woke up and couldn’t find the merchant’s wife, they initially thought she had gone out to relieve herself. However, as time passed and she didn’t return, they became worried. The old lady was too frightened to go look for her, so the merchant’s son took a lamp and began searching the house. He found her in another room, lying there completely naked. When he approached to help her, she showed no shame or modesty. From then on, the merchant’s wife went mad. During the day, she would alternate between singing, shouting, crying, and cursing. At night, she refused to sleep with anyone else, making her son sleep in a separate bed and sending the old lady away. Whenever her son heard her laughing and talking at night, he would light a lamp and watch over her. She would angrily scold her son, but he paid no heed, earning a reputation for his courage. During the day, however, the son would play recklessly, often behaving like a mason by piling bricks and stones against the windows. No one in the family could dissuade him. If anyone removed a stone from the window, he would lie on the ground, rolling around, throwing tantrums, and everyone was afraid to provoke him. After a few days, he had completely blocked both windows, allowing no light to enter. Once he finished the wall, he began plastering the gaps in the brick wall with mud. He worked tirelessly all day and didn’t mind the hardships. After finishing the wall, there was nothing left for him to do, so he continuously sharpened a kitchen knife, making a scraping sound. People who saw him despised his mischief and didn’t treat him as a human being.

One night, the merchant’s son secretly concealed a kitchen knife in his bosom and covered the lamp with a bowl. When his mother began to murmur in her sleep, he immediately uncovered the lamp and shouted loudly while blocking the door. After a while with no unusual events, he left the room, claiming he was going out to urinate. At that moment, something suddenly, resembling a raccoon, darted through the door crack. The son hurriedly swung the kitchen knife, but only managed to cut off a piece of its tail, about two inches long, which was still dripping with blood. Initially, when he lit the lamp, his mother scolded him, but he seemed not to hear. Upon realizing that he hadn’t struck the creature fatally, he went to sleep in frustration. However, he consoled himself, thinking that even though he hadn’t killed the fox spirit immediately, it might be deterred from returning in the future. After daybreak, the son followed the bloodstains on the ground, which led him beyond the low wall and into the garden of the He family. That night, the fox spirit indeed did not return, bringing relief to the son. However, his mother still lay on the bed, staring blankly, as if she were dead.

Not long after, the merchant returned home and inquired about his wife’s condition by her bedside. However, his wife launched into a tirade against him, treating him like an enemy. The son explained in detail to his father the reason behind his mother’s madness. The father was deeply shocked and immediately sought medical treatment, but his wife threw the medicine on the ground and continued to curse. So, the family discreetly mixed the medicine in hot water and gave it to her. After some time, she gradually calmed down. Both father and son were relieved. One night, after the father and son woke up, they found the woman missing again, and they later found her in another room. From then on, she became insane once more and refused to sleep in the same room as her husband. In the evening, she even ran to another room by herself. When the family tried to assist her, she screamed even louder. The husband was at a loss and had no choice but to lock all the doors. However, whenever his wife attempted to run outside, the doors would miraculously open on their own. The husband was deeply troubled and sought help from various sources to exorcise the evil spirit, trying every possible method, but none seemed to work.

One evening, as dusk fell, the merchant’s son stealthily infiltrated the He family’s garden and hid among the foliage, intending to discover the whereabouts of the fox spirit. Shortly after the moon had risen, he suddenly heard voices. He cautiously parted the grass with his hand and saw two individuals here drinking wine. There was also a servant with a long beard, holding a wine jug beside them, dressed in dark brown clothing. Their voices were soft and low, making it difficult for him to hear clearly. After a while of drinking, he heard one of them say, “We can get more white wine tomorrow.” Before long, both of them departed, leaving only the man with the long beard behind, who took off his clothes and lay on a large rock. The merchant’s son examined him closely and saw that the man had limbs like a human but had a tail trailing behind him. He considered returning home but was afraid the fox spirit might notice him. Therefore, he remained hidden in the grass throughout the night. Just before dawn, he heard the two individuals from earlier return, muttering as they entered the bamboo grove. It was only then that he stood up and returned home. When his father asked where he had been, he replied, “I slept at Uncle’s house.”

One day, the merchant’s son happened to accompany his father to the marketplace. He saw a fox tail hanging in a hat shop and begged his father to buy it for him. His father initially ignored him, but the son clung to his father’s clothes, acting spoiled and causing a scene. Unable to bear his son’s disappointment, the father eventually bought it for him. While the father was busy conducting business in the market, the son played and frolicked around him. When his father was distracted, the son secretly took some money and used it to buy white wine, which he stashed in the hallway of a shop. The son had an uncle who lived in the city and made a living as a hunter. After leaving the wine behind, the son went to his uncle’s house. His uncle was not at home, so his aunt asked about his mother’s condition. He replied, “She’s been slightly better these past few days. However, a rat chewed up her clothes, and that made her cry and curse incessantly. So, they asked me to come and get some poison for hunting wild animals.” His aunt searched through a wooden box and handed him a small amount of poison, which he wrapped up and took. He thought the amount was too little but didn’t say anything. When his aunt offered to make pancakes for him, he saw that no one was around, so he secretly opened the poison packet and grabbed a handful, hiding it in his pocket. Then he told his aunt not to bother making a fire and said, “My father is waiting for me at the marketplace, and I don’t have time to eat.” After saying this, he left and quietly placed the poison in the bottle of wine he had purchased. He returned to the marketplace to play and didn’t come home until evening. When his father asked where he had been, he falsely claimed he had been at his uncle’s house. From that day on, he spent each day wandering around the marketplace.

One day, the merchant’s son suddenly noticed that the man with the long beard was also mingling in the crowd. After confirming his identity, he discreetly followed him. He struck up a conversation with the man and asked where he lived. The man replied, “I live in the northern village.” He also inquired about the son’s residence, and the son falsely claimed, “I live in a cave.” The man was puzzled and asked why he lived in a cave. The merchant’s son chuckled and said, “My ancestors have lived in caves for generations. Weren’t you the same way?” The man was even more surprised and asked about the son’s surname. The son said, “I am from the Hu family. Have you forgotten that we once saw you with two young men somewhere? Do you not remember?” The man stared at him for a while, still somewhat skeptical. The merchant’s son gently lifted a corner of his clothes to reveal a bit of his fake fox tail and said, “We live among the people, but this thing can’t be removed. It’s truly hateful.” The man asked, “What are you doing at the marketplace?” The merchant’s son replied, “My father sent me to buy wine.” The man said that he was also there to buy wine. The son asked, “Did you manage to steal any?” The man replied, “Most of us, like me, are very poor, so we often resort to theft.” The merchant’s son said, “This job is truly miserable, full of fear and danger.” The man said, “When you’re sent by your master, you have no choice but to do it.” Taking the opportunity, the merchant’s son asked, “Who is your master?” The man answered, “It’s the same two brothers you saw before. One of them had an affair with the wife of the king of the northern city, and the other one lives in the house of a merchant in the eastern village. The son of that merchant is really formidable. My master had his tail cut off by him, and it took ten days to heal. Now, he’s gone again.” After saying this, the man was about to bid farewell, saying, “I can’t delay my business.” The merchant’s son said, “Stealing wine is difficult; buying it is easier. I have some wine stored under the shop’s corridor; I’m willing to give it to you as a gift. I also have extra money in my pocket, so I won’t have trouble buying more.” The man felt embarrassed and said he couldn’t repay the favor. The merchant’s son replied, “We’re of the same kind; why bother about such things? When we have time, we can drink together!” So, they went together to the market’s corridor, where the son took out the bottle of poisoned wine and handed it to the man before returning home.

That very night, to everyone’s surprise, the mother slept peacefully and did not try to run away. The son knew that something unusual must have happened to the fox spirits. He then detailed the situation to his father. The father and son went to the garden together to investigate. They found two foxes dead on the pavilion in the garden, and another fox dead in the grass, with blood still oozing from its mouth. The wine bottle was also there, and when they shook it, they found that the wine had not been completely consumed. Delighted, the father asked his son, “Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” The son replied, “These creatures are very sensitive; if I had mentioned it even slightly, they would have known immediately.” The father praised his son happily, saying, “My son, just like Chen Ping of the Han Dynasty, you are truly resourceful in defeating the foxes!” So, the father and son carried the dead foxes back home. One of the fox’s tails was cut off halfway, and it had clear knife marks on it! From then on, the merchant’s household found peace. However, his wife’s health deteriorated rapidly, and she became extremely weak. Though she gradually realized the truth, her coughing worsened, and she would produce several liters of phlegm at once. Before long, she passed away.

The wife of the king of the northern city had always been plagued by fox spirits. However, when someone inquired at her house, the foxes had disappeared, and her illness had been cured. Because of this, the merchant believed that his son was a prodigy and allowed him to learn the skills of horseback riding and archery. As the merchant’s son grew up, he eventually rose to the position of a general.

《贾儿》

楚某翁,贾于外。妇独居,梦与人交,醒而扪之,小丈夫也。察其情,与人异,知为狐。未几,下床去,门未开而已逝矣。入暮邀庖媪伴焉。有子十岁,素别榻卧,亦招与俱。夜既深,媪儿皆寐,狐复来,妇喃喃如梦语。媪觉,呼之,狐遂去。自是,身忽忽若有亡。至夜,不敢息烛,戒子睡勿熟。夜阑,儿及媪倚壁少寐。既醒,失妇,意其出遗,久待不至,始疑。媪惧,不敢往觅。儿执火遍烛之。至他室,则母裸卧其中,近扶之,亦不羞缩。自是遂狂,歌哭叫詈,日万状。夜厌与人居,另榻寝儿,媪亦遣去。儿每闻母笑语,辄起火之。母反怒诃儿,儿亦不为意,因共壮儿胆。然嬉戏无节,日效杇者,以砖石叠窗上,止之不听。或去其一石,则滚地作娇啼,人无敢气触之。过数日,两窗尽塞,无少明。已乃合泥涂壁孔,终日营营,不惮其劳。涂已,无所作,遂把厨刀霍霍磨之。见者皆憎其顽,不以人齿。

儿宵分隐刀于怀,以瓢覆灯。伺母呓语,急启灯,杜门声喊。久之无异,乃离门,扬言诈作欲溲状。欻有一物,如狸,突奔门隙。急击之,仅断其尾,约二寸许,湿血犹滴。初,挑灯起,母便诟骂,儿若弗闻。击之不中,懊恨而寝。自念虽不即戮,可以幸其不来。及明,视血迹逾垣而去,迹之,入何氏园中。至夜果绝,儿窃喜。但母痴卧如死。

未几,贾人归,就榻问讯。妇嫚骂,视若仇。儿以状对。翁惊,延医药之,妇泻药诟骂。潜以药入汤水杂饮之,数日渐安。父子俱喜。一夜睡醒,失妇所在,父子又觅得于别室。由是复颠,不欲与夫同室处。向夕,竟奔他室。挽之,骂益甚。翁无策,尽扃他扉。妇奔去,则门自辟。翁患之,驱禳备至,殊无少验。

儿薄暮潜入何氏园,伏莽中,将以探狐所在。月初升,乍闻人语。暗拨蓬科,见二人来饮,一长鬣奴捧壶,衣老棕色。语俱细隐,不甚可辨。移时,闻一人曰:“明日可取白酒一瓻来。”顷之,俱去,惟长鬣独留,脱衣卧庭石上。审顾之,四肢皆如人,但尾垂后部。儿欲归,恐狐觉,遂终夜伏。未明,又闻二人以次复来,哝哝入竹丛中。儿乃归。翁问所往,答:“宿阿伯家。”

适从父入市,见帽肆挂狐尾,乞翁市之。翁不顾,儿牵父衣娇聒之。翁不忍过拂,市焉。父贸易廛中,儿戏弄其侧,乘父他顾,盗钱去,沽白酒,寄肆廊。有舅氏城居,素业猎。儿奔其家。舅他出,妗诘母疾,答云:“连朝稍可。又以耗子啮衣,怒涕不解,故遣我乞猎药耳。”妗检椟,出钱许,裹付儿。儿少之。妗欲作汤饼啖儿,儿觑室无人,自发药裹,窃盈掬而怀之。乃趋告妗,俾勿举火,“父待市中,不遑食也”。遂径出,隐以药置酒中。遨游市上,抵暮方归。父问所在,托在舅家。儿自是日游廛肆间。

一日,见长鬣人亦杂俦中。儿审之确,阴缀系之。渐与语,诘其居里。答言:“北村。”亦询儿,儿伪云:“山洞。”长鬣怪其洞居。儿笑曰:“我世居洞府,君固否耶?”其人益惊,便诘姓氏。儿曰:“我胡氏子。曾在何处,见君从两郎,顾忘之耶?”其人熟审之,若信若疑。儿微启下裳,少少露其假尾,曰:“我辈混迹人中,但此物犹存,为可恨耳。”其人问:“在市欲何作?”儿曰:“父遣我沽。”其人亦以沽告。儿问:“沽未?”曰:“吾侪多贫,故常窃时多。”儿曰:“此役亦良苦,耽惊忧。”其人曰:“受主人遣,不得不尔。”因问:“主人伊谁?”曰:“即曩所见两郎兄弟也。一私北郭王氏妇,一宿东村某翁家。翁家儿大恶,被断尾,十日始瘥,今复往矣。”言已,欲别,曰:“勿误我事。”儿曰:“窃之难,不若沽之易。我先沽寄廊下,敬以相赠。我囊中尚有馀钱,不愁沽也。”其人愧无以报,儿曰:“我本同类,何靳些须?暇时,尚当与君痛饮耳。”遂与俱去,取酒授之,乃归。

至夜,母竟安寝,不复奔。心知有异,告父同往验之,则两狐毙于亭上,一狐死于草中,喙津津尚有血出。酒瓶犹在,持而摇之,未尽也。父惊问:“何不早告?”曰:“此物最灵,一泄,则彼知之。”翁喜曰:“我儿,讨狐之陈平也。”于是父子荷狐归。见一狐秃尾,刀痕俨然。自是遂安。而妇瘠殊甚,心渐明了,但益之嗽,呕痰辄数升,寻卒。

北郭王氏妇,向祟于狐。至是问之,则狐绝而病亦愈。翁由此奇儿,教之骑射。后贵至总戎。

1 thought on “Jia’er: A Tale of Fox Spirits and Deception”

Leave a Comment