“A Chinese New Year for the Animal Kingdom”, Magazine Forté Issue 02

Clouds of dark smoke waited in the air, anticipating a thunderous boom.  The noise began robustly, but ended indistinctly.  The outcry did not emerge from the stormy sky, but instead from a dragon at the top of a mountain, calling out for her family.  Slowly, they reunited, but without the liveliness they once had.  The previous year produced many obstacles and challenges for the dragons, and they have not yet recovered.  Once gathered, they flew away together, retreating from harsh conditions to recuperate, relieved to be together again.  Their golden flames lit up the grey sky.
The jungle begins after the mountains have disappeared on the horizon.  As the winter solstice fades in the darkness, a family of tigers grows with the addition of a new cub.  The tiger is named Hu, and 2010 is his year, dedicated to his triumph in the animal kingdom.
The optimistic spirit of the beginning of a new year suits the confident and precocious tiger.  His brightly contrasting stripes characterize the yin and yang forces in every tiger’s personality.  2010 is the year of the yin tiger- the dark, cold side of every being.
Hu leaves his family quickly, eagerly anticipating the adventures that await him as he explores the rest of his kingdom.  His journey begins far from the dragons, but he is still startled by their bright trail of fire in the clouds.  Running through the fields with his gaze still on the menacing sky, Hu failed to notice the snake crossing his path.  The snake, whose intuitive nature allows him to predict the tiger’s every move, is able to slither around the tiger’s paw, wrapping around his leg completely, although this is still not enough to stop the tiger in his tracks.  Without losing speed, Hu drags the snake down the road much further than the snake had prepared to go.  When Hu finally shakes him off, the lonely snake finds solace in his dormant brown and green friends- other snakes.  The snakes retreat this year.
Continuing to run further into the fields, Hu eventually wanders into deep fields of grass and pasture.  Hu’s first encounter is with a  horse.  Surrounded by his family, this horse is a winner, crowned with a wreath of roses.  Surrounded by his family, the group of horses far outnumber the tiger, but the encounter is friendly.  As both the horse and the tiger can often be mercurial and hot- tempered, they respect each other’s strength at a distance.  Although seemingly from two different animal kingdoms, the horse and the tiger can easily be allies.  The horse plans to make his mental and physical health a priority in order to have another winning year ahead of him.
Trailing the horse, the dog looks for his own pack while protecting the horse from other animals.  As the horse joins his family, the dog is ready to do the same.  The dog is the most loyal of all animals, a great friend more valuable than diamonds, and he will be rewarded with a fortunate year.
The trail in the grass leads to a farm, where Hu confronts more animals that he would not expect to meet in the jungle.  Typical of a tiger’s adventurous nature, Hu looks to make friends everywhere he goes.  As he nears a barn, a rat crosses his path.  The rat walks with her head down, exhausted by the previous year.  The difficulties of the recent past have weighed heavily on the rat, and she plans to improve her health and spirit by traveling in the near future.  The rat’s restorative excursions are well deserved.
Nearby, the tiger watches a clan of gray and white rabbits hop through the grass before quickly hiding again.  The year of the tiger brings a new home for the rabbit, but the rabbit knows that it must act quickly in order to find the best home while so much of the world is in transition.
The last moments of darkness introduce the rooster, although it is not Hu’s friendliest welcome.  Known as a homebody, the rooster enjoys giving advice, especially when it is not requested.  Although it is the rooster’s way of protecting his family, his advice is not always welcome.  The rooster warns the tiger against taking any unnecessary risks.  His bright yellow and orange feathers and citrine eyes give the rooster a grand presence, expressing his extravagant nature.  The new year is not the most promising for the rooster, but if he follows his own advice and maintains his focus and avoids risk, he will be able to end the year much wiser, though weathered, than how he started it.
Moving past the barn, Hu hears the pigs squeal, keeping each other company.  Pigs are very social and idealistic.  Although they always have luck on their side, they are preparing for a modest year.  2010 is a year for the pig to gather strength and resources for the future, instead of trying to lead the pack.
Venturing past the barn, past the pasture, past the fields, the lone tiger carries on.  His reign over the animal kingdom is not without its drawbacks, as his journey leads him further into the isolating climate of distant snowy fields.  The ox is most comfortable in the snow, gathering arctic flowers.  Though water is his element, he has adjusted to ice.  He decides to hibernate for the year, giving himself time and energy to plan out his successes for the near future.
Leaving the arctic weather, Hu meets a goat, who is also at home in the ice and snow.  Memories of green fields and sunshine propel the goat to continue climbing steep hills.  Though extraordinarily patient, the goat’s will is tested with the constant challenges he has been presented recently.  Conquering frustrations will prove to make the upcoming year a most rewarding one for the goat.
Hu’s long journey does not end in the snow.  Instead, he must continue to travel alone until he returns to the home most familiar to him- the jungle.  He retraces his path until he reenters the jungle, where he is greeted by a monkey.  The monkey swings directly in front of the tiger, undeterred by the tiger’s supposed dominance over the kingdom.  The tiger and the monkey both can be very stubborn animals.  The tiger reaches for the monkey, who narrowly escapes, but loses his balance and falls into a patch of violets.  Although the monkey has a prosperous and energetic year to look forward to, he does not share the same enthusiasm for the tiger’s year.  He warns him of immanent danger, but Hu continues to fly through the jungle.
Hu finally reaches his family of tigers.  Just as the lion is the king of the jungle in Western tradition, the tiger holds the same place in the Eastern imagination.  Although weary of reigning over a kingdom of animals and all of the other signs, the Hu knows that tigers are the best company.  Upbeat, entertaining, and loyal, the tiger basks in the sunlight of a new year.

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