Saturday, June 28, 2014

Santal: The Killing of the Tiger

This story is part of the Santal Folklore unit. Story source: Folklore of the Santal Parganas by Cecil Henry Bompas (1909).

The Killing of the Tiger

They say that there was a time when all living things had a common speech and animals and men could understand each other, and in those days there was a man-eating tiger which infested a jungle through which a highroad ran; it preyed on people passing along the road till no one ventured to travel, and, as the country was so unsafe, the people went in a body to the Raja and told him of the ravages of the tiger and asked him to send a force of soldiers to hunt and shoot it.

So the Raja called together all his soldiers and promised to give half his kingdom to any one of them who would kill the tiger, but not one of them was brave enough to make the attempt; they said that their business was to fight men, and not tigers and leopards. Then the Raja extended his offer to all his subjects, and the petitioners went home to consult about it, and the news was published that the Raja would give half his kingdom to the slayer of the tiger.

Now there was a poor man who was a very brave shikari of big game, and cunning into the bargain, and he offered to go and kill the tiger. They questioned him carefully, and when they saw that he was in earnest, they took him to the Raja to hear from the Raja’s lips what his reward should be, and the Raja promised him half his kingdom and wrote a bond to that effect, for he thought that the tiger would surely kill the man.

Then the shikari said that he would start the next morning and return the next day, either with the dead tiger or with bits of its ears and claws to show that he had killed it. The Raja told the people to watch carefully and see that the shikari did not cheat by taking the claws and ears of a tiger with him.

The next morning, the shikari started off, and all he took with him was a looking-glass and three pictures of a tiger drawn on three pieces of paper and a hatchet; he went to the road which the tiger frequented and climbed a banyan tree and spent the night in it.

The tiger did not pass by at all that night, but in the morning it appeared and called out, “Who is up in the tree?”

The shikari said, “It is I.”

“Come down quickly,” said the tiger; “I have been looking for you.”

“Wait a minute,” answered the shikari; “I have been looking for you also.”

“What for?” said the tiger.

“Tell me first why you are looking for me,” said the man.

“To eat you,” answered the tiger.

Then the man said, “Well, I have been hunting for you to catch you and take you away. I have caught three or four like you, and if you don’t believe me, let me get down and I will show you.”

The tiger got into a fright and said: “Come down and show me.”

So the shikari climbed down and uncovered his looking glass and told the tiger to look, and he reflected in the glass the pictures of the tigers which he had brought and said, “Now I am going to catch you and put you in here also.”

The tiger asked why he was to be caught, and the shikari said that it was because he had made the road unsafe by killing travellers; then the tiger begged and prayed to be let off and promised that he would never kill any travellers again.

At last the shikari said that he would let him go if he would allow him to cut off his claws and the tips of his ears and the tip of his tongue as a pledge of his good faith.

The tiger said, “Well, you may cut off one claw from each foot and the very tip of my ears and tongue.” So the shikari cut them off with his hatchet and, after again warning the tiger, went back home, and then presented himself with all his friends before the Raja, and the Raja gave him the promised reward.

But the tiger’s tongue festered and, after roaring with pain for a whole day, it died.


(700 words)








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