Folk Tales from Tibet (1906)/2

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Once upon a time there were two Tigers who lived in a certain forest and had a family of three children. The Father Tiger grew old and began to fail, and just before his death he sent for his three children and addressed them as follows:

"Remember, my children," said he, "that the Tiger is Lord of the jungle; he roams about at his will and makes a prey of the other animals as he wishes, and none can gainsay him. But there is one animal against whom you must be on your guard. He alone is more powerful and cunning than the Tiger. That animal is Man, and I warn you solemnly before I die to beware of Man, and on no account to try to hunt or to kill him."

So saying, the old Tiger turned on his side and died.

The three young Tigers listened respectfully to the words of their dying parent and promised to obey; and the elder brothers, who were obedient sons, were careful to follow his advice. They confined their attentions to the slaughter of deer, pigs, and other denizens of the forest, and were careful, whenever they came within sight or scent of any human being, to clear off as fast as they could from so dangerous a neighbourhood. But the youngest Tiger was of an independent and inquisitive disposition. As he grew older and stronger he began to chafe against the restriction that had been imposed upon him.

"What, after all," thought he to himself, "can be this creature Man that I should not slay him if I wish. I am told that he is but a defenceless creature, that his strength cannot be compared to mine, and that his claws and teeth are quite contemptible. I can pull down the largest stag or tackle the fiercest boar with impunity. Why, then, should not I be able to kill and eat Man also?"

So after a while, in his conceit and folly, he determined to quit his own part of the forest and to venture forth towards the open country in search of a Man as his prey. His two brothers and his mother tried to reason with him and to persuade him to remember the words of his dying father, but with no avail; and finally, one fine morning, in spite of their prayers and entreaties, he set off alone on his search.

He had not proceeded very far when he met an old, worn-out pack-Bullock, thin and emaciated, and with the marks of many ancient scars on his back. The young Tiger had never seen a Bullock before, and he regarded the creature with some curiosity. Walking up to it he said:

"What sort of animal are you, pray? Are you a Man by any chance?"

"No, indeed," replied the creature; "I am only a poor Bullock."

"Ah!" said the Tiger. "Well, perhaps you can tell me what sort of an animal Man is, for I am just going out to find and kill one."

"Beware of Man, young Tiger," replied the Bullock; "he is a dangerous and a faithless creature. Just look at me for example. From the time when I was very young I was Man's servant. I carried loads for him on my back, as you may see by these scars, and for many years I slaved for him faithfully and well. While I was young and strong he cared for me and valued me highly; but as soon as I became old and weak, and was no longer able to do his work, he turned me out into this wild jungle to seek my food as best I might, and gave no thought for me in my old age. I warn you solemnly to leave him alone and not to try and kill him. He is very cunning and dangerous."

But the young Tiger only laughed at the warning and went on his way. Soon afterwards he came across an ancient Elephant wandering by itself on the outskirts of the forest, and feeding with its trunk on the grasses and foliage which it loves. The old animal had a wrinkled skin and a small and bleary eye, and behind its huge ears were many cuts and ancient scars, showing where the goad had been so frequently applied.

The young Tiger eyed this strange animal with some surprise, and going up to it he said:

"What sort of an animal are you, please? You are not a Man, I suppose?"

"No, indeed," replied the Elephant; "I am only a poor old worn-out Elephant."

"Is that so?" answered the Tiger. "Perhaps you can tell me, however, what sort of a creature Man is, as I am now hunting for one in order to kill and eat him."

"Beware how you hunt Man, young Tiger," replied the old Elephant; "he is a faithless and dangerous animal. Look at my case. Although I am the Lord of the jungle, Man tamed me, and trained me, and made me his servant for many years. He put a saddle on my back and made stirrups of my ears, and he used to strike me over my head with an iron goad. While I was young and strong he valued me highly. Food was brought to me, as much as I could eat every day, and I had a special attendant who used to wash and groom me, and to see to all my wants. But when I became old and too infirm for further work, he turned me out into the jungle to fend for myself as best I could. If you will take my advice you will leave Man alone, or it will be the worse for you in the end."

But the young Tiger laughed contemptuously and went on his way. After proceeding for some little distance he heard the sound of some one chopping wood, and creeping near he saw that it was a Woodcutter engaged in felling a tree. After watching him for some time the Tiger emerged from the jungle, and going up to the Man, he asked what sort of an animal he was. The Woodcutter replied:

"Why, what an ignorant Tiger you are; can't you see that I am a Man?"

"Oh, are you," replied the Tiger, "what a piece of luck for me. I was just looking for a Man in order to kill and eat him, and you will do nicely."

On hearing this the Woodcutter began to laugh.

"Kill and eat me," he replied; "why, don't you know that Man is much too clever to be killed and eaten by a Tiger? Just come with me a little way and I will show you some things which only a Man knows, but which will be very useful for you to learn."

The Tiger thought that this was a good idea, so he followed the Man through the jungle until they came to the Man's house, which was strongly built of timber and heavy logs.

"What is that place?" said the Tiger when he saw it.

"That is called a house," replied the Man. "I will show you how we use it."

And so saying he went inside and shut the door.

"Now," said he, speaking from the inside to the Tiger, "you see what a foolish creature a Tiger is compared to a Man. You poor animals live in a hole in the forest, exposed to wind, rain, cold and heat; and all your strength is of no value to make a house like this. Whereas I, although I am so much weaker than you, can build myself a fine house, where I live at my ease, indifferent to the weather and secure from the attacks of wild animals."

On hearing this the young Tiger flew into a violent passion.

"What right," said he, "has an ugly, defenceless creature like you to possess such a lovely house? Look at me, with my beautiful stripes, and my great teeth and claws, and my long tail. I am far more worthy than you of a house. Come out at once, and give your house over to me."

"Oh, very well," said the Man, and he came out of the house leaving the door open, and the Tiger stalked in.

"Now, look at me," called out the conceited young Tiger from inside, "don't I look nice in my fine house?"

"Very nice indeed," replied the Man, and bolting the door outside he walked off with his axe, leaving the Tiger to starve to death.