The Sons of the Tigress

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

Once upon a time a cow and a tigress lived in a jungle and were great friends, they were never separated. Now in those days tigers did not eat flesh, but grazed like cattle, so the tigress never thought of doing any harm to her friend the cow. The tigress had given birth to two men children who were growing up fine and sturdy lads. One afternoon the cow and the tigress went down to a stream to drink, the cow went into the stream and drank and the tigress drank lower down. The cow fouled the water of the stream and the tigress tasting the water found it sweet and thought if the cow can make the water so sweet how sweet the flesh of the cow must be. So on the way back from the stream the tigress suddenly sprang on the cow and killed her and ate her up, leaving nothing but the bones. When she got home her sons asked her where the cow was, but the tigress said that she did not know and that the cow must have deserted them, but afterwards the boys found the bones of the cow and they guessed what had happened. Then they thought, if our mother has killed her friend the cow, she will surely kill and eat us next. So when the tigress was asleep they killed her with axes. Then they ran away and after going for many days through the jungle they reached a city and they found all the people in great distress because a tiger was devastating the kingdom and killing all the inhabitants and no one could kill the tiger. The Rājā of the city made a a proclamation that any one who could kill the tiger should have half the kingdom and his daughter in marriage. The two boys being the sons of a tigress were able by their knowledge of tiger ways to kill the tiger. So they were given half the kingdom and the elder of them married the king’s daughter and they lived happily ever after.