The Jackal and the Tigers

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

Once upon a time a pair of tigers lived in a jungle with their two cubs, and every day the two tigers used to go out hunting deer and other animals that they might bring home food for the cubs. Near the jungle lived a jackal, and he found it very hard to get enough to live upon; however, one day he came upon the tiger’s den when the father and mother tiger were out hunting, and there he saw the two tiger cubs with a large piece of venison which their parents had brought them. Then the jackal put on a swaggering air and began to abuse the tiger cubs for having so much venison, saying: “I am the sipāhi of the Rājā and the Rājā has demanded venison and none can be found, while low people like you have a fine piece like this: give it at once or I will take it and report against you to the Rājā.” Then the tiger cubs were frightened and gave up the venison and the jackal went off gleefully and ate it. The next day the jackal came again and in the same way took off more meat. The jackal continued taking their meal from the tiger cubs every day till the cubs became very thin: the father tiger determined to find out why this was, so he hid himself in the bushes and watched: he saw the jackal come and take away the meat from the cubs. Then he was very angry and ran after the jackal to kill him and the jackal ran away very fast and the tiger ran after as fast as he could: at last the jackal ran into a cleft between two rocks and the tiger running after him stuck fast between the two rocks and could not come out and so was starved to death. But the jackal being smaller ran out on the other side.

Then the jackal went back to the tiger’s den and told the tigress that her husband had been caught by the Rājā and thrown into prison for interfering with his sipāhi. The tigress and her cubs were very unhappy at this news for they thought that they would starve. Then the jackal comforted them and told them not to be afraid as he would stay with them and protect them, and help them with their hunting. So the next day they all four went hunting. They arranged that the jackal should wait at a certain place, while the tigers beat the jungle and drove the game towards him. The jackal had boasted about the amount of game that he could catch and when a herd of deer broke by him he tried to seize one but they easily escaped: then the jackal was ashamed but in order not to be detected he lay down and pretended that he had been suddenly taken very ill. And when the tigers came up they were sorry for him and forgave him for catching no game. The next day it was arranged that the tigress should be in wait and the jackal and the two young tigers should beat: the tigress soon killed a fine deer. When the others came up the tigers wanted to eat it at once, but the jackal would not let them and said that they must go to a little distance while he did puja to make the food wholesome. The tigers obeyed and under pretence of doing puja the jackal ate up all the tit bits and then allowed the tigers to come and eat the rest. This happened daily and the jackal lived in comfort all his days.