The Prince and the Tigress

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

A Santhal Pargana Tale

Once upon a time there was a Rājā who had seven sons. One day a tigress came to the palace and asked the Rājā to allow one of his sons to be her servant and look after her cattle. The Rājā consented and ordered his eldest son to go with the tigress. The young man took his axe and bow and arrows and went with the tigress to her cave. When he got there he asked where were the cattle which he was to tend. The tigress pointed out to him all the bears which were roaming in the jungle and said that they were her cattle. By the cave stood a large rock and the tigress told the prince to take his axe and cut it in two. The prince tried, but the rock only turned the edge of his axe and he quite failed to cut it. The tigress being thus satisfied that the prince had no superhuman powers sprang upon him and killed him and devoured his body. Then she went back to the Rājā and said that she had too much work to be done, that she wished him to give her a second son. The Rājā agreed, but this prince met the same fate as the first; and in succession, all the sons of the Rājā, except the youngest, went with the tigress and were devoured by her. At last the youngest son went with the tigress: when bidden to cut the rock in two, he easily accomplished the task. Then the tigress knew that she had met her master and ran into her cave. Looking into the cave, the prince saw the bones of his dead brothers. Gathering the bones together, he prayed for fire to burn them, and fire fell from above and burned the bones.

Then he climbed a tree in order to be out of the reach of the tigress, and the tigress came and sat at the foot of the tree so that he could not descend. Then he prayed again and wind arose and wafted him away and set him down by a house where lived an old man and his wife. The tigress followed in pursuit, but the aged couple hid the prince and assured the tigress that he had not been seen; so the tigress returned disappointed. The prince stayed with the old people and worked on their land. One day as he was ploughing, the tigress came and killed one of the bullocks that were drawing the plough. The prince at once ran to the house to fetch his bow and arrow that he might kill the tigress. When he returned, he found that several tigers were sucking the blood of the bullock and with them a wild boar. He shot an arrow which wounded the boar. The boar maddened by the pain turned on the tigers and killed them all; including the tigress which had killed the Rājā’s sons.

The prince then being no longer in danger from the tigress returned to his father’s palace.