Indian Fairy Tales
by Joseph Jacobs
The Tiger, the Brahman and the Jackal
ONCE upon a time, a tiger was caught in a trap. He tried in vain to get out through the bars, and rolled and bit with rage and grief when he failed.
By chance a poor Brahman came by.
"Let me out of this cage, oh pious one!" cried the tiger.
"Nay, my friend," replied the Brahman mildly, "you would probably eat me if I did."
"Not at all!" swore the tiger with many oaths; "on the contrary, I should be for ever grateful, and serve you as a slave!"
Now when the tiger sobbed and sighed and wept and swore, the pious Brahman's heart softened, and at last he consented to open the door of the cage. Out popped the tiger, and, seizing the poor man, cried, "What a fool you are! What is to prevent my eating you now, for after being cooped up so long I am just terribly hungry!"
In vain the Brahman pleaded for his life; the most he could gain was a promise to abide by the decision of the first three things he chose to question as to the justice of the tiger's action.
So the Brahman first asked a papal- tree what it thought of the matter, but the papal-tree replied coldly, "What have you to complain about? Don't I give shade and shelter to every one who passes by, and don't they in return tear down my branches to feed their cattle? Don't whimper--be a man!"
Then the Brahman, sad at heart, went further afield till he saw a buffalo turning a well-wheel; but he fared no better from it, for it answered, "You are a fool to expect gratitude! Look at me! Whilst I gave milk they fed me on cotton-seed and oil-cake, but now I am dry they yoke me here, and give me refuse as fodder!"
The Brahman, still more sad, asked the road to give him its opinion.
"My dear sir," said the road, "how foolish you are to expect anything else! Here am I, useful to everybody, yet all, rich and poor, great and small, trample on me as they go past, giving me nothing but the ashes of their pipes and the husks of their grain!"
On this the Brahman turned back sorrowfully, and on the way he met a jackal, who called out, "Why, what's the matter, Mr. Brahman? You look as miserable as a fish out of water!"
The Brahman told him all that had occurred. "How very confusing!" said the jackal, when the recital was ended; "would you mind telling me over again, for everything has got so mixed up?"
The Brahman told it all over again, but the jackal shook his head in a distracted sort of way, and still could not understand.
"It's very odd," said he, sadly, "but it all seems to go in at one ear and out at the other! I will go to the place where it all happened, and then perhaps I shall be able to give a judgment."
So they returned to the cage, by which the tiger was waiting for the Brahman, and sharpening his teeth and claws;
"You've been away a long time!" growled the savage beast, "but now let us begin our dinner."
"Our dinner!" thought the wretched Brahman, as his knees knocked together with fright; "what a remarkably delicate way of putting it!"
"Give me five minutes, my lord!" he pleaded, "in order that I may explain matters to the jackal here, who is somewhat slow in his wits."
The tiger consented, and the Brahman began the whole story over again, not missing a single detail, and spinning as long a yarn as possible.
"Oh, my poor brain! oh, my poor brain!" cried the jackal, wringing its paws. "Let me see! how did it all begin? You were in the cage, and the tiger came walking by--"
"Pooh!" interrupted the tiger, "what a fool you are! I was in the cage."
"Of course! " cried the jackal, pretending to tremble with fright; "yes! I was in the cage--no I wasn't--dear! dear! where are my wits? Let me see--the tiger was in the Brahman, and the cage came walking by--no, that's not it, either! Well, don't mind me, but begin your dinner, for I shall never understand!"
"Yes, you shall!" returned the tiger, in a rage at the jackal's stupidity; "I'll make you understand! Look here--I am the tiger--"
"Yes, my lord! "
"And that is the Brahman--"
"Yes, my lord!"
"And that is the cage--"
"Yes, my lord!"
"And I was in the cage--do you understand?"
"Yes--no - Please, my lord--"
"Well? " cried the tiger impatiently.
"Please, my lord!--how did you get in?"
"How!--why in the usual way, of course!"
"Oh, dear me!--my head is beginning to whirl again! Please don't be angry, my lord, but what is the usual way?"
At this the tiger lost patience, and, jumping into the cage, cried, "This way! Now do you understand how it was?"
"Perfectly! " grinned the jackal, as he dexterously shut the door, "and if you will permit me to say so, I think matters will remain as they were!"
Jacobs, Joseph. Indian Fairy Tales.
London: David Nutt, 1912.
Jacobs' Notes and References
Source - Steel-Temple, Wideawake Stories, pp. 116--20; first published in Indian Antiquary, xii. p. 170 seq.
Parallels - No less than 94 parallels are given by Prof. K. Krohn in his elaborate discussion of this fable in his dissertation, Mann und Fuchs (Helsingfors, 1891), pp. 38--60; to which may be added three Indian variants, omitted by him, but mentioned by Capt Temple, l.c.., p. 324 in the Bhdgavata Purana, the Gui Bakaoli and Ind. Ant xii. 177; and a couple more in my Aesop, p. 253: add Smeaton, Karens, p. 126.
Remarks - Prof. Krohn comes to the conclusion that the majority of the oral forms of the tale come from literary versions (p. 47), whereas the Reynard form has only had influence on a single variant. He reduces the century of variants to three type forms. The first occurs in two Egyptian versions collected in the present day, as well as in Petrus Alphonsi in the twelfth century, and the Fabulae Extravagantes of the thirteenth or fourteenth: here the ingrate animal is a crocodile, which asks to be carried away from a river about to dry up, and there is only one judge. The second is that current in India and represented by the story in the present collection: here the judges are three. The third is that current among Western Europeans, which has spread to S. Africa and N. and S. America: also three judges. Prof. K. Krohn counts the first the original form, owing to the single judge and the naturalness of the opening, by which the critical situation is brought about. The further question arises, whether this form, though found in Egypt now, is indigenous there, and if so, how it got to the East. Prof. Krohn grants the possibility of the Egyptian form having been invented in lndia and carried to Egypt, and he allows that the European forms have been influenced by the Indian. The "Egyptian" form is found in Burmah (Smeaton, l.c., p. 128), as well as the Indian, a fact of which Prof. H. Krohn was unaware, though it turns his whole argument. The evidence we have of other folk-tales of the beast-epic emanating from India improves the chances of this also coming from that source. One thing at least is certain: all these hundred variants come ultimately from one source. The incident "Inside again" of the Arabian Nights (the Djinn and the bottle) and European tales is also a secondary derivate.