Change is part of life and the catalyst of moving forward, often providing us with invaluable lessons such as How the Tiger got its Stripes, my adaptation of an ancient legend.
How the Tiger got its Stripes
A long, long time ago, when animals could talk among themselves much like humans do today, a white, stripe-less tiger, a very young tiger, brave and foolish, tiptoed one morning all the way to the edge of the great jungle where he grew up… although he knew he shouldn’t have. For only a quick peek at the rice fields growing nearby… for he’d heard their song in the wind.
And past the rice fields to glance too, there… see? Where, under the shade of a banana tree, a field worker enjoyed his lunch… And even further to scan, for the day was clear… Past the banana tree with the field worker the tiger peeped, there where a buffalo enjoyed a well-deserved break from ploughing the fields… Yes, the tiger saw the buffalo napping, and as he slept his tail swished left and right, ever so slowly, swiping away any pestering flies… in search of shade…
And the tiger remembered that buffalo well, for he had seen him many times working hard for the man.
So he crept forward, the tiger did, pulling himself through the grass with the aid of his strong legs, low on his belly the way he did when he was stalking his prey. Slowly and silently. And when he found himself just behind the buffalo, he whispered.
“Fear not, o buffalo, for I did not crawl all the way here to satisfy my hunger, but to ask for your advice. I saw the small man who seems to be your master, although he has no strength, his arms are thinner than a new born cub’s. He has no sharp sense of smell, and his teeth are not sharp, not by any standards I know. Yet he seems to be your boss and makes you work for him. While you, you are a magnificent beast of great strength. You are twenty times his weight and size, and I know, for I have seen, how you can put up a fair fight with the wildest beasts of the jungle.
“I do not understand,” the tiger scratched his head, “how is this possible? I have heard that the source of man’s power is something called wisdom. So tell me, oh buffalo, what is wisdom? How does it look like? And mostly, where does the man get it from?”
The buffalo opened one eye, munching on a blade of grass, and he took his time to answer, and rather snorted for he was still tired, “I really don’t know, never thought of it. Why don’t you ask him yourself?”
Tiger never thought twice. He sprang over to the man, in one great leap, and he stood before the trembling farmer saying, “Have no fear, puny human, for I have not come to satisfy my hunger or you will not be alive anymore. I am searching for wisdom. What is this, wisdom? What does it look like? Where does it come from? And, mostly, will you not share some of it with me?”
The man wiped the fear droplets from his forehead (pretending they’re the fruit of his hard labor) and said, as calmly as he could standing as he was under the breath of the might tiger, “Great tiger, wisdom is a very precious gift. Must I really share some with you?”
“The choice is yours,” said the tiger drawing near, and he smiled showing his huge, yellow, sharp teeth. “Do you hear that sound? ‘tis the rumbling of my stomach; I have not hunted for food, nor slept for many days, puzzled as I was by this question. What is wisdom? But now I can last no longer and I feel like I could really do with a bite to eat. So tell me, tell me quick.”
The man looked at the sharp teeth and heard the rumbling echoing from the tiger’s body. He took a deep breath, said a prayer and replied.
“Well, of course, I will share my wisdom with you. But I left it at home today, afraid I’ll lose it among the rice plants. I’ll go and fetch it, but you’ll have to wait for me here, or the other villagers will take great fright at your mighty sight.”
“I will wait,” said the tiger, “but be sure to return or I’ll know where to find you tomorrow. And I might not be this patient again.”
But the man said one last thing before departing. “May I tie you to this banana tree while I am away fetching the wisdom? I am worried at the thought of leaving a hungry tiger alone with my farm animals. And the worry might cause me to forget where I placed my wisdom.”
So the tiger agreed, thinking what great power the wisdom would give him and how, with his strength, it will help him rule over every creature that walked, slithered, swam or flew across the world.
The man left in a hurry, and soon enough he returned with his three sons, each one carrying armfuls of dry straw.
“I have brought you wisdom” said the man, while he and his sons spread the straw around the tiger, and soon they set it alight. Bright orange flames leaped up and burned the tiger’s white hairs. The tiger roared with upset for he was very proud of his white fur. When the fire burned the rope that tied him, the tiger sprang to his freedom and never stopped leaping until he reached the river. And he dived right in…
When his fur grew back, it grew in stripes. Black and orange, to remind the tiger of the human wisdom and of what the great cat had, but did not appreciate, his beautiful white fur. Something that made him stand out among beasts. And it should have been enough.
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The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger is a picture book inspired by true life events, the real friendship between a BEAR, a LION and a TIGER.