How the Tiger got its Stripes

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.

BLT-bear lion tiger Pat Furstenberg
The BLT – The Bear, the Lion and the Tiger

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.

You can enjoy How the Tiger got its Stripes and MORE in:

The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger

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.

36 Replies to “How the Tiger got its Stripes”

  1. Poor big cat! It had to jump into the river. 🙂 That was a funny story, Patricia. Thank you for sharing. That farmer was indeed wise. 🙂

  2. Thank you, Jo. Not sure what I would have done, surely not bring my children to the tiger, like the farmer did 🙂

    But he was VERY wise, nevertheless. 😉

    1. Great story, Patricia. May I ask on what ancient legend it is based? The reason I am asking is that I am rewriting Buddhist stories at the moment and I don’t want our paths to cross in a funny way. I do not know a story similar to yours in Buddhism but I want to be on the safe side.

      1. Hi Pieter, thank you for your interest.
        It was a Chinese legend.

        No worries about our paths crossings on the subject, I’m sticking with the beasts 🙂
        Best of luck with your project.

      1. oh yes he would I bet you!

        Now, just try getting close enough to find out!

        Seriously, our tabby cat has striped fur and, when she has been to the vet, stripey skin. It was mind-blowing to see it. I wonder if a tiger is the same?

        1. I hope your tabby is well now.

          Apparently tigers do have stripey skin, I just asked Uncle Google 😉

  3. I hope your tabby is well now. 🙂

    Apparently tigers do have stripey skin, I just asked Uncle Google 🙂

    1. Nature’s way of telling us that we have to go through something like this to learn a lesson? Oh dear. But I guess we do, don’t we?

      Thank you for your comment, Dan.

    1. So true, Miss Judy. Sadly.

      Yes, I’m also glad the tiger survived – although there is another version to the tale, much like any other vintage yarn…

      Happy you visited, Miss Judy 🙂

  4. This was fun to read! It´s great to take inspiration from old things, in this case an ancient legend, and reinvent something new. There´s always plenty of interesting outcomes.

    1. And so much to learn, Blanca 🙂
      Cheering for your presence here.

      This story and your gorgeous last blog post reminded me that I have a little red & black handbag tucked away in my closet 😉

      1. I´d love to see that red and black handbag!! I keep all clothes and accessories that are in a good condition because there´s always chances to wear them again. Thank you so much for your beautiful words towards my blog post!

        1. Ah, you tempt me. I’ll try to work it out in a blog post. 🙂
          Thank you, Blanca.
          And it is a great pleasure 😉

    1. Ouch, Jim! Ha ha. Bit like the crow and his cheese, isn’t it? 🙂

      But then there would have been none to question…

      1. yes, I always enjoyed the Aesop stories. you’re right, I guess you can’t bite the hand that feeds you, to use another analogy… 🙂

  5. What a delightful and meaningful tale. Used to love reading these when I was younger. They have so much to offer. Thanks for sharing this, Patricia. 🙂

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