Santal Folk Tales by of the Santal Mission | Annotated Tale

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Thief and a Tiger, A

IN A certain country there lived a very wealthy man whose cattle grazed on a wide plain. One day a tiger noticed them, and so did three thieves. At night the tiger came to where they were lying, and so did the three thieves, but the tiger arrived first. The night was pitch dark, and the cows getting frightened fled to their owner's premises, and all entered the cattle shed. When the tiger saw the cattle flee he ran after them, and entered the shed along with them. The thieves, coming to where they expected to find the cattle, and not seeing them, also went to the cattle shed; but the people of the house not having yet retired to rest, they hid themselves in the vicinity. When all became still, they entered the cattle shed, and began feeling for the largest and fattest oxen. Two of the thieves, each finding one to his mind, drove them away. But one man being more difficult to please than his neighbours continued to go from one to another groping for a good fat one. In this way he laid his hands on the tiger, it seemed a fat one, but lest there should be one still fatter, he left him for a little. However, as he did not find one better than the tiger he returned to him, and felt him all over again. He was without doubt the fattest in the shed, so he drove him out. On reaching the open field, the tiger went in the direction of the jungle, and his driver had great difficulty in getting him to go the road he wished. In this way,--the tiger going one direction, and the man pulling him another,--they spent the night. At cock-crow the thief became aware, that it was a tiger he had been contending with in the dark, and not an ox. He then said to the tiger, "It is you then, whom I have taken possession of." He then released the tiger, who fled to the jungle at full speed.

               The thief having been awake all night felt tired, and lying down in the shade of a ridge of a rice field to rest, fell asleep.

               The tiger as he ran encountered a jackal who exclaimed, "Ho! Ho! uncle, where are you off to, at such a break-neck pace?" The tiger replied, "I am going in this direction. A mite kept me awake all night, I am fleeing through fear of him." The jackal then said, "It is very strange, uncle, that you did not vanquish him. We eat such as he. Tell me where he is, and I shall soon snap him up." The tiger said, "He is over in the direction of those rice fields, asleep somewhere." The jackal then went in search of him, and soon found him asleep in the shade of a ridge of a rice field. He then went all round him reconnoitring, and when he had completed the circuit exclaimed, "The tiger said he was a mite, but he turns out to be of immense size, I cannot eat him all myself. I will gather my friends together to assist me, and then we shall devour him in no time." So he sat down with his back towards the sleeping thief, so near that his tail touched his neck, and began to yell as only a hungry jackal can. The noise awoke the sleeper, and seeing the jackal sitting so near to him, he quietly caught him by the tail, and springing on to his feet swung him round and round above his head, and then flung him from him. The jackal was severely stunned, but picking himself up, fled as fast as his legs could carry him. After he had gone some little distance he met a bear, who said, "Where away in such hot haste?" He made answer, "Uh! What can I tell you more than that that barren tiger grossly deceived me. He told me he was a mite, I went to see him and found he was a ghur pank, [1] and without doubt he ghur panked me." The bear then said, "Oh! I'll eat him. Tell me where he is." The jackal said, "You will find him over in these rice fields." So the bear went to find him and eat him. When still some distance off he spied him laying asleep, and was greatly delighted, exclaiming, "My belly will be swollen with eating him before long." The thief accidentally lifted his head, and saw the bear coming straight for him, so he jumped up and ran to the nearest tree into which he climbed. The bear saw him, and went up after him, and tried to get hold of him, but he jumped from one branch to another as the bear followed him. After this had gone on for some time, it so happened that the bear missed his footing and fell heavily to the ground. The thief immediately jumped on to his back. The bear was frightened, and getting to his feet fled as fast as he could; the thief clasped him tightly round the neck, saying, "If I let go my hold he will eat me." The bear of course ran to the jungle, where the thief was caught by the branches of the trees, and dragged off his back. He did not return to the rice fields to sleep, as he feared some other animal might come to eat him, but went to his own home.

               As the bear fled, he again met the jackal who asked him, "Well! did you eat him?" The bear replied, "You Sir, are a great cheat, you told me he was ghur pank. He is kara upar chap." [2] The two quarrelled over the matter, and the bear tried to catch the jackal to eat him, but he managed to escape.



[1] Ghur pank is a phrase used by ploughmen when turning their bullocks at the end of a furrow.

[2] Mount the buffalo.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Thief and a Tiger, A
Tale Author/Editor: Campbell, A.
Book Title: Santal Folk Tales by of the Santal Mission
Book Author/Editor: Campbell, A.
Publisher: Santal Mission Press
Publication City: Pokhuria
Year of Publication: 1891
Country of Origin: India
Classification: unclassified

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