April 29, 2021

#08-077: The Tiger, the Brahmin, and the Jackal

drawing of a man in a turban and dhoti on the left; a small, grinning jackal in the center; and a huge tiger snarling with one paw raised on the right
The Brahmin, the Jackal, and the Tiger (l to r)

Note: See how a lowly jackal proves wiser than a priest in this story from the Indian Panchatantra collection of fables.

Get Ready: Is it better to be strong, or clever?

The Panchatantra is an Indian collection of fables, some of which resemble those of Aesop. Some feature a clever jackal, not unlike the fox in European stories or the coyote in those of Native Americans.

In one story, a Brahmin (a Hindu priest) was traveling in a forest when he came upon a tiger trapped in a cage.

"Oh, Brahmin!" begged the tiger. "Help me out of this cage."

"Why in the world would I do that?" asked the Brahmin. "Once free, you would pounce on me and eat me!"

"Not so!" said the tiger guilelessly. "Like any creature, I am capable of gratitude, and would forbear to do such an ungrateful thing."

At last, after much cajoling, the tiger convinced the Brahmin to open the cage--and at once did indeed pounce on the Brahmin, roaring, "Brahmins are supposed to be wise, but you are one of the most foolish men ever to live!"

Embarrassed, the Brahmin pleaded his case, until at last the tiger agreed to this: The Brahmin could ask three beings to judge the merits on either side of the case.

The first thing the Brahmin chose was a tree. "Should not the tiger show me gratitude for releasing him," he asked, "and release me in turn?"

"Gratitude!" cried the tree. "Trees give shelter to all, and fruit besides, and what do men do? Cut us down to use our wood for their own purposes. Don't expect gratitude!"

The disappointed Brahmin next asked a buffalo the same question. "Really?" asked the buffalo. "All my life I give milk in return for dry grass. And when I grow old, men will force me to pull a plow from morning to night. 'Gratitude'? Huh!"

Desperate now, the Brahmin told his story to a passing jackal.

"Now, let me be sure I understand," said the jackal. "You, oh Brahmin, were in a cage, when this tiger came walking by."

"No!" the tiger roared. "I was in the cage!"

"I see," said the jackal. "The cage was in you, Tiger, when the Brahmin--"

"Fool!" the tiger shouted. "How can a cage be in me? I was in the cage!"

"Got it!" aid the jackal. "I was in the cage, when you, Tiger, came walking by--"

"ARGH! Look," said the tiger, "I was in the cage, like this," and he climbed into the cage to demonstrate, "when the--"

And with that, the grinning jackal slammed shut the cage door once again.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tiger,_the_Brahmin_and_the_Jackal

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. cajoling
  2. forbear
  3. gratitude
  4. guilelessly
  5. merits
  6. pleaded
  7. plow
  8. pounce
  9. slammed
  10. ungrateful

  1. tried to persuade (of)
  2. hold back
  3. a farm tool for cutting the earth
  4. seemingly sincerely
  5. thankfulness
  6. jump on
  7. not thankful
  8. closed noisily
  9. coaxing; wheedling
  10. rights and wrongs

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 29, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. b; 3. e; 4. d; 5. j; 6. a; 7. c; 8. f; 9. h; 10. g