Jennifer Thomas


Retold by Sydney Solis

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There was once a pregnant tigress who was ready to deliver the cub inside her. She had been prowling many days without success in finding prey, when she finally came upon a herd of grazing goats. So ravenous was her hunger, that even though she was exhausted, she sprung into the herd of goats. This great leap prompted the birth throes and from sheer exhaustion, she died on the spot.

But the tiger cub that was within her was born alive and safe.

The little goats, being friendly and compassionate, gathered around.

“Gaa, what have we here?” a mother goat said.

“I don’t know, but let’s take care of it! Poor little thing!” said another.

So the goats adopted the orphaned tiger cub as their own, nursed it together with their own offspring and fondly watched over it.

By following all the little baby goats’ example, the tiger cub learned how to eat grass like a goat. It was a little bit difficult at first because of his sharp teeth handling the thin blades of grass, but he figured it out. And the vegetarian diet kept him slim and his temperament became meek. Playing among the goats, he learned the goat’s language and let out a “blaaarraaa” bleat like a goat. So course he thought he was a goat.

One night, a fierce old male tiger approached the herd. The goats all scattered with fear. But the tiger cub, remained where he was devoid of fear.

Here was a tiger among the goats, and the old male tiger could not believe his eyes.

“What is this? A grass-eating tiger cub among goats! Ridiculous!” and with that he gave a huge pounce into the herd and attacked it. He was rather surprised, however, to see himself face to face with this fierce enormous jungle animal.

“Graaaaaa” the tiger/goat cub bleated, then plucked a piece of thin grass and chewed it.

“What is this nonsense? The old tiger roared enraged. “What are you doing among these silly goats? Why on earth are you eating grass?’ he demanded.

“Graaa,” was all the tiger cub could say.

Furious, the old tiger grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and shook him, as if to knock him back to his senses. He carried the frightened cub down to a pool of water and sat him down next to it, forcing him to look into its mirror surface, which was illuminated by the full moon.

“Look, look I say! Look into that pool of water and see our two faces. They are alike, you and I! You have the pot-face of a fierce tiger, like mine. You are not a goat! You are a tiger, so why do you bleat like a goat and eat like a goat when you are not a goat? You are a tiger!”

The little cub stared at the images for a long time, and a little uneasy, shifted paw to paw for a little while and let out another little “Graaaaa.”

“Oh, for goodness sakes!” the old tiger exclaimed, and carried the cub off again to his den. There he gave the cub a piece of raw meat left over from an earlier meal. But the cub shuddered with disgust.

“Here take it and eat it!” he cried. “Chew it! Swallow it,” the tiger commanded. And the cub began to chew and was just about to make another noise again, but the taste…hmmm. He began to feel an unfamiliar satisfaction as this new food went down to his belly. He felt a strange, glowing strength arising from there that spread throughout his whole body, and he felt wonderful. He arose, and gave a mighty yawn, as if he were waking from a long night’s sleep, a sleep that had held him under a spell for many years. He stretched his body out, he arched his back, he extended and spread his paws. Finally, his tail lashed the ground and suddenly from his throat burst the terrifying, triumphant roar of a tiger.

“Now do you know what you really are?” asked the old tiger. The young cub nodded and then the two went out into the jungle to hunt together.


Ramanujan, A.K., Folktales from India, Pantheon Books, NY 1991.

Zimmer, Heinrich, Philosophies of India, Princeton University Press, 1951.

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, translated with an introduction by Swami Nikhilananda, New York, 1942.

Healing Story Alliance listserve.

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