The Foolish Tiger – A Lepcha folktale

1st Nov 2016

The Lepchas are an indigenous community of Sikkim that have worshipped nature for many generations. Therefore, one will find many interesting folktales that try to explain the cause of certain occurances in nature. Here is another such story.

A long time ago in the forests of the hills, a tiger and a toad met and soon became fast friends. One day, when they were walking higher up into the hills, they rested near the bank of a river and drank some water. While they were resting the tiger asked the toad to check his back for any lice. The toad found a lot of them there and began to lick them off with his sharp tongue. While doing so he also licked off some of the tiger’s hair. When he got tired, the tiger said, “Now it is my turn. Let me see if I can find any lice on your body.” However, as the toad’s body was quite plain and without any hair, there were none to find.

After some time the tiger asked the toad, “What did you eat for breakfast this morning?” The toad answered, “Nothing, only green leaves and mud.” The toad asked the tiger, “What have you eaten?” The tiger answered, “A deer.”

The tiger then suggested that each of them should vomit to see if they had told each other the truth. First the tiger vomited and only flesh and white foam came out. Then the toad vomited and lots of tiger hair came out. When the tiger saw this he was surprised and immediately frightened. He thought,”This toad must be a tiger eater!” The tiger thought that the toad was just tricking him with his show of friendship and planned on eating him. Thus, he became so frightened that he immediately ran away to the plains.

On his way down he met a jackal who asked him why he looked so frightened. This was completely uncharacteristic for the creature who was regarded as the king of the jungle. The tiger then told him of the tiger-eating-toad. The jackal did not believe this and coaxed him into taking him back to that toad. He said,”You need not be afraid of the toad. Fasten this cane around your waist and tie the other end around my neck. This way you will know that I am always by your side.”

After doing so the tiger and the jackal returned to the place where the toad had been left behind. When the toad saw the tiger approaching with the jackal he knew that he would be killed for embarrassing the powerful king of the jungle. So when they came close enough the toad spoke to the jackal sternly, “Why are you late? It has been more than a year since I sent you away to find me twenty tigers, and now you have come back with just this frightened one. Bring him here and let me see how fat he is.”

On hearing this the tiger became even more frightened and immediately sprinted down to the plains. After many days and nights when he finally reached his destination, the tiger found that the jackal was still tied to him by the neck and had been killed during the journey.

The Lepchas believe that this is the reason why tigers and jackals are only found in the plains and never in the hills. Also, as the faithful jackal had stayed with the tiger till he was dragged to death, one will find that till today the jackals share the spoils of the tigers without helping in the hunt.

This blog was originally published on 'SIKKIMIS'

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