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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 571


The Tiger’s Foster Child

Book Name:

Folklore of the Santal Parganas

Tradition: India

Once upon a time a Potter woman went to dig earth for making pots, and while she was working she was prematurely delivered of a boy. And she considered whether she should carry the child home, or the basket of clay, but in the end decided to take the clay which was urgently wanted, while she would doubtless have plenty more children in the course of time. So she went away, leaving the baby in the pit. At evening a tiger came by and heard the child crying and he took pity on it and carried it away and he and his wife reared it.

As the child grew up they used to take him to the tigers’ assembly. He was not at all afraid of the tigers and understood all they said and one day he heard them saying that the Pargana (tribal chief) tiger was a great man-eater. At this he was very angry and set off to look for the man-eater, without telling his foster parents. When the Pargana tiger saw the boy coming he had just finished cleaning his teeth, and he thought “This is lucky, here is my breakfast coming;” but just as he was about to spring on the boy, the boy caught hold of him and tore him to pieces.

The news of this exploit soon spread, and the tigers called a meeting to consider the matter, and they told the foster father that he must take steps to prevent the boy doing any such thing again. So the tiger and tigress went home and told the boy that it was time that he went back to his own people, as he had brought shame upon them; the boy objected that men would not receive him, but they told him to go as an orphan boy and beg in the villages till he found his mother.

So he went away and when he came to a village he sang: –

                  “My mother went to dig earth

                  And left me in the pit;

                  The tiger and the tigress of the jungle

                  Reared me – give me alms,”

And thus he went begging from village to village and one day he came to the village where his father and mother lived. His mother heard him a long way off and running to him knew him for her son. Then she brought water and oil and turmeric and bathed him and anointed him, and gave him new clothes and fed him on curds and parched rice. And the villagers collected, and when they heard the stories of the mother and son, they believed them and gave a feast in honour of the boy, and took him into the village.

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