Friday, February 8, 2013

The Last Ride of the Tiger Tickler

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is, but “the Last Ride of the Tiger Tickler” seems a good way to see out the tiger we’ve been riding all this year, the Year of the Tiger; descriptive of our situation at the end of it.
“It reminds him of a tale the elder monks told him once, when he was a youngster: the Last Ride of the Tiger Tickler. There was, according to fiction, a man who came upon an untended tiger cub. He took it home and raised it, and, when it was fully grown, he took to riding into town on its back. He steered the beast with a silk handkerchief: he’d lean forward and flick the tiger’s left or right ear to make it turn, or brush its nose to make it start or stop. Of course, the tiger, brought up on milk and honey lapped from a bowl held in the kind man’s hands, didn’t know any better, so he went along with it. Disregarding the tiresome details of the tale, when the Tiger Tickler mistakenly rides into town on a different tiger, who despite similar build and markings has a radically different opinion as to the rightful place of mankind (namely in, not on), everybody gets eaten up.”
—David Whiteland, Book of Pages
Ours has been a friendly tiger, for the most part.
“There is a tiger in my room,” said Frances.
“Did he bite you?” said Father.
“No,” said Frances.
“Did he scratch you?” said Mother.
“No,” said Frances.
“Then he is a friendly tiger,” said Father. “He will not hurt you. Go back to sleep.”
—Russell Hoban, Bedtime for Frances
Following the tiger tracks, through the valleys and hills of the past twelve months . . . where is it we’ve arrived?
“The one certainty in tiger tracks is: follow them long enough and you will eventually arrive at a tiger, unless the tiger arrives at you first.”
—John Vaillant, The Tiger:  A True Story of Vengeance and Survival
I can’t say, with any certainty; can’t tell the moral of our year’s story, either.  If the weather keeps us in this weekend, by the fire, under quilts, pouring tea from our rose-painted bone china pot, that will be good to ponder.

image:  Tigress photo by Ashley Vincent; all photos copyright National Geographic Photo Contest.  Matador Network


  1. Maybe the stories don't have a moral...
    They have a very strong Asian taste, although they were written by authors with a western name. Asian philosophies do not have the same attachment to morality that we have in the West.
    But the stories were beautiful.
    I like the last one better.

  2. I guess I was into morals of stories yesterday! (Which you're right, are unnecessary, and limiting.) Here's what I posted on Facebook, for fun:
    “For some stories, it's easy. The moral of 'The Three Bears,' for instance, is "Never break into someone else's house.' The moral of 'Snow White' is 'Never eat apples.' The moral of World War I is 'Never assassinate Archduke Ferdinand.”
    —Lemony Snicket, The Wide Window

  3. Not sure why I decided last year was the year of the tiger . . . One of those big ferocious creatures, anyway!