The Tiger, the Brahmin and the Jackal

an illustration of a variant of the tale

The Tiger, the Brahmin and the Jackal is a popular Indian fairy tale with a long history and many variants. Mary Frere included a version in her 1868 collection of Indian folktales, Old Deccan Days,[1] the first collection of Indian folktales in English.[2] A version was also included in Joseph Jacobs' collection Indian Fairy Tales.[3]


A brahmin passes a tiger in a trap. The tiger pleads for his release, promising not to eat the brahmin. The brahmin sets him free but no sooner is the tiger out of the cage then he says he is going to eat the brahmin. The brahmin is horrified and tells the tiger how unjust he is. They agree to ask the first three things they encounter to judge between them. The first thing they encounter is a tree, who, having suffered at the hands of humans, answers that the tiger should eat the brahmin. Next a buffalo, exploited and mistreated by humans, agrees it is only just that the brahmin should be eaten. Finally they meet a jackal, who at first feigns incomprehension of what has happened and asks to see the trap. Once there he claims he still doesn't understand. The tiger gets back in the trap to demonstrate and the jackal quickly shuts him in, suggesting to the brahmin that they leave matters thus.


an illustration by John D. Batten for 1912 book by Joseph Jacobs.

There are more than a hundred versions of this tale [4] spread across the world. In some the released animal is a crocodile, in some a snake,[5] a tiger[6] and others a wolf.

Some variants are very old, going back at least to the Panchatantra or Fables of Bidpai and the Jataka tales. In Europe it appeared some 900 years ago in the Disciplina Clericalis of Petrus Alphonsi, and later in the Gesta Romanorum and the Directorium Vitae Humanae of John of Capua.[7]

There are also modern illustrated versions of the tale, such as The Tiger, the Brahmin & the Jackal[8] illustrated by David Kennett and The Tiger and the Brahmin[9] illustrated by Kurt Vargo. Rabbit Ears Productions produced a video version of the last book, narrated by Ben Kingsley, with music by Ravi Shankar.[10]

See also


  1. Frere, Mary (1896). "Wikisource link to The Brahman, the Tiger, and the Six Judges". Wikisource link to Old Deccan Days. Wikisource.
  2. Dorson, R. M. (1999). History of British folklore. Taylor and Francis. ISBN 0-415-20476-3. p. 334.
  3. Jacobs, Joseph (1892). Indian Fairy Tales (1913 ed.). Forgotten Books. pp. 69–73. ISBN 1-60506-119-0. where it appears as The Tiger, the Brahman, and the Jackal. Jacobs gives his source as "Steel-Temple, Wideawake Stories, pp. 116-20; first published in Indian Antiquary, xii. p. 170 seq." It can be found online here at Google Books and here with its illustration.
  4. Jacobs in his notes on the tale mentions that "No less than 94 parallels are given by Prof. K. Krohn in his elaborate discussion of this fable in his dissertation, Mann und Fuchs, (Helsingfors, 1891), pp. 38-60"
  5. World Tales by Idries Shah has a version called The Serpent collected in Albania. The Farmer and the Viper is a more minimal Aesop's fable.
  6. See Ingratitude Is the World's Reward: folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 155 for examples. Other examples include the Mexican story of Judge Coyote found in Creeden, Sharon (1994). Fair is Fair: World Folktales of Justice. august house. pp. 67–69. ISBN 0-87483-400-7.accessible in Google Books, There is No Truth in the World, found in Ben-Amos, Dan; et al. (2006). Folktales of the Jews: Tales from Eastern Europe. Jewish Publication Society. pp. 288–290. ISBN 0-8276-0830-6. accessible in Google Books.
  7. Shah, Idries (1991). World Tales. Octagon Press. p. 265. ISBN 0-86304-036-5.
  8. Lock, Kath (1995). The Tiger, the Brahmin & the Jackal. Era Publications. ISBN 1-86374-078-3.
  9. Gleeson, Brian (1992). The tiger and the brahmin. illustrated by Kurt Vargo. Neugebauer Press. ISBN 0-88708-233-5.
  10. See Rabbit Ears Productions media and release information.

External links

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