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TigerTiger

Shere Khan. Illustration from the 1894 edition of The Jungle Book.

"Tiger! Tiger!" is a short story by the British author Rudyard Kipling. It was first published in the St. Nicolas Magazine in February 1894. The story was subsequently collected in The Jungle Book (1894).

At the end of the short story "Mowgli's Brothers", Mowgli, the boy raised by wolves, is cast out of the Wolf Pack and forced to leave the jungle. "Tiger! Tiger!" follows Mowgli's story as he enters a village and tries to learn to live among men. Mowgli learns the language quickly, but he has trouble adapting to village life. In the mean time, Mowgli also learns that the tiger Shere Khan, his sworn enemy, is plotting to kill him.

Plot

Having been cast out of the Wolf Pack, Mowgli leaves the jungle and goes down the valley. He follows the road for many miles to a plain where cattle and buffalo are grazing. Mowgli walks to the village gate. The villagers are afraid of Mowgli, but the wise priest assures them that the boy is just a wolf child who ran away from the jungle.

A woman named Messua whose young son was taken by the lame tiger thinks Mowgli looks like her lost son. The priest, hoping for a reward from Messua and her rich husband, proclaims that the jungle has returned their boy. Messua takes Mowgli home and feeds him. She calls him by her son's name, Nathoo, but Mowgli does not react to the name. Messua then notices Mowgli's rough feet and realizes that he has never worn shoes as her son once did. She nevertheless takes him as her son.

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Gray Brother brings news to Mowgli.

Mowgli decides he must learn to speak man's language. Having learned to imitate various animals in the jungle, he finds it easy to imitate Messua's words. He learns many words before nightfall. Unable to sleep under a roof, Mowgli then goes outside and stretches out on the grass. Gray Brother, the eldest of Mowgli's wolf brothers, comes up to him. The wolf tells Mowgli that Shere Khan the lame tiger went away after his fur was singed by Mowgli at the Pack Council. The tiger, Gray Brother warns, has sworn to kill Mowgli.

Mowgli spends the next three months learning the ways of men. He learns to wear clothes, and he also learns about money and the cast system, although none of it makes sense to him. The village children make fun of him, and even the priest finds him wild and disrespectful. In order to keep him out of trouble, the village head finally decides to send Mowgli out to herd the buffalo.

At the village circle meeting that evening, Mowgli hears the village hunter Buldeo tell fantastic stories of the jungle and the animals. Mowgli, who grew up in the jungle and knows better, finds Buldeo's tales silly. Buldeo says the tiger limps because his body is inhabited by the ghost of the dead village money lender who had a limp. The villagers are all impressed, but Mowgli tells them that the tiger was simply born lame and that Buldeo's tales of the jungle are all untrue. The elders are displeased by his impertinence.

In the early morning, Mowgli rides Rama the herd bull to lead the buffalo out. He tells other boys to graze the cattle on their own then drives the buffalo herd to the edge of the plain to look for Gray Brother. Gray Brother tells Mowgli that Shere Khan did come back to look for Mowgli but has gone away again. Mowgli asks Gray Brother to sit on a rock across the plain from the village every day as long as Shere Khan is still away. He then asks the wolf to wait in the ravine in the middle of the plain when Shere Khan comes back.

Many days later, Mowgli comes out of the village with the buffalo herd and sees that the Gray Brother is not on the rock. He leads the herd to the ravine. Gray Brother says that Shere Khan is back and ready to come after Mowgli. Gray Brother has forced Tabaqui the jackal, a follower of Shere Khan, to tell him the tiger's plans: Shere Khan intends to wait for Mowgli at the village gate this evening. Mowgli asks if Shere Khan has eaten today. Gray Brother says the tiger ate a pig and also has drunk today, and he is sleeping in the big ravine of the Waingunga River. Mowgli is delighted to hear that Shere Khan has eaten. He knows the stupid tiger will be slow after a big meal, so he wants to take the herd to the head of the ravine and come down on Shere Khan.

In order for the plan to succeed, they must block the escape route at the foot. Fortunately, Gray Brother has brought help – the wise old wolf Akela whom Mowgli saved at the Pack Council. Akela and Gray Brother run in and out of the buffalo and divide the herd in two; the cows with their calves in one group and the bulls in another. Mowgli asks Akela to drive the bulls to one side. He then tells Gray Brother to drive the cows far into the foot of the ravine where the sides are too high for Shere Khan to jump.

Mowgli gets back on Rama and Akela turns the bulls into the jungle. They make a wide circle so as not to alert Shere Khan then finally gather the herd at the head of the ravine. Satisfied that they have Shere Khan in the trap, Mowgli shouts down the ravine to get the tiger's attention. Then Akela howles to drive the bulls and they all charge down the slope. Shere Khan cannot fight a charging buffalo herd. He starts towards the foot of the ravine. The bulls bellow as they charge, and the cows bellow back from the foot of the ravine. Shere Kahn turns, knowing cows with their calves to protect are more dangerous than the bulls. Then the bulls crash into the other herd, carrying them all into the plain. Akela and Gray Brother manage to break up the herd, and Mowgli leads them all away from the ravine. Shere Khan has been trampled to death.

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Akela stands over Buldeo as Mowgli skins the tiger.

Mowgli takes out his knife and begins to skin the tiger. It is hard work skinning a large tiger. After an hour of toiling at the task, he is interrupted by Buldeo. The hunter had heard about the buffalo stampede and come to reproach Mowgli. Buldeo assumes the tiger was accidentally killed in the stampede. He does not believe a child can skin a tiger, so he decides he will finish skinning the tiger and take the hide to town. He offers to give Mowgli a rupee from the reward he intends to collect. Mowgli orders Akela to take care of Buldeo, and the wolf knocks down the hunter and stands over him. Buldeo thinks it is magic and Mowgli must be a powerful sorcerer. He begs to be let go, and Mowgli obliges by ordering Akela to get off the man. Buldeo rushes back to the village and tells the priest about the sorcery he witnessed.

It is nearly dark by the time Mowgli finishes skinning the tiger and, with Akela's help, herds the buffalo back to the village. He is greeted by villagers shouting and throwing stones at him. Thanks to Buldeo, they all believe Mowgli is a sorcerer who can turn himself into beasts at will. Messua does not believe them, and she knows Mowgli has avenged her son's death, but she begs him to leave for his own safety. Mowgli orders Akela to drive the herd into the village. The buffalo charge in and scatter the villagers. Mowgli tells the villagers he will not come in to hurt them, however, because of Messua's kindness.

Although he has been cast out, Mowgli feels happy to be returning to the jungle. He and the two wolves stop first at the cave where Mowgli grew up to visit Mother Wolf. Then, joined by Mowgli's dear friend Bagheera the black panther, they go to the Council Rock to spread Shere Khan's skin as Mowgli had promised. Akela sits on the hide and calls the wolves to the council as he used to when he lead the Pack. The wolves, who have been leaderless since Shere Khan helped them depose Akela, come back. Seeing Shere Khan's hide, they ask Akela and Mowgli to lead them because they have been suffering and starving without a leader. Mowgli refuses and, having been cast out by both men and wolves, goes away to hunt accompanied only by his four wolf brothers.

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