Jackal Deceives Tiger

By Honey, James A. | The World and I, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Jackal Deceives Tiger


Honey, James A., The World and I


A South African Folk Tale

NOT because he was exactly the most capable or progressive fellow in the neighborhood--but because he always gave that idea--Jackal slowly acquired among his neighbors the name of a "progressive man." The truly well-bred people around him, who did not wish to hurt his feelings, seemed to apply this name to him instead of, for instance, "cunning scamp," or "all-wise rat-trap," as so many others often dubbed him.

Jackal obtained this name of "a progressive man" because he spoke most of the time in English, especially if he thought some of those who were present could not understand it, and also because he could always hold his body so much like a judge on public occasions. Indeed, Jackal had a smooth tongue, could make quite a favorable speech, and could expatiate on the backwardness of others to great effect. Underneath, however, he really was the most unlettered man in the vicinity. But Jackal had perfect control over his inborn cunningness. This allowed him, for a long time, to go triumphantly through life as a man of great ability.

One time, for instance, he lost his tail in an iron trap. He had long attempted to reach the Boer's goose pen, and had framed many good plans, but when he came to his senses, he was sitting in front of the goose pen with his tail in the iron trap. At the same time the Boer's dogs were coming for him. When he realized what this meant, Jackal mustered together all his strength and pulled his tail, which he always thought so much of, clean off.

This would immediately have made him the butt of jokes from the whole neighborhood had he not thought of a plan. He called together a meeting of the jackals, and made them believe that Lion had issued a proclamation to the effect that all jackals in the future should be tailless, because their beautiful tails were a thorn in the eyes of more unfortunate animals.

In his smooth way he told them how he regretted that the king should have the barbaric right to interfere with his subjects. But so it was; and he thought the sooner he paid attention to it the safer. Therefore he had had his tail cut off already and he should advise all his friends to do the same. And so it happened that once all jackals for a long time were without tails. Later on they grew again.

Tiger employs Jackal

It was about the same time that Tiger hired Jackal as a schoolmaster. Tiger was in those days the richest man in the surrounding country, but he had had to suffer a great deal because he himself was so untutored. Tiger wanted his children to have the best education that could be obtained.

It was shortly after a meeting, in which it was shown how important a thing an education was, that Tiger approached Jackal and asked him to come and teach his children. Jackal was very ready to do this. It was not exactly his vocation, he said, but he would do it to pass time and just out of friendship for his neighbor. His and Tiger's farm lands lay next each other.

That he did not make teaching his profession, and that he possessed no degree, was of no account in the eyes of Tiger. "Do not praise my goodness so much, Cousin Jackal," laughed he. "We know your worth well enough. Much rather would I entrust my offspring to you than to the many so-called schoolmasters, for it is especially my wish, as well as that of their mother, to have our children obtain a progressive education, and to make such men and women of them that with the same ability as you have they can take their lawful places in this world."

"One condition," said Jackal, "I must state. It will be very inconvenient for me, almost impossible, to come here to your farm and hold school. My own farm would in that case go to pieces, and that I cannot let happen. It would never pay me."

Tiger answered that it was not exactly necessary either. In spite of their attachment to the little ones, he and his wife saw that it would probably be to their children's benefit to place them for a while in a stranger's house. …

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