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WORLD FOLK TALES - CENTRAL ASIA

The Shepherd, the Tiger, and the Fox
A Kirghiz Tale

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A shepherd brought his sheep into the field to graze, and sat down under a tree to rest. Suddenly a tiger came out of the woods.
The shepherd picked up his staff and jumped up.

The tiger was just about to spring at the man when he saw the staff and got frightened. He thought it was a gun. They stared at each other, and neither dared to make the first move.

At that moment, a fox came running by. He saw that the tiger and the shepherd were afraid of each other and decided to turn the situation to his own advantage.

He ran up to the tiger and said: "Cousin tiger, there is no reason to be afraid of a man. Jump on him, get him down, and have a good meal."

"You're cunning," growled the tiger, "but you have no brains. Look at him---he has a gun. He'll fire, and that will be the end of me. Be off with your stupid advice."

"Well, if that's the case, I'll go and ask him not to shoot you. What will you give me if I save you?"

"Anything you ask."

The fox ran to the shepherd and said: "Uncle shepherd, why are you standing here? The tiger wants to make a meal of you. I just persuaded him to wait a while. What will you give me if I save you?"

And the shepherd promised: "Anything you ask."

The fox ran to the tiger and said:

"Cousin tiger, you'll have a long life. I just persuaded the shepherd not to shoot you. Hurry up and run now! I'll see you later. If he gets angry again, he'll fire his gun and it will be the end of you."

The tiger turned and leaped away as fast as he could

And the fox came back to the shepherd. "Uncle shepherd, you did not forget your promise?"

"No," said the shepherd. "Tell me what you want."

"I don't want much, only a bite out of your leg. That will be enough for me."

The shepherd stretched out his leg. But just as the fox was about to sink his teeth into it, the shepherd screamed. The fox jumped back.

"Who made that noise?"

"What do you care? Take your bite, and be done with it."

"Oh, no! I won't come near you before you tell me who made that noise," said the frightened fox.

"In that case, I will tell you," answered the shepherd. "Last year we had a bad winter in the village. We had nothing to eat. And then my sheep dog had two puppies. Well . . . I was so hungry, I ate them. Now the pups have grown up in my stomach. I guess they smell you and want to get at you, so they are barking."

The fox got even more frightened, but he would not show it. He said with dignity: "I'd have no trouble handling your pups. But I must run and see the tiger on some urgent business. Hold back your sheep dogs for a while. When I come back, I'll teach them such a lesson that they will never attack foxes again.

"Very well, make it quick," said the shepherd.

And the fox went streaking off into the woods, happy to get away with his life.

After he caught his breath, he set out to look for the tiger: perhaps he would have better luck with him.

"Well, cousin tiger," the fox said when he found him. "I saved your life when you were frightened of the shepherd, and you made a promise. Now you must keep it!"

"What promise?" roared the tiger. "I am no cousin to you. I am the shah of these woods. Who dares to say that I was frightened?"

And he raised his paw to strike the fox down.

"There is no gratitude in this world," the fox said to himself, and slunk into his hole to teach his children to stay away from men and tigers.


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