Don’t Make Friends with Cowards.

Folk Tales of Pakistan
A story from West Pakistan

One fine day, a farmer went with his oxen to plough his field. Just as he had finished his first furrow across the field, a tiger walked up to him and said, ‘Peace be with you, friend. How are you this lovely morning?’
The farmer, although he was trembling with fear, thought he had better be polite to the tiger. So he replied, ‘Peace be with you also, my lord. I am very well, thank you.’
‘I am glad to hear it,’ said the tiger cheerfully. ‘I have come to eat your oxen. Hurry up! Loose them from the plough.’
The farmer’s courage returned when he found it was only the oxen that the tiger had come to eat. So he said, ‘my friend, how can I plough my field if you eat my oxen?’
‘That is your problem, not mine,’ said the tiger. ‘Do not delay. You must loose those oxen. I will be ready when I have sharpened my teeth and claws.’
But the farmer begged and prayed the tiger not to eat his oxen. ‘I will give you the fat milking cow my wife has at home instead. It is tied up in the yard,’ he said.
The tiger agreed to this, so the farmer took the oxen and went sadly to home; His wife was a hard-working, busy woman. She saw him returning early and called out, ‘You lazy fellow! Have you come back home already? I have only just begun my work!’
Then the poor farmer explained how he had met the tiger, and how he had promised to give the tiger the milking cow, instead of his oxen.
The wife began to cry. She said, ‘What do you want to save your stupid old oxen and give him my beautiful cow? How will the children live if they have no milk? How can I cook with no butter?’
‘Well!’ said the farmer, how can we have bread with out corn? Can I get corn if I have no oxen to plough the corn field? The food you cook is very good to eat, but bread is more necessary for us. Hurry up and untie that cow!’
‘You stupid fellow!’ cried his wife. ‘If you were clever you would think of a way to trick the tiger.’
‘Think of a way yourself, if you are so clever,’ said the angry husband.
‘Very well. But if I think of a way to trick the tiger, you must obey my orders,’ said the wife. ‘Go back to the tiger and tell him the cow will not come with you. Tell him your wife is bringing it.’
The farmer was such a coward that he was afraid of going back to the tiger without the cow, but he could think of no better plan.
When he returned to the field, he found the tiger still sharpening his teeth and claws.
‘Grr! Grr! Must I still wait for my dinner?’ he said. He walked round, lashing his tale and showing his teeth in a terrible manner. The farmer was so afraid that his knees began to tremble.
Now, as soon as the farmer left the house, his wife went to the stable and put the saddle on the horse. She put on her husband’s best clothes, and wore a very high turban to make her look taller. Then she got on the horse and rode off to the fields.
She rode along, singing and shouting, till she came to the path that led to the field. Then she called loudly, ‘Now, I hope I shall be lucky enough to find a tiger here. I haven’t tasted tiger meat since yesterday, when I had three tigers for breakfast.’
When the tiger heard those words and saw the rider coming boldly towards him, he was so frightened that he turned round and ran into the forest,
He ran so fast that he nearly knocked over his own jackal.
Tiger always have a jackal with them, to eat the bones after a meal.
‘My Lord!, My Lord! Where are you going so quickly?’ cried the jackal.
‘Run! Run!; cried the tiger. ‘There is a devil on horseback in that field. He says he ate three tigers for breakfast yesterday!’
The jackal smiled. ‘I think the sun has blinded your eyes, my dear lord,’ he said. ‘That was not a devil. That was the farmer’s wife dressed in her husband’s clothes.’
‘Are you sure?’ said the tiger, and stopped running.
‘I am quite sure,’ replied the jackal. If your eyes, my lord, hadn’t been so blinded by the sun, you would have seen her hair hanging down her back!’
‘You may be wrong’, said the tiger. ‘It looked like a devil to me.’
‘It was a woman. Come! Don’t be afraid of a woman,’ said the jackal. ‘Think of your dinner.’
‘Perhaps you have been paid to trick me,’ said the tiger, still half afraid.
‘Let us go back together then,’ said the jackal.
‘No. You will go with me to the field and then run away,’ said the tiger. He did not believe the jackal.
‘Then let us tie our tails together, so that I can’t run away,’ said the jackal, who was determined to get his bones.
So the tiger agreed. They tied their tails together and went to find the farmer and his wife.
Meanwhile, the farmer and his wife were in the field laughing over the success of her trick. Suddenly they saw the tiger and the jackal coming boldly back again, with their tails tied together.
‘Run quickly,’ said the farmer. ‘They will eat us!’
‘You stupid fellow! Of course they will not eat us!’ said his wife calmly. ‘Stop that noise! I can’t hear myself speak.’
She waited until the two animals were near enough to hear her. Then she called politely, ‘How very kind of you to bring me such a nice tiger, dear Mr. Jackal. I shall soon finish my meal, and then you can have the bones.’
When the tiger heard this, he went mad with terror. He quite forgot that the jackal was tied to his tail. He ran away, dragging the jackal behind him, over stones and rocks and through thorns and bushes.
The jackal cried to the tiger and asked him to stop. But the noise he made only frightened the tiger more and he ran away as fast as he could. He ran over the hills and fields till he was nearly dead from running so hard. And what happened to the jackal? Well, he was quite dead, from the knocks and shocks and scratches he had suffered.

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