Friday, January 20, 2017

Exercising One's Powers

Four friends once set out to learn wisdom. They each travelled far and for many years before they met once again. They met in a forest and, having learned many wonderful things, had much to share. They talked and told stories and then one friend stood up and looked around at the forest floor and found a bone. He placed the bone on the ground and said, "I can remake the skeleton of this animal." He said certain words, made certain gestures and the skeleton of the animal reassembled. It had been a tiger. One of the friends said, "Ahh, i have learned how to put sinew and blood, flesh and skin on bones." And with words and gestures he did just that. The third friend, "What fortune. For i know how to breathe life into this." The fourth friend said, "There's no need to exercise your power. We believe you." The third friend said, "But what use is knowledge if you don't use it. I've never been able to apply what i know. Behold." The fourth friend said, "Just give me a moment. There is something i must do." He looked around and, spotting a tall tree, climbed up as far as he could. Looking at his four friends standing around the body of the tiger, he said, "you may proceed." The third friend uttered certain words, made certain gestures and he breathed life into the tiger. The now-living tiger looked around, felt very hungry and leapt on the three friends who screamed and clung to each other in fear. The tiger ate them up, licked its lips, cleaned its whiskers and then walked away, purring, into the forest. The fourth friend climbed down from his tree, stood over the remains of friends, sighed, and went home to arrange their funerals.

adapted from "The Tiger-makers" in A.K. Ramanujan Folktales from India: A Selection of Oral Tales from Twenty-two Languages (NY: Pantheon, 1991), pp. 319-320.

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