A noteworthy review of Folktales from Around the World from Children's Bookwatch on October 1, 2012
‘The Tiger, the Brahman, and the Jackal: An Indian Folktale’ is a crafty teaching tale from India. Wise children will listen and watch and learn its teachings well. Once a tiger was locked in a bamboo cage. When he saw a Brahman, or holy man, walking by, he appealed to his sense of compassion and asked him to let him out, promising he would be grateful. Of course, when the Brahman is persuaded to let the tiger out (against his better judgment), the tiger immediately threatens to eat him, denying the truthful significance of his promise of gratitude. Nevertheless, perhaps the tiger’s lingering guilt intervenes, for the Brahman is allowed to seek out three other beings to determine if he ( the tiger) is being unfair. The Brahman then encounters a pipal tree, a buffalo, and a road, telling each his story of releasing the tiger who then threatens to eat him. Due to similar bitter experiences, each of these three beings advises the Brahman to meet his fate stoically and accept it. Disappointed and fearful, the Brahman happens upon a jackal. The jackal pretends to be a bit ‘slow,’ asking to be taken to the tiger so he can understand the situation. Here comes the true trickster element of this morality tale, for when the jackal confronts the tiger, he actually confounds him and tricks him into getting back into the cage, all by pretending to be too slow to understand the story. Perhaps the moral is a warning against gullibility, but perhaps it also contains a seed of delight in the art and skills of the Trickster, who succeeds in achieving a desired outcome solely through skilled use of his wits. ‘The Tiger, the Brahman, and the Jackal’ is an ancient Indian wisdom tale whose message is just as valuable today as it was hundreds of years ago. The story’s imaginative, textured illustrations using fabric and color and collage enhance the exotic appeal of the fable. Other titles in this series that are highly recommended include: ‘How Many Spots Does a Leopard Have? An African Folktale (9781614732174, $27.07)’ retold by M. J. York, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, ‘Momotaro, The Peach Boy: A Japanese Folktale (9781614732181, $27.07),’ retold by M. J. York, illustrated by Betsy Thompson, and ‘The Tongue-Cut Sparrow, a Japanese Folktale (9781614732228, $27.07),’ retold by M. J. York, illustrated by JT Morrow.
—James A Cox