Q. Who is the Tiger King? Why does he get that name?
Ans. The Maharaja of Pratibandapuram was called the Tiger King. At the time of his birth the astrologers declared that the prince would have to die one day. The ten-day-old prince asked the astrologers to reveal the manner of his death. The wise men were baffled at this miracle. The chief astrologer said that his death would come from the tiger. The young prince growled and uttered terrifying words: ‘Let tigers beware!’ He decided to kill one hundred tigers. He thus got the name ‘Tiger King’.
Q. What did the royal infant grow up to be?
Ans. Crown prince Jung Jung Bahadur grew taller and stronger day-by-day. He was brought up by an English nanny and tutored in English by an Englishman. He got the control of his state when he came of age at twenty. He decided to kill tigers. For him it was an act of self-defence, as the astrologer had predicted his death by a tiger.
Q. What will the Maharaja do to find the required number of tigers to kill?
Ans. Within ten years the Maharaja was able to kill seventy tigers. Then the tiger population became extinct in the forests of Pratibandapuram. One day the Maharaja sent for the Dewan and asked him if he was aware of the fact that thirty tigers still remained to be shot down by his gun. The Dewan shuddered with fear. The Maharaja told him that he had decided to get married. He asked the Dewan to draw up statistics of tiger populations in different native states. Then he was to investigate if there was a girl he could marry in the royal family of a state with a large tiger population. This plan was put into practice. The Dewan found the right girl from a state which possessed a large number of tigers. The Maharaja killed five or six tigers each time he visited his father-in-law. Thus he was able to find the required number of tigers to kill. He shot ninety-nine tigers.
Q. How will the Maharaja prepare himself for the hundredth tiger which was supposed to decide his fate?
Ans. Maharaja’s anxiety reached the highest level of excitement when only one tiger remained to be killed. He thought of the hundredth tiger during the day and dreamt of it at night. But tiger farms ran dry even in his father-in-law’s kingdom. It became impossible to locate tigers anywhere. If he could kill just that one single beast, the Maharaja would have no fear left. As the late chief astrologer had said that Maharaja should beware of the hundredth tiger. The Maharaja was sunk in gloom. Then came a happy news. In his own state sheep began to disappear frequently from a hillside village. Surely, a tiger was at work. The villagers ran to inform the Maharaja. The Maharaja announced a three-year exemption from all taxes for that village. He set out on the hunt at once. But the tiger was not easily found. The Maharaja continued camping in the forest and waiting for the tiger.
Q. What will now happen to the astrologer? Do you think the prophecy was indisputably disproved?
Ans. In order to save his skin, the Dewan got an old tiger brought from the People’s Park in Madras. It was kept hidden in his house. One midnight with the help of his aged wife, he dragged the tiger to the car and shoved it into the seat. He himself drove the car straight to the forest where the Maharaja was hunting. The Dewan hauled the beast out of the car and pushed it down to the ground. Next day, the same old tiger wandered into the Maharaja’s presence. The Maharaja was overjoyed. He took careful aim at the beast. The tiger fell down in a crumpled heap. The Maharaja was extremely happy that he had killed the hundredth tiger.
The hunters found that the tiger was not dead. It had only fainted on hearing the sound of the bullet. They did not want the Maharaja to know this fact and lose their jobs. So one of them shot at it and killed it. The dead tiger was taken in procession through the town and buried there. A tomb was erected over it. The prophecy was not disproved as the king met his death with the infection caused by the sliver of a wooden tiger. The astrologer was already dead. He could not be punished or rewarded.
Q. The story is a satire on the conceit of those in power. How does the author employ the literary device of dramatic irony in the story?
Ans. On surface level, ‘The Tiger King’ seems to be a simple story about a royal prince, his growth and exploits as a king. The prophecies at his birth about the manner of his death make the story interesting by introducing the element of surprise and suspense.
On a deeper level, the story is a satire on the conceit of those in power. It is usually seen that those in power have too much pride in themselves and what they do. Two such specimens in the story are the Tiger King and the British officer. The author employs dramatic irony and humour to show their faults and weaknesses. The words of these characters carry an extra meaning. They do not know what is going to happen. The Tiger King resolves to hunt a hundred tigers to disprove the prediction of the astrologer. In his stubbornness, he falls prey to a wooden tiger. The highranking British officer is equally vain. He is more interested in photograph with carcass than hunting itself. The Tiger King offers to organise any other hunt except tiger-hunt. It may be a boar-hunt, mouse-hunt or a mosquito-hunt. He has to lose three lakh of rupees for his refusal. The ego of the British officer is satisfied when his wife is pleased.
Q. What is the author’s indirect comment on subjecting innocent animals to the willfulness of human beings?
Ans. For centuries innocent animals have been subjected to the wilfulness of human beings. Man has been killing animals for sport, meat or organs of body. The author does not make any direct comment about it in the story. Man advances strange logic to defend even his unlawful and cruel acts. The Maharaja quotes an old saying, “You may kill even a cow in self-defence”. Hence he finds no objection to kill tigers in self-defence. It reveals not only the callousness of human beings towards wildlife but their disregard for maintaining ecological balance. The extinction of tiger species in Pratibandapuram state and the state ruled by the Maharaja’s father-in-law amply illustrates the result of man’s cruelty towards wild animals. An old tiger has to be brought from the People’s Park in Madras to satisfy the king’s whim to kill one hundred tigers.
Q. How would you describe the behaviour of the Maharaja’s minions towards him? Do you find them truly sincere towards him or are they driven by fear when they obey him? Do we find a similarity in today’s political order?
Ans. A minion is an unimportant person in an organization who has to obey orders. The Maharaja has many minions or servants. Most of them fear the Maharaja and obey his orders faithfully. They dare not disobey him or contradict him. The Maharaja’s displeasure means loss of job or even loss of life. Only a few of them are truly sincere towards him. One such person is the chief astrologer. He is willing to burn his books of astrology, cut off his tuft and crop his hair short if his prediction proves untrue. The others try to keep the Maharaja in good humour. Even the Dewan is no exception. Many officers lose their jobs when the Maharaja’s fury and obstinacy mount higher. The king’s bullet misses the hundredth tiger. It faints from the shock and falls as a crumpled heap. The hunters realise the truth, but they decide not to reveal it to the king. They fear that they might lose their jobs. In today’s political order, subordinates serve their superior bosses as deaf and dumb creatures who see only what their masters want them to see. Their self-interests and fear of elimination make them faithful servants.
Q. Can you relate instances of game-hunting among the rich and the powerful in the present times that illustrate the callousness of human beings towards wildlife?
Ans. In our times, big game-hunting has been banned by law as so many species of wildlife have been declared endangered species. Sanctuaries, national parks and games reserves have been established to preserve wildlife from extinction and maintain ecological balance in nature. Even then sporadic cases of game-hunting are reported in papers now and then. It is generally noticed that the erstwhile rulers—kings or nawabs or the rich and powerful persons or famous film stars indulge in game-hunting. The cases against M.A.K. Pataudi and Salman Khan are still pending in courts. Poachers and smugglers too destroy wildlife for skin, meat or for various organs of body and escape scot-free.
Q. We need a new system for the age of ecologya system which is embedded in the care of all people and also in the care of the Earth and all life upon it. Discuss.
Ans. Modern age is the age of ecology. A new consciousness has arisen among human beings. Animals and birds are as much part of nature as human beings. The destruction or haphazard killing of one species may not only lead to its extinction, but it will adversely affect the ecological balance. Those animals which serve as food for the wild animals will increase in large number, if the beasts of prey are wiped out. Each species, howsoever fierce, deadly, ferocious or poisonous has its own role in the scheme of things. We must devise a new system. It must focus on the care of all living beings on the Earth as well as the Earth itself and all life—vegetative or animal living on it. Steps have to be taken to preserve ecological balance in nature and prevent environmental pollution. Unpolluted air, water and food can make all living beings healthy and enable them to enjoy longer lives.