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How the Tiger Got His Stripes

Published May 30, 2011
Countries: Vietnam
Age Levels: 8 and up

A water buffalo stood alone in the field.  He was resting after pulling a plow all day through the rice paddies.  As he rested, he grazed the grass that grew alongside the edges of the fields and enjoyed the watm sun on his back.

Suddenly, the buffalo smelled something.  His eyes grew large, and he began to look around.  The smell of a tiger was in the air.  His ears listened for the sound of his enemy, the tiger.  Water Buffalos are a favorite food for tigers to eat.

Suddenly, the buffalo was surprised when a tiger appeared in front of him.  It did not snarl and jump like it wanted to eat him.  Instead, it walked quietly and boldly right out of the trees and stood before the water buffalo.

"Attack if you dare," said the water buffalo.  I will defend myself with my horns.  You will pay dearly if you decide to eat me," he added.

"I do not come to eat you," said the tiger softly.  "I came to ask you a question.  How is it that an animal so large and so strong as yourself allows it to be tied to a plow and work so hard?  Why do you work for that man?"  He was talking about the farmer who owned the water buffalo.

"I do not know!" said the buffalo.  Man rules over me and many other animals on his farm.  He said it is his wisdom that allows him to rule over us.  He is quite smart!"

"If I had his wisdom," said the tiger, "I would be able to control all the animals.  I could make them all stand still while I selected my meals each day."

The water buffalo shook in fear at the thought of what the tiger would do if he had wisdom like the man.

"I will go to the man," said the tiger.  I will ask him to give me his wisdom.  If he does not, I will eat him!"

The man had left his weapons at home and was on the way back to his fields when the tiger appeared.  He saw the tiger and was afraid.  But, he did not show his fear.  "What do you want from me?" the man asked the tiger.  "Do you plan to eat me?"

"I will spare you if you give me your wisdom," said the tiger.

"I am so sorry," said the man.  "But, I fear that I left my wisdom at home.  I can go get it.  But, I fear that you will grow hungry while I am gone and eat my water buffalo.  I need him to pull my plow.  If you allow me to put a rope around you and tie you to a tree, I will know that you cannot eat my buffalo.  Then, I will feel safe enough to go and get my wisdom for you."

The tiger allowed the man to put a rope around his neck and tie him to a tree.  The man ran home.  When he returned, he returned with a wagon filled with straw and a burning torch.  "Here is my wisdom," said the man.  "You will be much more wise when I am done with you.

The man spread the dry straw all around the tiger, just outside the reach of its paws.  Then he lit fire to the straw.  The heat of the fire burned the tiger badly.  The tiger growled and screamed in pain until the rope burned through, and the tiger was able to escape.  Lines where the flames and smoke burned his body made stripes across the tiger's body.

The tiger still wears stripes on his skin today.  And he never tries to get wisdom from man any more. 

Dr. Mike Lockett is an educator, storyteller and children's author from Normal, IL. Dr. Lockett has given more than 4000 programs across the USA and as far away as eastern Asia. Contact Mike by writing to in order to book him for a storytelling program or young authors program or to inquire about purchasing his books and CDs.