Once upon a time, a Brahmin, who was walking along the road, came upon an iron cage, in which a great Tiger had been shut up by the villagers who caught him.
As the Brahmin passed by, the Tiger called out and said to him, “Brother Brahmin, brother Brahmin, have pity on me, and let me out of this cage for one minute only to drink a little water, for I am dying of thirst.”
The Brahmin answered, “No, I will not; for if I let you out of the cage you will eat me.”
“Oh, father of mercy,” answered the Tiger, “in truth that will I not. I will never be so ungrateful; only let me out, that I may drink some water and return.” Then the Brahmin took pity on him and opened the cage door; but no sooner had he done so than the Tiger, jumping out, said, “Now, I will eat you first and drink the water afterward.”
But the Brahmin said, “Only do not kill me hastily. Let us first ask the opinion of six, and if all of them say it is just and fair that you should put me to death, then I am willing to die.”
“Very well,” answered the Tiger, “it shall be as you say; we will first ask the opinion of six.”
So the Brahmin and the Tiger walked on till they came to a Banyan tree; and the Brahmin said to it, “Banyan tree, Banyan tree, hear and give judgment.”
“On what must I give judgment?” asked the Banyan tree.
“This Tiger,” said the Brahmin, “begged me to let him out of his cage to drink a little water, and he promised not to hurt me if I did so; but now, that I have let him out, he wishes to eat me. Is it just that he should do so or no?”
The Banyan tree answered, “Men often come to take shelter in the cool shade under my boughs from the scorching rays of the sun; but when they have rested, they cut and break my pretty branches and wantonly scatter my leaves. Let the Tiger eat the man, for men are an ungrateful race.”
At these words the Tiger would have instantly killed the Brahmin; but the Brahmin said, “Tiger, Tiger, you must not kill me yet, for you promised that we should first hear the judgment of six.”
“Very well,” said the Tiger, and they went on their way. After a little while they met a Camel. “Sir Camel, Sir Camel,” cried the Brahmin, “hear and give judgment.”
“On what shall I give judgment?” asked the Camel.
And the Brahmin related how the Tiger had begged him to open the cage door, and promised not to eat him if he did so; and how he had afterward determined to break his word, and asked if that were just or not.
The Camel replied, “When I was young and strong, and could do much work, my master took care of me and gave me good food; but now that I am old, and have lost all my strength in his service, he overloads me and starves me, and beats me without mercy. Let the Tiger eat the man, for men are an unjust and cruel race.”
The Tiger would then have killed the Brahmin, but the latter said, “Stop, Tiger, for we must first hear the judgment of six.”
So they both went again on their way. At a little distance they found a Bullock lying by the road-side. The Brahmin said to him, “Brother Bullock, brother Bullock, hear and give judgment.”
“On what must I give judgment?” asked the Bullock.
The Brahmin answered, “I found this Tiger in a cage, and he prayed me to open the door and let him out to drink a little water, and promised not to kill me if I did so; but when I had let him out he resolved to put me to death. Is it fair he should do so or no?”
The Bullock said, “When I was able to work my master fed me well and tended me carefully, but now I am old he has forgotten all I did for him, and left me by the road-side to die. Let the Tiger eat the man, for men have no pity.”
Three out of the six had given judgment against the Brahmin, but still he did not lose all hope, and determined to ask the other three.
They next met an Eagle flying through the air, to whom the Brahmin cried, “O Eagle, great Eagle, hear and give judgment?”
“On what must I give judgment?” asked the Eagle.
The Brahmin stated the case, but the Eagle answered, “Whenever men see me they try to shoot me; they climb the rocks and steal away my little ones. Let the Tiger eat the man, for men are the persecutors of the earth.”
Then the Tiger began to roar, and said, “The judgment of all is against you, O Brahmin.”
But the Brahmin answered, “Stay yet a little longer, for two others must first be asked.”
After this they saw an Alligator, and the Brahmin related the matter to him, hoping for a more favorable verdict. But the Alligator said, “Whenever I put my nose out of the water men torment me and try to kill me. Let the Tiger eat the man, for as long as men live we shall have no rest.”
The Brahmin gave himself up as lost; but again he prayed the Tiger to have patience and let him ask the opinion of the sixth judge.
Now the sixth was a Jackal. The Brahmin told his story, and said to him, “Mama Jackal, mama Jackal, say what is your judgment?”
The Jackal answered, “It is impossible for me to decide who is in the right and who in the wrong unless I see the exact position in which you were when the dispute began. Show me the place.”
So the Brahmin and the Tiger returned to the place where they first met, and the Jackal went with them. When they got there, the Jackal said, “Now, Brahmin, show me exactly where you stood.”
“Here,” said the Brahmin, standing by the iron tiger-cage.
“Exactly there, was it?” asked the Jackal.
“Exactly here,” replied the Brahmin.
“Where was the Tiger, then?” asked the Jackal.
“In the cage,” answered the Tiger.
“How do you mean?” said the Jackal; “How were you within the cage? Which way were you looking?”
“Why, I stood so,” said the Tiger, jumping into the cage, “and my head was on this side.”
“Very good,” said the Jackal, “but I cannot judge without understanding the whole matter exactly. Was the cage door open or shut?”
“Shut and bolted,” said the Brahmin.
“Then shut and bolt it,” said the Jackal.
When the Brahmin had done this, the Jackal said, “Oh, you wicked and ungrateful Tiger! When the good Brahmin opened your cage door, is to eat him the only return you would make? Stay there, then, for the rest of your days, for no one will ever let you out again. Proceed on your journey, friend Brahmin. Your road lies that way and mine this.”
So saying, the Jackal ran off in one direction, and the Brahmin went rejoicing on his way in the other.