The Tiger's Claw

excerpt from Malgudi Days, by R. K. Narayan


At the beginning of the story, a procession is being held because a group of hunters has killed one of the most fearsome tigers in the area. A man known as the Talkative Man pulls a few villagers over to tell them a story about his own encounter with the tiger: He was visiting the tiny village Koppal in order to spread the influence of his soil fertilizer company. After accomplishing his task, the next train was to arrive the next morning, so he had to stay overnight. When night came, he slept in the train station, and the station-master warned him of tigers in the town. While he was sleeping, he dreamed of tigers, and in his fearfulness he woke up.

However, he woke up to a real tiger pushing it's way into the room. The Talkative Man used pieces of furniture to defend himself as well as a knife, and every time the tiger came close to him, he chopped off a digit. He continued fighting with the tiger until about five in the morning, when the station-master and the porter arrived, and the two ran as fast as they could away from the tiger until a goods train passed by and the tiger ran back to the jungle. He says that even though the hunters killed the tiger, the people of the village could at least give a little credit to the man who faced the same animal barehanded and still survived.

The people who have been told the story asked to see the right forepaw of the tiger, and sure enough, three toes were missing. When they ask about it, the hunters reply that when some forest tribes catch a tiger cub, they usually only cut off it's claws as a talisman, and then let it go.

Meaning of the story

The meaning of the story is to explain to the reader aspects of the culture of the region, such as the reason for the tiger's claw being cut off, and the importance of a tiger.

"It's said that some forest tribes, if they catch a tiger cub, cut off its claws for some talisman and let it go." This is a part of the culture of some Indian forest tribes, and it leads the reader to question whether the Talkative Man's story was true, or whether the tiger had three toes cut off for another reason, highlights the art of traditional Indian storytelling.

"'The men who had laid it low were the heroes of the day. They were garlanded with chrysanthemum flowers and seated in the arch of the highest bullock cart and were paraded in the streets." This quote demonstrates culture through the celebration that happens and the great importance of a tiger, tying in with the quote above, and putting on display the high value of a tiger, especially its claw.

Relation to Indian Culture

Tigers occupy an importance place in Indian culture. It has a significant place in Hindu stories and myths, and is also a symbol for magnificence and power. In addition, storytelling, carried out by the Talkative Man, is a traditional Indian custom which is unfortunately dying because of globalization and media, which records happenings that once had to be passed down from one generation to the next.