“I’ll be king of beasts by the time the moon rises,” said the tiger. “It will be a yellow moon with black stripes, in my honour.”
1. The Tiger Who Would Be King
One morning the tiger woke up in the jungle and told his mate that he was king of beasts.
“Leo, the lion, is king of beasts,” she said.
“We need a change,” said the tiger. “The creatures are crying for a change.”
The tigress listened but she could hear no crying, except that of her cubs.
“Oh sure,” said the tigress as she went to look after her young, one of whom, a male, very like his father, had got an imaginary thorn in his paw.
The tiger prowled through the jungle till he came to the lion’s den. “Come out,” he roared,” and greet the king of beasts! The king is dead, long live the king!”
Inside the den, the lioness woke her mate. “The king is here to see you,” she said.
“What king?” he inquired, sleepily.
“The king of beasts,” she said.
“I am the king of beasts,” roared Leo and he charged out of the den to defend his crown against the pretender.
It was a terrible fight and it lasted until the setting of the sun. All the animals of the jungle joined in, some taking the side of the tiger and others the side of the lion. Every creature from the aardvark to the zebra took part in the struggle to overthrow the lion or to repulse the tiger, and some did not knot know which they were fighting for, and some fought for both, and some fought whoever was nearest and some fought for the sake of fighting.
“What are we fighting for?” someone asked the aardvark.
“The old order,” said the aardvark.
“What are we dying for?” someone asked the zebra.
“The new order,” said the zebra.
When the moon rose, fevered and gibbous, it shone upon a jungle in which nothing stirred except a macaw and a cockatoo, screaming in horror. All the beasts were dead except the tiger, and his days were numbered and his time was ticking away. He was monarch of all he surveyed, but it didn’t seem to mean anything.