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Fable of the Tiger and the Humming bird

8 minute read

Many seasons before seasons. In a land severed by mountains, carved by rivers and filled with hills of lush green plains, there was a solitary-like crown of a bright lime-leafed tree that rustled alone at the centre.

               Branches draped over a jagged brown trunk placed mightily in the middle of vibrant purple and yellow blooming flowers. Flowers that bore a deliciously rare succulent nectar, which only a few orange bees could gather, and fewer long-beaked hummingbirds could reach.

               One mid-morning, while the sunshine glared over the shimmering dew, a silver-green-headed hummingbird fluttered its dazzling peacock-like wings across the plain. It hovered from one field to another, chirping, singing and tweeting its joyous songs. Songs of love and life echoed over the blowing glades.

               "What a lovely day,” it said, batting its wings ever so quickly and silently. A bewildering elegance surrounded its delightful glide from flower to flower. It whistled, hummed and sang: “What a lovely, lovely day.” 

 

               Unknown to the fluttering bird, a ferocious red and gold striped tiger lay in the shadow of the tree, sleeping and dreaming of antelope, zebra and other sport to prey on.

 

               Yawning loudly, its sparkling, sharp teeth glimmered. “Speak quieter dear Hummingbird. Can you not see that I am resting my weary head from this cool morning sun?” he uttered under a sleepy wheeze.

 

               “Why, my dear Mr Tiger,” the Hummingbird said, its eyes enlarged. “Had I known you were here before, I wouldn’t have disturbed your heavy wrought rest.”

 

               It flew near the gaping-mouthed Tiger. “Yet, pray tell, what brings such a marvellous creature to such a wonderful place on such a lovely day?”

               The Tiger grinned and raised his head to rest on his ruthless paws. “The same thing that drives all creatures in this world, my dear Hummingbird. The need to feed. Live one’s pleasure. Surely you are here more for this field’s nectar than its beauty?”

 

               “’Tis true. I have come for my desire to wet my beak in this field’s succulent divine sweet,” the Hummingbird agreed, “the fact it lies in such a fine-looking place is merely an extra delicacy which one cannot deny.”

 

               The Hummingbird hovered motionlessly. White eyes bounced around all corners of the shade.

               “I travel alone before you ask,” answered the Tiger to the question not asked, “Does thou view me incredulous?”

 

               “Not at all, fearsome tiger,” responded the Hummingbird. “I am merely trying to answer the question as you might be unwilling to share.”

 

               “What question might that be?” said the Tiger, licking his paw and trying to extract the last essence of flavour from his previous game.

               “My inquisition is to do more with your current state rather than your previous one. What be a tiger in this place so far from his home? Alone. Miserable?”

 

               The Tiger widened his eyes. An awkward silence followed. Gales and whistles whisked around the two standing off, eyeing each other down.  “Alone yes, my dear Hummingbird. Miserable, I am not. I am quite pleased with all in my life,” – he inspected his nails. – “I wake when I want. Eat what I want. Say what I want. Answer to no one but the sun and rains leisure. In what part do I appear miserable? I am the master of this land.”

               “The master of a land with no home or throne?” stated the Hummingbird. “Waking at an hour far past sunrise. Moaning at my cheer of noon. Not answering to nature’s leisure but subject to it. Do you not find that nothing in life satisfies you?”

               The words fell on deaf ears as the Tiger closed his eyes. “Farewell pest of the flowers, you know nothing of the life of kings.”

               “Yet, I am a king,” replied the Hummingbird. “King of the world around you. I do not master nature. Nature masters me.” It dashed high, then dashed low, then left from right in its sapphire feathered wings flying round and round. “The existence of these flowers is thanks to my existence. Our mutualism makes this my home. A place where I belong. A place where one can’t exist without the other. A place like no other without me. We are one and the same, my good Mr Tiger.”

               Opening his eyes once more, the Tiger lifted an eyebrow with a sharp smirk. “Yet when the land dies around you, my dear Hummingbird, you shall cease to exist.”

               “For that reason, I am king,” the Hummingbird continued. “For it is my duty that the world I lived in. Cared for. Nourished. Cherished. Loved. Its existence is as essential to my own as I am to it.”

               The Tiger roared in frustration. The childish bickering of constant unwanted riddles from the Hummingbird, at first amused, had come to annoy him. “Leave me be, Hummingbird,” snapped the Tiger. “I intend to sleep past the high noon of the burning sun. Wanderers like you should be wary of beasts that seek no company. Especially one as ferocious and deadly as I. Be gone.”

               “So I shall.” The Hummingbird turned away and, before it flew off, said: “<ajestic Mr Tiger, that your dominance of the environment does not make you a master but a servant. My relationship with my environment makes me a king. King is both servant and ruler of the world he creates. They are one. They are the same.”

               The Tiger paid no heed to the Humming bird’s words and closed his eyes, resting passed the hour of noon and into the late hours of the day.

 

               Awoken by the rumbling of his stomach, the Tiger lifted his hind with stretched-out limbs and gazed beyond the remarkable illustrious meadow, then ventured forth into the jungle to stalk its next prey.

               The days which followed grew darker than those prior. Seasons yet undefined became filled with both unbearable sunshine and incredible monsoons. The once majestic, glorious, mighty Tiger withered with waning energy, lost all his strength and fell to poor health. 

               Stalking the thick dark bush, he feasted on nought but rat and small game. In times of dire need, he ventured into darker, unknown territories where foul creatures observed him from the shadows.

               At a river crossing, the Tiger crossed a turbulent river on a fallen black log rocked between a stack of boulders.

               The monsoon rains slide off the Tigers fur. He placed a paw on the shaky bridge, and his gaze lifted to behold a beastly, oversized brown Bear of great strength observing him.

               The large Bear stood tall on his hind legs. “This land be mine,” he said. “I am King of this realm.” The Bear’s coat shone prickly as a porcupine, his claws were as sharp as metal sliced razors, and his eyes as red and menacing as the fallen sun across the distant mountains at sunset.

 

               “I have no desire to fight thee, foul creature of the pass,” said the Tiger. The trunk that crossed the river wobbled as he walked forth, disregarding the Bear's warning. “I have no interest in your treacherous land nor your demonic words, king of air. Be gone or face my fury.”

 

               The Bear’s long muddy snout laughed. “Your fury?” he said. The day darkened as the heavy rain sprayed across them both alike. The Bears smile faded, and his face retreated into shadow. “Sharp tongue from one to meet their doom.”

               The Tiger’s whiskers rose to attention. Their eyes locked, one on the other. A gentle breath grew to a pounding pant. Knife-like teeth glimmered in deadly spite.

               The Tiger thundered out a menacing roar; a shriek of birds fled from the trees, leaving their nests defenceless as the eaves of each treetop shook in terror. The Bear lashed at the felled tree trunk.

               The Tiger pressed his paws on the slippery bark, leaping towards his enemy. In mid-flight, the log tumbled down the river. The Tigers claws extended into daggers in the air and then landed on the Bear’s chest, digging deep into its fury hide. The Bear arched over, biting into the Tiger’s jugular.

 

               The sound of the waterfall muted the cry of his woeful roar. One slash tore the Bear off. He fell back silent. The Tiger grinned victoriously, drifting from side to side; his short-lived smile dissolved. His sight trembled, and his stance wobbled as blood flowed over his black gold coat.

               Lifting itself up slowly, the Tiger watched the Bear’s violet glance pierce his heart. He tightened his muscles and prepared for the Bear's deadly retaliation. “Neither King nor servant,” thought the Tiger, “merely gladiators at the whim of nature’s call.”

 

               A bolt of lightning illuminated the two launching a colossal blow at one another. Their horrific raging roar faded under the deafening booming thunder.

               Blinded, the Tiger stumbled backwards. The rampant water snatched him up and then tugged him down the river, dragging and slashing his kingly fur coat mercilessly downstream.

               The wounded Tiger lost consciousness. Nought was known of the fierce Bear, whether it survived or also fell along with the Tiger.

               Washed up on the pebble riverside. The Tiger’s golden fur was grey and shrivelled. He crawled up the riverside slowly, dragging himself up to the single-standing tree in the middle of a familiar field.

               The scent of flowers invigorated his diminished senses. An urge to weep came over the Tiger, but there was no strength to bring forth tears or move his enfeebled limbs.

               “What a beautiful day!” The Tiger heard, then smiled as he recalled the Hummingbird. “What a beautiful day,” it repeated.

               The Hummingbird appeared in front of the Tigers face. “Hello once more… dear Hummingbird,” said the Tiger with the little breath that remained.

               “My dear Mr Tiger, what misfortune has brought you so ruined?”

 

               “One which you described exists when one lives in search of the dominance of nature rather than the caring of its existence,” answered the Tiger.

 

               “I live with the land. The land lives with me. As a King, I am both caretaker and ruler,” said the majestic Hummingbird.

               “Then, thou art both fool and wise, dear Hummingbird,” the Tiger said as his eyes slowly closed.

               “I am neither,” the Hummingbird continued. “I am merely the voice of a land. Dominated by those who wish to rule it.”

               The Tiger’s shining fur turned pale as it gave itself up for ghost. His final realisation stained his lips, eventually deteriorating into bones and dust.

 

               Nothing more than a memory of a tiger’s existence would remain to those who once encountered it.

 

               The Hummingbird, on the other hand, would eventually pass away in the time before seasons, only to leave behind a legacy of beautiful flowers to be admired for many generations to come.

 

               The Tiger lived and died believing he was King. The Hummingbird lived and died knowing it was.

 

The End

This story was inspired by this street art image I once saw in Santiago outside Metro station, Parque Bustamante. Artist Unknown.

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