[The following short story by Zakaria Tamer, a Syrian Arabic writer, has been translated into English by Mahmoud al-Zayed, a Syrian postgraduate student in the department of English .]
The forests travelled far away from the tiger imprisoned in his cage that he could not forget. The tiger stared angrily at few men surrounding his cage.
They were looking at him fearlessly and inquisitively; one of them was speaking with a quiet voice and in a commanding tone: “If you want to learn my profession, which is taming, you should not forget even for a moment that your enemy’s stomach is your main goal; then you will see that it is an easy and hard job at the same time.”
“Now, look at this tiger. He is ferocious, arrogant and overbearing on account of his freedom, his strength, and his tyranny. But he will become as meek and obedient as a little child. Watch then what will happen between the one who has food and who does not, and learn,” he continued.
All men promptly affirmed that they would be the loyal disciples of the taming profession. The tamer joyfully smiled and addressed the tiger enquiring in a sarcastic tone: “How is our dear guest?”
“Bring me something to eat; it is meal time for me,” the tiger replied.
“You command me and you are my prisoner?! What a funny tiger you are! You should realize that I’m the only one here who has the right to give orders,” the tamer said with mock amazement.
“Nobody can command tigers.”
“But you are not a tiger now. You are a tiger when you are in the jungles. You have become in the cage; you are now just a slave obediently performing whatever I want you to do.”
“I will not be a slave to anyone,” the tiger impetuously said.
“You are obliged to obey me because I’m the one who has food.”
“I do not want your food.”
“Then starve as much as you want. I will not force you to do whatever you do not like.”
“You will see how he will change. A haughty head cannot feed a hungry stomach,” addressing his students, he added.
The tiger felt hungry, sadly recalling those days when he was chasing his preys as fast as free wind.
On the next day the tamer and his students surrounded the tiger’s cage. The tamer asked the tiger: “Are you hungry?”
“Surely you feel the pangs of starvation. Say that you are hungry and you will get as much meat as you want,” the tamer added.
The tiger kept silent so the tamer said to him: “Do whatever I say and do not be a fool. Admit that you are hungry and you will be satisfied immediately.”
I am hungry,” said the tiger.
After that the tamer started laughing and said to his students: “This one has fallen in a trap from which he will not be rescued.” Then the tamer gave his orders so that the tiger got a lot of meat.
On the third day, the tamer said to the tiger: “If you want to get food today, you must do whatever I ask you.”
“I will not obey.”
“Don’t be hasty. My demand is so simple. Now you are hovering in your cage and whenever I say stop you must do.”
“Really it is a simple demand. Obstinacy does not pay as I will starve. The tiger told himself.
“Stop!” the tamer shouted in a harsh and commanding tone. Immediately the tiger got frozen in his place.
“Well done,” the tamer joyfully said.
The tiger became happy and ate greedily while the tamer was saying to his students that after few days this tiger will become a paper tiger.
On the fourth day, the tiger said to the tamer: “I’m hungry, so ask me to stop.”
“Look! He starts loving my orders,” the tamer said to his students.
You will not eat today unless you mimic the meow of cats. The tamer continued addressing the tiger.
The tiger imitated the meow of cats but the tamer scowled and said disapprovingly: ” Do you consider snarl as meow?! Your mimic is bad.”
The tiger imitated again the meow of cats but the tamer was still frowning and he scornfully said: “Quiet, quiet. Your mimic is still bad. I will leave you to practice and will examine you tomorrow. If you succeed, you will eat otherwise you will get nothing.”
The tamer went apart from the cage of the tiger walking in slow steps. He was followed by his students who were laughing and whispering to each other.
The tiger called on the forests, begging them, but they were very far.
On the fifth day the tamer said to the tiger: “Now, if you mimic the meow of cats successfully, you will get a big piece of fresh meat.”
The tiger mimicked the meow of cats and the tamer started clapping and he delightfully said: “Great! You are meowing like a cat in February.” Then he threw him a big piece of meat.
On the sixth day, once the tamer came near the cage, the tiger started mimicking the meow of cats. But the tamer glowered at him and knitted his brows. Then the tiger said: “Look! I imitated the meow of cats”
“Imitate the bray of a donkey,” said the tamer.
“I’m the tiger from whom all animals of the forests fear, mimicking donkey?! I will die than do what you have asked!” the tiger disappointingly replied.
After that the tamer went far from the cage without saying a single word.
On the seventh day the tamer came towards the tiger’s cage with a smile on his face and said to the tiger: “You don’t want to eat?!”
“I want to eat.”
“The meat that you will eat has a price. Bray like a donkey, and then you will get food.”
The tiger tried to remember the forests but he failed; then he closed his eyes and started braying.
“Your braying is not right but I will give you a piece of meat because I feel pity for you,” the tamer said.
On the eighth day the tamer said: “I will start delivering a public speech and when I finish, you should admirably clap.”
“I will clap,” the tiger replied.
The tamer started delivering his speech saying: “O citizens! Previously we have explained our attitudes towards all crucial issues in several occasions. This strict and clear attitude will not change no matter how aggressive powers conspire. By faith we will triumph.”
“I do not understand whatever you said,” said the tiger.
“You must admire whatever I say and you must admirably clap.”
“Forgive me. I’m an ignorant, illiterate person. Your speech is brilliant so I will clap as you like.”
“I dislike hypocrisy and hypocrite people. Today I will deprive you from food as a punishment.”
On the ninth day the tamer came carrying a tuft of grass and threw it to the tiger and said: “Eat.”
“What is this?! I’m a carnivore.”
“From today you will eat nothing but grass.”
When the tiger starved, he tried to eat the grass but its disgusting taste shocked him so he moved far from it. Nevertheless, he got back to it again and gradually got started to accept its taste.
On the tenth day the tamer, his students, the tiger and the cage disappeared to find that the tiger became a citizen and the cage became a city.