How The Cat Came To Live With Man
: Folk-tales Of The Khasis
In olden times Ka Miaw, the cat, lived in the jungle with her brother
the tiger, who was king of the jungle. She was very proud of her
high pedigree and anxious to display the family greatness, and to
live luxuriously according to the manner of families of high degree;
but the tiger, although he was very famous abroad, was not at all
mindful of the well-being and condition of his family, and allowed
them to be often in
want. He himself, by his skill and great prowess,
obtained the most delicate morsels for his own consumption, but as it
involved trouble to bring booty home for his household, he preferred
to leave what he did not want himself to rot on the roadside, or to
be eaten by any chance scavenger. Therefore, the royal larder was
often very bare and empty.
Thus the cat was reduced to great privations, but so jealous was she
for the honour and good name of her house that, to hide her poverty
from her friends and neighbours, she used to sneak out at night-time,
when nobody could see her, in order to catch mice and frogs and other
common vermin for food.
Once she ventured to speak to her brother on the matter, asking him
what glory there was in being king if his family were obliged to
work and to fare like common folks. The tiger was so angered that she
never dared to approach the subject again, and she continued to live
her hard life and to shield the family honour.
One day the tiger was unwell, and a number of his neighbours came to
enquire after his health. Desiring to entertain them with tobacco,
according to custom, he shouted to his sister to light the hookah
and to serve it round to the company. Now, even in the most ordinary
household, it is very contrary to good breeding to order the daughter
of the house to serve the hookah, and Ka Miaw felt the disgrace keenly,
and, hoping to excuse herself, she answered that there was no fire
left by which to light the hookah. This answer displeased the tiger
greatly, for he felt that his authority was being flouted before
his friends. He ordered his sister angrily to go to the dwelling of
mankind to fetch a firebrand with which to light the hookah, and,
fearing to be punished if she disobeyed, the cat ran off as she was
bidden and came to the dwelling of mankind.
Some little children were playing in the village, and when they saw
Ka Miaw they began to speak gently to her and to stroke her fur. This
was so pleasant to her feelings after the harsh treatment from her
brother that she forgot all about the firebrand and stayed to play
with the children, purring to show her pleasure.
Meanwhile the tiger and his friends sat waiting impatiently for
the hookah that never came. It was considered a great privilege to
draw a whiff from the royal hookah; but seeing that the cat delayed
her return, the visitors took their departure, and showed a little
sullenness at not receiving any mark of hospitality in their king's
The tiger's anger against his sister was very violent, and, regardless
of his ill-health, he went out in search of her. Ka Miaw heard him
coming, and knew from his growl that he was angry; she suddenly
remembered her forgotten errand, and, hastily snatching a firebrand
from the hearth, she started for home.
Her brother met her on the way and began to abuse her, threatening to
beat her, upon which she threw down the firebrand at his feet in her
fright and ran back to the abode of mankind, where she has remained
ever since, supporting herself as of old by catching frogs and mice,
and purring to the touch of little children.