‘Pleasure at having secured a magnificent trophy was not unmixed with regret, for never again would the jungle folk and I listen with held breath to his deep-throated call resounding through the foothills, and never again would his familiar pug-marks show on the game paths that he and I had trodden for fifteen years.’
After fifteen years of watching him grow into youth and old age in the forests of Kumaon, Jim Corbett, the fabled hunter-naturalist and writer, shoots a tiger who has become a man-eater. His pleasure-mixed-with-regret at this victory which is also, in the end, murder is the central paradox that makes self-aware shikar literature a compelling exploration of our epic and imperfect existence. This collection of non-fiction and fiction about encounters between humans and big cats in the Indian subcontinent and Africa brings us the best of this genre of literature, with its gripping narratives, unforgettable images and splendid descriptions of wild nature.
Besides Corbett, it includes masters of the genre like J.H. Patterson, who writes about the terror of lions and men in Kenya during the laying of railway lines in the 1890s; Hugh Allen, who had thrilling adventures with tigers and leopards in central India; and Augustus Somerville, who wrote the neglected classic At Midnight Comes the Killer. There are also surprising gems: lyrical and humorous real-life and imagined stories by Mrs W.W. Baillie and Mrs M.A. Handley—two unusual women of the Raj; the naturalist EHA (a founding member of the Bombay Natural History Society); and writers Saki and Dhan Gopal Mukerji. And lest we forget that reluctant hunters were the exception and hunting was mainly about ‘sportsmen’ who delighted in chase and slaughter, there are also accounts of the horrors of shikar.
Compiled by a group of wildlife enthusiasts, this anthology showcases brilliant, old-fashioned storytelling, and some of the finest writing on adventure and wildlife produced over a century.
Jim Corbett, ace hunter and inimitable raconteur, was also a gifted observer, not just of the jungle but also of the people around him. In the seventeen sketches included in The Hunter’s Friends, readers will meet the men and women Corbett lived, hunted and worked with, both in Kumaon—Corbett’s stomping grounds for most of his life— and in Mokameh Ghat, where he was employed by the Railways.
‘Kunwar Singh’, intrepid poacher of the Kaladhungi jungles, tells young Corbett the cautionary tale of his friend, who was taught a harsh lesson by a tiger because he couldn’t climb trees; in ‘Putli and Kalwa’, Corbett befriends a brave young girl leading a bullock to her uncle’s house even as the man-eater of Muktesar prowls about in search of a victim. And, in ‘Adventures with Magog’, Corbett’s delightful and touching profile of his hunting dog, he describes the terrifying yet funny consequences of disturbing a sleeping tiger.
Compassionate, insightful and witty, The Hunter’s Friends is a book to read and to keep returning to.
The Fortunate Tiger and Other Close Encounters selects the most thrilling adventures of Jim Corbett of Kumaon, legendary hunter and author.
Corbett, who bagged his first leopard at ten, with a rifle won in a marksmanship competition, ranged far and wide across Kumaon and Garhwal for much of his life, rescuing villages terrorized by man-eating felines. And, in the stories of his exploits—‘The Fortunate Tiger’, which seemed to enjoy divine protection from his bullets; ‘The Man- eating Tigress of Chowgarh’, who stalked Corbett even as he went looking for her; ‘The Talla Des Killer’, which he was forced to track while nursing a burst eardrum; and ‘The Final Man-eater’ of Corbett’s career, a tigress which he lured and shot using himself as bait—Corbett gives us some of the greatest shikar tales ever told.
Nature and adventure writing at its very best, The Fortunate Tiger and Other Close Encounters is a classic for all time.