THE TALE OF A TIGER
by Dario Fo
translated by Ed Emery
[This file was scanned from the printed text. It may contain typographical errors still to be sorted.]
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Original text copyright © Dario Fo
Translation copyright © Ed Emery
THE TALE OF A TIGER
by Dario Fo
translated by Ed Emery
The first part of tonight's show has a positive theme. It's a hopeful piece, just at a time when negativity and a general collapse of ideals seem to be the dominant forces in our everyday lives. It's called "The Tale of a Tiger", and the message is conveyed by allegory.
In fact the first time I performed this piece was right here in Florence, and for me that night was sort of try-out. On that particular evening, the audience's involvement in the piece proved very important to me. They gave me a number of clear and precise pointers which enabled me to see where the weak points were and which sections needed to be cut or altered.
So, this enabled me to trim the story down. At first it ran for a quarter of an hour. Now, after a process of polishing, correcting, cutting, tightening up, the piece runs to 45 minutes! I'm not joking. In theatre, tightening a piece up doesn't necessarily mean shredding it into little bits.
I first heard this story told actually, performed, rather than told four years ago, in China. To be precise, in Shanghai. In that period, there were many stories like this being told in China.
Leaving aside the official theatre, the most lively form of theatre was a theatre completely unknown to passing tourists: the popular theatre fringe theatre, I suppose you could call it which was a real hothouse of imagination, creativity and humour.
I doubt that nowadays this story is still performed in public in the way that I saw it told, before an audience of thousands of people, men, women, children.... in a park.... in the Shanghai countryside.
The storyteller told his tale in the dialect of the Shanghai countryside, a dialect which is spoken by a minority. A minority of around 60 million inhabitants! In China 60 million really is a minority, when you think that around half a billion people speak the national language.
Now, the vowel sounds and the consonants which this peasant-actor was producing in his dialect fascinated me: his sounds and vocal tonalities had little relation with the spoken Chinese that I had encountered up until then His language was broader, the sounds were harder, with a tendency to slide into deep, throaty rambling phrasings which, for me, brought to mind the "keenings" of the peasants of the Po Valley and the dialect stories of the mountains and upper valleys of Lombardy. In other words, I was on familiar territory.
And when, in addition to the sounds, I saw this extraordinary travelling player using hand gestures, arm movements, and moving his whole body as an accompaniment and counterpoint to the sounds [roars, silence, words.... .], the words at first coming thick and fast and then more leisurely, and then silence in short, true pantomime I realised that I was face to face with a theatre of great importance. And the principal player in this piece was a she-tiger, a tigress.
The Tigress was the leading lady, and her supporting cast were a tiger cub and a soldier. Unfortunately, I had some difficulties in getting the story explained to me. You see, our interpreter was from Peking, and didn't understand a word of the local dialect!
Luckily, we were able to find a local person who spoke the national language well, and so we were able to get a complete translation of the piece. That is the translation which I shall now perform for you. I had already heard of the theme of this piece, from Ms Colotti-Pischel, a notable researcher and analyst of Chinese politics and culture. But from her I knew only the broad outlines. I did not know the entire story, as I was to discover it in Shanghai.
This is the story of a soldier. It is the soldier himself who speaks, through the performer. He tells about his experiences in the army.... coming down from the Manchuria border at the start of Mao's Long March.
As I am sure you know, the army in question was made up of the Fourth Army, the Seventh Army, and several regiments of the Eighth. They came down in their thousands, from the North of China, down towards Canton, covering thousands of miles on their march.
They reach Canton, and move on to Shanghai. Then they turn off towards the West, and cross the whole of China from East to West, to arrive at the foothills of the Himalayas. They have to cross the Himalayas in order to reach the Green Sea, the famous green-blue desert that runs along the Mongolian border, and then head north again, so that they can finally muster their forces to embark on the Chinese Revolution.
However, our soldier is not destined to reach the Green Sea. He is wounded by a bullet fired by the soldiers of Chiang Kai Shek, as the marchers are in the process of crossing the Himalayas. He is badly wounded. His wound begins to putrefy. Gangrene sets in, and the poor soldier is about to die. He is suffering. His comrades know that he is unlikely to survive more than another couple of days.
One of the soldiers, a comrade from his own village, suggests that he should shoot him, in order to put him out of his terrible agony. But our soldier turns down his offer: "I'm going to fight to live," he shouts. Here lies the first allegory: resist, fight on, even in the face of death.
He insists that his comrades leave him there. He asks them to leav him a gun, a blanket and a bit of rice. He's left on his own. He falls asleep. But as they say, it never rains but it pours. He is suddenly awakened by a crash of thunder: a tremendous storm breaks all around him. An avalanche of water falls from the skies, and a raging river roars up at his feet.
On all fours, with agonising efforts, he succeeds in scrambling up one of the mountain ridges. He reaches a kind of plateau. He swims across a raging torrent in order to reach an enormous cave which he sees on the other side of the stream, up in the rockface. Finally, safe and sound in the cave, he meets.... the tigress.
The tigress. And her tiger cub. In China, the she-tiger has a very specific allegorical reference: you say that a woman, or a man, or a nation "has the tigress" when they make a stand, at a time when most people are running away, giving up, taking to their heels, ditching the struggle, copping out, in short, coming to the point where they run down both themselves, and everything in sight.
People are said to "have the tigress" when they don't do this, when they hold firm, when they resist. And the peasants of Shanghai have another saying: they take their resistance so far as even to hold burning embers in the palm of their hands so that when those who had panicked and fled later pluck up courage and return, they find someone there, someone who has kept the embers burning, so that they can begin to organise again and rejoin the struggle.
The tiger also has another allegorical meaning and this is perhaps the most important. A person "has the tiger" when they never delegate anything to anyone else, when they never expect other people to solve their problems for them even when the person to whom those problems might be delegated is the most valued of leaders, a leader who has shown his capacities on countless occasions, perhaps the most honest and trusted of Party secretaries... No! Never! People who "have the tiger" are those who undertake to be inside the situation, to play their parts, to monitor and watch, to be present and resposible to the ultimate degree. Not out of any sense of suspicion, but in order to avoid that blind fidelity which is a cancer, a stupid and negative element of the class struggle, the enemy of both reason and revoution.
That, then, is the allegory of the tiger. I am now going to tell this story... in Chinese... because I have discovered that this particular Chinese dialect is fairly simple and easy for people to understand, since a lot of the words it uses are very onomatopoeic... and also the story is full of incidents which can be conveyed very adequately by gesture... All I need do is disguise the words by adding here and there a word or two of our own dialect the dialect of the Po Valley and you will be absolutely amazed to discover that you understand virtually everything I say. You will imagine that the story is being told in the dialect of the peasants of the Veneto of Lombardy, of Emilia and Piedmont... but in fact it will be pure Chinese!
The wonder of theatre! Let's begin.
******* The Tale of a Tiger *******
The soldier speaks:
When we came down from Manchuria with the Fourth Army, the Eighth Army and virtually the whole of the Seventh Army, there were thousands and thousands of us, shuffling along, moving by day and by night. We marched, loaded with packs and baggage. We were dirty and we were tired. And we pressed on, and our horses couldn't stand the pace, and the horses died, and we used to eat them, and we used to eat the donkeys too, when they died, and we used to eat dogs, and, when we ran out of anything else to eat, we also used to eat cats, lizards and rats! You can imagine the dysentery afterwards! We had the shits so bad that along that road, I'd say that for centuries to come you'll find the tallest, greenest grass of anywhere in the world!
Some of us were dying, because Chiang Kai Shek's soldiers, the white bandits, were shooting at us.... from all sides.... every day.... We were caught in a trap.... we'd find them lying in wait for us in the villages, and they'd poison the well-water, and we were dying, dying, dying.
Well, we got to Shanghai, and we continued out the other side. Before long we saw the enormous Himalaya Mountains in front of us. And our leaders told us: "Stop here. There might be an ambush here.... Up the mountainside, there might be some of Chiang Kai Shek's white bandits, waiting to ambush us as we go up the gorge. So, all of you in the rearguard, climb up, and guard our rear while we're going through."
So, we scrambled up, right up to the top of the ridge, so as to make sure that nobody up there started shooting up our backsides! And our comrades marched, and marched and marched, filing past, and we cheered them on:
"Don't worry, we're here. We'll look after you.... Move along, move along, move along!"
It took almost a whole day for all the soldiers to pass. Finally it was our turn to go up the gorge. We come down from our look-outs.
"But now who's going to guard our rears?"
We came down from our sentry-posts, very nervous. We took a careful look down the valley floor. Then, all of a sudden, just as we were entering the mouth of the gorge, those bandits suddenly popped out, up above, and started shooting at us: Blim, blam, blam....! I saw two big rocks. I dived in between them, under cover, and started shooting: blam! I looked out.... and realised that my left leg was still sticking out from behind the rock.
"Hell, let's hope they don't notice my leg."
"Nyaaah!" They noticed! I copped a bullet right in the leg.... The bullet went in one side and out the other. It grazed one testicle, almost hit the second, and if I'd had a third one, it would have blown it to hell! Ooouch, the pain!
"Oh hell," I said, "they've hit the bone!" But no, the bone was untouched.
"They've hit the artery.... " But no, the blood's not spurting.
I grabbed my leg and squeezed and squeezed and stopped the blood running. Then I got up and tried to carry on. Gently, gently. But then, two days later I started to get a fever, a fever that set my heart pounding so hard that I could feel it down in my big toe: boom, boom, boom. My knee puffed up like a balloon, and I had a big swelling here in my groin. "It's gangrene! Damn and damn again, it's gangrene!"
The putrfying flesh began to give off a bad smell all around me, and my comrades told me: "Hey, do you think you could keep back a bit; you stink pretty bad, you know...."
They cut two long, thick bamboo canes, maybe 8 or 10 metres long. Two of my comrades decided to march, one in front of the other, holding the bamboo canes on their shoulders, while I went between the two of them, with the poles supporting my armpits, so that I could walk, without putting too much weight on my leg. They marched with their faces turned away, and their noses blocked so as not to smell the stench.
One night, we were within reach of what they call the "Great Green Sea", and all night I'd been screaming, swearing and shouting for my mother. In the morning, one of the soldiers, my comrade, who was as dear to me as my brother, pulled out an enormous pistol. He pointed it here. [He points to his forehead.] "You're in too much pain, it's too much to see you suffering like this, let me do it.... just one bullet, and it'll all be over."
"Thank you for your solidarity and your understanding," I said. "I realise that it's said with the best of intenions, but I think we'll leave that for another time. Don't go worrying yourself. I'll kill myself, myself, when the time comes. I want to fight, fight to live! Go ahead, leave me, because I can see that you can't go on carrying me like this. Go on, go on! Just leave me a gun, a blanket and a bit of rice in a mess tin!"
And so off they went. They left me. And as they struggled through the mud of that "green sea", I began to shout after them:
"Hey, comrades, comrades.... Hell....! Don't tell my mother that I died putrefied. Tell her that it was a bullet, and that I was laughing when it hit me! Ha, ha! Hey!"
But they didn't turn round. They pretended that they hadn't heard me, so that they wouldn't have to turn round and let me see. And I knew the reason: their faces were all streaked with tears....
I dropped to the ground. I wrapped myself in the blanket, and I fell asleep.
I don't know why, but as I slept, I had a nightmare. I dreamt that the sky was full of clouds, and they suddenly split open, and a great sea of water came gushing down. Whoomf! A huge, frightening crash of thunder! I woke up. It really was a sea! I was in the middle of storm, and all the rivers and streams were breaking their banks, and flooding the valley. The water was rising fast: splish, splash, splish.... And before I knew it, it was up to my knees.
"Hell, instead of dying from gangrene, I'm going to end up drownded!"
Slowly, slowly, slowly, I clambered up a steep slope covered in scree. I had to hang on to branches with my teeth, just to get a hold. I broke all my nails. Once I was up on the ridge, I started running, dragging my useless leg behind me, so as to get across the plateau. I dived into a raging stream, and swam and swam till I reached the other side. I clambered up the bank, and all of a sudden, right in front of me.... Hey! A big cave! A cavern. I threw myself inside:
"Saved! I'm not going to die drowned.... I'm going to die of gangrene!"
I look around. It's dark. My eyes get used to the dark.... and I see bones, a carcase of an animal that has been eaten, an enormous carcase.... an excessive carcase!
"But what kind of animal eats like this?! Let's hope it's moved out.... and taken its family with it! Let's hope they've all drowned in the flood!"
Anyway, I go to the back of the cave.... I lie down on the ground. Once again, I start to feel my heart beating, boom, boom, throbbing right down in my big toe.
"I'm dying, I'm dying, I'm dying, I'm going to die."
All of a sudden, I see a shadow in the cave entrance. A figure, picked out against the light. An enormous head. What a head! Two yellow eyes, with two black stripes for pupils.... eyes as big as lanterns. What an enormous beast! A tiger!! A tigress the size of an elephant! Oh hell!
In her mouth she's got a tiger cub. Its belly is all swollen up with water. It looks like a sausage, like a soggy little football. She tosses it onto the cave floor.... Thud.... She starts pressing with her paw.... on its belly.... Water comes out.... Schplock.... from its mouth: it's stone dead, drowned.
There's another tiger cub too, wobbling around its mother's legs, looking like it's got a melon in its belly. This one is dragging a bellyful of water too. The tigress raises her head. She takes a sniff: sniff, sniff.... Sniffing the air in the cave....
"Hell, if she likes high meat, I'm done for!"
She fixes on me.... she comes towards me.... Here she comes.... That head, getting bigger, and bigger.... ! I feel my hair beginning to stand on end, so stiff that it makes a noise....! Creeeak.... Then my other hairs start bristling too.... in my ears, in my nose.... and other hairs as well! A brush!
"She's coming, she's coming, here she is.... next to me.... She sniffs me all over."
And off she went, slinking off to the back of the cave, where she lay down. Then she grabbed her son, the cub, and pulled him against her belly. I looked: her teats were full of milk, almost full to bursting, beause it must have been days and days that nobody had sucked milk from them, with all that water flooding down outside. In addition to which, one of her children, the other tiger cub, was dead, drowned.... So, the mother shoved the little one's head next to her teat and said:
And the tiger cub:
A family row! That poor kid of a tiger cub was right: he was like a little barrel, filled to the brim with water.... what do you expect.... ? Anyway, the tiger cub ran off to the back of the cave.... and started making a fuss.
The tigress is furious! She gets up, turns round, and fixes her beady eye.... on me! On me??!! Oh hell, she gets angry at her son, and then she comes to take it out one me?! What's it got to do with me? Hey, now look, I'm not even one of the family! Creeeak! Creeeak! [He imitates the sound of his hairs standing on end again.] The brush!
She comes over to me, with her great big headlamp eyes. She turns sideways on, and, smack! I get a teat in my face.
"What kind of way is that to kill people, hitting them with your teat?"
She turns her head to look at me, and says:
As if to say: "Suck!"
With two fingers I take her teat, and go to put it in my mouth.
"Thank you. If it makes you any happier..." [He mimes taking a little sip from the teat.]
I should never have done it! She turned round, with a mean look on her face:
God help anyone who spurns the hospitality of lady tigers! They go wild! Animals, they are! So I took her teat and... schloop schloop, schloop... [He mimes drinking fast and greedily from her teat.] Marvellous! Tiger milk... marvellous! A bit bitter, but, my dear boy... so creamy: it went slithering down, and rolled around in my empty stomach... Slither, slither, slither. Then it found my first intestine... Splosh: it spread through all my other empty intestines... Fifteen days that I hadn't eaten. Schloop, schloop, schloop. The milk swilled around and began to revitalise my intestine! Then, when I finished, schloop, schloop, schloop, I folded it neatly away. [He mimes the action of tucking up the empty teat, like a salt wrapper.]
I don't remember how or when, but I fell asleep, calm and peaceful as a baby. In the morning I woke up. I'd already emptied out a bit.... I don't know what happened, but the ground was all soaked in milk....
I look round for the tigress. She's not there. Neither is the cub. They've gone off... Maybe they've gone out for a wee. I wait for a while... I was worried. Every time I heard a noise outside, I was scared that maybe some wild animal was coming to pay a visit. Some wild animal, which would come into the cave. I could hardly say:
"I'm sorry, the lady of the house isn't in. She's gone out. Could you come back later? Maybe you'd like to leave a message... "
I worried and waited. Finally, that evening, the tigress returned. All smooth and slinky. Her nipples were a bit swollen again with milk, but not like the day before, when they were almost bursting: this time they were about half full, just about right, and behind her came the tiger cub. No sooner had the tigress entered the cave than she gives a sniff. She takes a look around, sees me, and says:
As if to say: "What? You still here?"
And the tiger cub passes comment too:
And off they went to the back of the cave. The tigress lay down. By now, the cub's belly was a little less swollen with water, but every now and then: Buurp! He sicked up a drop or two, and then laid himself down next to his mum. His mum gently took hold of his head, and pushed it close to her teat:
"Roooar!" [He mimes the tiger-cub refusing to drink.]
The tiger cub went scuttling off. He'd had enough of liquid refreshment! [He mimes the tigress turning and looking at the soldier. And the soldier, resignedly, goes over to drink his milk.]
"Schloop, schloop, schloop". What a life! And while I was sucking on her teats, all of a sudden she began licking my wound:
"Oh hell, she's trying me for taste! If she decides she likes me, while I'm sucking her at one end, she'll be eating me from the other!"
But no, she was licking. Licking. She was seeing to my wound.
She started sucking out all the poison in the swelling. Screeek... Splosh! She spat it out! She spat it all out! Bliyaa! Hell, what a splendid tiger! She was spreading her saliva, that special tiger saliva, all over the wound. And all of a sudden I remembered that tiger balm is a wonderful, miraculous healing agent, a medicine. I remembered that when I was a kid, in my village, we used to have little old men coming round, folk doctors, medicine men, who would turn up with little pots full of tiger balm. And they'd go round saying:
"Come on, ladies! Can't you produce milk? Then smear your breasts with this balm, and, presto! You'll get two big breasts, full to bursting! And you old folk, are your teeth falling out? One wipe over the gums... and your teeth will stay put like fangs! Any of you got boils, warts, scabs... an infection? One drop, and away they go! Cures every illness!"
It's true, that balm really was miraculous! And it really was tiger balm, it wasn't a trick. They went looking for it themselves. Just think of the courage of those old fellows, those doctors; off they went, all by themselves, to take tigers' saliva, from inside the tiger's mouth, while she was sleeping, with her mouth wide open. Schplook...! Schplook! [He mimes rapidly gathering the saliva.] And off they went. You could always recognise one of these doctors, because they usually had one arm slightly shorter than the other! [He mimes a person with one arm shorter than the other.] Industrial injuries!
Anyway, maybe it was my imagination, but, as she was licking and sucking at me, I felt my blood thinning out all over again, and my big toe began to feel like it felt before, and my knee began to loosen up... My knee was moving! Hell, this is the life! I was so happy that I began to sing while I was sucking: whistling and blowing. Oh what a mistake! Instead of sucking on her teat, I blew into it: whoosh... whoosh... whoosh, a balloon as big as this! [He mimes quickly deflating the teat before the tigress notices.] ...All gone! And the tigress was happy as anything, with a face like this.... [He mimes the tigress's expression of satisfaction.] She gave me the usual lick, and off to the back of the cave. Now, I should mention that while the mother was licking me, the tiger cub was there, looking on, very curious. And when his mother had finished, he came over to me, with his little tongue hanging out, as if to say:
"Can I have a lick too?"
Tiger cubs are like children. Everything that they see their mothers do, they want to do too.
"You want a lick? Well, watch out for those little itsy-bitsy sharp teeth of yours." [He threatens the tiger cub with his fist.] "Watch out that you don't bite me, eh!"
So he came over to me... Tickle, tickle... tickle... He gave me a lick with that little tongue of his, which tickled like anything. Then, after a bit: Oooch! A bite! He had his testicles right there, close to me. Bam! [He mimes giving a punch.] A right-hander! Screeech! Like a scalded cat! The cub began running round the cave wall, like a trick motor cyclist at a circus!
One should always ensure respect from tigers, starting when they're young!
And in fact, from that moment on, my friend, every time the cub came close to me, he didn't just walk by. Oh no, he was very careful! He walked by like this.
[With his arms and legs rigid, moving one in front of the other alternately, he mimes the tiger walking sideways-on, careful to keep a safe distance, and covering himself from any further blows to the testicles.]
So, the tigress was asleep. The tiger cub fell asleep too, and I followed soon after. That night, I slept a deep, deep sleep. I wasn't in pain any more. I dreamt that I was at home, with my wife, dancing, and with my mother, singing. In the morning, when I woke, there was no sign either of the tigress or of her cub. They'd already gone out.
"But what kind of family is this? They don't stay at home for a moment! And now who's going to look after my wound? Those two are capable of staying out and about for days on end".
I waited. Night came. Still they didn't return.
"What kind of mother do you call that? A child as young as that, and she's taking him out, walking the streets all night! What's going to become of him when he grows up?! A little animal!"
The following day, they returned, at dawn. At dawn! Just like that, as if nothing had happened. The tigress had an enormous animal in her mouth. I don't know what it was. A huge goat that she'd killed, about the size of a cow... with huge great horns! The tiger came into the cave: slam, she tossed it to the ground. The cub parades in front of me, and says:
As if to say: "It was me that killed it!"
[He shows his fist threateningly, and mimes the reaction of the tiger cub, who is terrified and starts walking sideways-on.]
Anyway, back to the goat. The tigress whips out a huge claw. She tosses the goat on its back, with its feet up in the air. Scritch... a deep gash. Scriitch again. She tears open its whole stomach, its belly. She pulls out its innards, all its intestines, its heart, its spleen... Scriitch... scratch... she scrapes it clean as a whistle... and the tiger cub... plip, plop... leapt right inside! And the tigress... a flaming fury! Rooar!"
You see, you should never climb into a tiger's lunch... They get terribly upset!
Then the tigress buried her whole head in the animal's belly, in the empty stomach... And the tiger cub was in there too... What a terrible din... ! Yum... Yum... Slurp.... Scrick... Enough to burst your eardrums!
Within an hour they had eaten everything in sight! All the bones gnawed clean. All that was left was part of the animal's rear end its tail, its thigh, its knee, and the great big hoof at the end. The tigress turned round and said:
As if to say: "Are you hungry?"
She picked up the leg, and tossed it over in my direction:
As if to say: "Try this little snack."
[He mimes being unable to handle the situation.]
"Yuk... ! Me, eat that?! But that stuff's tough as old boots. I don't have teeth like yours... Look at it! It's so hard, it's more like leather! And what about all that fat, with the hide... all these lumps of gristle... Now, if we had a fire here, so that we could put it on to roast for a couple of hours... ! Hell, a fire! That's right, the flood has washed down a whole lot of roots and stumps.
So, I went out, since I was already able to walk again, even though I was still limping a bit: I went out in front of the cave, where there were some tree stumps and trunks. I started dragging some good big bits inside, and then some branches, and then I made a pile about so-high. Then I took some dry grass, and some leaves that were lying around. Then I put the two horns in the shape of a cross, along with another couple of bones, at the other end, and between them I put the goat-leg, spit-style. Then I went out looking for some round stones, sulphur stones, which make sparks when you knock them against each other. I found two good big ones, and started to rub them together.
Scritch... scritch... [He mimes rubbing the two stones together.] Hey presto! A shower of sparks... Tigers are scared of fire. Ha! I hear the tiger at the back of the cave:
"Roooar!" [He mimes bristling menacingly.]
"Well, what's up? You've eaten your dirty disgusting meat, haven't you? All raw and dripping with blood? Well, if you don't mind, I prefer mine cooked. So scram!" [He mimes the tigress, cowering, frightened.]
One should always get the upper hand over the female of the pecies! Even if she is wild! So I sat myself down with my two stones.. Scritch... Scritch... and once again, hey presto... Fire! The fire caught the grass, then the leaves, and the flames started rising: niiice... ! And all the fat began to roast, and the melted fat went down into the fire... And a thick cloud of black smoke rose to the cave roof... and drifted towards the back of the cave. And as the cloud of smoke reached the tiger, she went:
"Atchoo!" [A roar which suggests a sneeze.]
"Is the smoke bothering you? Well scram, then! And you, Tiggles!" [He threatens the tiger cub with his fist, and mimes the frightened cub walking out, sideways on.] "Out!"
And I roast and roast and baste and baste and turn and turn. Schloop... Screeek... Pssss... But then I think it doesn't quite smell right.
"If only I could find something to flavour it with!"
Hey, that's right! Outside I remember seeing some wild garlic.
I go out. In the clearing there, yes, right in front of the cave... I pick a good handful of wild garlic. Scrick... Then I see a green shoot I pull it up:
And I find some hot peppers... I take a flake of bone. I make some cuts in the thigh, and I stuff the cloves of garlic inside, together with the onion, and the peppers. Then I go looking for some salt, because sometimes you find rock salt in cave. I find saltpetre.
"Well, that will have to do, although saltpetre's a bit bitter sometimes. What's more, there's the problem that it might explode with the fire. But never mind. I'll just have to watch out."
I stuff some pieces of saltpetre into the cuts. And in fact, after a while, the flames... Blim... blam... crackle... And the tigress:
"Roooar." [He mimes the tigress getting frightened.]
"This is men's business! Get out, out of my kitchen!"
Round and round and round goes the meat... By now it's giving off a lovely clean smoke. And what an aroma! After an hour, my friend, the smell that came off that meat was divine.
"Haha, what a meal!"
Screeek: I pull off a strip of meat. [He mimes tasting it.] Schloop, schloop.
"Hey, that's good!"
It's been years and years since I last ate as well as this. It's really tasty, delicate, sweet.
I looked round, and there was the tiger cub... He had just come in. And he stood there, licking his whiskers.
"Oh I see... so you want a taste too? But you're not going to like this stuff. Do you really want some? Look. [He mimes cutting a piece of meat and throwing it to the tiger, who gulps it down.] Hopla!"
The tiger cub had a taste, swallowed it, and then said:
"Was that good? Do you like it... ? You bad-mannered thing!! Here, take this, hopla!" [Again he mimes cutting off some meat and throwing it, and the tiger cub stuffing it down.]
"Roooar... Swallow... Yum... Oooh... !"
"Thank you, thank you... Yes, all my own cooking. Would you like some more? Watch out, because if your mother finds out that you've been eating this stuff...!"
I cut off a nice piece of fillet:
"I'll keep this bit for myself, but I'm going to leave the rest, because there's too much for me. Here you are, you can have the leg." [He mimes throwing the goat's leg to the tiger cub.]
Blam... He got it full in the face, and it sent him flying. He picked it up, and started dragging it around, like a drunkard. Then his mother turned up: what a row!
"Roooar... What are you eating there... that disgusting burnt meat? Come here, give it here... Roooar."
"Roooar. Oooh. Rooar."
A piece of the meat happens to end up in the mother's mouth. She swallows it. She likes it. "Roooar... Yum... Rooar!" said the mother.
"Roooar... Yum!" answered the tiger cub. [He mimes the mother and the cub fighting over the meat.] A quarrel!!
"Screek... Schloop... Nyum..."
I ask you! The bone! Stripped bare! Then the tigress turns towards me, and says:
"Roooar, isn't there any more?"
"Hey, this is mine!" [Pointing to the piece of meat that he had cut off shortly before.]
As I was eating, the tigress came close to me... I thought that she wanted to eat my meat, but instead she was coming over to lick my wound to make it better. What a wonderful person! She licked me, and then she went over to her part of the cave. She sprawled out on the ground. Her kid was already asleep, and I soon fell asleep myself.
When I woke up in the morning, the tigers had already gone out. This was getting to be a habit! I waited all day, and there was still no sign of them. They didn't even turn up for supper. I was getting a bit nervous! The day after, thy still hadn't come back!
"Who's going to lick me? Who's going to look after my wound? You can't go off leaving people on their own at home like this!"
They finally turned up three days later.
"Now I'm going to have a showdown!"
Instead I stood there, struck speechless: the tigress came in, and in her mouth she had a whole animal, double the size of the last one! A wild bison, or something, I don't know what it was! And the tiger cub was helping her to carry it, too. Both of them came into the cave... Whoomf, sideways on... as if drunk with the effort... Whoomf.. they came over to me. Thud... [He mimes the tigers putting the dead animal in front of him.]
The tigress says:
"Pant... Pant... " [He imitates the panting of the tigress.] And then:
As if to say: "Cook that!"
[He makes as if to tear his hair, in desperation.] What a terrible thing! You should never let tigers develop bad habits!
"But, excuse me, tiger, I'm afraid you've misunderstood. You don't think that I'm going to stand here, getting scorched, slaving over a hot stove, while you go out enjoying yourself, eh? What do you think I've become? A housewife?!" [He mimes the tiger rearing up as if to attack him.]
"Stop! Hey, hey... Hey! At least we can talk about it, can't we? What's the matter, don't we talk about things any more? Let's have a bit of dialectics... ! Alright, alright... Hey... ! Don't get all worked up about it! Alright, I'll be the cook... I'll do the cooking. But you're going to have to go and get the wood."
"Roooar?" [He mimes the tigress pretending not to understand.]
"Don't play dumb with me. You know what wood is, don't you! Look, come outside here. You see those things sticking up? That's wood. Bring all those bits in here. "
She had indeed understood. She set to straight away, gathering wood, all the stumps and trunks, going to and fro, so that after an hour, the cave was half full.
"And hey, you, tiger cub! A lovely life, eh? With your hands in your pockets?" [Turning to the audience.]
He really did have his hands in his pockets! He had his claws tucked in, and, arms akimbo, he was standing with his paws on two black tiger stripes, one here and one here. [He puts his hands on his hips.] Just as if he had his hands in his pockets!
"Come on! Work! I'll tell you what you're going to have to do: onion, wild garlic, wild pepper, all the trimmings."
"You don't know what I'm talking about? Alright then, I'll show you. Look, over there, that is onion, and this is a pepper."
The poor thing spent ages going to and fro, with his mouth full of garlic, pepper and onions... Ha... ! And after two or three days, his breath smelt so overpowering that you couldn't get near him. What a stink!
And there I was, all day long, over the fire, roasting. I was getting burnt to a frazzle... My knees singed, my testicles shrivelled. I had my face all scorched; my eyes were watering; my hair was scorched too, red in front and white behind! After all, I could hardly cook with my backside to the fire, could I! What a life! And the tigers they would eat, then go for a piss, and then come back to sleep. I ask you: what kind of a life was that?!
Anyway, one night when I was feeling scorched all over, I told myself:
"That's enough... ! I've had enough. I'm leaving."
While the two of them were sleeping, fed to bursting, half drunk with food, which I had done on purpose, I crept off on all fours towards the cave exit. I was just about to go out, I was almost out... when the tiger cub woke up and started yelling:
"Roooar... Mummy, he's running away!"
Rotten little spy of a tiger cub! One of these days I'm going to tear your bollocks off with my bare hands, roast them and serve them up to your mum for supper!"
But it's raining! All of a sudden, it started to rain. I remembered that tigers have this terrible fear of water. So I dived out of the cave and began running down the side of the mountain towards the river... I hurled myself into the river... and started swimming... swimming... swimming! The tigers came to the mouth of the cave:
And I answered:
"Roooar!" [He transforms the mimed action of swimming into a rude gesture.]
I reached the other bank of the river. I started running. I walked for days, weeks, a month, two months... I don't remember how long I walked. I found not one house or hut, not a single village. I was in forest all the time. Finally, I ended up on a little hill, looking out, down into the valley below. It was farmland. I saw houses down there, a village... A village! With a village square, where there were women, children and men!
I ran tumbling down the hillside.
"I'm safe, people! I'm alive! I'm a soldier of the Fourth Army, that's what I am... "
No sooner did they see me arrive than they began shouting:
"It's Death! A ghost!"
And they all ran off into their little houses. And they locked themselves in, barring and chaining their doors.
"But why... what do you mean, a ghost... No, people... "
I passed in front of a glass window, and happened to catch sight of my reflection. I scared myself silly: my hair was all white and standing on end. My face was all scorched, red and black. My eyes looked like burning coals! I really did look like Death! I ran to a fountain, and jumped in... I washed myself; I rubbed myself down with sand, all over. Then I came out, all clean.
"People, come out! Touch me... I'm a real man. Flesh and blood. Warm... Come and feel me... I'm not a ghost."
They came out, a bit scared at first. Some of the men, some of the women, and the children, touched me...
And as they touched me, I told my story: [He runs through his story again, very fast, semi-grammelot.]
"Im in the Fourth Army. I've come down from Manchuria. They shot me up in the Himalayas. They got me in the leg, and grazed my first testicle, my second testicle, and if I'd had a third they would have blown it clean away... Then, three days, gangrene... He points the pistol at me: "Thanks, save it for another time". Boom. I fell asleep. Boom, it's raining, and water, water. Boom, I'm in a cave, and a tigress turns up... . drowned tiger cub... And she came towards me. All my hairs stood on end... A brush! Ha!
Breast-feeding. And I suck, suck, just to keep her happy, and she turns round, and there's another tittery... ! Then the other one comes over: blam! A punch in the testicles... And then, the next time: whoomf, a huge animal. And I roast, roast, red in front, white behind! Wham! Mummy, he's running away! I'll pull your bollocks off, you! Roooar! And that's how I got away!"
While I was telling my story, they stood there, giving each other meaningful looks, as if to say:
"Poor fellow, he's brain's gone for a walk... He must have had a terrible fright, the poor devil's gone mad... "
And I replied:
"Don't you believe me?"
"But yes, yes, of course we do. It's normal to drink milk from tigers' teats... Everyone drinks milk from tigers' teats! Round these parts there are people who grew up drinking milk from tigers. Every now and then you see them going off. "Where are you going?" "To drink milk from a tiger's tits". Not to mention cooked meat! Oh... How they love it! Oh yes, tigers are real gluttons for their cooked meat!! In fact, we've set up a canteen, specially for tigers... They come down, specially, every week, so as to eat with us!"
I got the impression that they were taking the mickey, a bit.
At that moment, we heard a tiger, roaring: "Rooar". A mighty roar! Up on the mountainside you could see the profile of two tigers. The tigress, and the tiger cub. The tiger cub by now was almost as big as his mother. Months had gone by... Just imagine it, after so much time, they had managed to find me! It must have been the stink that I left in my wake... !
All the people of the village started shouting and screaming:
"Help! The tigers!"
And there they went, running off into their houses and bolting themselves in.
"Stop, don't run away... Those are my friends. Those are the ones I told you about. The tiger cub and the tigress that suckled me. Come out, don't be afraid."
Both the tigers came down. Pad... pad... pad... And when they were twenty yards away, the mother tigress started her row with me! What a row!
"Roooar! There's a fine reward, after everything I've done for you, after I saved your life. Roooar. And I even licked you! Roooar. Which is something that I wouldn't even have done for my own man... for one of my own family... Roooar. And you walked out and left me. Roooar. And you taught us how to eat cooked meat, so that now every time... Roooar... that we eat raw meat, we want to throw up... and we get dysentery... and we're sick for weeks... Rooar!"
And to this, I replied:
"Roooar. Well, so what? Don't forget that I saved you too, by drinking your milk, because otherwise you would have burst... Roooar! And what about when I stood there, cooking and slaving, with my balls getting all scorched and dried up, eh? Roooar! And you, there, behave yourself, because, even if you are grown up now... " [He threatens the tiger cub with his fist.]
Then, you know how these things are, when a family loves each other... We made our peace. I gave her a little tickle under the chin... The tigress gave me a lick... and the tiger cub gave me his paw... And I gave him a wallop.. And I pulled his mother's tail a bit... And then I gave her a whack on the tits, which she likes... and a kick in the bollocks for the tiger cub, and he was pleased too. [Turning to the people locked in their houses.] Alright! Row's over. We've made peace again... Don't be afraid, don't be afraid!" [To the tigers.]
"Hey, you'd better keep all your teeth in, like this. Ummm. [He completely covers his own teeth with his lips.] Don't let them see them. Ummm. And keep your claws in your paws. Hide your claws, under your armpits... Walk on your elbows, like this." [He indicates how.]
The people began to come out... A couple of them stroked the tigress's head...
"Oh, isn't she lovely... !" "Ooochy coochy coochy... And look at the little one... Coochy-coo..."
Endless lickings, little tickles, head-scratchings, and for the tiger cub too. Then the children, four of the children, got up on the tigress's back. The our of them got up there, and, schloop, schloop, schloop... the tigress walked to and fro, like a horse. Then she lay down, and stretched out. Then four other young lads grabbed the tiger cub's tail, and started dragging him off. [He mimes the tiger cub being dragged backwards, and trying to stop himself by digging his claws into the ground.]
And I was there, walking behind, to keep an eye on him. [Waving his fist.] Because tigers have long memories!
Then they began to play, rolling around and doing somersaults. You should have seen them: they played all day, with the women, and with the children, and with the dogs, and with the cats, although every now and then one of the cats disappeared, but nobody noticed, because there were so many of them anyway!
One day, while they were there romping around, we heard the voice of one of the peasants, a little old fellow, coming down from the mountains, yelling:
"Help, people, help! The white bandits have arrived at my village! They're killing all our horses, they're killing our cows. They're carrying off our pigs... and they're carrying off our women too. Come and help us... bring your rifles..."
And the people replied:
"But we haven't got any rifles!"
"But we do have the tigers!" said I.
So we take the tigers... Plod... plod... pod... scramble... scramble... We go up the hill, and we go down the other side, to the other village. There were the soldiers of Chiang Kai Shek, shooting, stealing, looting and killing.
The minute they saw these two beasts and heard them roaring, the soldiers of Chiang Kai Shek dropped their trousers, shat on their shoes... and off hey ran!
And from that day on, every time that Chiang Kai Shek's men arrived in one of the nearby villages, they used to come and call us:
And off we'd go. Sometimes they used to turn up from two different places at the same time. They wanted us all over the region. They even used to come and book us a week in advance. One time, twelve villages turned up all at once... What were we going to do?
"We've only got two tigers... We can't be everywhere at once... What are we going to do?"
"Fake ones! We'll make fake tigers!" I said
"What do you mean, fake?"
"Simple. We've got the model here. Well, we make heads out of a mixture of glue and paper, papier machι. We make a mask. We make holes for the eyes, just the same as the tiger and the tiger cub, and then we make a hinged jaw. One person goes inside, like this, in the head, and goes: Squink... squink... squink... moving their arms... Then another one gets in behind the first one, and then a third one, behind, with his arm out behind, to be the tail, like this. Then, to end up with, we need a piece of cloth to go over the top, a yellow cloth. All yellow, with black stripes. And we'd better make sure to cover their legs, because six legs for one tiger is a bit excessive. Then we're going to have to roar. So, now we're going to have roaring lessons. Let's have you, over here. All those who are going to be fake tigers, over here. We're going to start lessons, and the tigers will be our teachers. Come on. Let's hear how well you can roar!!
"Roar!" There you are. Now, you, repeat. [He turns to one of the peasants.]
"Louder. Listen to the tiger cub."
"In chorus!" [He begins conducting like the conductor of an orchestra.]
All day long there was such a racket in the village that a poor old man who was passing by, a traveller, was found stone dead, behind a wall. He died from fright. [He mimes someone frozen stiff, like a statue.]
But this time, when Chiang Kai Shek's soldiers came back again they saw, they heard, and they screamed:
Off they ran, and they didn't stop till they got to the sea. And then, one of the Partys political commissars came to see us, and applauded us, and said:
"Well done, well done! This invention of the tiger is extraordinary. The people has a degree of inventiveness and imagination, a creativity that you'll not find anywhere else in the world. Well done! Well done! However, from now on, you really can't keep the tigers with you. You're going to have to send them back to the forest, as they were before."
"But why? We like our tigers... we're friends... we're comrades... They protect us, and there's no need... "
"We cannot allow it. Tigers are anarchistically inclined. They lack dialectics. We cannot assign a role in the Party to tigers, and if they have no place in the Party, then they have no place at the base either. They have no dialectics. Obey the Party. Take the tigers back to the forest."
So we agreed:
"Ok, then, we'll take them back to the forest."
But we didn't. Instead, we put them in a chicken coop. We took out thechickens, and put the tigers in instead. The tigers on the chickens' perch, like this... [He mimes tigers swinging to and fro on a perch.] And when the Party bureaucrats came by, we had already taught the tigers what they had to do:
"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" [He imitates the crowing of a cockerel.]
The Party bureaucrat took one look, scratched his head, and said: "Obviously a tiger cock," and away he went.
And just as well that we had kept the tigers, because, a short while after, the Japanese arrived! Thousands of them, little fellows, really mean, with bandy legs, their bums trailing along the ground, with great big swords and enormous long rifles. With white flags, with a red circle in the middle, on their rifles, and another flag on their helmets, and another flag up their bums, with another red circle and the rays of the rising sun!
They chucked the flags from their rifles, and they chucked the flags from their helmets! All that was left was the one up their bums. Zoom... whoosh... they ran off, like a load of chickens!
This time a new Party leader turned up, and he told us:
"Well done, you did well to disobey that other Party commissar, the last time, because, apart from anything else, he was a revisionist, a counter-revolutionary. You did well... ! You must always keep the tigers present, when the enemy is around. But as from now on, you won't need them any more. The enemy has gone... Take the tigers back into the forest now!"
"Obey the Party!"
"Is this because of the dialectics?"
"Alright, fair enough!
But we didn't. We still kept them in their chicken coop. And just as well, because once again Chiang Kai Shek's men turned up, armed by the Americans: with their artillery and their tanks. They came pouring down. Thousands, thousands of them.
And off they ran, like the wind! We chased them off to the other side of the sea. And now there were no more enemies. No more at all. And once again all the party leaders arrived. All the leadership, with their flags in their hands... And the flags were waving... and they were applauding us! The fellows from the Party, and those from the Army. And the higher coordinating intermediary cadres. And the higher, higher intermediary central coordinating cadres. All of them, applauding and shouting:
"Well done! Well done! Well done! You were right to disobey. The tiger must always remain with the people, because it is part of the people, an invention of the people. The tiger will always be of the people... In a museum... No. In a zoo... It can live there!"
"What do you mean, in a zoo?"
"Obey! You don't need them now, any more. There's no need for the tigress now, because we don't have any more enemies. There's just the People, the Party, and the Army. And the People and the Party and the Army are one and the same thing. Naturally, we have a leadership, because if you don't have a leadership, you don't have a head, and if there's no head, then one is missing that dimension of expressive dialectic which determines a line of conduct which naturally begins from the top, but then develops at the base, where it gathers and debates the propositions put forward by the top, not as an inequality of power, but as a sort of series of determinate and invariate equations, because they are applied in a factive coordinative horizontal mode which is also vertical of those actions which are posed in the positions taken up in the theses, and which are then developed from the base, in order to return from the base to the leadership, but as between the base and the leadership there is always a positive and reciprocal relationship of democracy... ."
"THE TIIIIGERS!" [He mimes the people attacking the Party leaders.]