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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell
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Burmese Tiger Pit

In "The Most Dangerous Game," exactly what is a Burmese Tiger Pit?

In "The Most Dangerous Game," a Burmese Tiger Pit is a type of booby trap Rainsford uses to slow down General Zaroff and claim the life of one of his prized hunting dogs. A Burmese Tiger Pit is a deep hole with sharp wooden stakes at the bottom, and this hole is camouflaged with light brush. The hole must be deep enough so that an animal or human cannot climb out, and the pointed stakes must be facing up.

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A Burmese Tiger Pit is a hole too deep to climb out of. It is filled with pointed spikes facing upward at the bottom, then covered with brush or grass. The idea is to impale the victim on the stakes when he falls in, and then finish him off in a place he can't escape if the stakes haven't killed him first.

The Burmese Tiger Pit, like the earlier Malay mancatcher, shows that Rainsford is an experienced hunter. As General Zaroff says after he avoids the Malay mancatcher with only a minor injury, "You are proving interesting, Mr. Rainsford."

Rainsford is able to build the Burmese Tiger Pit because Zaroff has to go have his Malay mancatcher injury treated. Nevertheless, Rainsford must work fast. Fighting in World War I has taught him to dig a trench quickly, so he is able to finish the booby trap in time. He waits in the dark so that he can finish Zaroff off once he falls into the pit.

Rainsford is hopeful that this will work because it is dark outside, and the General appears to be moving very fast and feeling his way instead of actually seeing where he is going. Unfortunately, one of the General's prize dogs falls in rather than Zaroff himself.

Rainsford's efforts, however, give Zaroff what he has been craving: a truly worthy opponent.

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In Connell's celebrated short story "The Most Dangerous Game," the Burmese tiger pit is one of Sanger Rainsford's successful booby traps, which claims the life of one of General Zaroff's prized hunting dogs. The Burmese tiger pit is a traditional type of trapping pit used throughout Europe and Asia to kill and trap wild animals. The trap was also used during medieval warfare as a defense fortification, and the French referred to it as a trou de loup. Essentially, the Burmese tiger pit is a lightly covered hole anywhere from eight to ten feet deep and six feet wide with sharp wooden spikes at the bottom. The idea is that an animal or unsuspecting victim would inadvertently fall into the deep hole, where they would be wounded, killed, or trapped.

In order to make a Burmese tiger pit, you would need to dig a rather large hole deep enough that a person or animal could not climb out. After digging the hole, you would then sharpen wooden stakes, preferably bamboo, and stick them into the ground with the points facing up. The more stakes you fashion and the deeper the hole, the deadlier the trap. Once you've secured the stakes into the ground, you would then camouflage the top of the pit with light brush and leaves. This is exactly what Rainsford does in the story, and one of Zaroff's dogs falls into the pit and dies.

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A Burmese Tiger Pit is not unique to Richard Connell's short story "The Most Dangerous Game." It has been an effective tiger trap and human booby trap for many years. It's a fairly simple trap, too. A person would dig a large hole. Generally, the hole should be deep enough so that climbing out without help is not possible. Ten feet deep is a suitable depth. The bottom of the pit is then covered in spikes of some kind. Bamboo shafts with pointed tips are often stuck into the ground. The pit is then covered with enough foliage to cover the pit. The covering is not strong enough to support the weight of a large animal or human. The goal is that the prey will walk onto the light covering, fall into the pit, and be impaled by the spikes at the bottom. The spikes may or may not kill the prey, but a hunter can easily finish off the prey while safely standing outside of the pit. In "The Most Dangerous Game," Rainsford builds this kind of trap while fleeing from Zaroff. Unfortunately, Zaroff is an intelligent and experienced hunter, and the trap fails to capture him.

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A Burmese Tiger Pit is a classic trap used in hunting and war. Essentially, it is a deep pit, often more than ten feet deep, lined with sharp spikes at the bottom and covered with some weak material such as branches or a tarp covered in dirt. The object of the pit is to get an animal to fall in, injuring itself on the spikes and unable to climb out due to the high walls. A Burmese Tiger, being relatively smart and vicious, would be herded towards this pit by jungle beaters, and in a panic it wouldn't take time to look around and see or smell the human activity. Once inside the pit, the hunter can shoot down and finish it off, thus killing a prized animal without stalking or risking his own life.

Rainsford builds a quick Burmese Tiger Pit while fleeing from Zaroff and his dogs in "The Most Dangerous Game."

The pit grew deeper; when it was above his shoulders, he climbed out and from some hard saplings cut stakes and sharpened them to a fine point. These stakes he planted in the bottom of the pit with the points sticking up. With flying fingers he wove a rough carpet of weeds and branches and with it he covered the mouth of the pit.
(Connell, "The Most Dangerous Game,"

However, General Zaroff has also hunted tigers, and so avoids the trap.

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