A Tiger in the House Summary
“A Tiger in the House” is a story by Ruskin Bond about Timothy, a tiger cub the narrator’s grandfather brings home from the wild.
- While acting as a guide on a tiger-hunting trip, Grandfather finds a tiger cub and brings it home with him.
- The cub, named Timothy, grows up in the household until he is too large, at which point Grandfather gives him to a zoo.
- Visiting the zoo six months later, Grandfather bonds with Timothy again but is surprised to learn that the tiger he is petting is not in fact Timothy.
Last Updated on May 13, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 700
Grandfather discovers Timothy, a tiger cub, when on a hunting expedition in the Terai jungle. He has been persuaded to accompany a hunting party of important people from Delhi because he knows the forests of the Siwalik hills extremely well and can offer guidance on the terrain and what direction to take after a tiger has been spotted.
Because the hunters are important people, they are staying in a sumptuous camp with seven large tents, a dining tent, tents for the servants, and eight-course meals. There are also fifteen elephants.
The sportsmen have almost given up all hope of finding a tiger, having found only deer, peacock, wild boar, and jackals, when Grandfather spots a small tiger hiding in the roots of a banyan tree. Grandfather scoops up the tiger and brings him home. He is the only person on the expedition who has the honor of securing a tiger of any kind, whether dead or alive.
Grandmother names the cub Timothy. At first, Timothy is brought up on milk fed to him by the cook, Mahmoud. Later, he is fed raw mutton and cod liver oil, because the milk begins to disagree with him, and later pigeons and rabbits. For companionship, he has a monkey named Toto and a small mongrel puppy, of which Timothy is at first rather afraid. When the puppy draws near, Timothy dashes at it and then retreats dramatically. But he eventually allows the puppy to climb onto his back, and the pair become friends.
When the narrator comes to live with Grandfather, he soon becomes a favorite of Timothy’s. Timothy enjoys creeping closer and closer to people, making a dash for their feet, and rolling over onto his back. When Timothy is about the size of a retriever, the narrator takes him for walks on a chain, scaring passersby. In the house, he lies on the long sofa and snarls at anyone else who tries to sit there.
Timothy cleans himself with his paws like a cat, and sleeps at night in Mahmoud’s quarters. Grandmother worries that one day he will eat Mahmoud in the night. This does not happen, but at the age of about six months, Timothy does change in temperament, attempting to stalk cats or dogs when out walking and sometimes attacking chickens at night. Eventually, he does begin to stalk Mahmoud about the house, and Grandfather decides he should be given to a zoo.
The nearest zoo is two hundred miles away in Lucknow, so Grandfather reserves a train compartment, travels there with Timothy, and entrusts the zoo with the tiger.
Six months later, Grandfather returns to the zoo to see how Timothy is doing. Timothy is fully grown by this point, but when Grandfather approaches the cage, Timothy allows Grandfather to stroke his forehead and ears. In turn, Timothy licks Grandfather’s hands. A leopard in the adjacent cage periodically rushes up to the bars towards Timothy, and Grandfather shoos it away. A crowd gathers, and eventually a keeper approaches to ask what Grandfather is doing.
Grandfather explains that he gave the tiger to the zoo six months previously. The keeper is surprised, saying that the tiger is always ill-tempered.
Grandfather suggests that Timothy should be moved elsewhere, as he is frightened of the leopard. He goes to search for the Superintendent to speak to him about it. Unfortunately, it is too late in the day and the Superintendent has gone home, so Grandfather returns to the cage to say goodbye. He has been stroking Timothy for about five minutes when another keeper approaches, looking alarmed. He is the keeper who was there when Timothy was brought to the zoo.
Grandfather notes that the keeper remembers him and asks why he doesn’t transfer Timothy to another cage, away from this leopard. The keeper says that this is not Grandfather’s tiger—Timothy died of pneumonia two months earlier. This is a different and far more dangerous tiger, only recently captured in the hills.
Alarmed, Grandfather does not know what to say. The tiger is still licking his arm. Slowly he retracts his hand, says “Goodnight, Timothy,” to the tiger and walks away, glaring at the keeper.
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