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Last Updated on January 12, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 996

Author: Antonia Michaelis (b. 1979)

Translator: Anthea Bell

First published: Tigermond, 2006, in Germany (English trans., 2008)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Fable

Time of plot: British Raj, 1858–1947

Locale: India

Principal characters

Safia, a.k.a. Raka, a storyteller

Rajah Ahmed Mudhi, her husband

Lalit ...

(The entire section contains 996 words.)

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Author: Antonia Michaelis (b. 1979)

Translator: Anthea Bell

First published: Tigermond, 2006, in Germany (English trans., 2008)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Fable

Time of plot: British Raj, 1858–1947

Locale: India

Principal characters

Safia, a.k.a. Raka, a storyteller

Rajah Ahmed Mudhi, her husband

Lalit, a handsome eunuch

Krishna, a powerful Hindu god

Ravana, a demon king

Farhad, a young thief and hero

Nitish, a sacred white tiger

The Story

Tiger Moon, German author Antonia Michaelis's fable set during the British Raj, begins with the plight of a young woman named Safia, who has been sold by her father to Rajah Ahmed Mudhi to become his eighth wife. As she waits for the Rajah to call her to consummate the marriage, Safia knows he will find out that she is not a virgin and kill her. To pass her last days, she befriends a handsome eunuch named Lalit. She reveals to him her true name—Raka, or the full moon—and begins weaving an elaborate fairy tale. In the fairy tale, the Hindu god Krishna's daughter has been kidnapped by the demon king Ravana and taken deep into the heart of the Thar Desert. Their marriage is set for the next full moon, so Krishna has only one month to save her. To do so, he enlists the help of an unlikely hero, a street thief named Farhad. Farhad is afraid of Krishna and does not want to accept his mission, but he has no choice.

Krishna leaves Farhad an amulet with his daughter's picture, but no further instructions. Farhad's journey is dictated by intuition and accident. An wise man on top of a mountain directs him to find the bloodstone, an evil, knife-sharp jewel made of Krishna's daughter's blood, and use it to bribe Ravana's guard. He also advises him to find a mount. A windstorm carries Farhad to an ancient city where a sacred white tiger, Nitish, is kept in a temple surrounded by water. The tiger fears that he will turn to stone if he touches water, so Farhad concocts an elaborate plan to free him from his small island prison. Nitish travels as fast as the wind, and soon the two heroes go to another city to find the bloodstone. There, they meet the story's antagonist, the shape-shifting Englishman/Frenchman. The shape shifter desperately wants the bloodstone, and he makes a deal with Farhad: if Farhad can go get it, they will split the stone.

Farhad does not intend to share the stone, but he arrives at the house of another Englishman to get it. The stone is owned by the man's young daughter. Farhad and the girl develop a romantic relationship; she tells him where the stone is, and he takes it and leaves. Farhad and Nitish continue their journey. They take shelter from the rain at a mosque, and Nitish, a Hindu animal, nearly dies. He is revived when he must protect Farhad from the shape shifter, who followed them there. He jumps into a river to save Farhad and does not turn to stone. From city to city, Farhad and Nitish continue to battle the shape shifter and protect the bloodstone. Farhad nearly dies trying to save Nitish from a fire. Back in the Rajah's palace, Raka and Lalit, who reveals that he is not really a eunuch, fall in love.

Badly burned, Farhad and Nitish join a caravan through the desert. The shape shifter is there. They battle during a deadly sandstorm, and a little girl proves instrumental in the shape shifter's defeat. Farhad and Nitish take the girl with them only to discover that the bloodstone, with its sharp edge, has fatally wounded her. When she dies, Farhad weeps, and his tears turn Nitish to stone. Farhad arrives at the Rajah's palace, and at this point the stories intertwine. The Rajah is Ravana; he is shot and killed. Lalit, inspired to heroism, takes up Farhad's quest. He gives the bloodstone to the guard, who is really the shape shifter, and rescues Krishna's daughter, who is really Raka. They ride off together, and Farhad, as Krishna promised, is reborn.

Critical Evaluation

Tiger Moon was first published as Tigermond in Germany in 2006, and Anthea Bell's English translation was published in the United States in 2008. Tiger Moon was a Batchelder Honor Book, a finalist for an award for best young adult English translation, in 2009. The novel draws on elements of Indian culture and the stories of Hindu deities to tell a larger story about bravery and hardship. Reincarnation, a central tenet of Hinduism, plays an important role in the story. Aside from general shape-shifting imagery—both the shape shifter and Farhad are masters of disguise—Farhad is rewarded for his mission by being born again, presumably as a wise man.

Unlike other fables, in which characters miraculously escape death and harm, Michaelis's characters endure real hardship, and, like Farhad, many of them do not make it through the end of the tale. The fragility of life, set pointedly against the violence and carelessness of the British Raj, sets Tiger Moon apart from other fairy tales and fables. The reviewer for Kirkus Reviews, who gave the book a starred review, described it more accurately as a picaresque and further described the story as "bittersweet" and "satisfying."

Further Reading

  • Schröder, Monika. Review of Tiger Moon, by Antonia Michaelis, translated by Anthea Bell. The Horn Book Magazine, Nov.–Dec. 2008, p. 710. Literary Reference Center Plus, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lkh&AN=34874886&site=lrc-plus. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.
  • Review of Tiger Moon, by Antonia Michaelis, translated by Anthea Bell. Kirkus Reviews, 15 Oct. 2008, p. 1121. Literary Reference Center Plus, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lkh&AN=34968168&site=lrc-plus. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.
  • Review of Tiger Moon, by Antonia Michaelis, translated by Anthea Bell. Publishers Weekly, 20 Oct. 2008, p. 51. Literary Reference Center Plus, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lkh&AN=34924623&site=lrc-plus. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.
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