Tuesday, July 1, 2003


By L. Frank Baum
Author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Woggle-Bug Book, The Boy Fortune Hunters in Yucatan, etc.

Originally published in The Delineator, January 1905.

There are three parts to the Wilderness. One is the Outer Circle, where the sandy hills are broken by clumps of shrubbery, a few trees and huge jagged points of rock which jut from the earth. Here the smaller animals mostly dwell. The Middle Circle of the Wilderness has more trees, a few rivulets and many rocky chasms, rifts and pinnacles. Larger animals with peaceful natures prefer to wander in this section, where opportunities to hide themselves are many. It is in the Inner Circle -- the vast, overarching forest -- that the most dominant, ferocious species of wild beasts love to roam. Here are several lakes formed of clear spring water, which reflect the shadows of the trees from their placid depths. Here soft mosses cover all the earth, deadening stealthy footfalls, and brilliant vines and creepers cling to the branches of the ancient trees, or embrace their rugged limbs, or wander aimlessly amid the mosses. The Inner Circle is the paradise of wild animals. They fight one another for the privilege to live there, and only the strongest survive.

The animal called Man is unknown in the Wilderness.

Jaglon was born in the Outer Circle, within a lair dug between the roots of a dead tree that reared its naked trunk high into the air. When Jaglon was three days old his father and mother left him to hunt, and never returned. What happened to them is not known. The Wilderness is full of secret tragedies and unsolved mysteries.

Nao, the Tiger Fairy, speeding invisible over the sands, heard a soft, piteous whine and paused to look. It was a baby cub, Jaglon -- a ball of downy yellow striving to open his eyes and discover why he had been left alone.

Nao took charge of the cub, nursing and comforting it. Others of the Tiger Fairies assisted Nao. Jaglon throve wonderfully, and grew fat and strong.

After he became big enough to eat meat -- and that was when the purple stripes began to show dimly on his tawny fur -- the Tiger Fairies remained invisible to Jaglon, although they continued to watch over his fortunes.

Now he left the lair daily to hunt; and as he chanced to be the largest animal in this part of the Wilderness, he was ever successful in securing a dinner. His bearing became dignified and self-confident; his eyes were steadfast and intelligent; his form grew big and muscular.

Jaglon did not know how much he owed the Tiger Fairies. Indeed, he knew nothing of the Fairies whatever, having been so young when they first came to nurse him. But the Fairies were much interested in the young cub. They were proud of their work; it pleased them to note his strength, his nobility of character, the calmness of judgment they had instilled into his nature.

Jaglon saw none of his fellow Tigers. He was alone in this Outer Circle, and supposed he was like all others of his race. The rare qualities the Fairies had bestowed upon him he thought -- if he thought of them at all he owed to his ancestors; nor did he consider them at all unusual.

One day, soon after the Tiger had reached his full development, the Bat-Witch flew upon the body of a hare that Jaglon had slain for dinner and proceeded to devour it. The young Tiger did not know the Bat-Witch, so he fearlessly raised his paw and sent the creature whirling a dozen yards away.

The Bat-Witch screamed and fluttered furiously.

"You shall repent that blow!" she cried; "you shall repent it! You shall repent it!"

Jaglon never looked at her nor answered. He seized the hare in his jaws and stalked majestically to his lair.

The Bat-Witch was terribly incensed, and plotted revenge upon Jaglon. She knew him to be guarded by the Fairies, so she could only injure him in case he committed some wrong, or broke the Laws of the Wilderness, or was guilty of cowardice. The Bat-Witch had never known a Royal Tiger that at some time in his life had not done one of these things; so she watched Jaglon thereafter, and set traps to tempt him to wrongdoing, hoping thus to get him into her power.

The Royal Tiger was too big to inhabit the Outer Circle. He realized that, and the knowledge made him restless. From the small, insignificant animals around him he heard tales of the Middle Circle, where wolves, boars, jaguars and such creatures hid and warred with one another; and of the great Inner Circle, where resided the mighty Lion, King of Beasts, with scores of great and powerful creatures moving around him and enjoying this, the most pleasant and glorious section of the Wilderness.

"But there are no Tigers there," added a chattering Lynx one day, as he glanced maliciously toward the spot where Jaglon crouched. "The Lions drove them from the Inner Circle long ago, and they dare not return."

This mischievous speech set Jagion thinking. What! the Royal Tigers dared not return to the Inner Circle because some creatures called Lions had driven them out? What nonsense! He, Jaglon, was a Royal Tiger. And surely he dared enter the Inner Circle and face the King of Beasts. Why not?

He arose, stretched himself, and set out. No preparation was required. Stepping over the sands, skirting the bushes, leaping the bare, riven rocks, Jaglon came to the Middle Circle and entered it.

The Bat-Witch was watching, and it filled her cruel heart with joy to see the hated one so calmly placing himself in danger. Now, indeed, was her opportunity.

Fearlessly Jaglon penetrated the Middle Circle. It was vast in extent and strange to him. But time mattered nothing, and the way was straight ahead. So he was patient.

After a time he became hungry, and watched for prey: but here the animals are wary. Not unnoticed was the great form of the Royal Tiger stalking through the domain, and those animals that are lawful prey to Tigers took good care to keep out of Jaglon's way.

Presently he came upon a Leopard which held a pheasant between its paws, crouching above the prey as if afraid of being robbed.

Jaglon looked at the pheasant longingly. But he said:

"Fear nothing, friend. It is your food, not mine. I am no thief."

And on he marched with head erect.

The Bat-Witch, concealed in a bush, uttered a croak of disappointment.

Soon afterward Jaglon discovered a fox caught fast in a cleft of broken sapling, which had gripped the creature's bushy tail and made it prisoner.

Now, the Fox is lawful prey of the Royal Tiger; but Jaglon was affected by the despairing look in the entrapped animal's eyes, and would not kill it. With his muscular paw he bent back the sapling and released the Fox.

"Go!" said he; "your misfortune has saved you. But do not venture near me again while I am hungry. It is life against life, remember."

The Fox had already darted away toward safety; but the Bat-Witch, hidden behind a fallen tree-trunk, fluttered its skinny wings in helpless rage.

Before long night began to fall, and Jaglon sought a lair. The country was strange and lairs were few or hidden secretly.

The Tiger became impatient. He did not like the dew which now fell upon his sleek, well-tended coat of fur. But now he discovered an opening in a rock -- a snug, ample cavern that would suit him admirably. As he sought to enter a growl fell upon his ears and made him pause. His searching eyes discovered a small brown Bear curled in a far corner of the lair.

"Peace," said Jaglon; "I seek shelter."

"Seek it elsewhere!" grumbled the Bear. "I am here first. The cavern is mine."

"Surely there is room for us both," returned Jaglon, protesting, but in gentle tones. "The dew is wetting me. And I am a stranger. To-morrow I resume my journey."

"Keep out! " cried the Bear, menacingly. "You are a Tiger -- an outcast. I cannot trust you. Keep out -- or fight!"

Now, this was a silly speech, as well as unfriendly. Jaglon could have killed the Bear with one blow of his paw. But the Law of the Wilderness gave the cavern to its first occupant. The brown Bear was within his rights. The Tiger sighed and withdrew into the night air.

"Coward! Coward! Coward!" shrieked the Bat-Witch from a near-by tree. But even this taunt could not influence Jaglon to do wrong.

He did not know it was the Bat-Witch, seeking his destruction. But he knew he was not a coward; so he quietly sought shelter by creeping under a heavily leaved bush.

"Coward! Coward!" repeated the Witch, striving to arouse his anger; and from many a cave or hollow tree the slyly hidden creatures of the Middle Circle took up the cry and passed it from one to the other.

"Coward! Coward!"

But Jaglon never moved. Crouched beneath the frail shelter of the bush, he closed his eyes, laid his head upon his outstretched forelegs, and went to sleep.

The Tiger Fairies were greatly pleased with Jaglon. They had watched the efforts of the Bat-Witch to tempt him and rejoiced in his proud refusal to do wrong. Therefore Nao came to the sleeping Tiger and touched his shoulder lightly with her invisible paw.

Instantly Jaglon awoke, to find himself reclining upon soft mosses in a splendid cavern. Set in the arched roof were points of light that resembled stars, and their silver rays flooded the cavern and illumined it brightly as day. Upon a slab of polished jade were dainty morsels of the foods Tigers love best, and beside it a clear spring of water.

Jaglon was amazed. He looked about him hesitating and undecided, fearing that in his sleep he had wandered to the lair of some mighty King of his race. But a soft voice reassured him: "Eat, drink, sleep! Content thyself, Jaglon. The Fairies are pleased with you."

Jaglon ate; he drank; he reclined upon the mosses to sleep. From many animals he had heard tales of Fairies; for among beasts each race has its Fairyland. That the Tiger Fairies had favored him was wonderful; but he felt as little conceit as he did fear. Gratefully he accepted the comforts provided, and demanded no explanations. While in that drowsy state betwixt sleep and wakefulness he heard again the gentle voice:

"You are reserved for a mighty destiny, O Jaglon! In time of trial be brave, be noble, be forgiving. So shall you prove the champion of your race, now long outlawed and discredited. So shall you prove worthy the confidence of those who reared you and now guide your steps."

Jaglon had raised his head to listen.

"I will be worthy -- or die!" he answered.

And then he slept.

When the day broke Jaglon crept from the bush and stretched his huge form. The brilliant cavern, with its dainty food, its cool spring and its mossy couch had vanished; but the Tiger never doubted he had enjoyed its comforts. Nor were the words of the invisible Fairies forgotten. Jaglon repeated them to himself as he resumed his journey, and pondered them.

He now plunged into the mighty forests of the Inner Circle -- that favored place whence his race had been driven years before he was born. Whether or not the Royal Tigers had deserved their exile Jaglon did not know. But he would himself inhabit this Inner Circle, unless mastered by one more powerful. Such an animal there might be; he would soon know.

He met a group of Bisons, headed by their patriarch. The younger ones trembled, but the old one advanced to warn the intruder.

"Here is no place for Tigers. Begone!" said he.

Jaglon walked on, treading softly.

A Grizzly Bear emerged from a jungle of ferns and brush and looked at him with surprise.

"This is the Inner Circle," he announced, gravely. "Do you not know your race is outcast? Return, or it will be too late."

"It is yet too soon," said Jaglon, quietly, and strode on.

An immense form loomed up before him, showing dark against the green foliage. It was a mother Elephant, suckling her calf. The little one gave a start and hid beneath its mother's protecting trunk.

"Dear me!" exclaimed the Elephant, winking her small black eyes. "It's a Royal Tiger, and in the Lion's domain! Do you prize life so little, bold stranger?"

Jaglon paused. He had heard of Elephants, and that they were noted for wisdom.

"Why was my race outcast?" he asked.

The Elephant looked at him curiously, and replied.

"They were cruel, and treacherous, and overbearing: I knew them well, those dreadful ancestors of yours. And none in the Inner Circle was better pleased than I when the Lions conquered them and made one of their own race King."

"That was long ago," said Jaglon, thoughtfully. "Are the Lions never cruel, or overbearing, or treacherous?"

"Not treacherous," was the reply: "but noble natures are often cruel, and the Lion is the most noble of all beasts ever created."

"I do not think I am treacherous," said the Tiger, musingly. "And if the Lion excels me in other things, It must be because he is mightier than I, and entitled to rule. Bur that will be determined when we meet."

"What! You will dare to face the King! You, whose ancestors were driven from the Inner Circle!" cried the Elephant, an amaze. "Come, listen to my advice. I admire you for your gentleness, combined with your strength of body. Leave the forest while you may, and find contentment elsewhere. Our old King, who might have suffered your presence in his domain, is dead; and in his place rules Avok, his brother, whose stern and proud nature will brook no intrusion or interference. Leave us, I beg you, before you win the resentment of the powerful Avok!"

"Your words are kind, if ill chosen," answered Jaglon, rising from where he crouched. "I thank you for your friendliness, and will now bid you a good-morning!" And, more proudly than before, he advanced into the forest.

The Elephant looked after him thoughtfully.

"It will be a terrible encounter when the Royal Tiger meets Avok the King!" said she. "I must pass the word around the forest, that all may be present to witness it."

Jaglon had been simply reared. He did not know fear. He had never met a master. The information concerning the new King of the Lions merely strengthened his determination to demand a place among the great beasts of the Inner Circle.

Standing upon a rocky knoll, a Lion perceived Jaglon approaching from afar and went to tell the news to King Avok.

The monarch paced up and down before his lair a rocky cavern close to the shore of a beautiful lake. Important matters were engaging his attention, and he had sent to summon all the Lions of the forest to a council. So he but gave a growl of contempt when he heard of the presence of the Outcast in his kingdom, and turned his mind to more pressing business.

One by one the Lions that had been summoned arrived at the lake and ranged themselves in a half circle about the entrance to the cavern. Other beasts, also, warned by the Elephant, began to gather around; and these took positions behind the group of grave and dignified Lions. There were Bears, Bisons, Moose, Zebras, Hippopotami from the lake, Unicorns, Elephants and a few Rhinoceri. In the near-by trees squatted giant Apes; and two or three monstrous serpents lay coiled upon the rocks, their watchful eyes turned curiously upon the gathered denizens of the forest.

Then appeared from the cavern's mouth the King, stalking proudly to a position in front of the silent throng of animals.

Avok was of enormous size, although his body was lean and slender back of his powerful shoulders. His mane was long and shaggy and his brow was wrinkled by a constant frown. He squatted upon his haunches and addressed the council.

"When my brother, the King, died," began Avok, "he left three cubs, which I find are of little intelligence and scarcely fit to live. Now, as you all know, there is a foolish Law of the Wilderness which says the eldest male cub of the King shall succeed him, when full grown, and rule in his place. I propose to change this Law, and declare that my own cub shall be King after I am gone -- and not the cub of my dead brother. Do you approve this?"

The Lions cast uneasy glances at one another, yet remained silent. From the group of other animals, however, arose a growl of protest.

The King raised himself to his full height and glared around angrily.

"Let any who dares defy me step forward!" he cried, threateningly. But none advanced.

One aged Lion made bold to answer Avok.

"The Law of the Wilderness cannot be changed," he said, slowly, "even by the King. Your brother's cubs have royal blood in their veins. The eldest must rule in your place when full grown. Only until then are you King." And to this speech came a roar of assent.

Avok stalked up and down in a fury, shaking his mane and lashing the ground with his tail.

"Then my brother's cub shall never become full grown!" he declared, finally; "for I will drown the miserable beast in the water of the lake, and I dare anyone present to deny me that right!"

"I deny it," replied a quiet voice; and Jaglon advanced from the rear of the startled group and placed himself opposite the King.

Shoulder to shoulder he stood as high as the great Avok himself; but under his glossy skin, as he moved, showed muscles more powerful than any Lion present could boast.

At first glance the King knew his antagonist a terrible one; and all the beasts, of whatever degree, silently acknowledged the Royal Tiger a fit champion to uphold the Law of the Wilderness.

"The Outcast!" they whispered one to another; but the tone was that of sympathy and admiration, rather than derision.

"The Outcast!" repeated the King, with scorn. "True, I cannot fight an Outcast."

"You must," returned Jaglon, speaking very quietly. "It was your race that drove my ancestors from the Inner Circle, where they had ruled many years. But now I come to declare myself King of Beasts and Master of the Wilderness. I am a Royal Tiger. I am King!"

Avok ruffled his mane and glared into Jagion's eyes. They were clear and steadfast.

"Your people were guilty of cruelty!" said the Lion.

"You wish to drown three helpless cubs," replied Jaglon.

"Your people were overbearing!" declared Avok.

"I am willing to abide by the Law; and in my domain every beast shall find their King a just King," said the other.

"Your race is treacherous!" cried the lion, furiously.

"You are yourself treacherous toward your dead brother," retorted Jaglon. Then, amid the silence that followed, "You must fight," he repeated.

"You must fight! You must fight!" exclaimed the other animals, eagerly; and not even the Lions offered a word of dissent.

Avok was brave enough. A moment he crouched, grim and menacing. Then, like a thunderbolt, he launched his immense body toward the waiting foe.

Jaglon's calm eyes had never left those of the Lion. He saw Avok's spring, and his own tense muscles responded promptly to his will. Tiger and Lion met in mid-air, with a shock so terrible that it startled even the cold and critical spectators. Avok was overborne, and fell to the ground with Jaglon above him, both struggling fiercely for the mastery. The Lion's claws, each point imbedded in his enemy's breast, shot forward so powerfully that the Tiger lost his hold and was hurled a dozen yards away.

But before Avok could regain his feet Jaglon had sprung again, landing full upon the gigantic head of his opponent, his claws tearing through hair and flesh, his jaws striving to reach the Lion's throat below the protection of the thick and matted mane.

Suddenly Jaglon felt the huge form of his enemy tremble violently; a murmur of horror from the other animals warned him that something strange had happened, and releasing his hold he leaped lightly aside and turned his gaze upon Avok.

The Lion, struggling to his feet, bounded here and there in an aimless fashion, roaring fiercely and striking out wildly with his terrible paws. And, although Jaglon was crouching silently near him, he seemed not to know which way to seek his foe.

An awed silence fell upon the assemblage. Every animal was gazing as if fascinated upon the sightless Monster, who, maddened by pain and anger, seemed unable to realize his own helpless condition.

But at last the truth broke upon him. He reared frantically upward, pawed at the air, and then crouched and made a mighty spring. His struggles had brought him near to the edge of the lake, and his body now shot through the air and fell with a great splash far out into the water.

Instantly the animals crowded to the shore and watched intently the spot where Avok had disappeared. The circling ripples of water spread slowly outward until they reached the furthest shores. A dread silence brooded over the lake. Avok was not seen again.

Throughout the Wilderness the story of the great fight is still told by mothers to their wondering children. To be as fierce, as brave, as strong and wise as King Jaglon, the Royal Tiger, is the highest ambition of every beast that roams the Inner Circle.

Yet, withal, Jaglon was patient in his strength, kind in his rule, and gentle toward those animals that were weaker or in distress.

And the Tiger Fairies were pleased that the cub they had protected and reared had won the admiration and respect of all the forest, and that his wisdom and might had redeemed his race from hatred and banishment. For as long as he lived Jaglon was, in truth, the King of Beasts.

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 8, 1917.


The Puzzle Corner

Mr. G. Ography says that if he could find an Easter egg as big as the earth he would send it to you, but as he cannot, why, he'll just send you his love and best wishes to say nothing of a few riddles.

These sentences are all made out of places, cities, rivers and countries. Although not spelled correctly at all times, they sound like the places they represent. Now for our voyage of discovery:

Florence tames wales.
Minni sew-ta dress, den Nan tuck it.
I owe a Scot land.
You can au' burn.
To lead a bull-run.
Augusta can sass Elizabeth.

The countries suggested by a fan were China and Japan, Holland by a windmill, Italy by a gondola.

The Forgetful Poet appends hereto the things that he saw last week, i. e., a see-saw, a rolling pin, a scarecrow, cat-tails, Manx cat, baseball bat, snowball, guns, a citizen, and that's all. He says he hopes you will enjoy this little poem. I hope you will not only enjoy it, but be able to discover what he is talking about:

What Happened to Me

I bought myself an Easter suit,
'Twas very English--tweed,
A pair of spats and two new hats,
And all the thnigs I'd ------ !

With new shoes highly polished
And my rather sporty cane,
I sallied ------ and caught the gout
And WAS caught by the rain!

The tweed suit ------?
My new hat slunk,
And I came home
In sadness sunk!

[Answers next time.]

Copyright © 2003 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.