If the Lion is the King of Africa, the Tiger rules Asia. It is feared and revered across the vast continent. A Chinese written character which represents a king is said to based on the markings on the tiger's forehead. It is an auspicious sign to be born under in the Chinese calendar.
In Indian mythology tigers are not like the fierce and threatening Shere Khan in Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book. The tiger is a protector, working with the goddess Durga. Stories include tigers bringing rain to dry lands, bringing babies to childless couples (this unfortunately leading to poaching as tiger parts are believed to promote fertility) and even guarding the Tree of Life.
This Indian tale about the relationship between big and small cats is perhaps the most charming:
Tiger used to cook his food with fire, but one day a strong wind blew his fire out. The Tiger could not light a fire himself, but thought he would take if from the people's village. However, when he approached the huts the people ran away and shut their doors tight in fear.
Instead, the Tiger asked his small niece to fetch the fire for him. He thought the people could not possibly be afraid of such a little cub.
The niece went off through the jungle, playing as she went. When she got to the village she was thirsty and drank some milk that had been left out. A small boy then offered her a fish which she ate up hungrily. She couldn't remember what her uncle had sent her for, so she wandered into a hut. By this time it was getting dark and inside she saw a comfortable pillow, so she curled up on it and fell asleep. She felt lovely and warm next to the fire.
Later that night, wondering where his niece had gone to, the Tiger snuck into the village in the dark. Peering through the window, he saw a small pussy cat curled up asleep by the fire. He knew his niece would not return and he had lost the fire forever.
This traditional tale is retold in a popular children's book by Joanna Troughton
If you prefer the smaller variety, take a look at the DM Cats Collection which includes this strokeable kitty plus lots of friends.
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