We knew that the tiger is extremely annoyed by monkeys, bears and, above all, puppies of men who, in addition to learning the Law of the Jungle, know how to use fire. But many were unaware that it irritates him to hear the call of the leopard.
It explains this autumn of tigers (we also have The enchantment of the tiger, by Sy Montgomery) Jim Corbett in The wisdom of the jungle (Jungle Lore, 1953), one of his most wonderful books, recently published in Spanish by Ediciones del Viento. The translation is from the editor himself, Eduardo Riestra, an inveterate Corbett fan who has already published My India, another book in which the same author Kumaon men's eaters Y The man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag (about the speckled devil that ate 125 people) told, as in the one that appears now, his most personal experiences.
Colonel Jim Corbett (Naini Tal, India-1875-Nyeri, Kenya, 1955) killed throughout his life, giving him knowledge of the natural environment and a value of aúpa, a dozen of very dangerous killer tigers and leopards that they had made life a hell in wide areas of the north of India eating during their bloody races to the whopping of a thousand and a half of people. Today we may find it abhorrent to shoot a tiger or a leopard, but we are talking about really ferocious beasts able to get into your house and drag you out to devour you under a handle, something that would upset even the most fervent animalist. When Corbett killed the infamous tigress of Champawat, a serial killer It had been eaten by 436 people! In the stomach they found the fingers of a girl, her last victim; the hunter sent them to the family in a bottle to be incinerated with the other (scarce) remains.
Corbett, which I discovered in 1977 when I quoted him Fernando Savater in The recovered childhood -Until then there was only me for Kenneth Anderson, the kind hunter of man-eaters of southern India, the man who put into our sentimental education the names of Sivanipalli, Gummalapur and Studebaker (not to mention the word machan) -, He was a singular British born and raised in a wild area of the subcontinent, in Nainital in the Uttarkhand, at the foot of the Himalayas. As an adult he worked as a railway official and merchant and served in several wars (in the First World War he commanded a detachment of Indians in the trenches of Flanders and in the second he trained the commandos in the fight in the jungle). What influenced me Corbett testifies that one unspeakable day I got off a coach, but not before looking carefully to one side and another, in Rudraprayag. Only in the Tsavo have I felt so edible.
In The wisdom of the jungle, Corbett explains how he learned as a child to cope with the overwhelming nature that surrounded him. It's the story of a boy named Jim but he could be called Kim (fraternizing with the Gurkas and the Sikhs), a member of the lower layer of the dominant ones of India (his father was a postmaster) that absorbs like a sponge the culture, the knowledge and the superstitions of its environment (always believed that it could not end with a man-eater but killed a snake before). As a Tom Sawyer among tigers, the young Corbett, the eighth of ten brothers, fatherless since he was six years old, lives naturally (and worth the word) adventures that seem unique and sensational today. The kid is that he stalked the leopards and not the other way around, and even the immense tiger called the Bachelor of Powalgarh! To attract that beast in order to see it -when the rest of the humans would run in the opposite direction- the young Corbett imitated precisely the call of the leopard, which angers the tigers and makes them come, because they suppose that the spotted cousin is stealing them a dam. Finally what came to his claim that time was a great tigress, very dangerous ("one can not trust the character of a tigress or at the best moments", writes Corbett, surely without second because they are not known relations with women except the very special one he kept all his life with his sister Maggie).
Corbett was able to tell by the trail that a snake had passed by a road an hour before dawn, that it was eight centimeters thick and that it was not poisonous. We say it or you and we are pitorrean.
He got into the jungle barefoot and armed only with a slingshot (then with a series of old muzzle-loading shotguns and finally with his rifle). He learned to distinguish and imitate the voices of all animals, to recognize and follow their tracks, to understand their behavior: the whole wisdom of the jungle. And in the meantime he met Marshal Lord Roberts. Corbett was able to tell by the trail that a snake had passed by a road an hour before dawn, that it was eight centimeters thick and that it was not poisonous. We say it or you and we are pitorrean. But it turns out that poisonous snakes move more slowly and therefore their footprint is more zigzagging than those of the others, with the notable exception -and it is putative if you trust yourself- of the royal cobra. It is also true that real cobras, which measure up to five meters, there are few.
In his book Corbett explains, among many other things, the fight between two tigers and an elephant, the way the otters kill the pythons, the case of another tiger that climbed on the back of a buffalo and was eating I live two kilos of meat of the cross while the animal ran terrified … Things that undoubtedly have been worth seeing.
Corbett reflects that fear is very useful for learning. "Stimulate the senses". For example: it is night, it seems that something is around you and you get scared, but you look at the clues and discover that it is not a ghost (in India a churail) but a tiger. Probably this does not help to calm you, even on the contrary, but it is a more concrete fear and there is always the pleasure (sometimes short) of having been successful.
Corbett sahib, as he was called, shares "without reserve" his knowledge of the jungle with the reader. And one burns with desire to go out there to identify the traces of a leopard and to establish its size and intentions. The editor Riestra wants to set off on an emotional journey to the territories of the hunter -accredited later as a conservationist pioneer- with visits included to his museum house, to the places where he killed his famous beasts and to the national park that today bears his name and in which he symbolically buried his rifles. A beautiful way, that exciting journey, to follow an old trail.