Monday, 19 November 2007


Thank you to Zenobia for this (the full story is on her blog here)...

But Pliny didn't know much about tigers. On the contrary, he passed on this tall tale:

The tiger ... can run with terrific speed. To take the tiger's cubs, the hunter prepares a fast horse and steals the tiger's entire litter, and rides away, changing to fresh horses as necessary. The tiger, seeing that her cubs are gone, tracks them by scent and chases the hunter. When the hunter sees the tiger catching up, he drops one cub. The tiger stops to pick up the cub before resuming the chase. The hunter repeats this ruse until he reaches his ship; in this way he escapes with at least one of the cubs, leaving the tiger to rage impotently on the shore.

You will not be surprised to know that Isidore of Seville swallowed this story almost whole ... and then went one better: instead of dropping cub after cub, the hunter throws down a mirror or a glass sphere, whereupon the tiger, seeing its own reflection in the sphere and thinking it is her stolen cub, stops to nurse the supposed cub. This gives the robber time to escape.

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