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 [5. Tiger Catching the Sheep-thief.]


5. Tiger Catching the Sheep-thief.

The story of the sheep-thief and the disguised watchman is popular in Jamaica, especially in St. Ann Parish, and I have given three versions in order to show the range of variation and the persistence of the essential plot. I have abbreviated White's version without other change except the insertion of the incident of the misunderstood warning, which comes from another version and commonly precedes the episode of the "refugees in the roof." Besides these three versions, Wona has the story, 30-36, and in Jekyll, 88, Tiger puts on a similar disguise at the conclusion of Annancy and Candle-fly (see number 7).

The tale falls into three parts. (1) A flock of sheep disappear one by one. (2) Tiger, or his equivalent, puts on the animal's skin in order to catch the thief. (3) The thief is caught, but escapes his captor; or he provides a substitute; or he is pursued and takes refuge in the roof.

Compare: Tremearne, 214-216; Barker, 131-132; Parsons, Andros Island, 117-119; Edwards, 67-68.

(1) The witty opening of the Jamaica versions based on a compensation motive (see numbers 22 and 63), in which the rascal takes advantage of an open-handedness common to aristocratic wealth, does not occur outside Jamaica. Compare Tremearne, FL 21:213-214. In Parsons, he pleads his wife's illness; in Edwards and Barker, he is a mere thief. In Barker, as in Jamaica, the story accepts the absurdity that all the sheep have disappeared except the last.

(2) The thief-catcher is "head-man" in Edwards as in Jamaica; in Barker he is a man who comes to town; in Wona, he is Tacoomah; in Parsons, a lion gets in with the sheep and is taken as the plumpest of them.

(3) Barker's version has a moralizing tendency; it is the friend who accompanies the thief who, all a flash of lightning, detects the trap and escapes. In Edwards, as in version (b), the rascal shifts the burden to his unsuspecting accomplice and himself escapes, Edwards and Parsons both conclude with the episode of taking refuge in the roof, as in version (c). For references see Parsons,. 117 note 2.

For the incident of the misunderstood warning, compare: Tremearne, FL 21:206; Renel 2:7, 8; Theal, 165; Harris, Nights, 82; Trowbridge, JAFL 9:286.

There can be no doubt that the essential plot is a version of the Sindibad fable of the thief among the beasts, who caught the lion by mistake, told in Comparetti's translation from the Portuguese

{p. 237}

in his "Researches Concerning the Book of Sindibad", PFLS 9:144. A rich herder camps beside a village at night. A prowling lion gets among the beasts. A thief comes and, feeling the animals to see which is the plumpest, lays hands upon the lion.

Next: Note 6. Tiger's Breakfast.