The title story of this collection by Syrian writer Zakaria Tamer is an allegory about how even the strongest of us can be gradually broken and tamed by those who hold power. It’s a tale about a magnificent tiger locked in a cage, and a trainer who uses food to persuade the ferocious animal to meow like a cat, bray like a donkey, and even eat hay.
At first the tiger resists, but soon he begins to submit. He rationalizes his dwindling will by telling himself that the tamer’s requests are minor or that it will be fun to meow like a kitty cat, or that the grass he eats begins to taste quite good. The tamer has turned him into a “slave, ” and as he continues to train the animal, it loses sight of its identity as a bona fide apex predator.
The tamer’s ability to subdue the tiger is remarkable, and the ending of the story is both ironic and hopeless. The tiger’s transformation from a majestic creature to a hay-eating prisoner of his own city makes this piece feel particularly relevant today, in a country that has been under a state of emergency for more than half a century.