In this lesson, we’ll look at a summary of the fictional short story ‘A Tiger in the House’ by Indian author Ruskin Bond. When you are through, you can test your understanding with a short quiz.

Works of Fiction

Think about your favorite book or short story. What type of literature is it? Is it a true story, or is it made up? A story that didn’t really happen is a work of fiction. There are many famous examples of fictional short stories. One is ‘A Tiger in the House,’ which was written by Indian author Ruskin Bond. He wrote many short stories, especially children’s stories, and ‘A Tiger in the House’ is a very well-known example of his work.

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Finding Timothy

While ‘A Tiger in the House’ is narrated by his grandson, the actions in the story mostly center around Grandfather. He goes out into the Indian jungle as a guide for a group of wealthy big-game hunters. They’re looking to hunt tigers, but they don’t find anything to shoot.

Grandfather, however, comes across a baby tiger ‘…about eighteen inches long, hiding among the intricate roots of a banyan tree.’ He takes the cub home with him and names it Timothy.

Raising Timothy

While he’s young, Timothy is fed milk. As he grows older, his caretakers switch him to mutton, and later, to pigeons and rabbits. Young Timothy is sweet and not very aggressive. In fact, he acts a lot like the average house cat! He coexists with the monkey, Toto, even though it pulls his tail. He is initially afraid of the puppy, but later he plays with it and lets it ride on his back.

Like a house cat, Timothy play-stalks the grandson’s feet, and he washes himself with his paws. He sleeps with the cook at night, and the grandson walks him around the block on a chain, which makes the neighbors nervous. While Timothy is young he’s not a problem, but as he gets older and bigger he starts to act more like a tiger.

After he is six months old, Timothy starts trying to eat the neighbor’s pets, and he eats Grandfather’s chickens. The final straw is when he begins aggressively stalking the cook around the house, looking like he wants to eat him. At this point Grandfather takes Timothy by train to the Lucknow Zoo, since clearly he can no longer be just a pet.

A Surprise Ending

Six months later, Grandfather visits Timothy at the zoo. He hops the railing and pets him through the bars, slapping the tiger if he growls, as Grandfather always did at home. A new zookeeper is surprised to see this because the tiger has always been aggressive to him, but he accepts Grandfather’s explanation.

The tiger is very upset by the leopard in the next cage, and Grandfather tries to track down the superintendent to fix this and have the animals separated. However, the superintendent isn’t there, and Grandfather goes back to petting the tiger. He is finally seen by the original zookeeper who was there when Grandfather first brought Timothy to the zoo. Grandfather asks him about moving the tiger away from the leopard.

The second zookeeper is also shocked to see Grandfather peacefully petting the tiger. The zookeeper tells Grandfather that this isn’t Timothy! Timothy died two months earlier, and this tiger is wild and dangerous. Grandfather, however, seems not to totally believe the zookeeper. As he leaves, he says ‘Good night, Timothy,’ and glares at the zookeeper.

Lesson Summary

‘A Tiger in the House’ is a fictional short story by Ruskin Bond. In it, a grandfather adopts and cares for a young tiger cub. The tiger is raised on milk, then mutton, then pigeons and rabbits as he grows. He is initially scared of the family’s puppy, but then plays with him. Eventually, the tiger becomes too large and starts aggressively stalking the cook, and Grandfather donates him to a zoo. Grandfather later visits the tiger and peacefully pets him, slapping him when he growls. Then Grandfather is told that this is not his tiger, but a new, aggressive one! However, Grandfather seems not to believe the zookeeper in the end.