The Tiger Who Would Be King by James Thurber

Summary: The Tiger Who Would Be King by James Thurber is a short story about a Tiger that wants to be "king of the beasts" and in order to do so he battles the current king which leads to a confusing battle of all the creatures in the jungle.


Tiger - Wants to be the "king of beasts"

Lion - The current "king of beasts"

Tiger's mate - doubts that the Tiger would be the "king of beasts" by the time that he says

Lioness - Wakes the Lion up to tell him that the Tiger thinks that he was the king of the beasts

Assorted Animals - Fight for many reasons

Macaw and Cockatoo - Scream at the end of the battle for "king of the beast"

Section 1:

  • In the jungle, there was a tiger that thought he was the king of the beasts and he told his mate that he would be by "the time the moon rises"
  • The author, mirrors the tiger with his son by having the tiger say that there is screaming in the jungle for change and by having his young son scream about an "imaginary thorn in his pay."
  • The tiger even imagines that the moon will be "yellow" with "black stripes" in his honor
  • The tiger then goes to the lion's den and demands him to come out and "greet the king of beasts!"
  • The lioness wakes the lion and says that the king of beasts is outside of the den, ready to meet him
  • The lion says to the tiger that the lion is the king of the beasts and they fight a "terrible fight"
  • Other animals join in the fight and have different reasons for fighting and some just for the "sake of fighting"
  • In the end of the fight, there was but a Macaw and a Cockatoo to greet the new "king of beasts"
  • The tiger was king of a meaningless land and an animal-less place
  • The author's moral of the story: "You can't very well be king of beasts if there aren't any."

Other Notes:

  • Both mates, the lioness and the tigress, both know the outcome long before the fight takes place; there's a half-supportive type of feeling for their male counterparts
  • In order to be a good leader, one must be a good follower and neither the lion nor the tiger was a good follower which eventually led to the demise of the jungle
  • One must know what one is fighting for or the outcome will be unknown and often catastrophic

© 2009 copyright The Tiger Who Would Be King | James Thurber