James Thurber’s The Tiger Who Would be King was originally published in The New Yorker in 1927. Nearly a century later, the fable was illustrated by JooHee Yoon and published by independent publisher, Enchanted Lion Books, as a picture book in 2015.
One morning, the Tiger awakens and decides that he should be king of beasts. He confronts the Lion. The Lion, defending his crown, charges at the Tiger, the beginning of an all-encompassing fight as all beasts join the battle.
“All the animals of the jungle joined in, some taking the side of the tiger and others the side of the lion. Every creature from the aardvark to the zebra took part in the struggle to overthrow the lion or to repulse the tiger, and some did not know which they were fighting for, and some fought for both, and some fought whoever was nearest, and some fought for the sake of fighting.”
JooHee Yoon’s two color illustrations are beautiful and dynamic as they illustrate the Tiger’s ego-driven desire for power and the subsequent destruction of the beasts he’s claimed to rule. Thurber ends his fable with the moral: You can’t very well be king of beasts if there aren’t any.
This fable and picture book bridge so many age levels and readers. Whether you’d like to read more of Thurber’s fables in a Further Fables for our Time, or pick up this beautiful picture book from your local independent bookstore, Powell’s, or your local library.