Can a tiger hold a vendetta against a person? This is a central question in The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant. The book holds a haunting tale you won’t soon forget. It’s based on true events that transpired in Russia’s Far East in the late 1990s. The truth of the events portrayed in this book will stalk your conscience until you are forced to confront several revelations: that animals like tigers may possess an intelligence which allows for pre-meditated action, that animals like tigers may have emotions and act upon them, that tigers may have the emotive and cognitive capacities to possess grudges and enact vendettas, and that most humans who don’t live with wild tigers tend to downplay and discredit these possibilities.
The story Vaillant tells in this book is based upon a series of events that took place in the far eastern Soviet taiga, which is a type of habitat that transitions between tundra and temperate forests. The bulk of the book takes place in Primorye Territory, a maritime province which harbors one of the last reservoirs of wild Siberian tigers. The opening scenes begin in December 1997 on the sliver of Russia’s eastern coast that lies between China and the Sea of Japan. A man had just been attacked and partially eaten by a tiger, about 60 miles from the logging town of Luchegorsk.
But it wasn’t just any man, and very soon the tiger’s act of killing and consuming this man takes on a chilling revelation: the tiger knew this man. The tiger, in fact, was carrying a bullet that the victim had shot into it just weeks before. Did the tiger remember that this particular hunter had shot it? Did the tiger seek out revenge? Continue reading