“. . . strange things happen in the presence of a tiger.” —from The Tiger by John Vaillant
A sonic roar resonated through the Siberian forest clearing—and Yuri Trush’s body. Seconds later, a tiger flew through the air at Trush. He faced the gaping jaws and extended claws of a desperate wild cat.
I won’t give away too many details, because it is a book worth reading, but the attack he described occurred in December 1997. Seven years later, in 2004, Yuri Trush visited a wildlife rehabilitation centre. A Siberian tiger named Liuty lived there, and had since being rescued as a cub. He was a well-socialized animal who allowed the centre staff to scratch his neck.
Before Trush’s visit, the tiger lounged in his pen, relaxed. The moment he caught sight of Trush, though, he tensed, growled, ran at the fence directly in front of Trush and leapt at it with such force that it bowed outwardly.
Scientists can’t explain this yet.
Why would a well-socialized tiger attack someone seven years after a close, personal brush with another tiger? Native people in Siberia believe that Trush was marked by the tiger. “Some of them won’t allow me to sleep with them under the same roof,” he told Vaillant.
Mysticism and tigers go hand in hand, it seems.
Vaillant’s telling of the December 1997 tracking of a Siberian tiger involves eerie coincidences and irrational human behaviour. And Trush continues to contemplate the mystical properties of tigers: “It can be compared to a snake looking at a rabbit and hypnotizing him; it has some inexplicable influence on objects and humans and, in his presence, magical phenomena can occur.”
It’s one of those mystical mysteries that keeps me searching for the something more.
“Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
n the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”