“The Tiger in the Tunnel” is a short story written by Ruskin Bond. It’s a poignant tale set in rural India that explores themes of bravery, determination, and the connection between humans and nature. Read More Class 11 English Summaries.
The Tiger in the Tunnel Summary
The Tiger in the Tunnel Introduction:
This story tells us about a man named Baldeo who worked as a watchman at a small railway station. This station was, in fact, a small hut which had a thick forest at its back. Next to this station there was a deep cutting that led to the tunnel.
The trains stopped at this station for only a few seconds before entering the deep cutting. Baldeo did the job of giving signals whether the tunnel was clear or not. At night, it was his duty to see that the lamp was burning at the signal post and that the overland mail passed through safely.
One night, as usual, he went to the tunnel to see if the lamp at the signal post was still alight. There he was attacked by a tiger. Baldeo faced the tiger bravely, but he was killed in this encounter. However, he had hit the tiger with his axe so hard that the tiger could hardly walk.
He could not get out of the tunnel quickly when the train arrived there. And eventually, the tiger too was killed. Baldeo’s family was plunged in grief. But his son who was only twelve years old did not allow grief to emasculate him. He decided to face the life bravely and took over the responsibility of his family.
The Tiger in the Tunnel Summary in English:
Baldeo was a watchman at a small railway station. This station was, in fact, a small hut which had a thick forest at its back. Next to this station, there was a deep cutting that led to the tunnel. The cutting had sheer rock walls towering high above the rails.
This station was a station in name only. The trains stopped there only for a few seconds before entering the deep cutting. Baldeo did the job of giving signals whether the tunnel was clear or not. At night it was his duty to see that the lamp at the signal post was burning and that the overland mail passed through safely.
Baldeo’s family lived in a small tribal village at the outskirts of the forest. His village was about three miles away from the station. His son Tembu who was twelve years old, didn’t always stay with his father at the station. He lived with his mother and sister in the village. But that night, Tembu slept with his father at the station. It was a dark winter night.
Baldeo got up at midnight to go to the signal post to see if the lamp was still alight or not. Tembu asked him sleepily, “Shall I come too, father ?” “No, it is cold tonight,” said Baldeo. Tembu fell asleep again.
Baldeo lighted his lamp, wrapped himself in the shawl and moved towards the signal post. When he entered the cutting, he could not help thinking about the wild animals. It was said that wild animals often visited that spot. But Baldeo hardly believed these stories.
No doubt, he had occasionally heard the sawing of a panther calling to its mate. But he had never seen them near the tunnel or the shed. Being a tribal himself, Baldeo was used to the jungle and its ways. So he walked confidently.
Like his forefathers, he carried a small axe with him. That axe was very simple to look at, but it was deadly when in use. With it, Baldeo could cut down a tree in three or four strokes only. Baldeo prided himself in wielding it against animals. Once he had killed a young boar with it. His father had made this axe over a charcoal fire. Baldeo always kept it with him.
The cutting and the entrance to the tunnel looked horrible in the darkness. The signal light was out. Baldeo hauled the lamp down by its chain. If the oil had finished, he would have to return to the hut for more. And the mail was also due in five minutes.
So he decided to light the lamp. Just then, he heard the loud cry of a deer and then a crushing sound in the undergrowth. Baldeo hurriedly lit the lamp at the signal post. He took his own lamp and walked quickly down the tunnel. Having made sure that the line was clear, he came back to the entrance. He sat there and started waiting for the train.
Summary of The Tiger in the Tunnel
The train was late. Sitting huddled up, Baldeo started dozing and soon forgot about his surroundings. And, back in his hut, Tembu woke up when he felt the trembling of the ground. He understood that the train was approaching.
He rubbed his eyes in sleep and said, “Father it’s time to light the lamp.” And realizing that his father had gone already, he lay down again. But now he was awake. He was waiting for the train to pass and for his father’s return.
In the meantime, a low grunt resounded on the top of the cutting. Baldeo woke up with a start. Only a tiger could emit such a sound, he thought. He grasped his axe firmly. He tried to make out the direction from which the animal was coming.
Just then, he heard a thump and then the rattle of stones. It told him that the tiger had sprung into the cutting. Baldeo tried to listen to the footsteps of the tiger. He wanted to know if the tiger was coming towards the tunnel or going towards the hut where Tembu was alone.
But soon, he found that the huge animal was trotting towards him steadily. Flight was impossible at that time. With his back to the signal post, Baldeo stood there motionless, staring at the tiger who was moving rapidly towards him. And very soon, the tiger attacked Baldeo with his right paw. However, Baldeo was already prepared.
He jumped to one side and saved himself from the tiger’s paw. He hit the tiger’s shoulder with his axe. The. tiger roared loudly and tried to come close. But Baldeo again threw his axe at the tiger. This time, the axe caught the tiger on the shoulder almost severing his leg.
Unluckily, the axe remained stuck in the tiger’s bone. Baldeo was left with no .weapon. The tiger, roaring with pain, sprang upon Baldeo and tore him to pieces in a few minutes.
The Tiger in the Tunnel short Summary
Then the tiger sat down and started licking his wound, roaring away now and then with pain. He didn’t notice the faint rumble that shook the earth. The overland mail was approaching. When the train entered the cutting, the engine whistled loudly.
The tiger raised his head and slowly got to his feet. He found himself trapped like the man (Baldeo). At that time flight along the cutting was impossible. So the tiger entered the tunnel and started running as fast as his wounded leg could carry him.
Soon the train also entered the tunnel. The noise in that confined space was defeaning. But when the train came out in the open, there was once again silence on the other side of the tunnel. At the next station, the driver stopped his train to water the engine.
He got down to stretch his legs and examine the headlamps. He was shocked when he saw the major portion of the tiger lying just above the cowcatcher. The tiger’s body was cut in half by the engine. Baldeo’s family was plunged in grief. All the responsibility of the family had fallen on Tembu. Now he had to earn living for his family.
So Tembu started working in his father’s place. Three nights later, he was at the cutting, lighting the signal lamp for the Overland Mail. Now there was nothing to be afraid of. His father had killed the tiger and besides, now he had the axe with him, his father’s axe.