The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

382 Pages · 2017 · 2.63 MB · English

  • The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

    Also by John Vaillant

    The Golden Spruce To the memory of

    Joanna and Ellis Settle

    viriditas In the taiga there are no witnesses.

    V. K. A ,


    Dersu the Trapper1

    no easy bargain

    Would be made in that place by any man

    Beowulf2 Contents


    Other Books by This Author

    Title Page




    Prologue Part One | Markov

    Part Two | Pochepnya

    Part Three | Trush



    A Note on Translation


    Selected Bibliography

    Permissions Acknowledgments

    About the Author

    Photo Inserts

    Copyright The Russian Far East The Bikin River Valley Prologue


    OF A MOON. Its wan light scatters shadows on the snow below, only

    obscuring further the forest that this man negotiates now as much by feel

    as by sight. He is on foot and on his own save for a single dog, which runs

    ahead, eager to be heading home at last. All around, the black trunks of

    oak, pine, and poplar soar into the dark above the scrub and deadfall, and

    their branches form a tattered canopy overhead. Slender birches, whiter

    than the snow, seem to emit a light of their own, but it is like the coat of

    an animal in winter: cold to the touch and for itself alone. All is quiet in

    this dormant, frozen world. It is so cold that spit will freeze before it

    lands; so cold that a tree, brittle as straw and unable to contain its

    expanding sap, may spontaneously explode. As they progress, man and

    dog alike leave behind a wake of heat, and the contrails of their breath

    hang in pale clouds above their tracks. Their scent stays close in the

    windless dark, but their footfalls carry and so, with every step, they

    announce themselves to the night.

    Despite the bitter cold, the man wears rubber boots better suited to the

    rain; his clothes, too, are surprisingly light, considering that he has been

    out all day, searching. His gun has grown heavy on his shoulder, as have

    his rucksack and cartridge belt. But he knows this route like the back of

    his hand, and he is almost within sight of his cabin. Now, at last, he can

    allow himself the possibility of relief. Perhaps he imagines the lantern he

    will light and the fire he will build; perhaps he imagines the burdens he

    will soon lay down. The water in the kettle is certainly frozen, but the

    stove is thinly walled and soon it will glow fiercely against the cold and

    dark, just as his own body is doing now. Soon enough, there will be hot

    tea and a cigarette, followed by rice, meat, and more cigarettes. Maybe a

    shot or two of vodka, if there is any left. He savors this ritual and knows

    it by rote. Then, as the familiar angles take shape across the clearing, the

    dog collides with a scent as with a wall and stops short, growling. They

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