Monday, April 30, 2012

The Boy And The Tigers

When I was a kid my all time favorite book was Little Black Sambo. I know, I know, I hear you gasping in shock and outrage. You no doubt think I'm a narrow-minded and prejudiced blackguard who thinks that slavery wasn't all that bad and are demanding my resignation from the internet.

Back then I had no idea that I was reading an abhorrent racist tract. I just thought it was a cool story about a kid who outsmarted some tigers and defeated them. It never once occurred to me that I was reading something hateful and vile and that I should be dragged from my home in the middle of the night and beaten with tube socks full of Hot Wheels cars just for the crime of owning it.

But wiser minds than mine decided the book was without merit and banned it from our politically correct society sometime in the 1980s.

I've missed the story over the years and tried many times to find a copy of it, but to no avail.

This past weekend I finally found one! It's not called Little Black Sambo anymore though. It's been renamed The Boy And The Tigers, and you'd be hard pressed to come up with a more bland and anemic title. It was revised and released in 2004.

The hero's name is no longer Sambo, of course. Why, that would be the worst kind of ThoughtCrime! He's now called Little Rajani, which is apparently somehow better.

Despite these superficial changes, it's the same story I remember from my childhood. Little Bla, er, I mean Little Rajani goes for a walk in the woods and encounters four different tigers. Each tiger threatens to eat him until he gives them an article of his clothing. Eventually he's left with nothing on but his turban and his drawers. Meanwhile the tigers, each wearing a piece of his clothing, get into a fight as to who has the best fashion sense. They get pissed off and throw the clothes on the ground (just like battling hockey players) and all four start chasing each other around a tree. Little Rajani, who apparently has some rudimentary knowledge of particle physics, eggs them on. They go faster and faster around the tree until their molecular bonds break down and their bodies merge and turn into butter. Because that's what happens when you run too fast, dontcha know. It only makes sense. Little Rajani retrieves his clothes, scoops up the tiger butter and takes it to his mom, who makes him pancakes for dinner. He then proceeds to pour the tiger butter onto the pancakes and consumes the transmuted flesh of his enemies. The End.

Pretty much the only thing they changed in the updated version is the name of the hero. I guess that must have been the thing that stuck in everyone's craw and caused it to be banned. I firmly believe that our country's hypersensitivity and political correctness are a bunch of bullsh*t and is destroying our society, but that's a topic for another day. I guess I can live with the small changes they made to the book, since it left the story basically intact. Especially if it gets the book back on the shelves and allows a new generation of kids to discover it.


  1. Years ago (1965 to be exact, while my family and I drove to California, we ate at a restaurant called "Sambos". It was based on the story and the pancakes even came with "tiger butter". I bought a toy stuffed tiger which I have, sadly, lost over time. Sometimes political correctness destroys all that is fun in life...

  2. Yep, I remember seeing Sambos restaurants when I was a kid, although my family never ate at one. Didn't know they were based on the book!

    I am aware that "Sambo" became a derogatory term, and as a white man I realize I can never truly understand the black experience or perspective. All I know is that as a kid I loved the story and notions of race, prejudice or intolerance never once entered my mind as I read it. I just thought it was a cool story.

    Political correctness has good intentions I suppose, but it goes too far and goes about it the wrong way.

  3. Interesting story and I am glad you found a childhood favorite :) I myself have never even heard of it....til now :)

  4. I'm 55 and i grew up with the book little black sambo . and that book my was my favorite book i use to make my grandmother read it to me every night , because the tiger turned in to flapjacks that was why . and for no other reason. because you could get pan cakes out of the tiger . Boy If I still had that book it would be worth a lot of money now ....... people who make something so innocence and turn it in to a negative thing shame on you.


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