"How Fear Came" is a short story by the British author Rudyard Kipling. It was first published in Britain and the United States in 1894. It appeared in two parts in the London newspaper Pall Mall Budget on June 7 and June 14, 1894 under the title "How Fear Came to the Jungle". It appeared in its entirety and under its current title in the New York World newspaper on June 10, 1894. It appeared in the London newspaper Pall Mall Gazette in two parts under the title "A Strange Tale of the Jungle" on June 14 and June 15, 1894. "How Fear Came" was published again in 1895 as the first story in Kipling's anthology The Second Jungle Book.
The story begins in an Indian jungle during a time of terrible drought. Only one source of water remains available. Plant-eating animals and meat-eating animals drink from the same water at the same time. A truce has been declared which means that the plant-eating animals can come to the water safe in the knowledge that none of the meat-eating animals will try to kill them. Among those who come to drink there in the evening is Mowgli the "man cub", a boy who has been raised by wolves and considers himself to be a wolf, his friends Bagheera the Panther and Baloo the Bear. To everyone's surprise, Shere Khan the tiger also comes to the water to drink. He casually says that he has killed a man that evening and that he has the right to do so that night. After Shere Khan leaves, Mowgli asks Hathi the Elephant what Shere Khan meant. Hathi goes on to tell all the assembled animals the tale of how tigers came to have the right to kill people on one night each year, how tigers got their stripes and how the animals of the jungle came to know the meaning of fear.
"How Fear Came" can be considered to be a precursor to Kipling's later Just So Stories, first published in one volume in 1902. Among other things, the Just So Stories give fantastical explanations as to how certain animals came to look and behave the way they do today. There are also obvious similarities between "How Fear Came" and the Biblical stories of Adam and Eve and their children Cain and Abel from the Book of Genesis. Like the Biblical narrative, Hathi's story begins in a perfect world that is turned into a world full of fear and dread as a result of an act of disobedience. The tiger's stripes, a mark of shame in the story, parallel the mark of Cain.
Animated cartoons based on "How Fear Came" were first shown on Japanese television in 1990.
The heavy rains that come each winter are vital to the survival of an Indian jungle. One winter, there is hardly any rain. As a result, many plants die. The herbivores (called "Eaters of Grass" in the story) are, of course, the first animals to suffer. In time, the carnivores (called "Eaters of Flesh" in the story) find that there is a shortage of prey. Gradually, all sources of water in the jungle dry up until the only one that is left is the Wainganga River. The water in the river eventually drops down to such a level that a long blue rock on the river bed, known as the Peace Rock, can be seen. Hathi the Elephant, acknowledged as a leader by the other jungle animals, declares the Water Truce. When the Water Truce is in place, all animals acknowledge that drinking is more important than eating. The terms of the truce mean that Eaters of Flesh will not try to kill and eat any Eaters of Grass when they go to the river to drink in the evening. The two groups of animals, however, stand on opposite sides of the river bank. Hathi and his sons stand between them on the Peace Rock.
Among the Eaters of Flesh that go to the river to drink is Mowgli the "man-cub", a boy who has been brought up by wolves and who thinks of himself as a wolf. Mowgli is accompanied by Bagheera the Black Panther, his friend and protector, and Baloo the Bear, who is responsible for teaching him the Law of the Jungle. Mowgli, Baloo and Bagheera engage in some good-natured teasing of each other. This comes to a sudden halt when Shere Khan the Lame Tiger arrives. Shere Khan makes his dislike for Mowgli plain. He asks the boy to look at him, although he then looks away quickly when Mowgli stares back at him fearlessly. Shere Khan goes on to say that he killed a man an hour earlier, that he did so not for food but simply because he wanted to and that he has now come to drink and to wash himself in the river. Hathi asks Shere Khan if he really killed a man just for pleasure. Shere Khan replies, "Even so. It was my right and my Night." Hathi allows Shere Khan to drink but does not allow him to wash himself in the river water. Shere Khan leaves when Hathi and his sons order him to do so.
After Shere Khan leaves, Mowgli asks Hathi what the tiger meant by "his right". Hathi begins to tell a story to Mowgli and all the curious jungle animals that are in earshot.
In Hathi's story, the jungle is created by Tha, the First of the Elephants. To begin with, all animals eat only plants and they all live together peacefully. Tha goes away to create more jungles. Before leaving, he appoints the First of the Tigers as a judge to whom the jungle animals can take any disputes they have. The First of the Tigers is described as being a beautiful yellow color all over without any stripes.
Some deer go to the First of the Tigers with a dispute. One of the deer disturbs the Tiger by nudging him with his antlers. Momentarily forgetting his position of importance, the Tiger angrily responds by attacking the deer, breaking his neck and killing him. It is the first time that an animal has ever been killed. Ashamed at what he has done, the Tiger runs away and leaves the jungle without a judge.
Tha returns. He orders the trees to throw down their creepers on whoever has killed the deer ad thus leave a mark on the murderer. A new judge is needed. The only animal to volunteer for the position is a Grey Ape. The foolish Ape proves to be an extremely poor judge, which results in the jungle having no Law. Tha then declares to the jungle animals, "Now it is time there was a law and a law that ye must not break. Now ye shall know Fear, and when ye have found him ye shall know that he is your master." Tha orders all of the jungle animals to search for Fear. Eventually some buffaloes find a hairless creature that walks on two legs and lives in a cave. The creature cries out upon seeing the buffaloes and the buffaloes feel afraid for the first time. All of the jungle animals come to understand that Fear comes with the hairless creature.
News of the hairless creature reaches the First of the Tigers, who is living in some marshes away from the jungle. The Tiger decides to return to the jungle to kill the hairless creature. When the Tiger passes under some trees, they drop their creepers on him. Those creepers mark the Tiger with stripes that his descendants still have. The hairless creature sees the Tiger and calls him, "The Striped One that comes by night". The Tiger is frightened by the hairless creature and runs away, howling in fear.
Tha hears the Tiger's howls and asks him what is wrong. The Tiger says that the hairless creature called him a shameful name because of the muddy stripes that are on him. Tha tells the tiger to clean off the stripes. The Tiger finds that the stripes will not come off him. Tha says that is because the Tiger killed the deer and let Death loose in the jungle. He adds that with Death comes Fear and that now the Tiger will be afraid of the hairless creature and all other jungle animals will be afraid of the Tiger. The Tiger cannot believe that all of the jungle animals, who once accepted him as a judge, will now be afraid off him. He calls out to other jungle animals to come to him. They all flee from him in terror.
The Tiger begs Tha to let his descendants know what it was like to live without shame or fear. Tha replies, "This much I will do... For one night in each year it shall be as it was before the buck was killed - for thee and for thy children. In that one night, if ye meet the Hairless One - and his name is Man - ye shall not be afraid of him but he shall be afraid of you, as though ye were the judges of the Jungle and masters of all things. Show him mercy in that night of fear, for thou hast known what Fear is."
The Tiger waits for an entire year until he can clearly see the Evening Star. He then knows that his Night has come. He goes to the cave where the Man lives and kills him, confident that he has killed Fear itself. Tha comes to the First of the Tigers and chastises him for not showing mercy. He also says that not only has the Tiger failed to kill Fear itself, he has not even killed the only man. There are plenty more men and now the Tiger has taught them to kill. When the morning comes, another man comes out of the cave and throws a wooden spear at the Tiger. The Tiger runs around in agony with the spear in his side until he is eventually able to get it out. The other jungle animals see and hear the Tiger and learn of the danger that humans pose as a result.
When Hathi finishes his story, Mowgli asks how Shere Khan is able to kill humans two or three times a month if they are only afraid of tigers one night a year. Hathi explains that on those other nights, Shere Khan attacks people from behind and cannot stand to look at their faces. Only on one night is Shere Khan able to look humans in the eye. Mowgli then understands why Shere Khan wanted him to look at him earlier.
Hathi explains that the tiger does not know in advance when his Night is going to come. It comes when the Evening Star is clearly visible. Some years it is in the summer and others it is in the winter.
Bagheera asks if humans also know the story that Hathi has told. Hathi says that they do not and that until that evening the story was known only to tigers and elephants. Baloo, however, reveals that he has heard the story before. Mowgli points out that the First of the Tigers killed the deer but did not eat it. He asks why the Tiger did not carry on eating plants. Baloo says that the Tiger could not stand to eat plants after the trees marked him with their creepers and he chose to take revenge on the deer and other Eaters of Grass instead. Mowgli asks Baloo why he never told him the story before. Baloo replies that there are many such stories in the jungle and that there will not be enough time to tell all of them.
"How Fear Came" was adapted as the twenty-first and twenty-second episodes of the 52-episode anime series Jungle Book Shōnen Mowgli (Japanese: ジャングルブック 少年モーグリ; Janguru Bukku Shōnen Mōguri) that originally aired on TV Tokyo in Japan. The episode "The Waterfront Truce' (Japanese: 水辺の休戦; Suihen no Kyūsen) first aired on February 19, 1990 and the episode "The 'Dreaded' Came" or "The Great Fear" (Japanese: 平和な森の伝説; Heiwa na Mori no Densetsu) first aired on February 26, 1990.
- Text of "How Fear Came" on Wikisource.
- Public domain audiobook of "How Fear Came" Part 1 and Part 2 on YouTube.
- "How Fear Came" on the website of The Kipling Society".