The Tale of Tiger Lily - Chapter One
We can all recall the story of Peter Pan, and the brief but profound interlude with the lovely and discerning Tiger Lily.
When we saw her last, the beautiful Native American monarch had been captured by the infamous Captain Hook, who had bound her wrists and ankles and left her on a rock to await the imminent doom of the rising tide. Hook taunted her to reveal the whereabouts of Peter Pan, claiming she would risk the fate of never making it to the “happy hunting grounds” if she were to die a death of drowning. Through it all, Tiger Lily remained silent, proud and brave that she refused to reveal the hideout of Peter Pan even as the tide rushed in and threatened to wash her away. It was in that precise moment that Peter Pan swooped in to battle the angry captain and rescue Tiger Lily seconds before drowning. He would return her to the safety of her eagerly awaiting father, Chief Great Little Big Panther, and the tribe would celebrate Peter into the night.
That was the last we saw of the noble Tiger Lily and we are left only to speculate how such a young lady could have been so selfless and brave. What images raced through her mind as she was near death? If we could go back to that night and listen to her thoughts, what tale would they tell?
Could it be possible that the stubborn pride we all saw was but a mask for despair, and her silence, but a plea to end it all? If we could go back and delve further into her mind, what if Tiger Lily revealed that she did not want to be saved that fateful night at Mermaid’s Lagoon? That she did not want to return to her village and the emptiness that awaited her there? When the tide rose up and Captain Hook was threatening her with death, could it be that she welcomed it? The only way that we will ever know is if we travel back before the capture, before Peter, before Tiger Lily could ever foresee that such danger was looming in her future.
If you are as curious as I, let us allow Tiger Lily to take us back to the days before this fateful event, before she felt that silence was the only way to end her suffering. Let us hear the tale of Tiger Lily…
Why Must We Grow Up?
Faster, run faster! A breathless Tiger Lily raced heedlessly into the forest, away from her father and the crowds of people rushing to console her. Tiger Lily had not run through the woods this quickly since she was a child. It seemed not so long ago, but long enough that running had become an unyielding task rather than a frolicking adventure. When she supposed she had run far enough, Tiger Lily leaned her arms against a tall fir tree and allowed her chin to drop to her chest, panting to catch her breath. This is far enough!
Tiger Lily brushed away the stray hairs that had come free of her precisely fashioned double braids that Grandmother exacted each morning. As far back as she could remember, Grandmother wove Tiger Lily’s shiny black hair into two perfect braids down the side of her head. The braids were so tight that they would pull her large brown eyes into the shape of almonds and further accentuate her already high cheekbones.
Tiger Lily was an immaculate beauty who would capture the gaze of all who looked upon her. Her petite, slightly upturned nose was complemented by a luscious set of full lips and solid jawline. However, behind those almond eyes was a great sadness. Tiger Lily was often lonely; when Tiger Lily was barely of walking age, her mother had died during childbirth. Her infant brother did not survive. Since then, Tiger Lily was cared for by her overly protective father, Chief Great Little Big Panther of the Piccaninny Tribe, and her elderly grandmother.
Tiger Lily had no visual memories of her mother other than images she had created from her dreams and the stories she had been told of her mother’s beauty and the near exact resemblance they shared. The only thing Tiger Lily had left of her mother’s was an eagle feather that was gifted to her on her wedding day by her own father—that and the one memory she had of her mother braiding her hair. Tiger Lily could still feel the tenderness of her mother’s touch and how careful she was not to pull her hair, unlike the coarseness of her grandmother. Getting her hair braided was the one ritual she looked forward to least each day. But the pain would dissipate as soon as she tied the band around her head that adorned her mother’s feather. Somehow it gave her strength and comfort in the times she felt most alone.
Tiger Lily knelt before the large fir. The thought of going a step farther made her legs weak. This would be the place she would ask for forgiveness.
Tiger Lily was supposed to feel anguish and grief, yet she felt relieved. Just moments before, Tiger Lily had fled the crowd of people gathering around her, fearing that she would not be able to simulate the feelings of sorrow expected of someone who had just learned of the death of the man to whom she was betrothed. Tiger Lily was guilt-ridden for feeling this way and needed to beg forgiveness from the Creator.
As she was about to reason her case, her friend Nascha came bellowing through the woods. “Tiger Lily, I am so sorry, but it will be all right!” Nascha threw her arms around Tiger Lily’s neck in an attempt to console her. Nascha had to reach up to hug Tiger Lily, not because Tiger Lily was tall, but because Nascha was so short. Nascha was kind, caring, and always cheerful—the perfect complement to Tiger Lily’s reserved but sometimes brash demeanour. “I am sorry that Walking Bear has died and he was to be your husband. I am here for you if you need to cry. I will help to ease your pain,” Nascha said, squeezing Tiger Lily into a hug.
“Nascha, please, I need to be alone. I can’t be around anyone right now. Please,” Tiger Lily affirmed in an attempt to mask her guilt with sincerity. She could not bear to look at Nascha; her feelings of remorse were growing stronger by the minute. She really did just need to be alone.
“All right, Tiger Lily,” said Nascha, calm and composed. “I will let you be alone to grieve, but if you need someone, you know that I am here for you.” Nascha gave Tiger Lily one last squeeze and disappeared back into the forest.
Tiger Lily watched her friend walk away and decided that she should move a bit further into the woods to pray to the Creator in solitude.
When Tiger Lily came to an airy clearing at the edge of the woods that overlooked the open sea, she did one last glance around to make certain that she was alone. Tiger Lily then fell to her knees once more to release all that she had been keeping inside.
“Dear Creator, please forgive me for what I have done. I have killed my future husband. It may have not been of my own hand, although it may have been just as well, as I had wished him dead on more than one occasion. But you see, now that it has happened I assure you that I never meant it—though I am not certain that even this may be a lie, Creator, because I would not wish him back.”
She paused, thinking.
“Oh Creator, please forgive my selfish thoughts. I take it back; if he could come back, I would sacrifice my own happiness so that I may never again feel the shame that I feel right now. Walking Bear was a good man and would have made an honourable husband. I would have learned to love him and I would have accepted my role as his wife.”
This declaration satisfied her. Tiger Lily stood up and boldly decided that she meant what she had said. No sooner had she turned around when Tiger Lily heard a crack in the bushes, which startled her.
“Who’s there?” Tiger Lily called out. “Nascha, is that you? I thought I asked you to let me alone!”
“It is not Nascha,” said a voice from behind the bushes. “It is I, Jerrekai.” A young man stepped into the clearing.
Tiger Lily recognized him as the son of a quiet builder in the village. He was close in age to her, although she had never learned his name. In their tribe it was not customary for women to speak with men who were not their husbands or who would not be potential suitors. Since Tiger Lily was born into nobility, her suitors would be warriors or sons of warriors, and if necessary, sons of chiefs in neighbouring tribes. Builders and farmers would marry children of builders and farmers. Tiger Lily would never need to converse with men aside from her future husband and her father. If builders and farmers were needed, it would be the husband that would order the work—and that’s just the way it was.
“I heard you in the forest and I didn’t want to startle you as you were praying to Creator,” explained Jerrekai.
Immediately Tiger Lily felt embarrassed. “You should have announced your presence, or at least had the decency to excuse yourself. But I guess that is too much to ask of a coward!”
“How do you know that I am a coward?”
“Well, you are not a warrior so that only leaves one to assume that you are a coward,” Tiger Lily snapped. She could hear the brashness in her voice, but she felt the need to assert her nobility.
“Forgive me,” Jerrekai interjected, “I meant no disrespect, and before I leave you alone, I would just like to say that I am deeply sorry for your loss.”
As Jerrekai turned to walk away, Tiger Lily could have sworn she saw him snicker.
That night Tiger Lily tossed and turned, replaying the afternoon in her mind.
Why did I have to be so mean? she fumed at herself. What must he think of me? A spoiled brat with no feelings for anyone other than herself? Is what he must have thought? Oh, why do I even care so much? He’s just a builder, she reasoned to herself. But it was no use. Tiger Lily could not sleep, distressed over her meeting with Jerrekai. She needed to make amends. She just couldn’t go about having anyone think so ill of her, builder or not.
The next morning, Tiger Lily took her time as she walked down to the village. The sun had not yet fully broken through the holes in the clouds and the grass was still wet beneath her feet, but the village was already busy; chatter and laughter were amid the air along with the smoke from open fires in front of huts and longhouses. Unlike the nomadic tribes of the north, Tiger Lily’s tribe were permanent settlers. Their village was nestled snug in a valley with only a hillside separating them from the raging seas. It was an opulent settlement, in which Chief Great Little Big Panther had to fight many battles to procure. Having been granted the honour of becoming chief at a very young age, hence the name “Little,” Chief Great Little Big Panther was highly regarded in these parts, not only for his wisdom as a long-standing chief, but also for the wealth that the seas brought in. Chief Great Little Big Panther had earned the right to be the first to trade and therefore the first to benefit from the wealth of the other lands. This made him very proud and powerful, but at the same time, very cautious and protective. Chief Great Little Big Panther was feared by many, but when it came to the hand of his most prized possession, his only child Tiger Lily, Chief Great Little Big Panther was feared by all.
Nearing the village, Tiger Lily spotted Jerrekai all too soon. He was busy at work preparing poles for a longhouse. She watched him from afar as he shaved and lifted the massive poles to resurrect a roof. The muscles on his body were well defined, unlike the soft and slender-looking body of the fallen warrior that was to be her husband. Jerrekai was visibly strong and robust, undoubtedly from heavy lifting and working hard each day.
“Hello,” said a familiar voice from behind Tiger Lily. Nascha startled Tiger Lily so much that she let out a little squeal. She quickly grabbed Nascha and pulled her down behind a thick shrub as Jerrekai looked around to see where that scream had come from.
“Nascha! Why are you always creeping up on me like that?” Tiger Lily scolded, crouched behind the bushes.
“Why were you spying on Jerrekai?” Nascha countered in a voice as sour as her look.
“I was not,” Tiger Lily lied.
“Yes you were!”
She sighed. “Okay, I was, but it is not what you think. I just wanted to get a better look at him.”
“Why?” asked Nascha with the same sour face.
Tiger Lily ignored her last question and peered above the shrubs in Jerrekai’s direction. “Would you say he is handsome?”
“No!” exclaimed Nascha. “He is just a builder; he is not a warrior or the son of a chief, or even the son of a warrior. He is just Jerrekai. Why?”
“I don’t know,” Tiger Lily answered honestly. “I just think that maybe we’ve never really given him a chance. Maybe there is more to him than we know. I am curious to find out what it is.”
“Okay, Tiger Lily, but I will tell you right now that you are just fishing for trouble,” Nascha warned. “Your father will not like you poking your nose around Jerrekai—you know it and I know it.”
Later that day, Tiger Lily followed Jerrekai as he walked to the river. She stood behind a tree and watched as he cleaned his body of the sweat of a full day’s work. Tiger Lily had never noticed such nice features on a man before and was surprised that they could come from someone who was a common carpenter and not a feared warrior.
He is a mystery. She felt compelled to learn more.
The next evening after dinner, Tiger Lily followed Jerrekai once more, this time to the same clearing in the forest where he found her praying to the Creator days before.
Jerrekai sat on a rock and began to carve out what looked to be a flute. She watched in amazement as he turned a piece of old wood into a magnificent musical instrument. When he began to play a tune, Tiger Lily felt herself becoming more enchanted with each note he played. Now is the time to announce my presence, she thought, but her pride stopped her. Instead she waited until he played another melody before she tiptoed out of the area.
The melody played in her mind for days afterward. Each day she found her thoughts becoming increasingly infatuated with Jerrekai and her yearning to see him again.
“The tipi pole facing west is cracking,” Father bellowed in his deep, always superior-sounding voice. Tiger Lily jumped at his sudden presence. “I am off to see one of the builders to—”
“I will go, Father!” she volunteered. Tiger Lily jumped up, smoothing her hair. She slipped on one of her prettiest shawls. Wasting no further time, Tiger Lily set out on the path to the village to find Jerrekai.
There he was like every other day, working hard building their homes. How could I not have noticed him before?
“Jerrekai,” beckoned Tiger Lily in a voice much softer than she had used the last time they spoke.
Jerrekai put down the pole he was carrying. Tiger Lily could feel her face getting flushed and her heart beginning to race. Such a strange feeling was coming over her, feelings she had never felt in the presence of Walking Bear.
Tiger Lily cleared her throat to keep her composure, but before she could speak, Jerrekai cut her off. “Have you come to give me another tongue lashing?”
This comment rattled Tiger Lily and she immediately threw up her guard. “I am here on orders from my father. You are to come fix the pole outside our hut facing west. He is expecting you.” Tiger Lily turned and walked away angry, although this time she did not know if she was angry at him for harboring judgement or at herself for yet again coming across as brassy and arrogant.
Jerrekai followed Tiger Lily, who was practically jogging in an attempt to keep ahead of him. It made her feel better to act as if he was following her yet she knew that he would be walking in that direction had she been ahead of him or not.
When they arrived, Jerrekai wasted no time getting to work on the west pole. He was working so fast that Tiger Lily feared she would lose her chance to speak to him if she didn’t come up with something clever to say, although she was terrified to mess up yet another encounter. The only question she could think to ask was the one that had been in the back of her mind all week.
“Are you promised to anyone?”
Jerrekai looked at her in bewilderment.
“No, I am free to marry whomever I choose.”
A smile came across Tiger Lily’s face as he spoke those words.
“Not anyone I choose, of course. I mean I could not marry just anyone,” said Jerrekai.
Jerrekai turned back to his work, but Tiger Lily had broken free of her fear and there was no holding back.
“I think people should be free to marry whomever they want,” she boldly declared. “Do you?”
“No,” Jerrekai answered, still working.
“Why?” asked Tiger Lily.
“Because they just can’t,” Jerrekai huffed.
“That’s not a good enough answer.”
Jerrekai stopped and looked down at Tiger Lily. “People cannot be free to marry whomever they want because people like big chiefs would be very angry if their daughters married nobodies.”
“But I don’t think you’re a nobody,” stated Tiger Lily, staring bold-faced into Jerrekai’s eyes.
The conversation was teetering on dangerous grounds.
Over the next few days, Jerrekai and Tiger Lily spent more time together. Tiger Lily kept him company while he worked and Jerrekai continued to allow her to ask silly questions, and some days after work they sat by the water’s edge and learned about each other’s lives. It was getting easier for Jerrekai to open up to Tiger Lily, but some days when Jerrekai would try to get playful with Tiger Lily, she was always quick to remind him that she was the daughter of the chief—she would not run, get dirty, or try anything daring. So they would sit and talk, and sometimes walk.
At night, when the village was fast asleep, Tiger Lily lay awake replaying the events of each day in her mind. Infatuated with her blossoming romantic feelings, she could barely sleep, her body alight, tingling with excitement, imagining the sensation of what it would feel like to receive her first kiss.
The summer was coming to an end; the trees had lost all their leaves, the birds had already left, and the beavers had stored the last of their food. Tiger Lily awoke to pouring rain and crashing thunder. Her heart sank because she knew that Jerrekai would not be out building in the rain. She moped around her home all day. She did not know what to do with herself; the day was dragging on so slowly. Toward the evening she couldn’t bear it anymore. She needed to see Jerrekai. She could not fathom the thought of spending all evening without seeing his face or hearing his voice.
Tiger Lily left in the rain to find him. When she stopped in at his hut, he was not there.
Oh how romantic it would be, she thought to herself, if he were there waiting for me in the rain in our spot. She ran in the rain through the puddles that had formed along the path. And when she reached the clearing, her heart thundered in elation.
There sat Jerrekai in the rain staring down at the raging waters below. He jumped when Tiger Lily put her hand on his shoulder. When he turned to face her, she looked so lovingly at him—so happy—and in that moment Jerrekai finally let his guard down. As the sun was setting and the rain beat down against them, Jerrekai embraced the beautiful Tiger Lily in his arms.
Their bodies were pressed so tightly together that Tiger Lily could feel Jerrekai’s heart beating rapidly against her chest. She looked up into his eyes and before she had a chance to speak, his lips found their way to hers.
There on the cliffside with the crashing waves and booming thunder sounding its applause, Tiger Lily’s heart exploded in excitement. She was in love. She did not care that Jerrekai was not a majestic warrior, and when her father realized how much she loved him, he would understand. He had to.
When Tiger Lily arrived home soaking wet, she was surprised to see her father still sitting up waiting by the fire.
“Father…” she began.
“Silence, Tiger Lily!” the chief interrupted. “Why were you out in the rain chasing after the builder’s son?” He didn’t give Tiger Lily a chance to answer. “I am the chief—I know everything that goes on in my village and I don’t have to remind you that you are my daughter and you live by my rules.”
“But I have fallen in love with him,” Tiger Lily admitted, her head down. She feared the roar that would inevitably come next. This was a fight she was afraid that she may not win.
“I want him banished!” growled the chief. “Immediately!”
Tiger Lily fell to his feet. “Please Father, do not send him away. He is a good man, you will see, you just need to meet him. Please…”
“Off your knees!” the chief commanded. “No daughter of mine will grovel on the ground for a wood cutter.”
Slowly Tiger Lily stood up, but she could not look her father in the eyes.
Chief Great Little Big Panther rested his hands on Tiger Lily’s shoulders and gave her one last command. “I am setting sail tomorrow morning to trade with Chief Red Sky of the sea tribes. You will sail with me and I may consider allowing the boy to stay.”
“Yes, Father,” said Tiger Lily obediently.
Tiger Lily crawled into bed. Although the conversation had not gone as hoped, it could have been worse. She knew her father felt pleased with his ultimatum and she was well aware of his motives. He was initiating a meeting between Tiger Lily and Chief Red Sky’s son, Calling Bull. Since the day that Walking Bear had fallen, there had been daily talks of who Tiger Lily would marry, conversations that would happen in every home in the village. It was only a matter of time before her father would bring it up. But Tiger Lily had her own plan. She would use this voyage to convince her father that Jerrekai was worthy of her hand.
Early the next morning before anyone was awake, Tiger Lily crept out of the house and hastily made her way to Jerrekai’s hut. Outside, Jerrekai’s father was already awake enjoying his tea by the open fire. Without a word he motioned for Tiger Lily to wait and he went inside to fetch his son. A tired Jerrekai emerged from the hut, his brows knitted together in puzzlement to see Tiger Lily standing there.
“Jerrekai, I don’t have a lot of time,” Tiger Lily began. “I told my father that we are in love and he wasn’t happy. Please don’t be alarmed,” she added quickly. “He promised no harm would come to you, but in return I have to sail with him on a lengthy voyage this very morning.”
Jerrekai stood in silence. Tiger Lily took Jerrekai’s hand in hers. “Please tell me that you will wait for me. I love you and I know my father will come around. I need you to trust me. Please tell me that you will wait for me.”
Jerrekai looked down at Tiger Lily’s delicate hands and into her tear-filled eyes. “I will wait for you,” he answered as he pulled her into his arms for one last embrace and gentle kiss.
As the tribe gathered at the shoreline to give Tiger Lily and the chief a grand send off, Tiger Lily could not take her eyes off of Jerrekai, who stood off in the distance. Even from afar she could see the uneasiness in his eyes. Tiger Lily could only hope that he knew her heart belonged to him and that she would not fall in love with the neighbouring chief’s son. She waved goodbye one last time before her eyes were pulled to the canoes coming in over the horizon.
“The tribes from the north must be coming to trade goods,” observed the chief. “It is late in the season for them to be out this far.”
Tiger Lily paid little attention to them and returned her gaze to Jerrekai. She would see her love again in the new moon. But if she only knew what the north winds were blowing in, would she have stayed? Could she have stayed?
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