Once, in the Long Ago, before people came to this land, the animal kingdoms were separated by tall dangerous grasses. Zebra and Tiger, who at this time were still neighbours and allies, sought a way through these grasses, so that the kingdoms could meet and share ideas.
Quite by accident, Zebra discovered that she could flicker her stripes to move through the grass, spreading new ideas and earning the respect and admiration of the other animals. All except Tiger, who was as proud as she was envious and craved the admiration she thought was her due. She sought to learn the secret of Zebra’s stripes and appealed to the oldest of feline spirits, who was herself disdainful of the lesser animals. The spirit agreed to Tigers’s plea, and carelessly poured some of her ancient magic into an unprepared subject. Too much, it seemed, for as Tiger’s coat changed from tawny to stripes of orange and black, so did her teeth and claws grow larger and her temper more fierce. Transformed, she followed Zebra through the long grass and began to prey upon the other animals.
Zebra, who by this time had accumulated great knowledge and wisdom during her travels was saddened by Tiger’s plight, and also by the suffering of those she hurt. She ventured into the long grass one morning, fearful but steeling herself. It was not long before they crossed paths, but Zebra was ready. She feigned flight and for many days led Tiger through the maze-like grasses to a distant forested realm. Tiger, blinded by rage and spirit-magic, no longer recognised her old friend. But Zebra’s compassion was not so easily overcome. She flickered her stripes, until Tiger became mesmerized and the spell was broken. Partially at least. She was overcome by grief, for the instinct to prey had not quite left her. “We may never meet again, Zebra my friend,” she purred. “But these stripes will ever remind me of you.”