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No Beast So Fierce: The Terrifying True Story of the Champawat Tiger, the Deadliest Animal in History

Review

No Beast So Fierce: The Terrifying True Story of the Champawat Tiger, the Deadliest Animal in History

NO BEAST SO FIERCE is the true-life depiction of the animal that killed more people than any other beast in history. With an astonishing death toll reaching 435, the Champawat Tiger was an evil beast that possessed a legendary history nearing mythical proportions. Under the able hands of Dane Huckelbridge, the book reads like a thriller and draws comparison to Peter Benchley's novel, JAWS. It also reminded me of the film The Ghost and the Darkness, which starred Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer, and retold the true story of a pair of lions that mercilessly fed on a number of men involved in building a railroad and bridge in Africa.

There are two quotes of notes that Huckelbridge inserts. The first is directly from William Shakespeare's “Richard III,” which provides the term “no beast so fierce.” After that, we get an Indian proverb that reads “Do not blame God for having created the tiger, but thank Him for not having given it wings.” It is apparent that the people of India have a long-standing reverence and fear of tigers, and the Champawat Tiger gives them good reason for this.

The hunter who was eventually pulled in to stop this beast was Irishman Jim Corbett. His role is much like that of Quint from JAWS, and he immediately engages in a battle of wits to the death with the Champawat Tiger. Huckelbridge gives this work of nonfiction enough suspense to make it feel like a novel. The reality comes from his use of language that often elevates descriptions to deep, spiritual levels. He speaks of India as being composed of individuals whose psyches have been permeated by the most basic fear of being eaten by a monster.

"NO BEAST SO FIERCE is an intriguing read that deftly mixes suspense with backstory and the general psyche of the country during the years that the Champawat Tiger rose to infamy among all beasts."

Of the various species of tigers, the one that is represented here is the Royal Bengal tiger, a creature of nursery rhymes and nightmares. The Champawat's first taste for human blood was around 1899 or 1900, and his killing spree continued until 1907. He quickly graduated from merely feeding on humans to deliberately stalking villagers and killing them for sport. Tigers are difficult to figure out as they do not bear all of the traits of fellow felines like cats, who have an innate fear of water, and seem to show no fear in any element. Huckelbridge notes that this tiger found his own “Nirvana” in the form of the Indian village of Rupal, a place perfectly situated for the hunting of human beings.

The first time that Corbett heard tales of this tiger was in 1903. At that time, he did not carry the prominence as a hunter and was merely a low-level railroad employee in his late 20s. It is through the Champawat that he would start his career as a famous hunter. He quickly became known as the best shot around, realizing that to kill a tiger was to vanquish all that was deemed alien and dangerous in India. Tigers were viewed, both symbolically and literally, as a direct challenge to British hegemony.

As the killing spree continued, nearly every person who could get his hand on a gun was taking potshots at any tiger he came across. It is no wonder that the species began acting more aggressively towards humans during this time period. Upon Corbett's arrival, he was visibly shaken by the attack on a local woman who was dragged so fiercely by the beast that shreds of skin still clung to the bark from the palms of her hands. Corbett realized it would take all of his mental toughness to prepare to bring this animal down. The local residents known as Kumaonis took it upon themselves to personally assist in stopping him and not strictly relying on Corbett.

NO BEAST SO FIERCE is an intriguing read that deftly mixes suspense with backstory and the general psyche of the country during the years that the Champawat Tiger rose to infamy among all beasts.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on April 5, 2019

No Beast So Fierce: The Terrifying True Story of the Champawat Tiger, the Deadliest Animal in History
by Dane Huckelbridge

  • Publication Date: February 5, 2019
  • Genres: History, Nature, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0062678841
  • ISBN-13: 9780062678843