Monday, 15 November 2021

Raymond Sheppard and The Man-Eating leopard of Rudraprayag by Jim Corbett (Part Two)

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.60

[Part One]

In the previous article, I showed the illustrations by Raymond Sheppard to the first half of "The Man-Eating leopard of Rydraprayag". Today I want to show the rest but also add a thing or two that might be of interest.


Tiger Hunting Corbett Gets His Leopard
Reviewed by Philo M. Buck, jr. [Chicago Tribune, 1948]
Jim Corbett has long been a myth, a living and friendly one, in the Himalayan villages of Kumaon and Garhwal. His book, "Man Eaters of Kumaon," recounts the story of his exploits with tigers. This book tells of his long search for a foe even more dangerous, the shadow that strikes only at night and whose cunning is beyond compare — a man-eating leopard. So mysterious is it in its comings and goings that simple villagers are convinced that it is human, a man with a taste for human blood, inspired by a bhut, and able to assume at will his savage form.
Philip Woodruff in his "The Wild Sweet Witch," reviewed by me in these columns, has one such story of this very leopard. For eight years this creature carried on - until Jim Corbett, the most famous cleanser of such plagues in our time, gave us one more tale that will banish sleep.
The leopard normally is not often seen in the Himalayas. But you are always aware of his presence. He will carry off your dog even when his walking at your side or sleeping beside you on the veranda. If he acquires a taste for human flesh his name is Terror; one is safe only behind double locked doors. This leopard officially accounted for 125 men, women and children in his career of crime. He cost Colonel  Corbett two expeditions, endless journeys following the animal's kills, long nights of vigil, sitting cramped in machans or in the forks of trees, knowing all the time that a leopard is better than a man at tree climbing. And the best of the story is that I know it is true.
For I knew Jim Corbett when we were boys in school in Naini Tal in Kumaon. It was then that he acquired his love for the Himalayan jungle and his knowledge of its creatures. And after a vacation he would tell us younger ones the stories of his lonely journeys when he studied its lore.

I presume by bhut, he is referring to a malevolent spirit (not the ghost chilli pepper renowned in the north-eastern areas of India). Throughout this book we hear how a spirit has caused the trouble (and in the last article I showed the tiger effigy being pushed into the river, hoping to rid the area of this spirit). Towards the end of this book Corbett talks about his friendship with the local pundit (a word from Sanskrit meaning meaning "knowledge owner" or "learned man") who is charge of sheltering pilgrims. he assures Corbett that he should be looking for a bhut.  A machan mentioned in the above review, is a hide, as in a bird or animal hide, a camouflaged shelter from which animals can be observed and a term which Corbett naturally uses a lot in his books as he sits over kills on the second day, as leopards are likely to return, if there is no disturbance in the area.  

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.62

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.63
Gin-traps are spring-loaded traps, illegal in the UK since 1958

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.69
Ibbotson and Corbett gets a leopard

It's interesting that Corbett didn't see himself as a writer as his stories still captivate. The leopard above was shot and paraded through the local villages, leading to many coming out of their houses, in the belief the right leopard had been caught. Corbett was not so sure. The following morning some men come to tell Corbett of another killing. It's obvious that by page 69 we are not finished, but the suspense works well even today! 

I wondered who the cameos of people are that appear on various pages - including the one below, and how Sheppard obtained portraits to draw from. perhaps this is the owner of the cow who was taken in Chapter 12?

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.71

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.72

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.79

The above is when Corbett and Ibbotson rush back to a house and bang on the door to be let in, having narrowly escaped disaster. the 12- 14 men inside give no reply, presumably scared like the rest of the villagers after dark. Corbett threatens to set alight to the thatch but is let in before that need arises. 


The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.82

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.85

Corbett writes so well that after tension we get diversionary stories, such as his watching a hunter on a distant peak chasing a boar, which breaks through undergrowth to swim the raging river. Or, his having heard there was good fishing to be had in the Mandakini River, and how he watches some locals using a net in a waterfall to catch fish. He then places himself at a pool and catches a big mahseer - a carp. Local are amazed and help him and the image below shows the boy who asked Corbett if he, the boy could parade it before the people of bazaar who "will think that I have caught this great fish, the like of which they have never seen".

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.90

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.95

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.102

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.106

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.107

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.115

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.127

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.128
Corbett mentions how animals in the jungle help him to track. The kakar is mentioned barking a lot (a muntjack deer), pheasants, cry out at the leopard's approach and above we see monkeys. 
The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.133
Gin-traps a

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.134
I like to think this is the salt and gur packman

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.140
Another diversion via a hunt for Red Kashmir deer

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.153
An instance of resistance - although the woman looses a leg

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.160
Corbett's man-eater meets another leopard

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.173
Two snakes fighting - one is 7 foot long

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - p.190
The ending

The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag - Endpapers showing map

I found a few original sources which mention the leopard - this one is easiest to read - although it gets Ibbotson's name wrong!

Englishman's Overland Mail 20 May 1926

Corbett and the leopard


The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag was first published in India in 1947 and 1948 in England. The first Sheppard illustrated version of this title was Oxford University Press, 1954. It was reprinted in an abridged form in Man against Man-Eaters (with 8 illustrations by Raymond Sheppard appearing from Man-eaters of Kumaon and The Man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag, -thanks Jerry Jaleel of Safari Books, for the information) - Oxford University Press, 1954. It has been reprinted several times.

The spot where the Rudraprayag Leopard was killed, and the Rigby .275 Rifle used by Corbett to kill the man-eater
(courtesy of Outdoor Life Magazine, NewYork and Jerry Jaleel).
 For a bibliography of Corbett's writings head over to Wikipedia. But be warned there are loads of editions published in many English editions, in the UK, USA and India, many of which do not have the illustrations by Sheppard. 

 Finally there are many Facebook groups on Corbett and his writings, and this one is a favourite


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