The Painted Jackal

Informant: JS

Ethnicity: Pakistani

Primary Language: English

Age: 21

Text: [JS] This is the story of the Painted Jackal. It’s a fairly simple story. Basically, a jackal finds a bucket of paint and rolls around in it, turning it colorful. Then it goes back home and announces to its family that it is no longer a jackal because it is too colorful. Their family asks what they should be called, and the jackal replies that it is a peacock. But his family says: “Peacocks can spread their tails and look very pretty? Can you do that? ” And the jackal says no. Then the family says “Peacocks can sing and make a lovely bird call. Can you do that?” And the jackal says no. Then the family says “Then if you are not a jackal, then neither are you a peacock,” and they kick him out.

Context: [JS] This is a classic Pakistani fairy tale. I’m honestly not sure what it means, maybe that it isn’t worth pretending to be something you’re not? That who you are born as is something you can’t change.

Analysis: The story of the Painted Jackal is likely trying to teach children a lesson about the importance of being true to your identity. The jackal’s decision to cover itself in paint and pretend to be a peacock could represent the desire to change oneself in order to be accepted and admired based on appearance; however, the jackal’s family points out that the jackal does not possess any of the key qualities of a peacock, emphasizing that one’s identity goes beyond simply surface-level characteristics. Through this tale, children can learn that trying to be someone that they are not will ultimately lead to rejection and disappointment, and should instead embrace themselves for who they are. Childhood is an influential point of time in people’s lives because it is part of their early development stages, and so learning this lesson early on is important in order to form a strong sense of identity, self-acceptance and community in later stages of life.