1. A Passion in The Desert


  1. 1. How did the French soldier escape? Where did he take refuge?

During Napoleon’s expeditions in Egypt a French soldier was taken captive by the Arab Africans or Moors. They took him beyond the Nile tied his hands and left him there. During their sleep at night, the French soldier took a dagger and a rifle and escaped on horseback. But on the way his horse died of fatigue. For quite some time, he walked on foot and reached a small green hill with palm trees where he stayed for the night. Being dead tired he instantly went to sleep. He was awakened early next morning by the rays of the sun. He wandered about the hill lonely and friendless. He cried in loneliness. He discovered a cave at the foot of the hill. It was quite safe for the night. Probably the cave had been used by some other party before him. Being tired he fell into deep sleep. 148


Q.2.     How did the French soldier come across a panther? How did he make friends       with him?

Or        Explain the relationship between the soldier and the lioness.

Or          Describe the emotional love between the soldier and the lioness.

During his sleep, at night, the soldier was disturbed by a strange noise in the cave. As he awoke up he was shocked to find a panther or lioness sleeping in the cave beside him. Her eyes were shining like two yellow lights. The soldier was horrified. He tried to kill the beast, but desisted. The beast moved gently towards him. Her mouth was blood-stained. Perhaps she had eaten the flesh of his horse. The soldier caressed the animal and moved his hand gently over its skin. In response the beast waved its tail. They had become friends. He named her Mignonne after his beloved’s name. The panther responded at the call of Mignonne. One day when the soldier ran towards the Nile for sight seeing the animal followed him. When he was stuck in the sand, the beast drew him out. He played with her as his dog.  In excitement she began to move her tail and purr. Soon she began to rub her body against his leg like a cat. She was expressing her love for the writer. After some time she began to lick his boots. Thus she proved his companion in the desert. 197


  1. 3. Why did the soldier kill the panther? (P.U.96)

Or       They ended as all great passions do end by misunderstanding. Elaborate. Or

            “it was as though I had murdered a real person”

Or       It was panther not he soldier who wins in the matter of love. Elaborate

The panther was the soldier’s only companion in the wilderness. Out of love, he gave her the name of his sweetheart in France, Mignonne. Although she had never tried to attack or threaten him, yet he always kept his hand on his dagger.

One day when he was playing with the panther as usual, she caught hold of his leg in her teeth. He feared that she was going to kill him. He, therefore, stabbed his dagger into her throat. After uttering a cry of pain she died. He regretted over his haste and folly. There arose a conflict in his mind — whether she wanted to kill him or not. Perhaps she did not want to kill him. Her death saddened him as the death of a human being. But what was done in haste could not be undone. He was prepared to sacrifice everything to restore her to life, but it was impossible to do so. 157

  1. 4. What does make the story a tragedy? (P.U.95-S)

“A tragedy is a play or a story of a serious or solemn kind with a sad ending.” The story can be studied in the light of this definition.

Firstly, the story is of a serious or solemn kind. It is about a French soldier who is taken captive by Egyptian Arab Muslims in Egypt. They tie his hands and then go ahead after leaving him on a hill. During this absence he escapes on a horseback towards his army, but loses the way. His horse dies of fatigue and he is forced to take refuge in
a cave. He goes to sleep, but at about midnight he is shocked to find a panther in the cave. Initially he is afraid of the panther lest she should attack him, but later she expresses love for him as he pats her.

Thus the story deals with a serious theme. There is nothing funny or humorous about it. The story has a tragic ending as the French soldier kills the panther with his dagger when the panther one day holds his leg in his sharp teeth. He did it against his will as he regrets at his hasty act. The panther was his only loving companion in wilderness. He felt very restless after killing the panther. Now he was as alone as before. 221


  1. 5. What does the title of the story stand for? How is the story a fantasy?

Or       Do you think it is a military story or a fantasy? 2002-II

The title of the story “A Passion in the Desert” means the French soldier’s passion of love for the panther. He called her Mignonne after the name of his sweetheart. The soldier was first of all afraid of the panther, but later a passion of love developed between them. The soldier patted the panther lovingly and kindly. The panther, in response, waved her tail and licked his feet. Passion may stand for the soldier’s and panther’s love for each other.

A “fantasy” is an unrealistic or fantastic story. The story is a fantasy in the sense that the love or passion of a human being for a beast is quite unrealistic and unnatural.

A beast is naturally and instinctively man’s enemy, unless it is tamed.  It attacks man whenever it finds a chance. But in the story we are surprised to find a panther in the cave with the French soldier at night. The panther does not attack the soldier. Similarly the soldier too does not attack the panther at first sight. Out of fear, the soldier rubs her body with love and kindness. The panther also responds to his love by waging her tail and licking his feet.

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