[Tiger Being: Zoomorphism in Borges’ Dreamtigers / Alex Ender]

In “Dreamtigers,” Jorge Luis Borges denotes the memory and yearning for animal being in his spirit animal: the tiger. This ideal of a tiger, not to be mistaken for a jungle laden jaguar, weaves itself throughout his dreams and as a result into his waking consciousness. The images of an Asiatic tiger in a zoo, seen in his childhood, and illustrations from an array of books have yet to escape his memory where more normally familiar memories have. Overall, his dreams, his attempts to conjure the wild beast he identifies with, do no justice to his desire for animal being—the tiger appears but without a fully satisfying form.

I too sympathize with Borges wanting an encounter with the idealization of his spirit animal. I have dreamed of bats for many years. Similarly, any time I have spent at a zoo is taken up with mostly watching the bats fly, socialize, or sleep in upside-down splendor. I could not fathom an animal that I would want to be more surrounded by, or to be itself. In my room, I have collected stuffed bats, bat skeletons, bat drawings, bat tattoos—all of varying shapes and incarnations. I look at them in the same way, wanting them to become real, not satisfied by the idea I have of bats in comparison to what I see. The only time I came close was in a psychic reading where my eyes were closed and I felt myself darting through the air in a cave. It was similarly dream-like, but it gave me a different understanding of the animal. To that effect, writing about bats is the only way I have achieved this kind of closeness, this kind of animal being.

While all this time spent reflecting on such animals may seem to require a visit to a psychiatrist, I perceive these animal semblances to be a part of natural zoomorphism. To be sure, animals are inherently kin, and they historically have often shown up in artistic endeavors. Accordingly, within “Dreamtigers,” Borges admits to failing to bring that art to life in his dreams: “Oh, incompetence! Never can my dreams engender the wild beast I long for.” Even though Borges claims he remembers clearly the tiger of his childhood, every tiger he creates in dreams and in waking consciousness falls short with impurities.

What is most curious is how Borges has successfully—in my comparisons with personal identification—implanted the image of the tiger on the page, as if becoming the tiger he has painted through the writing of this piece. The admitted trouble of not being able to willfully create his vision of a pure tiger in his dreams seems to give him the closest to tiger being that he craves. Although Borges is not directly attributing himself with tiger features such as growling or stalking, the way he tries to manipulate his dreams into a tiger projection indicates that he himself has a tiger-like power and will, one that is insatiable with lesser illusions of the spirit animal. Thus, while writing is the form he uses to express the incompetence of not being able to conjure the tiger, it is also Borges’ method of properly facing the tiger not only as “a man of war, on a castle atop an elephant,” but by zoomorphing into the tiger’s image himself on the page.


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