The poem, “The Huntsman” is about two different approaches of Kagwa and that of the king. Kagwa, the brave hunter of lions is credulous whereas the king is scrupulous. Kagwa lacks know the art of talking and understanding the hidden meaning of words. His approach is superficial and is hunted by his own fate, as fate does not give a justification for someone’s death. Here Kagwa’s fate provides him a skull.
Kagwa is killed as he sued to kill animals without reason. Kagwa is given an unexpected reward in terms of his own death. The poem gives the moral lesson to us first speak less, second, we should think before we speak, third, we should not be hasty in matters. Kagwa learns a lesson at the cost of his own life while we should learn the lesson without loss, the folly of one person may be the wisdom of another person.
Kagwa was a very tactful hunter. He successfully killed the lions with the help of his sword and spear, while hiding himself behind thick bushes and trees. One day while on a hunting trip, he found a talking skull. When he asked the skull, how did she come there? She replied talking brought her there.
This was a miraculous discovery for the hunter. So he hurried to the king’s court and told him about the talking skull, expecting to win his favor and prize, etc. But instead, the king expressed strong doubts about the truth of the tale. He ordered two of his guards to accompany the hunter and confirm the truth of his discovery. The king also instructed them to kill him if he failed to prove his claim.
The guards went to the forest accompanied by Kagwa. They found the skull after the search of many days but the skull did not answer any of the Kagwa’s questions. He entreated the skull earnestly to speak and save him, but the skull remained silent. The guards immediately acted upon the instructions of the king and cut off Kagwa’s head by their sword and spear.
After his death, the skull opened its mouth and asked the hunter, how did he come there? The hunter replied, ‘Talking brought me here’. Thus the truth of wisdom proved at the cost of hunter’s life.
Explanation with Reference
Kagwa hunted the lion
Through bush and forest went his spear
One day he found the skull of a man
And said to it, “How did you come here”?
The skull opened its mouth and said
‘Talking brought me here’.
The given lines throw light on the character of Kagwa, the tactful hunter. He is a brave fellow as he is a hunter of lions. He is an exact marksman as his spear goes through bush and woods to kill the prey. By chance, he happens to find the human skull. Strange enough he asks questions to the skull. To the reader’s surprise, the skull responds him that talkative nature brought it there. It makes Kagwa curious and he decides to inform the king about it. But Kagwa fails to understand the hidden irony that he will also meet the same end because of talking aimlessly. We find Kagwa a brave hunter but he lacks discretion in talking. He cannot peep deeper into human matters. SO Kagwa appears physically strong but mentally weak as human conversation demand wisdom.
The king called out his guards
‘Two of you go with him
And find the talking skull;
But if his tale is a lie
And the skulls peaks no word,
This Kagwa himself must die’
The given lines throw light on the personality of the king. Following the stately manners, the king would like to confirm the statement of Kagwa. The king is a sagacious and foresighted person. He understands well how to tackle affairs of the state. He does not want let anybody make the court a center of intrigues and falsehood. Though Kagwa has seen a talking skull but there is no other witness of his report. It must be testified. At present it is a rumor and such rumor must be uprooted completely. The king plays the double role, first uproots falsehood, and second makes people careful about matters. That is why, he appoints guards with strict orders that find the speaking skull, if not, kill the huntsman there and then.
The guards said ‘Kneel down’
They killed him with sword and spear
Then the skull opened its mouth;
‘Huntsman, how did you come here?’
And the dead man answered:
“Talking brought me here”
The given lines depict the tragic end of Kagwa. The irony of the poem is clear in these lines. Kagwa, the brave hunter of lions, is hunted due to his own folly. He hopes to get reward from the king but instead he receives his own death. The hunter of lions, Kagwa could not get the meanings of the speaking skull. Now he gets the hidden meanings of the skull but at the cost of his own life. Both the skull and the huntsman happen to be in the forest because of talking. Kagwa was required to keep silent but instead he spoke out.
Irony in “The Huntsman”
“The Huntsman” is replete with the elements of suspense and irony. It is based on Keyan folk’s lore which conveys moral lessons. Suspense and irony play a vital role in this poem. The reader is captured by suspense in the sense of what may come next. The suspense arises when Kagwa finds a human skull and poses its questions. Kagwa’s questioning raises many questions in readers’ minds about how a person may talk to a dead object. To the reader’s utter surprise, the skull speaks out. It gives answers to the questions of Kagwa. Now, this thing mesmerizes the reader as to how a skull can speak. While in the latter half of the poem, the skull does not speak. WHen Kagwa’s life is at the stake and the speaking skull could save the life of Kagwa but it speaks nothing.
Furthermore, the poem also carries tragic irony. The answer of the skull “Talking brought me here” is full of a tinge of irony. Kagwa fails to understand the hidden meanings of the skull’s answer. He comes to know the reality of talking skull at the cost of his own life. Had Kagwa read between the lines, he would not have suffered the tragic end? However, the poem has a moral lesson, think before you speak. If speech is silver, silence is gold.
Fate in the light of “The Huntsman”
Fate is nothing but man’s weakness and lack of understanding. Whatever remains beyond the understanding of man’s is given to fate. So man’s struggle and role of fate go side by side. Many times, it happens that steps taken by man recoil on him unconsciously. Actions go to rejection and the desired results remain a dream for the man who undertakes challenges. Past is painful, present is pinching and future remains uncertain for such person.
This is the mystery of life and it is tarnished by the tinge of irony where there is no clarity. This is what happens with Kagwa. Skilled, brave, marksman, undaunted hunter Kagwa falls the victim to his own fate. He fails to understand the meanings of the speaking skull. He is a hunter but is hunted ruthlessly due to his own folly. The speaking skull is his hidden fate. He lacks discretion in speech. He is shortsighted, credulous, and is not well-versed in worldly matters. Hidden meanings of the skull’s statement remain beyond his understanding till he meets his tragic end. Thus fate determines his course of events but actions are Kagwa’s own.