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Are Tigers Yellow or Orange?

In a recent social media post, I questioned whether tigers are yellow or orange as part of my work on a picture book about colors. Surprisingly, most people said ‘orange,’ but I’ve always pictured them as yellow!
This got me thinking about why I associate tigers with the colour yellow. It might be because of my favourite childhood book, “Little Black Sambo,” where the tigers turn into butter. Could this be why I associate tigers with the colour yellow? 🤔
Japanese edition of "Little Black Sambo"
Japanese edition of "Little Black Sambo"
“Little Black Sambo” is a story about a clever boy named Sambo. Sambo encounters four hungry tigers, and he gives up his colourful new clothes, shoes and umbrella so that they will not eat him. The tigers are vain and each thinks that it is better dressed than the others. They have a massive argument and end up chasing each other until they melt into butter. 
Despite the popularity of “Little Black Sambo,” it faced criticism for racial stereotypes and was removed from the market in 1988.

The book’s removal prompted the release of new versions in the US, such as “The Story of Little Babaji” and “Sam and Tigers.” (Read an interesting article by The Washington Post about how these two titles came about.

However, in Japan, the book took a different path. Even after going out of print in 1988, voices clamored for a reprint. In 2005, Zuiunsha decided to republish it in its original form, asserting that there was no discriminatory content or language expression.
While the book remains a subject of debate in the West, especially in the US, where it is widely considered irredeemably racist, in Japan, it’s seen differently due to distinct historical contexts.
In my personal view, labelling something as racist doesn’t eliminate racism. True change requires a shift in mindset, embracing differences, and fostering understanding. Banning a book doesn’t contribute to genuine change; open discussions and empathy are key.
The Story of Little Babaji
"The Story of Little Babaji"
"Sam and the Tigers"
Anyhow, “Little Black Sambo” has had a lasting impact on my life, not due to its name or portrayal but because of the scene where tigers chase each other and turn into butter at the end. This somehow imprinted in me the belief that tigers are yellow! Undoubtedly, it’s a wonderful story.


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