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In a recent publication, the historian Paul Greenough addresses what he describes as the "standard environmental narrative" ("SEN") about the relationships between people and the forest in southern Asia-a narrative that casts the local forest-dwellers of the past as something akin to keepers or caretakers of the forest. Greenough observes that when he encounters this generic and romantic "SEN," he always wants to know where the wild animals are. Wildlife may seem thrilling and attractive to those who do not have to contend with it, but in the nineteenth century colonial Indian subcontinent, the animals of the forest were in constant battle with the villagers. The villagers thrived when the tigers and elephants were at bay, and they were horrified and demoralized when these creatures flourished, trampling crops and devouring the village women who carried firewood home from the woods. Indeed, when the wildlife gained sufficient ground, the villagers sometimes abandoned their homes, which were reclaimed by the trees and vines and their animal inhabitants.

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