For a year, the country is ruled by Napoleon III, all who can prosper. In the small town of Tarascon, in the south of France, lives the great Tartarin hunter, in whose garden grow baobabs and other exotic trees. The passion for hunting is shared by all fellow citizens of Tartaren, and although the game in the vicinity has long since been transferred, every Sunday the Tarascans arm themselves to the teeth and go out of town, where they fire at the cap – to the delight of local hats.
As a hunter for his cap, Tartaren has no equal, and the Tarasconers regard him as their leader. And only two “completely different nature” of the hero does not allow him to turn around. Possessing the soul of Don Quixote, Tartarin, having read the novels of Gustav Emar and Fenimore Cooper, is eager for deeds, but the “well-fed” and short-spirited body of Sancho Panza that is comfortable with shortcomings prevents the realization of great ideas. Therefore Tartaren lives in Tarascon without a break. However, one day he almost leaves for Shanghai. The idea of such an opportunity so shakes our hero, that he for a long time talks exclusively about Shanghai and the dangers of the life there, why it seems to everyone in the city that he has already visited there. After all, in fact, what a difference, in fact, he made this trip or not, most importantly, tell all about everything!
After a while, Tartaren performs the second glorified feat of his own – taming the ferocious Atlas lion from the zoo of the visiting circus. The lion, sitting in a cage, growls threateningly at the hero, but he is unstoppable as a rock. The admiring spectators gasp, and throughout the city a rumor spread that Tartarin goes to Africa to hunt lions.
But time goes by, and Tartarin does not leave. Urban boys impudently sing the couplets, casting doubt on the courage of the great hunter. And the poor Tartaren-Don Quixote, despite the violent resistance of Tartarena-Sancho, decides to go.
And here comes the solemn day. Tarasconians from the early morning pour into the streets to see how their countryman departs for the country of lions. In an Algerian costume and a huge fez, Tartarin majestically follows his baggage, consisting of many boxes, bales and various newfangled devices for hunting.
On December 1, the fearless Tartaren arrives at the port of Marseilles and is loaded onto the Zouave packet boat, sailing to Algeria.
During the voyage, when everyone around is drinking champagne and playing cards, the valiant Tartarin in his cabin is paralyzed with seasickness. Finally the ship gets to the shore, and Tartarin rises to the deck. Here he meets the Montenegrin prince who recommends himself as a connoisseur of local customs and Arabic. While Tartaren looks around, negro-porters climb to the deck, and Tartarin, taking them for the corsairs, rushes to them with a dagger. Captain Bar-bassu explains to the enraged hero his mistake.
Going ashore, Tartaren feels the most frustrating disappointment: instead of a fairy-tale town, he sees habitual houses, pavement, coffee shops, full of soldiers and ladies of easy virtue. It seems to him that he did not leave France. Tired of moving and impressing, Tartarin, accompanied by porters, goes to the hotel, falls on the bed and falls asleep.
The next day the hero wakes up with a firm intention to go hunting. With difficulty having made his way on the streets crowded with carts and camels, he goes out of town, where he meets hunters. But alas! – their bags are stuffed with rabbits and snipes, and nobody heard about lions. Before darkness, Tartarin wanders through a wild desert, overgrown with bizarre plants, like bristling animals. At night, a great hunter, wanting to lure a lion, overcomes fear and bleats a kid. And immediately next to him there is the silhouette of a huge beast. Tartarin shoots, and in response to him comes a deaf roar. Taking the fighting stance, Tartarin waits for the lioness, but she does not appear.
While Tartaren is trying to establish an improved tent, he begins to grow light, and with the first rays of the sun, the hunter discovers that he is located among the beds with artichokes, and not far from him lies a donkey killed by him at night, called by the locals “Vistula”. To Tartaren hastens the enraged mistress of the donkey, and our hero hardly pays off from it.
The first failure does not discourage Tartaren. But soon he forgets a living creature for a long time, because he falls in love with a Berberiiku. For days he picks around the city, trying to find his beautiful stranger, “about whom he knows nothing but the smell of shoes and eye color! Only the insanely in love Tarascan is able... to venture on such an adventure.”
Unexpectedly to the aid of Tartaren comes Providence in the image of Montenegrin prince Grigory, for which our hero pays a card debt. The prince looks for the Tartarin Mauritanian. The girl’s name is Bahia, she does not speak French, she is guarded by a ferocious brother who needs to be cajoled by buying more pipes from him. Tartaren boxes buy pipes, and he is admitted to the house of the beautiful Mauritanian. True, she seems to Tartaren somewhat thicker and smaller than his amazing beauty, which amazed his imagination, but in general it’s not bad either.
Tartaren removes a house for his beloved, and from now on his life is filled with “a hookah, a bath and love.” Since the girl does not speak French, only local people and Prince Grigory go to visit them. They all eat Tartaren jam, smoke his tobacco, and by evening they bow out.
One day, while driving past the coffee shop, Tartarin notices Captain Barbas. The captain expresses the seditious idea that Bahia speaks excellent French, and at the same time advises Tartaren to stay away from Montenegrin princes. From the captain’s scrap of newspaper, the fearless hunter recognizes how grieved Tarascon is by the lack of news of his great countryman. And, by the way, where are the skins of lions?
After reading the note, the Tarascan turns pale: Don Quixote awakens in him. Tartaren throws off the turban and shoes and in the creaky diligence goes to the south of the country – to hunt lions! Having landed in one of the settlements, he finally encounters a lion – an old sick animal holding a bowl for alms in his teeth. Covered with righteous anger, Tartaren wants to free the proud beast, but here the negroes with truncheons come running, and only Prince Prince Gregory comes in from time to rescue the unlucky Tarascon from the scrap.
The next day Tartarin, accompanied by the prince, goes hunting for lions. For his numerous baggage, Tartaren has to buy a camel. Our hero travels farther south, but there are no lions. In every village for him festivities are held, for which he pays the bills. Finally, Tartaren arranges a night ambush in the oleander grove, and so that the lion does not inadvertently break his wallet in case of an attack, the Tarascan gives it to the prince for preservation. In the morning in the camp of Tartarena there is only a camel waiting. The prince disappeared with the purse. “For a whole month, His Highness was waiting for such a case” … Tartaren is shocked, but then a lion jumps out at him. Bach! Bach! Done… Alas, it was the same lion that collected donations.
The trial begins. Tartaren gets to know one more aspect of Algeria’s life – with the world of judicial and suspicious solicitors, doing their business in cheap coffee shops. The unfortunate lion fighter is sentenced to a fine and, in order to scrape together the money, he sells his luggage. After paying a fine, Tartaren has only the skin of a lion and a camel. After carefully packing the skin, he sends it to Tarascon. Attempts to sell a camel have no success.
Tartaren on foot goes to Algeria, the camel faithfully follows him. The closer the hero comes to the city, the more he wants to get rid of the camel. Finally he manages to hide from him.
In the city, he goes to his beauty’s house, where another surprise awaits him: Captain Barbasu is sitting in the courtyard, and next to him Bahia, who does not know how to assure him, not a word of French, merrily singing French verses…
Barbas tells Tartaren that his prince has jailed for fraud, so that the great hunter will not return his money, However, the kindest Barbas agrees to take the hero to Marseilles. As he climbs onto the deck, Tartarin sees a loyal dromedary floating next to him. Touched by this spectacle, the captain takes the animal aboard.
Landed in Marseilles, Tartarin goes to the station and sits on the train. Looking out the window, he discovers that the camel is riding alongside the train. Oh, grief to Tartaren! He returns from the expedition without a single sous… but with a camel!
Hardly Tartarin leaves the train in his native Tarascon, as the vaults of the station are greeted with a cheerful roar: “Long live Tartarin – the lion fighter!” The reason for all this sensation is the skin of a blind lion, so successfully sent by Tartarin to his homeland… The hero instantly cheers, patronizes the dromedary that has slipped to him patronizingly and prowls proudly home, surrounded by admiring hunters for their cap. And already along the road it is accepted to talk about his extraordinary adventures…