The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
12.3 (Summer 2012)
courtesy of artrenewal.org
Aesop’s Fables and the Indian Panchatantra
Many literary resources are now available virtually free online–a great boon to home-educators, who may often have little money left over for expensive textbooks after paying hefty taxes to support schools not patronized by their children. Animal fables are always easily introduced to young readers. As texts for older children, however, they should be examined more critically, for their undercurrent of ruthless, survival-of-the-fittest morality is hardly proper teaching for the nursery. Why have so many literary traditions from so many times and places nevertheless treated such tales as children’s fare? The reasons are discussed at length in the editor’s introduction to the Panchatantra selections; the editorial comments directly below about Aesop stress that social tensions are at work under the surface of guileless fantasy.
To be very brief, it seems that literate collectors of fables told among the non-literate folk of the hinterlands probably did not (and indeed could not) appreciate how such stories allegorize the bitter struggles of a very hard life–a life in which the peasant dare not complain about his landlord openly. Such a protest would be veiled as the little sparrow’s struggle against the hawk, perhaps. The collector (and this scenario fully fits our tradition’s beloved Grimm Brothers, of course) returns to the city with his curiosities and decides to present them to his reading public as children’s tales, his logic being that material so full of charming but outrageous fantasy could only have been intended for very young, naive eyes. Frequently this “author” will go so far as to append moral lessons to each fable–perhaps his one completely original contribution to the volume. (Almost all of the Panchatantra stories have one of these little banners streaming at their conclusion, gaudy but not especially color-coordinated with the narrative’s pessimistic undertones.) The works in question proceed to enter literary history as pristine children’s fiction. In their earthy origins, however, they are anything but child-like.
Online packaging may indeed magnify this Kindergarten appearance with such adornment as “cute” illustrations. Both of the websites from which we drew our selections abound in such gestures. They merely follow in the footsteps of the literary tradition in so doing. The site from which our century-old translation of Aesop has been retrieved, by the way, has apparently been lost in the dozens of such sites, so we merely give credit to Vernon Jones.
The source of our Panchatantra text is http://www.culturalindia.net/indian-folktales/panchatantra-tales/, and we have also excerpted from the site’s introduction.
Our own introductory matter has been printed in a maroon font. The contributors are sharing notes actually used in lower-division college survey courses.
Greek, 620-564 B.C.
TRANSLATION BY V. S. VERNON JONES
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: A Ruthless Ethos Beneath Child-like Simplicity
No good deed goes unpunished in most varieties of folklore. This is especially true of animal fables, which can be quite literally “dog eat dog.”
Large, powerful animals—lions, bears, etc.—tend to occupy a status in this fantastical world corresponding to the aristocrat’s. Tiny, witless animals—the mouse, the frog, etc.—tend to suggest the social bottom rung where those without hope or resources cling. Small, clever animals like the fox suggest those who can better their lot without benefit of inherited privilege.
Clever survivors and profiteers in this world, while their roots remain tribal (e.g., a jackdaw can’t change its feathers), recognize that traditional virtues like resignation are an encumbrance. P.S.
THE FOX AND THE CROW
A Crow was sitting on a branch of a tree with a piece of cheese in her beak when a Fox observed her and set his wits to work to discover some way of getting the cheese. Coming and standing under the tree he looked up and said, “What a noble bird I see above me! Her beauty is without equal, the hue of her plumage exquisite. If only her voice is as sweet as her looks are fair, she ought without doubt to be Queen of the Birds.” The Crow was hugely flattered by this, and just to show the Fox that she could sing she gave a loud caw. Down came the cheese, of course, and the Fox, snatching it up, said, “You have a voice, madam, I see: what you want is wits.”
THE GOODS AND THE ILLS
There was a time in the youth of the world when Goods and Ills entered equally into the concerns of men, so that the Goods did not prevail to make them altogether blessed, nor the Ills to make them wholly miserable. But owing to the foolishness of mankind the Ills multiplied greatly in number and increased in strength, until it seemed as though they would deprive the Goods of all share in human affairs, and banish them from the earth. The latter, therefore, betook themselves to heaven and complained to Jupiter of the treatment they had received, at the same time praying him to grant them protection from the Ills, and to advise them concerning the manner of their intercourse with men. Jupiter granted their request for protection, and decreed that for the future they should not go among men openly in a body, and so be liable to attack from the hostile Ills, but singly and unobserved, and at infrequent and unexpected intervals. Hence it is that the earth is full of Ills, for they come and go as they please and are never far away; while Goods, alas! come one by one only, and have to travel all the way from heaven, so that they are very seldom seen.
THE APES AND THE TWO TRAVELERS
Two men were travelling together, one of whom never spoke the truth, whereas the other never told a lie: and they came in the course of their travels to the land of Apes. The King of the Apes, hearing of their arrival, ordered them to be brought before him; and by way of impressing them with his magnificence, he received them sitting on a throne, while the Apes, his subjects, were ranged in long rows on either side of him. When the Travellers came into his presence he asked them what they thought of him as a King. The lying Traveller said, “Sire, every one must see that you are a most noble and mighty monarch.” “And what do you think of my subjects?” continued the King. “They,” said the Traveller, “are in every way worthy of their royal master.” The Ape was so delighted with his answer that he gave him a very handsome present. The other Traveller thought that if his companion was rewarded so splendidly for telling a lie, he himself would certainly receive a still greater reward for telling the truth; so, when the Ape turned to him and said, “And what, sir, is your opinion?” he replied, “I think you are a very fine Ape, and all your subjects are fine Apes too.” The King of the Apes was so enraged at his reply that he ordered him to be taken away and clawed to death.
THE MOUSE, THE FROG, AND THE HAWK
A Mouse and a Frog struck up a friendship; they were not well mated, for the Mouse lived entirely on land, while the Frog was equally at home on land or in the water. In order that they might never be separated, the Frog tied himself and the Mouse together by the leg with a piece of thread. As long as they kept on dry land all went fairly well; but, coming to the edge of a pool, the Frog jumped in, taking the Mouse with him, and began swimming about and croaking with pleasure. The unhappy Mouse, however, was soon drowned, and floated about on the surface in the wake of the Frog. There he was spied by a Hawk, who pounced down on him and seized him in his talons. The Frog was unable to loose the knot which bound him to the Mouse, and thus was carried off along with him and eaten by the Hawk.
THE FROGS ASKING FOR A KING
Time was when the Frogs were discontented because they had no one to rule over them: so they sent a deputation to Jupiter to ask him to give them a King. Jupiter, despising the folly of their request, cast a log into the pool where they lived, and said that that should be their King. The Frogs were terrified at first by the splash, and scuttled away into the deepest parts of the pool; but by and by, when they saw that the log remained motionless, one by one they ventured to the surface again, and before long, growing bolder, they began to feel such contempt for it that they even took to sitting upon it. Thinking that a King of that sort was an insult to their dignity, they sent to Jupiter a second time, and begged him to take away the sluggish King he had given them, and to give them another and a better one. Jupiter, annoyed at being pestered in this way, sent a Stork to rule over them, who no sooner arrived among them than he began to catch and eat the Frogs as fast as he could.
THE LION AND THE BOAR
One hot and thirsty day in the height of summer a Lion and a Boar came down to a little spring at the same moment to drink. In a trice they were quarrelling as to who should drink first. The quarrel soon became a fight and they attacked one another with the utmost fury. Presently, stopping for a moment to take breath, they saw some vultures seated on a rock above evidently waiting for one of them to be killed, when they would fly down and feed upon the carcase. The sight sobered them at once, and they made up their quarrel, saying, “We had much better be friends than fight and be eaten by vultures.”
THE TORTOISE AND THE EAGLE
A Tortoise, discontented with his lowly life, and envious of the birds he saw disporting themselves in the air, begged an Eagle to teach him to fly. The Eagle protested that it was idle for him to try, as nature had not provided him with wings; but the Tortoise pressed him with entreaties and promises of treasure, insisting that it could only be a question of learning the craft of the air. So at length the Eagle consented to do the best he could for him, and picked him up in his talons. Soaring with him to a great height in the sky he then let him go, and the wretched Tortoise fell headlong and was dashed to pieces on a rock.
THE FOX WITHOUT A TAIL
A fox once fell into a trap, and after a struggle managed to get free, but with the loss of his brush. He was then so much ashamed of his appearance that he thought life was not worth living unless he could persuade the other Foxes to part with their tails also, and thus divert attention from his own loss. So he called a meeting of all the Foxes, and advised them to cut off their tails: “They’re ugly things anyhow,” he said, “and besides they’re heavy, and it’s tiresome to be always carrying them about with you.” But one of the other Foxes said, “My friend, if you hadn’t lost your own tail, you wouldn’t be so keen on getting us to cut off ours.”
THE VAIN JACKDAW
Jupiter announced that he intended to appoint a king over the birds, and named a day on which they were to appear before his throne, when he would select the most beautiful of them all to be their ruler. Wishing to look their best on the occasion they repaired to the banks of a stream, where they busied themselves in washing and preening their feathers. The Jackdaw was there along with the rest, and realised that, with his ugly plumage, he would have no chance of being chosen as he was: so he waited till they were all gone, and then picked up the most gaudy of the feathers they had dropped, and fastened them about his own body, with the result that he looked gayer than any of them. When the appointed day came, the birds assembled before Jupiter’s throne; and, after passing them in review, he was about to make the Jackdaw king, when all the rest set upon the king-elect, stripped him of his borrowed plumes, and exposed him for the Jackdaw that he was.
THE STAG AT THE POOL
A thirsty Stag went down to a pool to drink. As he bent over the surface he saw his own reflection in the water, and was struck with admiration for his fine spreading antlers, but at the same time he felt nothing but disgust for the weakness and slenderness of his legs. While he stood there looking at himself, he was seen and attacked by a Lion; but in the chase which ensued, he soon drew away from his pursuer, and kept his lead as long as the ground over which he ran was open and free of trees. But coming presently to a wood, he was caught by his antlers in the branches, and fell a victim to the teeth and claws of his enemy. “Woe is me!” he cried with his last breath; “I despised my legs, which might have saved my life: but I gloried in my horns, and they have proved my ruin.”
THE MICE AND THE WEASELS
There was war between the Mice and the Weasels, in which the Mice always got the worst of it, numbers of them being killed and eaten by the Weasels. So they called a council of war, in which an old Mouse got up and said, “It’s no wonder we are always beaten, for we have no generals to plan our battles and direct our movements in the field.” Acting on his advice, they chose the biggest Mice to be their leaders, and these, in order to be distinguished from the rank and file, provided themselves with helmets bearing large plumes of straw. They then led out the Mice to battle, confident of victory: but they were defeated as usual, and were soon scampering as fast as they could to their holes. All made their way to safety without difficulty except the leaders, who were so hampered by the badges of their rank that they could not get into their holes, and fell easy victims to their pursuers.
THE ASS AND THE OLD PEASANT
An old Peasant was sitting in a meadow watching his Ass, which was grazing close by, when all of a sudden he caught sight of armed men stealthily approaching. He jumped up in a moment, and begged the Ass to fly with him as fast as he could, “Or else,” said he, “we shall both be captured by the enemy.” But the Ass just looked round lazily and said, “And if so, do you think they’ll make me carry heavier loads than I have to now?” “No,” said his master. “Oh, well, then,” said the Ass, “I don’t mind if they do take me, for I shan’t be any worse off.”
THE OX AND THE FROG
Two little Frogs were playing about at the edge of a pool when an Ox came down to the water to drink, and by accident trod on one of them and crushed the life out of him. When the old Frog missed him, she asked his with brother where he was. “He is dead, mother,” said the little Frog; “an enormous big creature with four legs came to our pool this morning and trampled him down in the mud.” “Enormous, was he? Was he as big as this?” said the Frog, puffing herself out to look as big as possible. “Oh! yes, _much_ bigger,” was the answer. The Frog puffed herself out still more. “Was he as big as this?” said she. “Oh! yes, yes, mother, _MUCH_ bigger,” said the little Frog. And yet again she puffed and puffed herself out till she was almost as round as a ball. “As big as…?” she began—but then she burst.
THE LION, THE BEAR, AND THE FOX
A Lion and a Bear were fighting for possession of a kid, which they had both seized at the same moment. The battle was long and fierce, and at length both of them were exhausted, and lay upon the ground severely wounded and gasping for breath. A Fox had all the time been prowling round and watching the fight: and when he saw the combatants lying there too weak to move, he slipped in and seized the kid, and ran off with it. They looked on helplessly, and one said to the other, “Here we’ve been mauling each other all this while, and no one the better for it except the Fox!”
THE LION AND THE WILD ASS
A Lion and a Wild Ass went out hunting together: the latter was to run down the prey by his superior speed, and the former would then come up and dispatch it. They met with great success; and when it came to sharing the spoil the Lion divided it all into three equal portions. “I will take the first,” said he, “because I am King of the beasts; I will also take the second, because, as your partner, I am entitled to half of what remains; and as for the third—well, unless you give it up to me and take yourself off pretty quick, the third, believe me, will make you feel very sorry for yourself!”
THE WOLF, THE MOTHER, AND HER CHILD
A hungry Wolf was prowling about in search of food. By and by, attracted by the cries of a Child, he came to a cottage. As he crouched beneath the window, he heard the Mother say to the Child, “Stop crying, do! or I’ll throw you to the Wolf.” Thinking she really meant what she said, he waited there a long time in the expectation of satisfying his hunger. In the evening he heard the Mother fondling her Child and saying, “If the naughty Wolf comes, he shan’t get my little one: Daddy will kill him.” The Wolf got up in much disgust and walked away: “As for the people in that house,” said he to himself, “you can’t believe a word they say.”
THE LIONESS AND THE VIXEN
A Lioness and a Vixen were talking together about their young, as mothers will, and saying how healthy and well-grown they were, and what beautiful coats they had, and how they were the image of their parents. “My litter of cubs is a joy to see,” said the Fox; and then she added, rather maliciously, “But I notice you never have more than one.” “No,” said the Lioness grimly, “but that one’s a lion.”
THE CAT AND THE COCK
A Cat pounced on a Cock, and cast about for some good excuse for making a meal off him, for Cats don’t as a rule eat Cocks, and she knew she ought not to. At last she said, “You make a great nuisance of yourself at night by crowing and keeping people awake: so I am going to make an end of you.” But the Cock defended himself by saying that he crowed in order that men might wake up and set about the day’s work in good time, and that they really couldn’t very well do without him. “That may be,” said the Cat, “but whether they can or not, I’m not going without my dinner”; and she killed and ate him.
THE WOLF AND THE LION
A wolf stole a lamb from the flock, and was carrying it off to devour it at his leisure when he met a Lion, who took his prey away from him and walked off with it. He dared not resist, but when the Lion had gone some distance he said, “It is most unjust of you to take what’s mine away from me like that.” The Lion laughed and called out in reply, “It was justly yours, no doubt! The gift of a friend, perhaps, eh?”
THE LION AND THE THREE BULLS
Three Bulls were grazing in a meadow, and were watched by a Lion, who longed to capture and devour them, but who felt that he was no match for the three so long as they kept together. So he began by false whispers and malicious hints to foment jealousies and distrust among them. This stratagem succeeded so well that ere long the Bulls grew cold and unfriendly, and finally avoided each other and fed each one by himself apart. No sooner did the Lion see this than he fell upon them one by one and killed them in turn.
The quarrels of friends are the opportunities of foes.
The Panchatantra is a legendary collection of short stories from India. Originally composed in the 2nd century B.C, Panchatantra is believed to have been written by Vishnu Sharma along with many other scholars. The purpose behind the composition was to implant moral values and governing skills in the young sons of the king. The ancient Sanskrit text boasts of various animal stories in verse and prose. During all these centuries, many authors and publishers worked hard to make these fables accessible and readable to a layman. The grand assortment has extraordinary tales that are popular people of every age group.
The Panchatantra is an excellent means of rooting moral values in children since each tale has a moral lesson at the end. In the tales of the Panchtantra, plants and animals can speak, and they may even converse with human beings. The etymology of the term ‘Panchatantra’ suggests that it is a combination of two words, ‘Pancha’ (five) and ‘Tantra’ (practice/ principle). The five principles or practices illustrated by Panchatantra are ‘Mitra Bhedha’ (Loss of Friends), ‘Mitra Laabha’ (Gaining Friends), ‘Suhrudbheda’ (Causing discord between Friends), ‘Vigraha’ (Separation) and ‘Sandhi’ (Union). Here are provided some of the popular tales from Panchatantra. Online Discussion
The previous thumbnail description of the Panchatantra (whose wobbly English has been somewhat edited), drawn from one of many dozens of online sources, is a very typical assessment. It is not an incorrect one, either, as far as it goes; but the great liability of such treatments is that they accept the compiler’s packaging uncritically. Until the emergence of folklore studies during the last century, literate recorders have always treated the oral tales of the common people with a certain condescension. Grimm’s Fairy Tales is surely the single most famous example in our culture of such a collection: the literate audience immediately assumed that stories about benign sprites, evil elves, magic wands, talking animals, and so forth must be intended for children, since no sane adult would waste time on folderol of this sort. That the original transcriptions of the Grimm brothers contained elements of sadism, brutality, cynicism, misanthropy, and so forth did not pass entirely unnoticed. These most un-childlike qualities were quickly strained out of subsequent editions, making the collection fully suitable for the nursery.
Similarly, one finds online discussions of the Panchatantra overwhelmingly inclined to handle the work as instructive children’s fiction. (Sites often provide cartoon-like illustrations of lovable animals, and some have proceeded to full-scale animation.) We may say on behalf of such contemporary finessing that the chain of transcribers represented by the hazy figure Vishnusharman had already begun the work of “taming” the material. The title itself, as well as the morals often foisted upon individual tales, proves that an educational “spin” was intended. Equipped with what we know now about folkloric traditions, however, we should be able to perform a little reverse engineering in order to recover something like the pristine form of the stories. As told by the people—not the literate city populace of middle-class, up-and-coming merchants, but the farmers and fishermen who had never come close to writing—the tales would have had no tidy moral. The dialogues between animal-characters would no doubt have been less rhetorically florid. Most significantly, the dominant motives of the animals would likely have been less heavily draped in civility: the powerful would have manifested a blunt will to power, while the weak would have provided no explanation of their desire to survive another day.
For in their generative environment, these were not about good behavior: they were about survival. The world portrayed beneath their surface is not a mannerly one, but ruthless and competitive. The tribe has largely fallen apart under the lubrication of literacy. Those involved in exchanging goods for profit have tended to move toward urban centers and to revise their habits in the direction of strict record-keeping (if they do not themselves learn to write); while those who remain back on the farm or in the village are more likely to become tenants and drudges as their income remains stationary and they import no new skills into their hereditary craft. The former are the strong, and the latter are the weak. Folktales are told by the weak, then written down—without “tasteful” revision—by the strong.
We might describe the folkloric world proverbially as a “dog eat dog” setting. The metaphor is a happy one, in that it implies the origin of many animal fables. The pre-literate masses (now officially “illiterate”) lack the resources and technology to challenge the evolving power structure, so they are well advised to suffer in silence. Yet bottling up anxiety and frustration is easier said than done. Channeling such emotions into an innocuous story about a ruthless predator devouring a naïve (i.e., stupid) donkey who can only appeal to the defunct virtues of common decency and mercy does not create a revolutionary manifesto. It allows the truth to leak out, nonetheless—in a kind of code. Are there lessons to be learned, as well, within such grim self-expression? Perhaps. Hearing about the lion’s slaughter of the dull ass must surely have made the “little guy” feel better about cheating on his rent or poaching once in a while. The “lesson” would be to act as the fox: to cheat—to exploit the weaknesses both of the arrogant overlord and of the gullible ingénue. Almost every “hero” in the stories below has used his wits (the only sure weapon he has in the fight to survive) in some manipulative way or other, leaving someone else to pay the price of his unscrupulous deeds. That immortal American philosopher, Leo Durocher, encapsulated the folkloric ethos perfectly when he observed, “Nice guys finish last.”
It must be stressed that folklore does not call for class warfare. In its own way, it remains intensely traditional. The clever hero would become a king if he could—his ambition is not to end kingship. Precisely because these tales view the human condition as fixed, however, the trickster who would be king usually outfoxes himself, like Fierce Howl (Chandaraka) the jackal. The best policy is to remain where you are, which requires considerable energy and cunning in itself. ~ J. H.
The Ass Has No Brains
Once upon a time, there lived an old lion. The lion, the king of the forest had grown old. He became frail and due to this, he could not hunt for his food. Many a times, he didn’t get even a single animal to eat. With each passing day he became more and more weak. He realized that like this he could not live for long. Somehow, he had to manage for the food, otherwise he would definitely die. He thought that how could he arrange for his food? After much of the thought process, ultimately he decided that he should have an assistant.
The lion thought that a fox would be the best person to handle this position. He summoned the fox and said, “Dear friend, I have always liked you because you are intelligent and clever. I want to appoint you as my minister and advise me on all the affairs of the forest”. The old lion also asked the fox, that he was the king of the forest; so he should not have to hunt for his food. In respect to this, the fox’s first duty as minister was to bring him an animal to eat everyday.
The fox didn’t trust the lion, but he could not even refuse the king. The fox said, “Your Majesty, I am happy, that you have chosen me to serve you. I accept your offer”. The lion was pleased to hear such words. After the conversation, the fox went out to find an animal for the lion. On the way, he met a fat ass. The fox went to the ass, “Friend, where have you been all these days? I have been looking for you for the past many days”.
The ass asked, “Why? What happened? Is everything alright?” The fox replied, “I have got good news for you. You are very lucky. Our king, the lion has chosen you to be his chief minister. He asked me to meet you and inform you about his decision.” Ass was scared of the lion and said, “I am afraid of the lion. He might kill me and eat me up. Why has he chosen me as his chief minister? I don’t even fit enough to be a minister. “
The clever fox laughed and said, “Dear, you don’t know your great qualities. You have a special charm of your own. Our king is dying to meet you. He has chosen you because you are wise, gentle, and hard working. You must not lose your greatest chance in life. Now, come with me and meet our great king. He will be really happy to see you”. So, the poor ass was convinced and got ready to go along with the fox.
As soon as they reached the lion’s den, the ass got scared and refused to move forward. At this, the fox said to the lion, “Your majesty, the chief minister appears to be very shy and hesitates to come near you”. The lion himself came forward and said, “I like such modesty”. He limped towards the ass. The ass got so scared that he ran to save his life. The lion became angry and shouted at the fox, “You have played a trick on me. I was so hungry that I wanted to eat him at once. Go and bring that ass back. If you don’t, I will kill you.”
The fox replied,” Your Majesty, you were in a hurry. You should have left it to me, to bring him near enough. But I will try again”. The fox went back to the ass and said, “You are a funny fellow. Why did you run away like that?” The ass replied, “I was too scared. I thought that the lion was going to kill me”.
The fox said, “What a fool you are! If the king wanted to kill you, he would have done so. You could not have escaped by running away. The thing is, the king wanted to tell you a secret about the kingdom and he did not want me, to hear it. Now, what will he think about you? Doesn’t matter, Come with me and apologize for your mistake. You don’t realize that by serving the king, you will be the second most powerful animal of our forest. Imagine, all the other animals will respect you and seek favors from you.”
In this way, the fox managed to attract the ass to go back to the lion. When the fox and the ass approached, the lion was hungrier than ever. But this time he kept a smiling face and said, “Welcome, my dear friend. It was unkind of you to have run away like that. Come near me. You are my chief minister.” As and when the ass came closer, the lion pounced on him and killed him instantly. The lion thanked the clever fox and was happy to get the food.
As the lion sat down to take his meal, the fox said, “Your Majesty, I know you are very hungry and it is time for your dinner, but the king must take a bath before his meal”. The lion thought it was a good idea and said, “You are right. I should go and bathe first. You keep a watch on the carcass of the ass”.
The fox silently sat down to keep a watch of the ass. He was very hungry and thought to himself, “I took all the trouble of getting the ass here. It is I who deserve the best portion of the meal”. Thus, the fox cut open the head of the ass and ate up the whole brain. When the lion returned and looked at the ass, he felt that something was missing. He found that the head of the ass had been cut open. He inquired from the fox, “Who came here? What happened to the head of the ass?”
The fox pretended to be innocent and reminded the lion, “Your Majesty, You have given a powerful blow on the head of the ass when you killed him”. The lion was satisfied with the answer and sat down to take his meal. Suddenly, he shouted,” What happened to the ass’ brain? I wanted to eat the brain first”. The fox smilingly replied, “Your Majesty, Asses have no brains. If this had any, he would not have come here a second time”.
The Blue Jackal
Once, there was a jackal in a forest by the name of Chandaraka. One day, Chandaraka, driven by hunger, went to a nearby village in search of food. He was extremely hungry. Unfortunately, he met a group of dogs and they started chasing him. The jackal got frightened and fled in panic. He entered a washer man’s house in a hurry. While trying to hide himself, the jackal slipped and fell into a tub full of blue color, which the washer man had kept ready to dye the clothes.
Soon the bark of the dogs ceased and jackal came out of the tub. There was a big mirror fixed on the wall of the house. Jackal saw himself in the mirror and was surprised to see his blue colored body. He came out of the house and quickly ran back to the forest. When Chandraraka reached the forest, every animal failed to recognize this new creature. Infact they got frightened and ran in all directions.
Taking advantage of the situation, the jackal planned to keep the situation in his favor. He asked, “Why are you running like this? There is no need to panic. I am a unique creation of God. He told me that the animals in this jungle had no ruler and he had nominated me as your king. He had named me, Kakudruma and told me to rule this forest. Therefore, all of you can live safely under the cover of my protection.”
The innocent animals believed the shrewd jackal and accepted him as the king. The jackal appointed the lion as his minister, the tiger as his chamberlain and the wolf as the gatekeeper. After allotting positions to the animals, the new king Kakudruma banished all the jackals in the forest for the fear of being recognized. Now, the animals hunt food and brought it to the self-proclaimed king. After taking his share, the king would distribute the remaining food equally among his subjects. So like this, he was leading a luxurious life.
One day when the blue jackal was holding his court, a herd of jackals were passing by howling to their glory. Suddenly blue jackal forgot that he was a king and not an ordinary jackal anymore. Unable to control his natural instinct, Kakudruma howled at the top of his voice. Soon, the animals realized that they had been fooled by a jackal. In a fit of anger, all the animals, at once pounced on the blue jackal and killed him.
Moral: The one who abandons one’s own folk will perish.
The Blind Vulture
Once upon a time, there was a hill that sloped down to the banks of a river. At the bottom of the hill, there was a tree which made the shelter for many birds. One day, a blind old Vulture came to live in the hollow of the tree. The birds welcomed the blind vulture and decided to give him a share of their food since he was old.
When the Blind Vulture saw birds’ concern for him, he was overwhelmed with gratitude. He thought to himself, “As these birds are being so kind to me, it has become my duty to protect their young ones when they are away gathering food”. After this, the Vulture used to get his food from the birds and in return, he took care of their young ones while they were away. So like this, all of them were passing their days happily.
One day, a cat passed by that tree when the birds were away. Hearing the noise of the young ones, she came near the tree with the hope of catching and eating the baby birds. But when the young ones saw her coming, they made a chirrup. The blind Vulture heard them and shouted, “Who is there?” On seeing the Vulture, the Cat got frightened and said to herself, “O God! I am as good as dead. But I need to be brave. I should try to gain his confidence”.
At once, the Cat replied, “O wise one! I just came to pay my homage to you”. The Vulture asked, “Who are you?” The Cat answered, “I am a Cat”. The Vulture shouted, “Go away otherwise I’ll eat you up”. The Cat was clever and she made quick responses to the Vulture. She innocently said to the Vulture, “Sir, Listen to me first then you can decide further. It is not good that you are discarding me as I belong to a particular race”.
The Vulture decided to listen to her. The Cat said, “I live on the other side of the river. I don’t eat meat and take bath everyday in the river. I am doing great penance for my sins. I have heard much about your intelligence from the birds on the banks of the river. They told me that I should learn more about religion from you as you possess all knowledge. So, I came here to become your disciple and seek your blessings”.
She further said, “But, I don’t feel what the birds told me is true, when you got ready to kill a poor cat. You should have treated me well, after all guests are form of God. Even if you don’t have any food to offer me, at least you could say something kind to me”. The Old Vulture replied, “How can I trust you since you are carnivorous and young birds reside here”. The Clever Cat was well-versed in tantrums.
She touched the ground and her ears as a sign of her honesty and replied, “I’ve read all scriptures and came to know that killing is immoral. The entire forest is full of herbs and vegetables. So why should I commit sin by killing birds?” The Vulture believed her and allowed her to stay with him in the hollow of the tree. With the passing days, the Cat started eating the young birds one by one without the knowledge of the Vulture.
When the birds found that their young ones were missing, they started looking for their kids. As soon as the Cat realized that situation is not in her favor, she quietly slipped away. Unknown about the happening, the blind Vulture lay down near the hollow of the tree where the Cat had thrown the bones of some of the birds eaten by her. When the Birds saw the bones of their young ones, at once they shouted, “The blind Vulture has eaten our innocent kids”.
All of them got enraged by the ingratitude of the Vulture and they pecked him to death. The poor Vulture didn’t even get the chance to defend himself.
Moral: Never treat someone whom you hardly know as a friend.
The Monkey and the Crocodile
Long ago, there lived a monkey named Raktamukha, on a Jamun (Black-berry) tree by the side of a river. The tree was always full of fruits, which were as sweet as nectar. The Monkey used to eat fruits from the tree. Raktamukha was happily passing his days jumping from one tree to another. Once, a crocodile named Karalamukha came out of the waters and took rest under the tree on which the monkey lived.
Raktamukha, who was sitting high on a branch, saw the crocodile taking rest under the tree. The monkey became very eager to talk to the crocodile. Since he had no friends, he wanted to make friends with him. Addressing the crocodile, Raktamukha said, “As you’re taking rest under the tree, you’re my guest and it’s my duty to offer you food.” The monkey gave a lot of Jamuns to the crocodile to eat. The crocodile ate them to his fill. He thanked the monkey for his generosity and went home.
Karalamukha started coming ashore everyday and enjoy the fruits offered by the monkey. Soon they became good friends. Both of them started spending time with each other discussing the world. One day, the crocodile asked the monkey for some Jamuns to take for his wife. The Monkey happily gave the fruits to the crocodile. The crocodile took the fruits cheerfully to his wife and also narrated the whole story to her.
After eating the fruits, the crocodile’s wife was overjoyed and said to her husband, “Dear, if these fruits are so tasty, then the monkey who eats these fruits must be ten times tastier. Why don’t you bring the heart of this monkey for my meals?” The crocodile was stunned to hear such words from his wife. He replied,” Sweetheart, the monkey is my friend. It would not be fair to take his heart”. The crocodile’s wife was shrewd and pleaded with her husband to bring monkey’s heart for her. The crocodile was unwilling to deceive his friend, but then she insisted on not eating anything till he brought her monkey’s heart.
The Crocodile was left with no other option, but to bring monkey’s heart for his wife. He was afraid that how could he ask for such thing from his friend. He devised a plan and rushed to the monkey. Raktamukha was waiting for his dear friend for the daily meeting. Reaching ashore, Karalamukha asked the monkey in a sad tone, “My wife and I invite you to our home for a dinner. My wife is very angry with me for not having invited you earlier”. He stated that his wife is anxious to meet such a nice friend.
Poor monkey didn’t know about the plan and believed the story of crocodile. He asked the crocodile,” I accept your invitation, but how will I go with you? I don’t know how to swim?” The crocodile replied,” Don’t worry. Come and sit on my back. I‘ll take you to my house.” The monkey happily sat on the back of the crocodile and they started their journey. The crocodile entered in the deep waters with an intention to kill the monkey. The monkey got scared to see water all around and asked the crocodile to move slowly.
The crocodile thought that now he could reveal his real intentions to the monkey, as it was impossible for him to escape from the middle of the river. The crocodile gullibly said to the monkey, “I am taking you to my home to please my wife. She wants to eat your heart. She says that since you eat tasty fruits day and night, your heart must be ten times tastier than those fruits.”
The monkey was taken aback to hear these words. He had never expected this type of a request from a friend. He kept cool and said wittingly, “Oh dear! Why didn’t you tell me earlier? It would be my privilege to offer my heart to your charming wife. I usually keep my heart safely in the burrow of the tree. In order to serve my heart to your wife, I have to go back to get my heart.”
The foolish crocodile swiftly then swam back to the tree where the monkey lived. On reaching the bank the monkey quickly jumped off the crocodile’s back and climbed up his home tree. The crocodile was in a hurry and realized that the monkey was taking too long in getting his heart. Impatiently he asked, “What is the delay? Get you heart. My wife will be very happy.”
By the time, the monkey had realized that this was a rebirth for him. The monkey laughed and answered, “My dear foolish friend. You’ve deceived me as a friend. Can any one take out his heart and keep that in a burrow. It was all a trick to save my life and teach a lesson to an unfaithful friend like you. Now go away and don’t ever come back.” The crocodile was ashamed for his act and went home with his head bent down.
Moral: At times, presence of mind pays well.