The Language of Animals

Once upon a time when a king named Senaka was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was Sakka. The king Senaka was friendly with a certain naga king. This naga king, they say, left the naga world and ranged the earth seeking food. The village boys seeing him said, “This is a snake,” and struck him with clods and other things.

The king, going to amuse himself in his garden, saw them, and being told they were beating a snake, said, “Don’t let them beat him. Drive them away.” And this was done.

So the naga king got his life, and when he went back to the naga world. He took many jewels, and coming at midnight to the king’s bedchamber he gave them to him, saying, “I got my life through you.” So he made friendship with the king and came again and again to see him. He appointed one of his naga girls, insatiate in pleasures, to be near the king and protect him, and he gave the king a charm, saying, “If ever you do not see her, repeat this charm.”

One day the king went to the garden with the naga girl and was amusing himself in the lotus tank. The naga girl seeing a water snake quitted her human shape and made love with him. The king not seeing the girl said, “Where is she gone?” and repeated the spell. Then he saw her in her misconduct and struck her with a piece of bamboo.

She went in anger to the naga world, and when she was asked, “Why are you come?” she said, “Your friend struck me on the back because I did not do his bidding,” showing the mark of the blow.

The naga king, not knowing the truth, called four naga youths and sent them with orders to enter Senaka’s bedchamber and destroy him like chaff by the breath of their nostrils. They entered the chamber at the royal bedtime.

As they came in, the king was saying to the queen, “Lady, do you know where the naga girl has gone?”

“King, I do not.”

“Today when we were bathing in the tank, she quitted her shape and misconducted herself with a water snake. I said, ‘Don’t do that,’ and struck her with a piece of bamboo to give her a lesson. And now I fear she may have gone to the naga world and told some lie to my friend, destroying his goodwill to me.”

The young nagas hearing this turned back at once to the naga world and told their king. He being moved went instantly to the king’s chamber, told him all and was forgiven. Then he said, “In this way I make amends,” and gave the king a charm giving knowledge of all sounds. “This, O king, is a priceless spell. If you give anyone this spell you will at once enter the fire and die.”

The king said, “It is well,” and accepted it. From that time he understood the voice even of ants.
One day he was sitting on the dais eating solid food with honey and molasses, and a drop of honey, a drop of molasses, and a morsel of cake fell on the ground. An ant seeing this comes crying, “The king’s honey jar is broken on the dais, his molasses cart and cake cart are upset. Come and eat honey and molasses and cake.”

The king hearing the cry laughed. The queen being near him thought, “What has the king seen that he laughs?”

When the king had eaten his solid food and bathed and sat down cross-legged, a fly said to his wife, “Come, lady, let us enjoy love.”

She said, “Excuse me for a little, husband. They will soon be bringing perfumes to the king. As he perfumes himself some powder will fall at his feet. I will stay there and become fragrant, then we will enjoy ourselves lying on the king’s back.”

The king hearing the voice laughed again. The queen thought again, “What has he seen that he laughs?”
Again when the king was eating his supper, a lump of rice fell on the ground. The ants cried, “A wagon of rice has broken in the king’s palace, and there is none to eat it.”

The king hearing this laughed again. The queen took a golden spoon and helping him reflected, “Is it at the sight of me that the king laughs?”

She went to the bedchamber with the king and at bedtime she asked, “Why did you laugh, O king?”
He said, “What have you to do with why I laugh?” But being asked again and again her told her.
Then she said, “Give me your spell of knowledge.”

He said, “It cannot be given.” But though repulsed she pressed him again.

The king said, “If I give you this spell, I shall die.”

“Even though you die, give it me.”

The king, being in the power of womankind, saying, “It is well,” consented and went to the park in a chariot, saying, “I shall enter the fire after giving away this spell.”

At that moment Sakka, king of gods, looked down on the earth and seeing this case said, “This foolish king, knowing that he will enter the fire through womankind, is on the way; I will give him his life.” So he took Suja, daughter of the Asuras, and went to Benares. He became a he-goat and made her a she-goat, and resolving that the people should not see them, he stood before the king’s chariot. The king and the Sindh asses yoked in the chariot saw him, but none else saw him. For the sake of starting talk he was as if making love with the she-goat.

One of the Sindh asses yoked in the chariot seeing him said, “Friend goat, we have heard before, but not seen, that goats are stupid and shameless. But you are doing, with all of us looking on, this thing that should be done in secret and in a private place, and are not ashamed. What we have heard before agrees with this that we see.”

And so he spoke the first stanza:

No bulbs are here, no herbs for cooking meat,
No cat-mint, nor no other plant to eat.
Than father, why this pit, if need be none,
Delve in Death’s acre mid the woods alone?

This his father answered by repeating the second stanza:

Thy grandsire, son, is very weak and old,
Oppressed by pain from ailments manifold.
Him will I bury in a pit today.
In such a life I could not wish him stay.

Hearing this, the boy answered by repeating a half stanza:

Thou has done sinfully in wishing this,
And for the deed, a cruel deed it is.

With these words, he caught the spade from his father’s hands, and at no great distance began to dig another pit. His father approaching asked why he dug that pit, to whom he made reply by finishing the third stanza:

I too, when thou art aged, father mine,
Will treat my father as thou treatest thine;
Following the custom of the family
Deep in a pit I too will bury thee.

To this the father replied by repeating the fourth stanza:

What a harsh saying for a boy to say,
And to upbraid a father in this way!
To think that my own son would rail at me,
And to his truest friend unkind should be!

When the father had thus spoken, the wise lad recited three stanzas, one by way of answer, and two as an holy hymn:

I am not harsh, my father, nor unkind,
Nay, I regard thee with a friendly mind.
But this thou dost, this act of sin, thy son
Will have no strength to undo again, once done.

Whoso, Vasittha, hurts with ill intent
His mother or his father, innocent,
He, when the body is dissolved, shall be
In hell for his next life undoubtedly.

Whoso with meat and drink, Vasittha, shall
His mother or his father feed withal,
He, when the body is dissolved, shall be
In heaven for his next life undoubtedly.

The father, after hearing his son thus discourse, repeated the eighth stanza:

Thou art no heartless ingrate, son, I see,
But kindly hearted, O my son to me.
‘Twas in obedience to thy mother’s word
I thought to do this horrid deed abhorred.

Said the lad, when he heard this, “Father, women, when a wrong is done and they are not rebuked, again and again commit sin. You must bend my mother, that she may never again do such a deed as this.” And he repeated the ninth stanza:

That wife of yours, that ill-conditioned dame,
My mother, she that brought me forth, that same,
Let us from out our dwelling far expel,
Lest she work other woe on thee as well.

Hearing the words of his wise son, well pleased was Vasitthaka, and saying, “Let us go, my son!” he seated himself in the cart with son and father.

Now the woman too, this sinner, was happy at heart; for, thought she, this ill-luck is out of the house now. She plastered the place with wet cow dung, and cooked a mess of rice porridge. But as she sat watching the road by which they would return, she espied them coming, “There he is, back with old ill-luck again!” thought she, much in anger. “Fie, good-for-nothing! cried she. “What, bring back the ill-luck you took away with you!”

Vasitthaka said not a word, but unyoked the cart. Then said he, “Wretch, what is that you say?” He gave her a sound drubbing, and bundled her head over heels out of doors, bidding her never darken his door again. Then he bathed his father and his son, and took a bath himself, and the three of them ate the rice porridge. The sinful woman dwelt for a few days in another house.

Then the son said to his father, “Father, for all this, my mother does not understand. Now let us try to vex her. You give out that in such and such a village lives a niece of yours, who will attend upon your father and your son and you. So you will go and fetch her. Then take flowers and perfumes, and get into your cart, and ride about the country all day, returning in the evening.”

And so he did. The women in the neighbor’s family told his wife this. “Have you heard,” said they, “that your husband has gone to get another wife in such a place?”

“Ah, then I am undone!” quoth she, “and there is no place for me left.”

But she would inquire of her son. So quickly she came to him, and fell at his feet, crying, “Save thee, I have no other refuge! Henceforward I will tend your father and grandsire as I would tend a beauteous shrine! Give me entrance into this house once more!”

“Yes, mother,” replied the lad, “if you do no more as you did, I will. Be of good cheer!” And at his father’s coming he repeated the tenth stanza:

That wife of yours, that ill-conditioned dame,
My mother, she that brought me forth, that same,
Like a tamed elephant, in full control,
Let her return again, that sinful soul.

So said he to his father, and then went and summoned his mother. She, being reconciled to her husband and her husband’s father, was thenceforward tamed, and endued with righteousness, and watched over her husband and his father and her son. And these two, steadfastly following their son’s advice, gave alms and did good deeds, and became destined to join the hosts of heaven.

The People Who Saw the Judas Tree

Once on a time Bramadatta, the King of Benares, had four sons.

One day they sent for the charioteer and said to him, “We want to see a Judas tree [butea frondosa]. Show us one!”

“Very well, I will,” the charioteer replied.

But he did not show it to them all together. He took the eldest at once to the forest in the chariot, and showed him the tree at the time when the buds were just sprouting from the stem. To the second he showed it when the leaves were green. To the third at the time of blossoming. And to the fourth when it was bearing fruit.

After this it happened that the four brothers were sitting together and someone asked, “What sort of a tree is the Judas tree?”

Then the first brother answered, “Like a burnt stump!”

And the second cried, “Like a banyan tree!”

And the third, “Like a piece of meat!”

And the fokuth said, “Like the acacia!”

They were vexed at each other’s answers, and ran to find their father. “My Lord,” they asked, “what sort of a tree is the Judas tree?”

“What did you say to that?” he asked.

They told him the manner of their answers.

Said the king, “All four of you have seen the tree. Only when the charioteer showed you the tree, you did not ask him, ‘What is the tree like at such a time, or at such another time?’ You made no distinctions, and that is the reason of your mistake.”

And he repeated the first stanza:

All have seen the Judas tree.
What is your perplexity?
No one asked the charioteer
What its form the livelong year!”

The Talkative Tortoise

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the future Buddha was born in a minister’s family; and when he grew up, he became the king’s adviser in things temporal and spiritual.

Now this king was very talkative; while he was speaking, others had no opportunity for a word. And the future Buddha, wanting to cure this talkativeness of his, was constantly seeking for some means of doing so.

At that time there was living, in a pond in the Himalayan Mountains, a tortoise. Two young wild ducks who came to feed there made friends with him. And one day, when they had become very intimate with him, they said to the tortoise, “Friend tortoise, the place where we live, at the Golden Cave on Mount Beautiful in the Himalayan country, is a delightful spot. Will you come there with us?”

“But how can I get there?”

“We can take you, if you can only hold your tongue, and will say nothing to anybody.”

“Oh, that I can do. Take me with you.”

“That’s right,” said they. And making the tortoise bite hold of a stick, they themselves took the two ends in their teeth, and flew up into the air.

Seeing him thus carried by the ducks, some villagers called out, “Two wild ducks are carrying a tortoise along on a stick!”

Whereupon the tortoise wanted to say, “If my friends choose to carry me, what is that to you, you wretched slaves?” So just as the swift flight of the wild ducks had brought him over the king’s palace in the city of Benares, he let go of the stick he was biting, and falling in the open courtyard, split in two!
And there arose a universal cry, “A tortoise has fallen in the open courtyard, and has split in two!”

The king, taking the future Buddha, went to the place, surrounded by his courtiers, and looking at the tortoise, he asked the Bodisat, “Teacher, how has it possible that he has fallen here?”

The future Buddha thought to himself, “Long expecting, wishing to admonish the king, I have sought for some means of doing so. This tortoise must have made friends with the wild ducks; and they must have made him bite hold of the stick, and have flown up into the air to take him to the hills. But he, being unable to hold his tongue when he hears anyone else talk, must have wanted to say something, and let go of the stick; and so must have fallen down from the sky, and thus lost his life.”

And saying, “Truly, oh king, those who are called chatterboxes — people whose words have no end — come to grief like this,” he uttered these verses:

Verily, the tortoise killed himself
While uttering his voice;
Though he was holding tight to stick,
By a word he slew himself.

Behold him then, oh excellent by strength!
And speak wise words, not out of season.
You see how, by his talking overmuch,
The tortoise fell into this wretched plight!

The king saw that he was himself referred to, and said, “Oh teacher, are you speaking of us?”

And the Bodisat spoke openly, and said, “Oh great king, be it you, or be it any other, whoever talks beyond measure meets with some mishap like this.”

And the king henceforth refrained himself, and became a man of few words.

The Monkey’s Heart

Once upon a time, while Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life at the foot of the Himalayas as a monkey. He grew strong and sturdy, big of frame, well to do, and lived by a curve of the river Ganges in a forest haunt. Now at that time there was a crocodile dwelling in the Ganges. The crocodile’s mate saw the great frame of the monkey, and she conceived a longing to eat his heart. So she said to her lord, “Sir, I desire to eat the heart of that great king of the monkeys!”

“Good wife,” said the crocodile, “I live in the water and he lives on dry land. How can we catch him?”
“By hook or by crook,” she replied, “he must be caught. If I don’t get him, I shall die.”

“All right,” answered the crocodile, consoling her, “don’t trouble yourself. I have a plan. I will give you his heart to eat.”

So when the Bodhisatta was sitting on the bank of the Ganges, after taking a drink of water, the crocodile drew near, and said, “Sir Monkey, why do you live on bad fruits in this old familiar place? On the other side of the Ganges there is no end to the mango trees, and labuja trees, with fruit sweet as honey! Is it not better to cross over and have all kinds of wild fruit to eat?”

“Lord Crocodile,” the monkey answered. “The Ganges is deep and wide. How shall I get across?”

“If you want to go, I will let you sit upon my back, and carry you over.”

The monkey trusted him, and agreed. “Come here, then,” said the crocodile. “Up on my back with you!” and up the monkey climbed. But when the crocodile had swum a little way, he plunged the monkey under the water.

“Good friend, you are letting me sink!” cried the monkey. “What is that for?”

The crocodile said, “You think I am carrying you out of pure good nature? Not a bit of it! My wife has a longing for your heart, and I want to give it to her to eat.!”

“Friend,” said the monkey, “it is nice of you to tell me. Why, if our heart were inside us, when we go jumping among the tree tops it would be all knocked to pieces!”

“Well, where do you keep it?” asked the crocodile.

The Bodhisatta pointed out a fig tree, with clusters of ripe fruit, standing not far off. “See,” said he, “there are our hearts hanging on yonder fig tree.”

“If you will show me your heart,” said the crocodile, “then I won’t kill you.”

“Take me to the tree, then, and I will point it out to you.”

The crocodile brought him to the place. The monkey leapt off his back, and, climbing up the fig tree, sat upon it. “Oh silly crocodile!” said he. “You thought that there were creatures that kept their hearts in a treetop! You are a fool, and I have outwitted you! You may keep your fruit to yourself. Your body is great, but you have no sense.”

And then to explain this idea he uttered the following stanzas:

Rose-apple, jack-fruit, mangoes, too, across the water there I see;
Enough of them, I want them not; my fig is good enough for me!
Great is your body, verily, but how much smaller is your wit!
Now go your ways, Sir Crocodile, for I have had the best of it.

The crocodile, feeling as sad and miserable as if he had lost a thousand pieces of money, went back sorrowing to the place where he lived.

How a Parrot Told Tales of His Mistress and Had His Neck Wrung

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta came into the world as a young parrot. His name was Radha, and his youngest brother was named Potthapada. While they were yet quite young, both of them were caught by a fowler and handed over to a Brahmin in Benares.

The Brahmin cared for them as if they were his children. But the Brahmin’s wife was a wicked woman. There was no watching her.

The husband had to go away on business, and addressed his young parrots thus: “Little dears, I am going away on business. Keep watch on your mother in season and out of season. Observe whether or not any man visits her.” So off he went, leaving his wife in charge of the young parrots.

As soon as he was gone, the woman began to do wrong. Night and day the visitors came and went. There was no end to them. Potthapada, observing this, said to Radha, “Our master gave this woman into our charge, and here she is doing wickedness. I will speak to her.”

“Don’t,” said Radha.

But the other would not listen. “Mother,” said he, “why do you commit sin?”

How she longed to kill him! But making as though she would fondle him, she called him to her. “Little one, you are my son! I will never do it again! Here, then the dear!” So he came out. Then she seized him, crying, “What! You preach to me! You don’t know your measure!” And she wrung his neck, and threw him into the oven.

The Brahmin returned. When he had rested, he asked the Bodhisatta, “Well, my dear, what about your mother? Does she do wrong, or no?” And as he asked the question, he repeated the first couplet:

I come, my son, the journey done, and now I am at home again,”
Come tell me, is your mother true? Does she make love to other men?

Radha answered, “Father dear, the wise speak not of things which do not conduce to blessing, whether they have happened or not.” And he explained this by repeating the second couplet:

For what he said he now lies dead, burnt up beneath the ashes there.
It is not well the truth to tell, lest Potthapada’s fate I share.

Thus did the Bodhisatta hold forth to the Brahmin. And he went on, “This is no place for me to live in either.” Then bidding the Brahmin farewell, he flew away into the woods.

The Tortoise That Refused to Leave Home

Once on a time, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a village as a potter’s son. He plied the potter’s trade, and had a wife and family to support.

At that time there lay a great natural lake close by the great river of Benares. When there was much water, river and lake were one; but when the water was low, they were apart. Now fish and tortoises know by instinct when the year will be rainy and when there will be a drought.

So at the time of our story the fish and tortoises which lived in that lake knew there would be a drought; and when the two were one water, they swam out of the lake into the river. But there was one tortoise that would not go into the river, because, said he, “here I was born, and here I have grown up, and here is my parents’ home. Leave it I cannot!”

Then in the hot season the water all dried up. He dug a hole and buried himself, just in the place where the Bodhisatta was used to come for clay. There the Bodhisatta came to get some clay. With a big spade he dug down, until he cracked the tortoise’s shell, turning him out on the ground as though he were a large piece of clay. In his agony the creature thought, “Here I am, dying, all because I was too fond of my home to leave it!” And in the words of these following verses, he made his moan:

Here was I born, and here I lived; my refuge was the clay;
And now the clay has played me false in a most grievous way;
Thee, thee I call, oh Bhaggava; hear what I have to say!

Go where thou canst find happiness, where’er the place may be;
Forest or village, there the wise both home and birthplace see;
Go where there’s life; nor stay at home for death to master thee.

So he went on and on, talking to the Bodhisatta, until he died. The Bodhisatta picked him up, and collecting all the villagers addressed them thus: “Look at this tortoise. When the other fish and tortoises went into the great river, he was too fond of home to go with them, and buried himself in the place where I get my clay. Then as I was digging for clay, I broke his shell with my big spade, and turned him out on the ground in the belief that he was a large lump of clay. Then he called to mind what he had done, lamented his fate in two verses of poetry, and expired.

So you see he came to his end because he was too fond of his home. Take care not to be like this tortoise. Don’t say to yourselves, ‘I have sight, I have hearing, I have smell, I have taste, I have touch, I have a son, I have a daughter, I have numbers of men and maids for my service, I have precious gold.’ Do not cleave to these things with craving and desire. Each being passes through three stages of existence.”

Thus did he exhort the crowd with all a Buddha’s skill. The discourse was bruited abroad all over India, and for full seven thousand years it was remembered. All the crowd abode by his exhortation, and gave alms, and did good until at last they went to swell the hosts of heaven.

The Golden Mallard

Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born a Brahmin, and growing up was married to a bride of his own rank, who bore him three daughters named Nanda, Nanda-vati, and Sundari-nanda. The Bodhisatta dying, they were taken in by neighbors and friends, whilst he was born again into the world as a golden mallard endowed with consciousness of its former existences.

Growing up, the bird viewed its own magnificent size and golden plumage, and remembered that previously it had been a human being. Discovering that his wife and daughters were living on the charity of others, the mallard bethought him of his plumage like hammered and beaten gold and how by giving them a golden feather at a time he could enable his wife and daughters to live in comfort.

So away he flew to where they dwelt and alighted on the top of the central beam of the roof. Seeing the Bodhisatta, the wife and girls asked where he had come from; and he told them that he was their father who had died and been born a golden mallard, and that he had come to visit them and put an end to their miserable necessity of working for hire.

“You shall have my feathers,” said he, “one by one, and they will sell for enough to keep you all in ease and comfort.”

So saying, he gave them one of his feathers and departed. And from time to time he returned to give them another feather, and with the proceeds of their sale these Brahmin women grew prosperous and quite well to do.

But one day the mother said to her daughters, “There’s no trusting animals, my children. Who’s to say your father might not go away one of these days and never come back again? Let us use our time and pluck him clean next time he comes, so as to make sure of all his feathers.”

Thinking this would pain him, the daughters refused.

The mother in her greed called the golden mallard to her one day when he came, and then took him with both hands and plucked him.

Now the Bodhisatta’s feathers had this property that if they were plucked out against his wish, they ceased to be golden and became like a crane’s feathers. And now the poor bird, though he stretched his wings, could not fly, and the woman flung him into a barrel and gave him food there. As time went on his feathers grew again (though they were plain white ones now), and he flew away to his own abode and never came back again.

The Mosquito and the Carpenter

Once on a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta gained his livelihood as a trader. In these days in a border village in Kasi there dwelt a number of carpenters. And it chanced that one of them, a bald gray-haired man, was planing away at some wood with his head glistening like a copper bowl, when a mosquito settled on his scalp and stung him with its dart like sting.

Said the carpenter to his son, who was seated hard by, “My boy, there’s a mosquito stinging me on the head. Do drive it away.”

“Hold still then father,” said the son. “One blow will settle it.”

(At that very time the Bodhisatta had reached that village in the way of trade, and was sitting in the carpenter’s shop.)

“Rid me of it!” cried the father.

“All right, father,” answered the son, who was behind the old man’s back, and, raising a sharp ax on high with intent to kill only the mosquito, he cleft his father’s head in two. So the old man fell dead on the spot.

Thought the Bodhisatta, who had been an eye witness of the whole scene, “Better than such a friend is an enemy with sense, whom fear of men’s vengeance will deter from killing a man.” And he recited these lines:

Sense-lacking friends are worse than foes with sense;
Witness the son that sought the gnat to slay,
But cleft, poor fool, his father’s skull in two.

So saying, the Bodhisatta rose up and departed, passing away in after days to fare according to his deserts. And as for the carpenter, his body was burned by his kinsfolk.

The Future Buddha as Judge

A woman, carrying her child, went to the future Buddha’s tank to wash. And having first bathed the child, she put on her upper garment and descended into the water to bathe herself.

Then a Yaksha, seeing the child, had a craving to eat it. And taking the form of a woman, she drew near, and asked the mother, “Friend, this is a very pretty child. Is it one of yours?” And when she was told it was, she asked if she might nurse it. And this being allowed, she nursed it a little, and then carried it off.

But when the mother saw this, she ran after her, and cried out, “Where are you taking my child to?” and caught hold of her.

The Yaksha boldly said, “Where did you get the child from? It is mine!” And so quarreling, they passed the door of the future Buddha’s Judgment Hall.

He heard the noise, sent for them, inquired into the matter, and asked them whether they would abide by his decision. And they agreed. Then he had a line drawn on the ground; and told the Yaksha to take hold of the child’s arms, and the mother to take hold of its legs; and said, “The child shall be hers who drags him over the line.”

But as soon as they pulled at him, the mother, seeing how he suffered, grieved as if her heart would break. And letting him go, she stood there weeping.

Then the future Buddha asked the bystanders, “Whose hearts are tender to babes? Those who have borne children, or those who have not?”

And they answered, “Oh sire! The hearts of mothers are tender.”

Then he said, “Who, think you, is the mother? She who has the child in her arms, or she who has let go?”

And they answered, “She who has let go is the mother.”

And he said, “Then do you all think that the other was the thief?”

And they answered, “Sire! We cannot tell.”

And he said, “Verily, this is a Yaksha, who took the child to eat it.”

And he replied, “Because her eyes winked not, and were red, and she knew no fear, and had no pity, I knew it.”

And so saying, he demanded of the thief, “Who are you?”

And she said, “Lord! I am a Yaksha.”

And he asked, “Why did you take away this child?”

And she said, “I thought to eat him, Oh my Lord!”

And he rebuked her, saying, “Oh foolish woman! For your former sins you have been born a Yaksha, and now do you still sin!” And he laid a vow upon her to keep the Five Commandments, and let her go.

But the mother of the child exalted the future Buddha, and said, “Oh my Lord! Oh great physician! May your life be long!” And she went away, with her babe clasped to her bosom.

Why The Owl is Not King of The Birds

Why is it that crows torment the owls as they sleep in the daytime? For the same reason that the Owls try to kill the crows while they sleep at night.

Listen to a tale of long ago and then you will see why.

Once on a time, the people who lived together when the world was young took a certain man for their king. The four-footed animals also took one of their number for their king. The fish in the ocean chose a king to rule over them. Then the birds gathered together on a great flat rock, crying:
“Among men there is a king, and among the beasts, and the fish have one, too; but we birds have none. We ought to have a king. Let us choose one now.”

And so the birds talked the matter over and at last they all said, “Let us have the owl for our king.”

No, not all, for one old crow rose up and said, “For my part, I don’t want the owl to be our king. Look at him now while you are all crying that you want him for your king. See how sour he looks right now. If that’s the cross look he wears when he is happy, how will he look when he is angry? I, for one, want no such sour-looking king!”

Then the crow flew up into the air crying, “I don’t like it! I don’t like it!” The owl rose and followed him. From that time on the crows and the owls have been enemies. The birds chose a turtle dove to be their king, and then flew to their homes.

The Partridge and the Crow

A crow flying across a road saw a partridge strutting along the ground.

“What a beautiful gait that partridge has!” said the crow. “I must try to see if I can walk like him.”

She alighted behind the partridge and tried for a long time to learn to strut. At last the partridge turned around and asked the crow what she was about.

“Don’t be angry with me,” replied the crow. “I have never before seen a bird who walks as beautifully as you can, and I’m trying to learn to walk like you.”

“Foolish bird!” responded the partridge. “You are a crow, and should walk like a crow. You would look silly indeed if you were to strut like a partridge.”

But the crow went on trying to learn to strut, till finally she had forgotten her own gait, and she never learned that of the partridge.

The Quarrel of The Quails

Once on a time many quails lived together in a forest. The wisest of them all was their leader.
A man lived near the forest and earned his living by catching quails and selling them. Day after day he listened to the note of the leader calling the quails. By and by this man, the fowler, was able to call the quails together. Hearing the note the quails thought it was their leader who called.

When they were crowded together, the fowler threw his net over them and off he went into the town, where he soon sold all the quails that he had caught.

The wise leader saw the plan of the fowler for catching the quails. He called the birds to him and said, “This fowler is carrying away so many of us, we must put a stop to it. I have thought of a plan; it is this: The next time the fowler throws a net over you, each of you must put your head through one of the little holes in the net. Then all of you together must fly away to the nearest thorn-bush. You can leave the net on the thorn-bush and be free yourselves.”

The quails said that was a very good plan and they would try it the next time the fowler threw the net over them.

The very next day the fowler carne and called them together. Then he threw the net over them. The quails lifted the net and flew away with it to the nearest thorn-bush where they left it. They flew back to their leader to tell him how well his plan had worked.

The fowler was busy till evening getting his net off the thorns and he went home empty-handed. The next day the same thing happened, and the next. His wife was angry because he did not bring home any money, but the fowler said, “The fact is those quails are working together now. The moment my net is over them, off they fly with it, leaving it on a thorn-bush. As soon as the quails begin to quarrel I shall be able to catch them.”

Not long after this, one of the quails in alighting on their feeding ground, trod by accident on another’s head. “Who trod on my head?” angrily cried the second. “I did; but I did n’t mean to. Don’t be angry,” said the first quail, but the second quail was angry and said mean things.

Soon all the quails had taken sides in this quarrel. When the fowler came that day he flung his net over them, and this time instead of flying off with it, one side said, “Now, you lift the net,” and the other side said, “Lift it yourself.”

“You try to make us lift it all,” said the quails on one side. “No, we don’t!” said the others, “you begin and we will help,” but neither side began.

So the quails quarreled, and while they were quarreling the fowler caught them all in his net. He took them to town and sold them for a good price.

The Brave Little Bowman

on a time there was a little man with a crooked back who was called the wise little bowman because he used his bow and arrow so very well. This crooked little man said to himself: “If I go to the king and ask him to let me join his army, he’s sure to ask what a little man like me is good for. I must find some great big man who will take me as his page, and ask the king to take us.” So the little bowman went about the city looking for a big man.

One day he saw a big, strong man digging a ditch. “What makes a fine big man like you do such work?” asked the little man.

“I do this work because I can earn a living in no other way,” said the big man.

“Dig no more,” said the bowman. “There is in this whole country no such bowman as I am; but no king would let me join his army because I’m such a little man. I want you to ask the king to let you join the army. He will take you because you are big and strong. I will do the work that you are given to do, and we will divide the pay. In this way we shall both of us earn a good living. Will you come with me and do as I tell you?” asked the little bowman.

“Yes, I will go with you,” said the big man.
So together they set out to go to the king. By and by they came to the gates of the palace, and sent word to the king that a wonderful bowman was there. The king sent for the bowman to come before him. Both the big man and the little man went in and, bowing, stood before the king.

The king looked at the big man and asked, “What brings you here?”

“I want to be in your army,” said the big man.

“Who is the little man with you?” asked the king.

“He is my page,” said the big man.

“What pay do you want?” asked the king.

“A thousand pieces a month for me and my page, O King,” said the big man.

“I will take you and your page,” said the king.

So the big man and the little bowman joined the king’s army.
Now in those days there was a tiger in the forest who had carried off many people. The king sent for the big man and told him to kill that tiger.

The big man told the little bowman what the king said. They went into the forest together, and soon the little bowman shot the tiger.
The king was glad to be rid of the tiger, and gave the big man rich gifts and praised him.

Another day word came that a buffalo was running up and down a certain road. The king told the big man to go and kill that buffalo. The big man and the little man went to the road, and soon the little man shot the buffalo. When they both went back to the king, he gave a bag of money to the big man.

The king and all the people praised the big man, and so one day the big man said to the little man: “I can get on without you. Do you think there’s no bowman but yourself?” Many other harsh and unkind things did he say to the little man.

But a few days later a king from a far country marched on the city and sent a message to its king saying, “Give up your country, or do battle.”

The king at once sent his army. The big man was armed and mounted on a war-elephant. But the little bowman knew that the big man could not shoot, so he took his bow and seated himself behind the big man.

Then the war-elephant, at the head of the army, went out of the city. At the first beat of the drums, the big man shook with fear. “Hold on tight,” said the little bowman. “If you fall off now, you will be killed. You need not be afraid; I am here.”

But the big man was so afraid that he slipped down off the war-elephant’s back, and ran back into the city. He did not stop till he reached his home.

“And now to win!” said the little bowman, as he drove the war-elephant into the fight. The army broke into the camp of the king that came from afar, and drove him back to his own country.

Then the little bowman led the army back into the city. The king and all the people called him “the brave little bowman.” The king made him the chief of the army, giving him rich gifts.

The Lean Cat and the Fat Cat

There was once a poor, lean old Woman, who lived in a tiny, tumbled-down house, with a cat as poor and as lean as herself. This cat had never tasted a bit of bread, and had come no nearer a mouse than to find its tracks in the dust.

One morning, when the cat was sitting as usual on the roof of the house, he saw another cat walking along the ridgepole of the roof opposite. At first he scarcely recognized the cat as one of his own kin, his sides were so sleek and fat.

He carried his long tail straight up in the air, and blinked his yellow eyes in the sunshine. As the fat cat came nearer, the lean cat called out to him,
“My good neighbour, you look like the happiest cat alive. You are as plump as if you had sat every day of your life at a banquet. Pray tell me where it is that you find so much to eat?”

“Where, indeed,” replied the fat cat, sitting down and curling his long tail about his legs, “but at the king’s table. Every day, when the feast is spread, I go there and snatch away some dainty morsel of food, either a piece of roast beef or a fried trout.”

The lean cat drew nearer to the edge of the roof. “Oh, tell me,” he begged, “what is roast beef, and how do fried trout smell? I have never tasted anything but broth.”

“Ah, that is why you look as lean as a spider,” the other cat answered. “Now, if you were only to look once at the king’s table, it would put new life into your old bones. Tomorrow, if you wish, I will take you there.”

With a purr of satisfaction, the lean cat jumped off the roof and ran to tell his mistress the good news. But the Old Woman was far from happy when she heard of the expedition. “I beg you,” she pleaded with her cat, “to stay at home and be content with your dish of honest broth. Think what might happen to you if the royal cook should catch you stealing from the king’s table!”

But the lean cat was so greedy for food that the words of his mistress went in one ear and out the other. The next day the two cats started for the palace.

Now it had so happened the day before that the cats of the palace had so overrun the banquet table that the king had issued this decree:
Any cat who this day shows his whiskers within the palace shall be hanged at once.
The fat cat wisely approached the palace stealthily. As he was creeping through the gate, another cat warned him of the decree and he took to his heels. But the lean cat was already within the banquet hall, for at the first odor of roasting meat that came through the window he had leaped forward, leaving his companion far behind. He was just snatching a morsel of venison from the table, when a strong hand seized him by the back of the neck, and an instant later he was put to death.

“Alack, alack, woe is me!” sighed the old woman that evening when her cat did not return for his supper; “if only my puss had been content with his dish of honest broth, he would still be alive and purring on my hearthstone.”

The Fox and the Piece of Meat

A hungry fox, who had come out of his hole to hunt, found a piece of fresh meat. As he had not tasted food for several days, he seized it and started home on a trot. On the way he passed by a hen-yard. At the sight of the four fat fowls who were scratching for worms, the fox’s mouth watered. He set down the piece of meat and gazed longingly at the hens. Just then a jackal passed by.

“Fox,” he said, “you seem perplexed. Tell me your trouble, and it may be that I can help you.”

“Jackal, you are right,” replied the fox. “I’m perplexed. I have here a piece of meat that I’m carrying to my hole, but I should like one of these fowls for my second course.”

“Take my advice,” responded the Jackal, “and let these hens alone. I have long had my eye on them, but they are watched by a boy, and you cannot possibly catch them without being seen. You should be more than content with that fine piece of meat which you are carrying home.”

And the jackal went on his way. Nevertheless, the fox could not make up his mind to give up the fowls. Finally he laid down his piece of meat, and crept cautiously into the yard. He was just nearing the tail-feathers of the plumpest fowl, when the boy hurled a stick at his head. Fearing for his life, the fox sprang over the fence and rushed back to the spot where he had left his piece of meat.

But a few moments before, a kite had passed that way, smelled the meat, and carried it to her nest.