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Jataka Tales, Old Indian Fables
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  1. The Wise Goat
  2. The Elephant and the Dog
  3. The King's White Elephant
  4. The Red-Bud Tree

The Wise Goat

One day a goat was on the top of a high, steep rock, picking the few blades of grass that he could find there. A wolf who was watching him from the foot of the rock, wanted to catch him, but could not climb so steep a place.

"Friend goat!" said he, "come down into the field. You can get all the sweet grass here that you can eat, and it will not cost you anything."

"Thank you," said the goat. "You are inviting me not to feed myself, but to feed you."

The Elephant And The Dog

Once on a time a dog used to go into the stable where the king's elephant lived. At first the dog went there to get the food that was left after the Elephant had finished eating.

Day after day the dog went to the stable, waiting around for bits to eat. But by and by the elephant and the dog came to be great friends. Then the elephant began to share his food with the dog, and they ate together. When the elephant slept, his friend the dog slept beside him. When the elephant felt like playing, he would catch the dog in his trunk and swing him to and fro. Neither the dog nor the elephant was quite happy unless the other was near-by.

One day a farmer saw the dog and said to the elephant-keeper: "I will buy that Dog. He looks good-tempered, and I see that he is smart. How much do you want for the dog?"

The elephant-keeper did not care for the dog, and he did want some money just then. So he asked a fair price, and the farmer paid it and took the dog away to the country.

The king's elephant missed the dog and did not care to eat when his friend was not there to share the food. When the time came for the elephant to bathe, he would not bathe. The next day again the elephant would not eat, and he would not bathe. The third day, when the elephant would neither eat nor bathe, the king was told about it.

The king sent for his chief servant, saying, "Go to the stable and find out why the elephant is acting in this way."

The chief servant went to the stable and looked the elephant all over. Then he said to the elephant-keeper: "There seems to be nothing the matter with this elephant's body, but why does he look so sad? Has he lost a play-mate?"

"Yes," said the keeper, "there was a dog who ate and slept and played with the elephant. The dog went away three days ago."

"Do you know where the dog is now?" asked the chief servant.

"No, I do not," said the keeper.

Then the chief servant went back to the king and said. "The elephant is not sick, but he is lonely without his companion, the dog."

"Where is the dog?" asked the king.

"A farmer took him away, so the elephant-keeper says," said the chief servant. "No one knows where the farmer lives."

"Very well," said the king. "I will send word all over the country, asking the man who bought this dog to turn him loose. I will give him back as much as he paid for the dog."

When the farmer who had bought the dog heard this, he turned him loose. The dog ran back as fast as ever he could go to the elephant's stable. The Elephant was so glad to see the dog that he picked him up with his trunk and put him on his head. Then he put him down again.

When the elephant-keeper brought food, the elephant watched the dog as he ate, and then took his own food.

All the rest of their lives the elephant and the dog lived together.

The King's White Elephant

Once on a time a number of carpenters lived on a river bank near a large forest. Every day the carpenters went in boats to the forest to cut down the trees and make them into lumber.

One day while they were at work an elephant came limping on three feet to them. He held up one foot and the carpenters saw that it was swollen and sore. Then the elephant lay down and the men saw that there was a great splinter in the sore foot. They pulled it out and washed the sore carefully so that in a short time it would be well again.

Thankful for the cure, the elephant thought: "These carpenters have done so much for me, I must be useful to them."

So after that the elephant used to pull up trees for the carpenters. Sometimes when the trees were chopped down he would roll the logs down to the river. Other times he brought their tools for them. And the carpenters used to feed him well morning, noon and night.

Now this Elephant had a son who was white all over - a beautiful, strong young one. Said the old elephant to himself, "I will take my son to the place in the forest where I go to work each day so that he may learn to help the carpenters, for I'm no longer young and strong."

So the old elephant told his son how the carpenters had taken good care of him when he was badly hurt and took him to them. The white elephant did as his father told him to do and helped the carpenters and they fed him well.

When the work was done at night the young elephant went to play in the river. The carpenters' children played with him, in the water and on the bank. He liked to pick them up in his trunk and set them on the high branches of the trees and then let them climb down on his back.

One day the king came down the river and saw this beautiful white elephant working for the carpenters. The king at once wanted the elephant for his own and paid the carpenters a great price for him. Then with a last look at his playmates, the children, the beautiful white elephant went on with the king.

The king was proud of his new elephant and took the best care of him as long as he lived.

The Red-Bud Tree

Once on a time four young princes heard about a wonderful tree called the Red-Bud Tree. None of them had ever seen a Red-Bud Tree, and each prince wished to be the first to see one.

The eldest prince asked the driver of the king's chariot to take him deep into the woods where this tree grew. It was very early in the spring and the tree had no leaves, nor buds. It was black and bare like a dead tree. The prince could not understand why this was called a Red-Bud Tree, but he asked no questions.

Later in spring the next son went with the driver of the king's chariot to see the Red-Bud Tree. At this time it was covered with red buds.

The tree was all covered with green leaves when the third son went into the woods a few months to see it. He could see no reason for calling it the Red-Bud Tree, but he asked no questions about it.

Some time after this the youngest prince asked to be taken to see the Red-Bud Tree. By this time it was covered with little bean-pods.

When he came back from the woods he ran into the garden where his brothers were playing, crying, "I have seen the Red-Bud Tree."

"So have I," said the eldest prince. "It did not look like much of a tree to me," said he; "it looked like a dead tree. It was black and bare."

"What makes you say that?" said the second son. "The tree has hundreds of beautiful red buds. This is why it is called the Red-Bud Tree."

The third prince said: "Red buds, did you say? Why do you say it has red buds? It is covered with green leaves."

The prince who had seen the tree last laughed at his brothers, saying: "I have just seen that tree, and it is not like a dead tree. It has neither red buds nor green leaves on it. It is covered with little bean-pods."

The king heard them and waited till they stopped talking. Then he said: "Sons, you have all four seen the same tree, but each of you saw it at a different time of the year."


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