Site Map
Panchatantra Fables
Section › 13   Set    Search  Previous Next

Reservations   Contents    

Book 4. Loss of Gains

How Supersmart Ate the Elephant

There was once a jackal named Supersmart in a part of a forest. One day he came upon an elephant that had died a natural death in the wood. But he could only stalk about the body; he could not cut through the tough hide.

At this moment a lion, in his wanderings to and fro, came to the spot. And the jackal, spying him, obsequiously rubbed his scalp in the dust, clasped his lotus paws, and said: "My lord and king, I am merely a cudgel-bearer, guarding this elephant in the king's interest. May the king deign to eat it."

Then the lion said: "My good fellow, under no circumstances do I eat what another has killed. I graciously bestow this elephant upon you." And the jackal joyfully replied: "It is only what our lord and king has taught his servants to expect."

When the lion was gone, a tiger arrived. And the jackal thought when he saw him: "Well, I sent one rascal packing by doing obeisance. Now, how shall I dispose of this one? To be sure, he is a hero, and therefore can be managed only by intrigue. For there is a saying: [419}

Where bribes and flattery would fail,

Intrigue is certain to avail.

And indeed, all creatures are held in bondage by heart-piercing intrigue. As the saying goes:

Even a pearl, so smoothly hard and round,

Is fastened by a thread and safely bound,

After a way to pierce its heart is found."

So he took his decision, went to meet the tiger, and slightly stiffening his neck, he said in an agitated tone: "Uncle, how could you venture into the jaws of death? This elephant was killed by a lion, who put me on guard while he went to bathe. And as he went, he gave me my orders. 'If any tiger comes this way,' he said, 'creep up and tell me. I have to clear this forest of tigers, because once, when I had killed an elephant, a tiger helped himself while my back was turned, and I had the leavings. From that day I have been death on tigers.'"

On hearing this, the tiger was terrified, and said: "My dear nephew, make me a gift of my life. Even if he is slow in returning, don't give him any news of me." With these words he decamped.

When the tiger had gone, a leopard appeared. And the jackal thought when he saw him: "Here comes Spot. He has powerful teeth. So I will use him to cut into this elephant-hide."

With this in mind, he said: "Well, nephew, where have you been this long time? And why do you seem [420} so hungry? You come as my guest, according to the proverb:

A guest in need

Is a guest indeed.

Now here lies this elephant, killed by a lion who appointed me its guardian. But for all that, you may enjoy a square meal of elephant-meat, provided you cut and run before he gets back."

"No, uncle," said the leopard, "if things stand so, this meat is not healthy for me. You know the saying:

A man to thrive

Must keep alive.

Never eat a thing that doesn't sit well on the stomach. So I will be off;"

"Don't be timid," said the jackal. "Pluck up courage and eat. I will warn you of his coming while he is yet a long way off." So the leopard did as suggested, and the jackal, as soon as he saw the hide cut through, called out: "Quick, nephew, quick! Here comes the lion." Hearing this, the leopard vanished also.

Now while the jackal was eating meat through the opening cut by the leopard, a second jackal came on the scene in a great rage. And Supersmart, esteeming him an equal whose prowess was a known quantity, recited the stanza:

Sway patrons with obeisance;

In heroes raise a doubt;

Fling petty bribes to flunkeys;

With equals, fight it out - [421}

made a dash at him, tore him with his fangs, made him seek the horizon, and himself comfortably enjoyed elephant-meat for a long time.

"Just so you, too, should fight it out with a natural enemy, one of your own race, and send him to the horizon. If you don't, he will presently strike his roots deep and will destroy you. You know the saying:

From cows expect subsistence;

From Brahmans, self-denial;

From women, fickle conduct;

From relatives, a trial.

"And the further saying:

The food is very good to eat

And does not lack variety;

While easy-going women meet

You in the town's society:

But kinsmen in that foreign street

Are wanting in sobriety."

"How was that?" asked the crocodile. And the monkey told the story of

The Dog Who Went Abroad

There was once a dog named Spot in a certain town which was afflicted by a long famine. And as food gave out, dogs and others began to lose their homes. In fear of this, Spot felt his throat pinched by hunger, and he went to another country far away. In a city of that country he found a citizen's wife who was slipshod in her housekeeping, so he entered her house every day, and ate his fill from a diversified bill of fare. But as he left the house, other dogs, drunk with aristocratic spleen, closed in from all sides, and tore him in every limb with their fangs.

Then he thought: "Better one's native land, where one lives at peace even in times of famine, and no one picks a quarrel. It is better to return to my own city." Having thus reasoned it through, he returned to his own place.

Then his relatives asked him questions, as one returning from foreign parts: "Come now, tell us about it. What is the country like? How do the people behave? What do they eat? And what are their habits?"

And he replied: "Why speak of the country?

The food is very good to eat

And does not lack variety;

While easy-going women meet

You in the town's society:

But kinsmen in that foreign street

Are wanting in sobriety."

So the crocodile, having received his friend's advice, resolved to die if need be, said farewell to the monkey, and went to his own house. There he joined battle with the desperate ruffian who had forced a way in, put his reliance in resolute valour, and killed him. So he recovered his home and lived there happily for a long time. [423}

Yes, the proverb is right:

Shun pleasant days that listless pass,

The joy that hides

In sloth. For deer can eat the grass

That fate provides.

Here ends Book 4, called "Loss of Gains." The first verse runs:

Blind folly always has to pay

For giving property away

Because of blandishments and guile -

The monkey tricked the crocodile.


Panchatantra books

Panchatantra in English by Arthur W. Ryders, To top    Section     Set    Next

Panchatantra in English by Arthur W. Ryder. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 2011–2019, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil [Email]