Site Map
Panchatantra Fables
Section › 13 Set Search Previous Next

Reservations Contents  

Book 5. Ill-Considered Action

Slow, the Weaver

In a certain town lived a weaver named Slow. One day all the pegs in his loom broke. So he took an axe, [450} and in his search for wood, came to the seashore. There he found a great sissoo tree, and he thought: "This seems a good-sized tree. If I cut it down, I can make plenty of weaving-tools." He therefore lifted his axe upon it.

Now there was a fairy in the tree who said: "My friend, this tree is my home. Please spare it. For I live here in utter happiness, since my body is caressed by breezes cool from contact with ocean billows."

"But, sir," said the weaver, "what am I to do? While I lack apparatus made of wood, my family is pinched by hunger. Therefore, please move elsewhere, and quickly. I intend to cut it down."

"Sir," said the fairy, "I have taken a liking to you. Ask anything you like, but spare this tree."

"In that case," said the weaver, "I will go home and return after asking my friend and my wife." And when the fairy consented, the weaver started home. On entering the town, he encountered his particular friend, the barber, and said: "My friend, I have won the favour of a fairy. Tell me what to ask for."

And the barber said: "My dear fellow, if it is really so, ask for a kingdom. You can be king, and I will be prime minister. So we shall both taste the delights of this world before those of the world to come."

"Quite so, my friend," replied the weaver. "However, I shall ask my wife, too."

"Don't," said the barber. "It is a mistake to consult women. As the saying goes: [451}

Give a woman food and dresses

(Chiefly when her trouble presses);

Give her gems and all things nice;

Do not ask for her advice.

And again:

Where a woman, gambler, child,

As a guide is domiciled,

Death advances, stage by stage -

So declares the ancient sage.

And once again:

Only while he does not hear

Woman's whisper in his ear,

May a man a leader be,

Keeping due humility.

Women seek for selfish treasures,

Think of nothing but their pleasures,

Even children by them reckoned

To their selfish comfort second."

And the weaver rejoined: "You may be right. Still, I shall ask her. She is a good wife."

So he made haste and said to her: "My dear wife, today we won the favour of a fairy. He offers anything we want. So I have come to ask you to tell me what to say to him. Here is my friend, the barber, who tells me to ask for a kingdom."

"Dear husband,"' said she, "what sense have barbers? Do not take his advice. For the proverb says:

All advice you may discard

From a barber, child, or bard, [452}

Monk or hermit or musician,

Or a man of base condition.

"Besides, this king-business means a series of dreadful troubles and involves worry about peace, war, change of base, entrenchment, alliance, duplicity, and other matters. It never gives satisfaction. And even worse,

His very sons and brothers wish

The slaughter of a king;

As this is kingship's nature, who

Would not reject the thing?

"Yes," said the weaver, "you are right. But tell me what to ask for."

And she replied: "As it is, you turn out one piece of cloth a day, and this meets all our expenses. Now ask for a second pair of arms and an extra head, so that you may produce one piece of cloth in front and another behind. The price of one meets the household expenses, with the price of the other you may put on style and spend the time in honour among your peers."

On hearing this, he was delighted and said: "Splendid, my faithful wife! You have made a splendid suggestion. I am determined to follow it."

So the weaver went and laid his request before the fairy: "Well, sir, if you offer what I wish, pray give me a second pair of arms and an extra head." And in the act of speaking he became two-headed and four-armed. But as he came home, delight in his heart, the [453} people thought he was a fiend, and beat him with clubs and stones and things so that he died.

"And that is why I say:

He who, lacking wit, does not, . .

and the rest of it."

Then the wheel-bearer continued: "Yes, any man becomes ridiculous when bitten by the demon of extravagant hope. There is sense in this:

Do not indulge in hopes

Extravagantly high:

Else, whitened like the sire

Of Moon-Lord, you will lie."

"How was that?" asked the gold-finder. And the other told the story of

The Brahman's Dream

In a certain town lived a Brahman named Seedy, who got some barley-meal by begging, ate a portion, and filled a jar with the remainder. This jar he hung on a peg one night, placed his cot beneath it, and fixing his gaze on the jar, fell into a hypnotic reverie.

"Well, here is a jar full of barley-meal," he thought. "Now if famine comes, a hundred rupees will come out of it. With that sum I will get two she-goats. Every six months they will bear two more she-goats. After goats, cows. When the cows calve, I will sell the calves. After cows, buffaloes; after buffaloes, mares. From the mares I shall get plenty of horses. The sale of these will mean plenty of gold. The gold [454} will buy a great house with an inner court. Then someone will come to my house and offer his lovely daughter with a dowry. She will bear a son, whom I shall name Moon-Lord. When he is old enough to ride on my knee, I will take a book, sit on the stable roof, and think. Just then Moon-Lord will see me, will jump from his mother's lap in his eagerness to ride on my knee, and will go too near the horses. Then I shall get angry and tell my wife to take the boy. But she will be busy with her chores and will not pay attention to what I say. Then I will get up and kick her."

Being sunk in his hypnotic dream, he let fly such a kick that he smashed the jar. And the barley-meal which it contained turned him white all over.

"And that is why I say:

Do not indulge in hopes, . . .

and the rest of it."

"Very true, indeed," said the gold-finder. "For

Greedy folk who do not heed

Consequences of a deed,

Suffer disappointment soon;

For example take King Moon."

"How was that?" asked the wheel-bearer. And the other told the story of

The Unforgiving Monkey

In a certain city was a king named Moon, who had a pack of monkeys for his son's amusement. [455} They were kept in prime condition by daily provender and pabulum in great variety.

For the amusement of the same prince there was a herd of rams. One of them had an itching tongue, so he went into the kitchen at all hours of the day and night and swallowed everything in sight. And the cooks would beat him with any stick or other object within reach.

Now when the chief of the monkeys observed this, he reflected: "Dear me! This quarrel between ram and cooks will mean the destruction of the monkeys. For the ram is a regular guzzler, and when the cooks are infuriated, they hit him with anything handy. Suppose some time they find nothing else and beat him with a firebrand. Then that broad, woolly back will very easily catch fire. And if the ram, while burning, plunges into the stable nearby, it will blaze - for it is mostly thatch - and the horses will be scorched. Now the standard work on veterinary science prescribes monkey-fat to relieve burns on horses. This being so, we are threatened with death."

Having reached this conclusion, he assembled the monkeys and said:

"A quarrel of the ram and cooks

Has lately come about;

It threatens every monkey life

Without a shade of doubt.

"Because, if senseless quarrels rend

A house from day to day, [458}

If foes commit an outrage on

A house, and one forgives -

Be it from fear or greed - he is

The meanest man that lives.

Now as the elderly monkey wandered about thirsty, he came to a lake made lovely by clusters of lotuses. And as he observed it narrowly, he noticed footprints leading into the lake, but none coming out. Thereupon he reflected: "There must be some vicious beast here in the water. So I will stay at a safe distance and drink through a hollow lotus-stalk."

When he had done so, there issued from the water a man-eating fiend with a pearl necklace adorning his neck, who spoke and said: "Sir, I eat everyone who enters the water. So there is none shrewder than you, who drink in this fashion. I have taken a liking to you. Name your heart's desire."

"Sir," said the monkey, "how many can you eat?"

And the fiend replied: "I can eat hundreds, thousands, myriads, yes, hundreds of thousands, if they enter the water. Outside, a jackal can overpower me."

"And I," said the monkey, "I live in mortal enmity with a king. If you will give me that pearl necklace, I will awaken his greed with a plausible narrative, and will make that king enter the lake along with his retinue." So the fiend handed over the pearl necklace.

Then people saw the monkey roaming over trees [459} and palace-roofs with a pearl necklace embellishing his throat, and they asked him: "Well, chief, where have you spent this long time? Where did you get a pearl necklace like that? Its dazzling beauty dims the very sun."

And the monkey answered: "In a spot in the forest is a shrewdly hidden lake, a creation of the god of wealth. Through his grace, if anyone bathes there at sunrise on Sunday, he comes out with a pearl necklace like this embellishing his throat."

Now the king heard this from somebody, summoned the monkey, and asked: "Is this true, chief?"

"O King," said the monkey, "you have visible proof in the pearl necklace on my throat. If you, too, could find a use for one, send somebody with me, and I will show him."

On hearing this, the king said: "In view of the facts, I will come myself with my retinue, so that we may acquire numbers of pearl necklaces."

"O King," said the monkey, "your idea is delicious." So the king and his retinue started, greedy for pearl necklaces. And the king in his palanquin clasped the monkey to his bosom, showing him honour as they travelled. For there is wisdom in the saying:

The educated and the rich,

Befooled by greed,

Plunge into wickedness, then feel

The pinch of need. [460}

And again:

A hundred's mine? A thousand, please.

Thousand? A lakh would give me ease.

A kingdom's power would satisfy

The lakh-lord. Kings would own the sky.

The hair grows old with aging years;

The teeth grow old, the eyes and ears.

But while the aging seasons speed,

One thing is young forever - greed.

At dawn they reached the lake and the monkey said to the king: "O King, fulfilment comes to those who enter at sunrise. Let all your attendants be told, so that they may dash in with one fell swoop. You, however, must enter with me, for I will pick the place I found before and show you plenty of pearl necklaces." So all the attendants entered and were eaten by the fiend.

Then, as they lingered, the king said to the monkey: "Well, chief, why do my attendants linger?"

And the monkey hurriedly climbed a tree before saying to the king: "You villainous king, your attendants are eaten by a fiend that lives in the water. My enmity with you, arising from the death of my household, has been brought to a happy termination. Now go. I did not make you enter there, because I remembered that you were the king. But the proverb says:

Having suffered an offense,

Give an evil recompense; [461}

For I deem it righteous still,

Evil to repay with ill.

Thus you plotted the death of my household, and I of yours."

When the king heard this, he hastened home, grief-stricken. And when the king had gone, the fiend, fully satisfied, issued from the water, and gleefully recited a verse:

Very good, my monkey-o!

You won a friend, and killed a foe,

And kept the pearls without a flaw,

By sucking water through a straw.

"And that is why I say:

Greedy folk who do not heed, . . .

and the rest of it."

Then the gold-finder continued: "Please bid me farewell. I wish to go home." But the wheel-bearer answered: "How can you go, leaving me in this plight? You know the proverb:

Whoever through hard-heartedness

Deserts a friend in his distress,

For such ingratitude must pay -

To hell he treads the certain way."

"That is true," said the gold-finder, "in case one able to aid deserts a friend in a remediable situation. But this situation has no human remedy, and I shall never have the ability to set you free. Besides, the more I gaze at your face, distorted with pain from the whirling wheel, the surer I feel that I am going to [462} leave this spot at once, lest perchance the same calamity befall me, too. There is some point in this:

To judge by the expression,

Friend monkey, on your face,

You have been caught by Twilight -

He lives who wins the race."

"How was that?" asked the wheel-bearer. And the other told the story of

The Credulous Fiend

In a certain city lived a king whose name was Fine-Army. He had a daughter named Pearl, blessed with the thirty-two marks of perfect beauty.

Now a certain fiend, who wished to carry her off, came every evening and abused her, but he could not carry her off because she protected herself by drawing a magic circle. However, at the hour when he embraced her, she experienced trembling, fever, and the like, the feelings that arise in the presence of a fiend.

While matters were in this state, the fiend once took his stand in a corner and revealed himself to the princess, who thereupon said to a girl friend: "Look, my dear! This is the fiend who comes every evening at twilight's hour and torments me. Is there any means of keeping the ruffian at a distance?"

When he heard this, the fiend thought: "Aha! I am not the only one. There is someone else and his name is Twilight who comes every day to carry her [463} off. But he cannot do it either. Suppose I take the form of a horse, go to the stable, and find out what he looks like and what power he has."

When he had done so, a horse-thief came to the palace at dead of night. He examined all the horses, found the fiend-horse the finest, put a bit in his mouth, and mounted. Meanwhile the fiend was thinking: "I presume this is the fellow named Twilight. He thinks me a vile creature, he is angry, he has come to kill me. What shall I do?"

While he was thinking, the horse-thief struck him with a whip. And he was terrified and started to run. The thief, for his part, after travelling some distance, tried to stop him by tugging at the bit. And he thought: "Now if he were a horse, he would mind the bit. Instead, he goes faster and faster."

When the thief perceived how little he minded the tugging at the bit, he reflected: "Well, well! Horses are not like this. This must be a fiend in equine form. So if I find a spot thick with dust, I will drop. It is my one chance of life."

While the horse-thief was thinking and praying to his favourite god, the fiend-horse passed under a banyan tree. And the thief caught a branch and stuck. So both of them gained the hope of life from their separation, and were filled with extreme delight.

Now in the banyan was a monkey, a friend of the fiend, who said when he saw the fiend making off: [464} "Look here! Why do you run from an imaginary danger? This is your natural food, a man. Eat him."

On hearing this, the fiend took his own form and turned about but his mind was disturbed and his purpose shaky. And when the thief saw that the monkey had called him back, he was angry. As the monkey sat above, and his tail hung down, the thief took it in his mouth and started to chew very hard. Then the monkey concluded that he was dealing with one more powerful than the fiend, and was too frightened to utter a word. In dreadful pain, he could only shut his eyes tight, clench his teeth, and wait. And the fiend, observing him in this state, recited the stanza:

To judge by the expression,

Friend monkey, on your face,

You have been caught by Twilight -

He lives who wins the race.

Then the gold-finder continued: "Bid me farewell. I desire to go home. You may stay here and taste the fruit of the tree of your waywardness."

"Oh," said the wheel-bearer, "that is uncalled for. Good or evil comes by fate's decree to men well-behaved or wayward. As the old verse puts it:

Blind man, hunchback, and unblest

Princess with an extra breast -

Waywardness is prudence, when

Fortune favours wayward men." [465}

"How was that?" asked the gold-finder. And the wheel-bearer told the story of

The Three-Breasted Princess

In the north country was a city called Honey-Town, where the king was named Honey-Host. And once there was born to him a daughter with three breasts. As soon as he learned of the birth of a three-breasted girl, he summoned the chamberlain and said: "Sir, let this girl be exposed in the forest, so that not a single soul may learn the fact."

To this the chamberlain replied: "O king of kings, it is a well-known fact that a three-breasted daughter brings misfortune. In spite of this, the Brahmans should be summoned and their opinion asked, in order that no law be offended, whether human or divine. For the proverb says:

A prudent man should always ask

What is beyond his ken:

A dreadful fiend the Brahman caught,

But let him go again."

"How was that?" asked the king. And the chamberlain told the story of

The Fiend Who Washed His Feet

In a certain forest lived a fiend named Cruel. One day he met a Brahman in his wanderings, climbed on his shoulder, and said: "Now go ahead."

So the terrified Brahman started off with him. [466} But on observing that the fiend's feet were soft as a lotus-heart, he asked him: "Sir, why are your feet so tender?"

And the fiend replied: "I am under a vow never to touch the ground with my feet until I have washed them."

Soon the Brahman, while meditating a plan of escape, came to a lake. Here the fiend said: "Sir, do not stir from this spot until I come forth from the lake after bathing and worshiping the god."

Thereupon the Brahman thought: "He will be sure to eat me after his worship. I will hurry away. For he will not follow me with unwashed feet."

And when he did so, the fiend, not daring to break his vow, did not follow.

"And that is why I say:

A prudent man should always ask,

and the rest of it."

After listening to this, the king summoned the Brahmans and said: "Brahmans, a three-breasted daughter has been born to me. Are any remedial measures to be taken, or not?" And they replied: "O King, listen.

A daughter fitted out with limbs

Too numerous or few,

Will lose her character, and will

Destroy her husband, too.

But if the father sees a girl

With triple breast about, [ 467}

She dooms him to a speedy death

Without a shade of doubt.

"Therefore, O King, shun the sight of her. Give her to anyone who will marry her, but banish him from the country. If this is done, there is no offense to laws human or divine."

When the king had listened to this opinion, he ordered a proclamation to be made everywhere with beat of drum, as follows: "Hear ye! There is a three-breasted princess. To anyone who marries her the king will give a hundred thousand gold-pieces, but will exile him." For a long time this proclamation was made without anyone marrying the princess, who remained in seclusion and grew to young womanhood.

Now there was a blind man in the city, and as companion he had a hunchback named Slow, who guided him with a staff. These two heard the drum and consulted, saying: "In case we touch that drum, we get girl and gold. With the gold our life will be happy. And even if death results from the girl's deformity, it will put a final end to the wretchedness of poverty. For

Until a mortal's belly-pot

Is full, he does not care a jot

For love or music, wit or shame,

For body's care or scholar's name,

For virtue or for social charm,

For lightness or release from harm,

For godlike wisdom, youthful beauty.

For purity or anxious duty." [470}

Not finding a knife, he went up to Slow in the old way, wrathfully seized him by the feet, whirled him about his head with every bit of strength he could muster, and dashed him against the chest of the three-breasted woman. And the blow from the hunchback's body forced the third breast in, while the hunchback, when his hump smashed against her bosom, became straight.

"And that is why I say:

Blind man, hunchback, . . . .

and the rest of it."

Then the gold-finder said: "Yes, you are quite right in saying that good fortune always comes through the favour of fate. Yet, after all, a man should make fate his own, and not desert prudence, as you did in rejecting my advice."

With this the gold-finder bade him farewell and started home.

Here ends Book 5, called "Ill-considered Deeds." The first verse runs:

Deeds ill-known, ill-recognized,

Ill-accomplished, ill-devised -

Thought of these let no man harbour;

Take warning from the barber.

Contents


Panchatantra in English by Arthur W. Ryder, Literature  

Panchatantra in English translation by Arthur W. Ryder, To top Archive section Set Next

Panchatantra in English by Arthur W. Ryder USER'S GUIDE: [Link]
© 2011–2016, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil. [Email]  ᴥ  Disclaimer: [Link]