The Foolish Heron and The Mongoose

A flock of herons once had their nests on a fig tree in a part of a forest. In the hollow of the same tree lived a cobra that used to feed on the eggs and heron chicks before their wings sprouted.

At last one heron, in utter woe at seeing the young ones eaten by the cobra, went to the shore of the pond, and began to weep. And a crab who noticed him in sorrow, said: “Uncle, why are you so tearful today?” “My good friend,” said the heron, “what am I to do? Every day, the cobra living in fig tree is killing our children. I am not able to contain my grief. Tell me, is there any possible way to kill him?”

The crab then thought, “These herons are our born enemies. I shall give him advice that is misleading and suicidal. That will see the end of all these herons. Elders have always said that if you want to wipe out your enemy your words should be soft like butter and your heart like a stone.”

And he said aloud: “Uncle, strew pieces of meat from the mongoose’s burrow to the hollow of the cobra. The mongoose will follow the trail of meat to the cobra’s home and will kill it.”

When this had been done, the mongoose followed the bits of fish, killed the villainous snake, and also ate at his leisure all the herons who made their home in the tree.

How the Crow-Hen Killed the Cobra

In a certain region grew a great banyan tree. A crow and his wife had built a nest in there. But a cobra (black snake) crawled through the hollow trunk and ate their chicks as fast as they were born, even before baptism. Yet for all his sorrow over this violence, the poor crow could not desert the old familiar banyan and seek another tree.

At last the crow-hen fell at her husband’s feet and said: “My dear, we are living in deadly peril. A great many children of mine have been eaten by that awful snake. And grief for my loved and lost haunts me until I think of moving. Let us make our home in some other tree.” At this the crow was dreadfully depressed, and he said: “We have lived in this tree a long time, my dear. We cannot desert it. By some shrewd device I will bring death upon this villainous and mighty foe.”

“But,” said his wife, “this is a terribly venomous snake. How will you hurt him?” And he replied: “My dear, even if I do not have the power to hurt him, still I have friends who possess learning, who have mastered the works on ethics. I will go and get some advice from them so that the villain will soon meet his doom.”

After this indignant speech he went at once to another tree, under which lived a dear friend, a jackal. He courteously called the jackal forth, related all his sorrow, and said: “My friend, what do you consider opportune under the circumstances? The killing of our children is sheer death to my wife and me.”

“My friend,” said the jackal, “I have thought the matter through. That villainous black snake is near his doom by reason of his heartless cruelty. Like the greedy heron who wanted to eat crab meat, this snake is also hearing his death.”

“My friend,” said the crow, “tell me how this villainous snake is to meet his doom.” And the jackal answered: “Go to some spot frequented by a great monarch. There seize a golden chain or a necklace from some wealthy man who guards it carelessly. Deposit this in such a place that when it is recovered, the snake may be killed.”

So the crow and his wife straightway flew off at random, and the wife came upon a royal pond. As she looked about, she saw the women of a king’s court playing in the water, and on the bank they had laid golden chains, pearl necklaces, garments, and gems. The crow-hen seized a gold chain and started for the tree where she lived.

But when the chamberlains and the guards saw the theft, they picked up their clubs and ran in pursuit. Meanwhile, the crow-hen dropped the golden chain in the snake’s hole and waited at a safe distance.

When the king’s men climbed the tree, they found a hole and in it a black snake with swelling hood. They killed him with their clubs, recovered the golden chain, and went their way. Thereafter the crow and his wife lived in peace.