Panchatantra Book I : The Lion and the Bull

Once upon a time, in a city in southern India, there lived a wealthy merchant named Vardhaman. One day he thought: “Even an abundant store of wealth will reduce to nothing if it is not consistently replenished. A very little, if added to, grows like an ant-hill. Hence, even though money be abundant, it should be increased. Money should be earned. What is earned, should be guarded. What is guarded, should be enlarged and carefully invested. Even enemies seek the friendship of a rich man. Money makes the old become young, while even the young become old if they do not have wealth.”

Having thus set his mind in order, he collected merchandise bound for the city of Mathura, assembled his servants, and after saying farewell to his family, set forth from the city. He had many bullocks and horses in his caravan. One of them was a fine bull named Sanjeevaka; he looked like white cloud and was girded with a golden bell.

During the course of his journey, he passed through a dense forest. Here the bull Sanjeevaka met with an accident. One of his feet fell in a ditch and he got grievously hurt. When the driver saw what had happened, he jumped excitedly from the wagon, ran to the merchant Vardhaman not far away, and humbly bowing, said: “Oh, my lord! Sanjeevaka is exhausted by the trip, and sank in the mud.”

On hearing this, merchant Vardhaman was deeply dejected. He halted for five nights, but when the poor bull did not return to health, he left caretakers with a supply of fodder, and said: “You must join me later, bringing Sanjeevaka” Having given these directions, he started for his destination.

On the next day, the men, fearing dense forest, abandoned the bullock and made a false report to their master. “Poor Sanjeevaka died,” they said, “and we performed the last rites with fire and everything else.” The merchant, felt sad about his bull for some time and then continued on his journey towards Mathura.

In fact, Sanjeevaka was not dead. He limped step by step to the nearby river. There browsing on the emerald tips of tender grass, he regained his strength and in a few days grew plump as Shiva’s bull, high-humped, and full of energy. He began to merrily explore the jungle and having a ball of his time.

But one day a lion named Pingalaka, with a retinue of servants and friends, came down to the bank of the river for water. There he heard Sanjeevaka’s remarkable bellow. This unknown sound scared the lion and he, while concealing his fear from his company, withdrew under a banyan tree and sat there lost in deep thought.

Now Pingalaka was a righteous king of his forest. He ruled judiciously and all the animals in the forest were happy with him. He was fearless, honest and never adopted deception. He had in his retinue two jackals, sons of former counsellors. Their names were Karataka and Damanaka. These two got into a secret discussion, and Damanaka said: “My dear Karataka, just look at our master Pingalaka. He came all the way for water but is crouching here dejectedly.”

“Why meddle, my dear fellow?” said Karataka. “Needless meddling may be harmful as happened in case of the wedge-extracting monkey.”

“How was that?” asked Damanaka. And Karataka told the story of The Wedge Pulling Monkey.

“Therefore,” Karataka told Damanaka, “it is not wise to poke our nose into affairs that are not our concern. We have a food store. Why should we bother ourselves about Pingalaka’s worries?”

“But,” said Damanaka, “How can you give first-rate service merely from a desire for food with no desire for distinction? What matters is a life full of learning, courage and wealth. If living somehow is the goal, even the crow lives long eating leftovers. We should share the pain and concern of our friends and co-workers.”

“But at present,” said Karataka, “we two hold no job at court. So why meddle? The elders have always said that the stupid person who offers uncalled for advice to the king invites not only insult but also deceit.” “My dear fellow,” said Damanaka, “anyone who serves the king with devotion is bound to earn his favour in the long run. The one who does not remains where he is. Those who understand why the king is angry or generous will one-day rise in office. It is necessary to be in the good books of the king.”

“Well,” said Karataka, “what do you wish to imply?” And Damanaka answered: “You see, our master is frightened, his servants are frightened, and he does not know what to do.” “How can you be sure of that?” asked Karataka, and Damanaka said: “Wise men can infer the thoughts of others from their body language. The expressions, gestures, gait and sound of voice give away the inner thoughts. So by virtue of native intelligence I intend to dispel his fears and gain his confidence.”

“Why,” said Karataka, “you do not know how to make yourself useful to a superior. So tell me. How can you establish power over him?”

“And what makes you think that I do not know the duties of a functionary?” said Damanaka. “I have learnt from the works of poet Vyasa.”

But Karataka objected: “He might perhaps despise you for forcing yourself into a position that does not belong to you.” “Yes,” said Damanaka, “there is point in that. However, I am also a judge of occasions. I cannot take up this discussion when our master is preoccupied with something urgent or more important. I should not appear to be meddling either.”

“But,” said Karataka, “kings are hard to conciliate.”

“Quite true,” said Damanaka. “However the clever person quickly influences his target.”

And Karataka replied: “If you have made up your mind, then I wish you good luck. May your purpose be accomplished.”

So Damanaka went to Pingalaka, bowed and sat down on the seat indicated to him.

Then Pingalaka extended a right paw, and said respectfully: “Do you enjoy health? We haven’t seen you for a long time?” And Damanaka replied: “I don’t know of what use I can be to you, my lord. Yet, according to the learned, there are occasions when every person however high or low will be of use to the king. For generations we have served the king with devotion. Yet I am out of your majesty’s favour.”

“Oh,” said Pingalaka, “you must not say such things. You are the son of my old counsellor.” “O King,” said Damanaka, “there is something that should be said.” And the king replied: “My good fellow, tell me what is it that you have in your mind.”

Then Damanaka began: “My master set out to take water from river. Why did he turn back and camp here?” And Pingalaka, concealing his inner feelings, said: “Damanaka, it just happened so.” “O King,” said the jackal, “if you do not want to disclose, then let it be.”

Hereupon Pingalaka thought: “He seems trustworthy. I will tell him what I have in mind. For one should share his worries with people he can trust.” So Pingalaka said: “Friend Damanaka, did you hear a great voice in the distance?” “Yes, master, I did,” said Damanaka. “What of it?”

Pingalaka continued: “My good fellow, I intend to leave this forest.” “Why?” said Damanaka. “Because,” said Pingalaka, “there has come into our forest some gigantic creature, from whom we hear this great voice. His nature must correspond to his voice, and his power to his nature.”

“What!” said Damanaka. “Is our master frightened by a mere voice? It would be improper if our master abruptly left the forest which was won by his ancestors and has been so long in the family. Besides, many kinds of sounds are heard in the woods. Yet they are nothing but noises, not a warning of danger. I can tell you the story of the jackal, how it overcame the fear of sound.”

“How was that?” asked Pingalaka. And Damanaka told the story of The Jackal and the War Drum.

“And that is why I say that one should not be troubled by a mere sound.” “But,” said Pingalaka, “these retainers of mine are terrified and wish to run away. So how am I to reinforce my resolution?” And Damanaka answered: “Master, they are not to blame. For servants take after the master. The usefulness or uselessness of servants and tools depends upon the skill of master.”

“Please remain on this spot until I return, having ascertained the nature of the creature. Then act as seems proper.” “If you feel so, my dear fellow,” said Pingalaka, “then go. May the force be with you.”

So Damanaka bowed low and set out in the direction of the sound made by Sanjeevaka. And when he was gone, Pingalaka began worrying, so that he thought: “Ah, I made a sad mistake in trusting him to the point of revealing what is in my mind. Perhaps this Damanaka will betray me for dismissing him once. A servant that has been fired from the job cannot be trusted anymore.”

“So I will keep an eye on him, in order to learn his purpose. Perhaps Damanaka might even bring the thing along and try to kill me. Wise men have always maintained that it is difficult to kill even a weak man who does not easily trust others but easy to kill a strong man who readily trusts others.

As the king kept an eye on him, Damanaka moved slowly towards Sanjeevaka, and found that he was after all an animal and thought, “Well, well! This is lucky. This will help me to get back into the good books of the king. Just as a healthy man never thinks of a doctor, a strong and secure king also never remembers the need for a minister.”

With these thoughts in mind, he returned to meet Pingalaka. And Pingalaka, seeing him coming, assumed his former posture. So when Damanaka had come near, had bowed low, and had seated himself, Pingalaka said: “My good fellow, did you see the creature?” “I saw him,” said Damanaka, “through my master’s grace.” “Are you telling the truth?” asked Pingalaka. And Damanaka answered: “How could I report anything else to my gracious master? Whoever lies to the king faces certain ruin.”

“Yes,” said Pingalaka, “I suppose you really did see him. The great do not become angry with the weak. They take on only their equals.”

And Damanaka replied: “I will bring the creature into my gracious master’s presence.” And when Pingalaka heard this, he felt very pleased.

Meanwhile Damanaka returned and called Sanjeevaka: “Come here, you villainous bull! Come here! Our master Pingalaka asks why you don’t stop this meaningless bellowing.” And Sanjeevaka answered: “My good fellow, who is this person named Pingalaka?”

“What!” said Damanaka, “you do not even know our master Pingalaka?” And he continued with indignation: “You shall the consequences of your ignorance. He has a retinue of all kinds of animals. He dwells beside the great banyan tree. He is a mighty lion.”

When Sanjeevaka heard this, he thought himself as good as dead, and he fell into deep dejection, saying: “My dear fellow, you seem to be a man of great wisdom and wit. You alone can save me. If you cannot avoid taking me there, then please ask the master to grant me a safe-conduct.” “You are quite right,” said Damanaka. “Your request shows the ability to say what is appropriate. I would take you to the king once I have his agreement.”

Then Damanaka returned to Pingalaka and said: “Master, he is no ordinary creature. He has served as the vehicle of blessed Shiva. And when I questioned him, he said that Great Shiva was satisfied with him and has given him this forest as a playground.”

At this Pingalaka was frightened, and he said: “I knew it, I knew it. Only by special favour of the gods do creatures wander in a wild wood, bellowing like that, and fearlessly cropping the grass. But what did you say?”

“Master,” said Damanaka, “I said: This forest is the domain of Pingalaka, vehicle of Shiva’s passionate wife. Hence you come as a guest. You must meet him, must spend your time in brotherly love, must eat, drink, work, play, and make your home with him.” All this he promised, adding: ‘You must make your master grant me a safe-conduct.’ “As to that, the master is the sole judge.”

At this Pingalaka was delighted and said: “Splendid, my intelligent servant, splendid! I grant him a safe-conduct. You must hasten to bring him here, but not until he too has bound himself by oath toward me.”

Now Damanaka thought, as he set out to meet Sanjeevaka: “Well, well! The master is gracious to me and ready to do my bidding.” So he found Sanjeevaka, and said respectfully: “My friend, I won the master’s favour for you, and made him give you a safe-conduct. You may come without fear. Still, you must act in agreement with me. I for my part, will take the role of counsellor, and bear the whole burden of administration. Thus we shall both enjoy royal affluence. Otherwise, he who does not respect everyone, however high or low, will forfeit the favour of kings like Dantila.”

“How was that?” asked Sanjeevaka. And Damanaka told the story of The Rise and Fall of Merchant Dantila.

Damanaka resumed, “That is why we must know that pride goes before fall.” “My dear fellow,” said Sanjeevaka, “your argument is quite convincing. Let it be as you say.”

After this Damanaka took him to Pingalaka and said: “O King, here is Sanjeevaka.” Then Sanjeevaka bowed respectfully and stood before the king in a modest attitude. Thereupon Pingalaka extended over him a right paw and said with admiration: “Do you enjoy health? Why do you dwell in this wild wood?”

Sanjeevaka related accurately his separation from merchant Vardhaman and the others. And Pingalaka, after listening to the story, said: “Have no fear, friend. Protected by my paws, lead your own life in this forest.” And Sanjeevaka answered: “Very well, O King.” Then the king of beasts went down to the riverbank, drank and bathed his fill, and plunged again into the forest.

Thus the time passed, and the two developed good friendship. Now Sanjeevaka had assimilated solid intelligence back in service of the merchant Vardhaman, so that in a very few days he educated Pingalaka. He weaned him from forest habits and taught him city manners. Sanjeevaka and Pingalaka held secret discussions every day. This being so, all the other animals of the retinue were kept at a distance. As for the two jackals, they did not even have the right to enter.

Now Karataka and Damanaka, robbed of their master’s favour, got into a discussion. Damanaka said: “Karataka, my noble friend, we two seem to have lost our job. Pingalaka takes such delight in Sanjeevaka’s conversation that he is neglecting his kingly duties. What should we do?”

And Karataka replied: “The king may not heed our advice. But as his counsellors, it is our duty to advise him on it if it is good for him. Besides, in introducing this grass-nibbler to the master you were handling live coals.” And Damanaka answered: “You are right. The fault is mine, not the master’s. What happened to the sage and the jackal should not happen to us.”

“How was that?” asked Karataka. And Damanaka told two stories in one, called The Sage & The Thief.

The Lion and The Jackal

In a part of a forest lived a lion named Vajradaunstra, in company with three counselors, a wolf, a jackal, and a camel. One day he fought with a furious elephant whose sharp-pointed tusk tore his body and he could not get out of bed for a week.

Then, suffering from a seven-day fast, his body lean with hunger, he said to his famished advisers: “Round up some creature in the forest, so that, I may provide needed nourishment for you.” The moment he issued his orders, they roamed the wood, but found nothing.

After that the jackal reflected: “If the camel here were killed, then we should all be nourished for a few days. However, the master is kept from killing him by friendly feeling. In spite of that, I will trick the master into killing him. For, indeed, nothing is impossible for clever & wise people.”

After these reflections, he said to camel: “Friend camel, the master is starving. If the master goes, our death is also a certain thing. So I have a suggestion for your benefit and the master’s. Please pay attention.” “My good fellow,” said the camel, “make haste to inform me, so that I may unhesitatingly do as you say. Besides, one earns credit for a hundred good deeds by serving his master.”

And jackal said: “My good fellow, give your own body at 100 per cent interest, so that you may receive a double body in next life, and the master may prolong his life.” On hearing this proposal, camel said: “If that is possible, my friend, my body shall be so devoted. Tell the master that this thing should be done. I stipulate only that the Death-God be requested to guarantee the bargain.”

Having made their decision, they all went to visit the lion, and jackal said: “O King, we did not find a thing today, and the sun is already nearly set.” On hearing this, the lion fell into deep despondency. Then jackal continued: “O King, our friend camel makes this proposal: ‘If you call upon the Death-God to guarantee the bargain, and if you render it back with 100 per cent interest, then I will give my body.’” “My good fellow,” answered the lion, “yours is a beautiful act. Let it be as you say.” On the basis of this pact, camel was struck down by the lion’s paw, his body was torn by the wolf and the jackal, and he died.

Then jackal thought: “How can I get him all to myself to eat?” With this thought in his mind, he noticed that the lion’s body was smeared with blood, and he said: “Master, you must go to the river to bathe and worship the gods, while I stay here with wolf to guard the meal.” On hearing this, the lion went to the river.

When the lion was gone, jackal said to wolf: “Friend wolf, you are starving. You might eat some of this camel before the master returns. I will make your apologies to the master.” So wolf took the hint, but had only taken a taste when jackal cried: “Drop it, friend. Master is coming.”

Soon the lion returned, saw that the camel was minus a heart, and wrathfully roared: “Look here! Who turned this camel into leavings? I wish to kill him, too.” The wolf expected the jackal to convince the lion of his innocence. But the jackal was cunning and said, “I had warned you against eating the meat. Why do you expect me to help you now?” Realizing that there was danger, the wolf fled as fast as possible to save himself.

At this moment, as fate would have it, there came that way a great camel caravan, heavily laden, making a tremendous jingling with the bells tied to the camels’ necks. And when the lion heard the jingle of the bells, loud even in the distance, he said to the jackal: “My good fellow, find out what this horrible noise may be.”

On receiving the instructions, jackal barely went out of sight of lion, then darted back, and cried in great excitement: “Run, master! Run, if you can run!”

“What’s the matter,” the lion asked him. “Why are you frightening me? Let me know clearly what’s happening.” And jackal cried: “Master, the Death-God is coming, and he is in a rage against you because you brought untimely death upon his camel, and had him guarantee the bargain. He intends to make you pay a thousand fold for his camel. He also plans to make inquiries about the father and grandfathers of that one. He is coming. He is near at hand.”

When the lion heard this, he, too, abandoned the dead camel and scampered for dear life. Whereupon the jackal ate the camel bit by bit, so that the meat lasted a long time.

The Lion and the Ram

In a part of a forest was a ram, separated from his flock. In the armour of his great fleece and horns, he roamed the woods fearlessly.

One day a lion in that forest encountered him. At this unprecedented sight, since the wool so bristled in every direction as to conceal the body, the lion felt fearful of this animal unknown in that forest. “Surely, he is more powerful than I am,” thought he. “That is why he wanders here so fearlessly.” And the lion edged away.

But on a later day the lion saw the same ram cropping grass on the forest floor, and he thought: “What! The fellow nibbles grass! His strength must be in relation to his diet.” So he made a quick spring and killed the ram.

The Lion and The Carpenter

In a faraway city, there lived a carpenter. He had a practice of carrying his lunch and go with his wife into the forest to cut great logs. In that forest lived a lion named Nirmal, accompanied by two carnivorous friends, a jackal and a crow.

One day the lion was roaming the woods alone and encountered the carpenter. The carpenter coming face to face with the lion was shocked. He thought that he is no match for the lion in strength nor can he outrun him. Perceiving that his only option was to face the powerful, he stepped forward to meet the lion, bowed low, and said: “Come, friend, come! Please share my dinner. My wife has specially cooked these dishes for you.”

“My good fellow,” said the lion, “being carnivorous, I do not live on rice. But in spite of that, I will have a taste, since I take a fancy to you. What kind of dainty have you got?”

When the lion had spoken, the carpenter stuffed him with all kinds of delicious buns, muffins and things, all flavoured with sugar, butter, grape juice, and spice. And to show his gratitude, the lion guaranteed his safety and granted unhindered passage through the forest.

The carpenter said: “Friend, you must come here every day, but please come alone. You must not bring anyone else to visit me.” In this manner they spent their days in friendship. And the lion, since every day he received such hospitality, such a variety of goodies, gave up the practice of hunting.

Meanwhile the jackal and the crow, who lived on lion’s kills, were starving, and they implored the lion. “Master,” they said, “where do you go every day? And tell us why you come back so happy.” “I don’t go anywhere,” said he. But when they persisted with the question, the lion said: “A friend of mine comes into this wood every day. His wife cooks the most delicious things, and I eat them every day, in order to show friendly feeling.”

Then the jackal and the crow said: “We two will go there, will kill the carpenter, and have enough meat and blood to keep us fat for a long time.” But the lion heard them and said: “Look here! I guaranteed his safety. How can I even imagine playing him such a scurvy trick? But I will get a delicious tidbit from him for you also.”

So the three started to find the carpenter. While they were still far off, the carpenter caught a glimpse of the lion and his seedy companions, and he thought: “This does not look prosperous to me.” So he and his wife quickly climbed a tree.

Then the lion came up and said: “My good fellow, why did you climb the tree when you saw me? Why, I am your friend, the lion. My name is Nirmal. Do not be alarmed.” But the carpenter stayed where he was and said: “Dear friend! I trust you since you are a person of honour. However I do not trust your friends.”

The Trusting Camel

Once a merchant was leading a caravan of a hundred camels loaded with valuable cloth. Not able to bear all the load, one of his camels, named Kradanaka, fell limp. Moved by his plight, the merchant divided his load and distributed it on other camels. But since he found himself in a wild forest region where delay was impossible, he proceeded, leaving Kradanaka behind.

When the caravan was gone, Kradanaka hobbled about and began to crop the lush grass of forest. Thus in a very few days the poor fellow regained his strength.

In that forest lived a lion named Madotkata, who had as hangers-on a leopard, a crow, and a jackal. As they roamed the forest, they encountered the abandoned camel. The lion said: “This is an exotic animal in our forest. Ask him what he is.” So the crow informed him: “This goes by the name of camel in the world. He is an herbivore and is fit to be killed for food”.  But the lion said: “I shall not kill someone who came seeking hospitality. According to our elders, you cannot kill even an enemy who came trusting you.” Thereupon the lion asked Kradanaka: “My good friend, where did you come from?” And the camel gave precise details of his separation from the caravan, so that the lion experienced compassion and guaranteed his personal security.

In this course of affairs, the lion fought an elephant one day and got seriously wounded by the elephant’s tusk. He had to restrict himself to his cave and could not hunt. After about a week had passed, the lion and his servants could not bear the hunger anymore. So the lion said to them: “I am crippled by this wound and cannot hunt as usual. Bring me a food-animal. I will kill him somehow and provide food for you all.”

The leopard, the jackal, the crow and the camel looked everywhere for an animal but could not find anyone. The crow and the jackal conferred together, and the jackal said: “Friend crow, why roam about? Here is Kradanaka, who trusts our king. Let us provide for our sustenance by killing him.”

“A very good suggestion,” said the crow. “But after all, the master guaranteed his personal security, and so cannot kill him.”

“Leave it to me. I shall convince Madotkata to kill the camel. Wait here. I will meet the lord and get his permission,” said the jackal and left to meet the lion.

When he found the lion, he said: “Master, we have roamed the entire forest, and are now too famished to stir a foot. Since my lord is also in the same condition, I humbly suggest that we make a meal of this camel.”

Highly annoyed with the ruthless proposal, the lion said, “Shame upon you, most degraded of sinners! If you repeat these words, I shall first kill you. I have given him my word. How can I kill him? Haven’t our elders said that no gift is greater than the gift of an assurance?”

“You are right my lord,” replied the jackal, “It would be a sin to kill him who has your word. But if the camel voluntarily offers himself as food to his lord and king, then it is no sin to accept the offer. If he does not volunteer, you can kill anyone of us. You are hungry and close to your end. If we are not of use to our gracious master at this time then our lives have no value.

After listening to this, Madotkata said: “Very well. This seems to be more reasonable.”

The jackal told the other three assistants: “Friends, our lord is very low. The life is oozing out of him. If he goes, there would be no one to protect us from others. So, let us go and voluntarily offer our own bodies to him. Thus we shall pay the debt we owe our gracious master.”

So they all went, their eyes brimming with tears, bowed low before Madotkata, and sat down.

“What’s the matter? Did you find an animal?” asked the lion. And the crow replied: “Master, though we roamed everywhere, we still did not catch any creature. But I request my lord to have me for his meal. Thus the lord will survive while I shall go to heaven.”

On hearing this, the jackal said: “Your body is too small. If he ate you, the master would hardly prolong his life. You have shown your loyalty, now make way, while I address the master.” So the jackal bowed respectfully and said: “Lord, I request you to have me for your meal and ensure me a place in heaven. The lord has rights of life and death over his servants. Therefore, it is no sin in exercising his rights.”

Hearing this, the leopard said: “Very praiseworthy, indeed, my friend. However, your body is rather small, too. Well, you have shown yourself a loyal servant. Make way, then, so that I, too, may win the master’s grace.”

Thereupon the leopard bowed low and said: “Master, let me give away my life to save your life. Please allow me to earn a permanent berth in heaven.”

Hearing this, poor Kradanaka thought: “Well, they used the most elegant speech. Yet the master did not kill a single one of them. So I, too, will make a speech befitting the occasion. I have no doubt that all three will contradict me.”

Having come to this conclusion, he said: “Very admirable, friend leopard. But you too are carnivorous. How, then, can the master eat you? Make way, then, so that I, too, may address the master.” So poor Kradanaka stood in the presence, bowed low and requested the lion to have him for that day’s meal.

Hereupon the lion gave the word and at once, the jackal and the leopard pounced on him, tore him to pieces and all of them had a sumptuous feast.

The Rabbit & The Foolish Lion

A lion named Bhasuraka ruled the jungle, indiscriminately killing all other animals. All the other animals decided to meet the lion one day in a delegation. “Oh, lord,” they said, “why do you kill so many of us every day, when you need only one for your food? Let us have an agreement. Now onwards, there would be no need for you to hunt. We will send an animal every day to you. This way, you will be spared the trouble of hunting and we would get our lives.”

“Our forebears have said that the duty of the king is to rule and not to destroy. Just as a seed sprouts, grows into a tree and yields fruit, a people protected by the king come to his rescue in times of need.”

“What you say is true,” the lion said and added a condition. “If you fail to send one animal every day, I shall kill all of you.”

“Agreed,” said the animals and began roaming the forest without fear and sending one of their own folk to the lion for his lunch. One day a rabbit’s turn came, it being rabbit-day. And when all the crowding animals had given him directions, he thought: “How is it possible to kill this lion? After all, there is nothing that cannot be achieved by wisdom and resolve.

So he went very slowly, planning to arrive tardily, and meditating with troubled spirit on a means of killing him. On the way he spotted a big well and saw his own reflection when he peeped into the well out of curiosity. Suddenly an idea struck the rabbit. “I will somehow tempt the lion to the well and persuade him to jump into it,” the rabbit thought to himself.

It was late in the evening when the rabbit reached the lion’s den. The lion was hungry and so angry that he decided to kill all the animals when the rabbit came and knelt before him. “First, you are too small for my lunch. Second, you have come late. I shall kill you and all the others too,” the lion warned the rabbit.

Then the rabbit bowed low and said with deference: “Master, the wickedness is not mine, nor the other animals. Please hear the cause of it.” And the lion answered: “Well, tell it quick, before you are between my fangs.”

“Master,” said the rabbit, “all the animals recognized today that the rabbits’ turn had come, and because I was quite small, they sent five other rabbits with me. But in mid-journey there came a lion from a great hole in the ground who said: ‘Where are you bound? Pray to your favourite God.’ Then I said: ‘We are traveling as the dinner of lion Bhasuraka, our master, according to agreement.’ ‘Is that so?’ said he. ‘This forest belongs to me. So all the animals, without exception, must deal with me according to agreement. This Bhasuraka is a sneak thief. Call him out and bring him here at once. Then whichever of us proves stronger, shall be king and shall eat all these animals.’ At his command, master, I have come to you. This is the cause of my tardiness. For the rest, my master is the sole judge.”

“In that case,” Bhasuraka told the rabbit, “show me that sneak thief of a lion, and be quick about it. I will kill him and have him for lunch. According to the elders, territory, friendship and gold are the rewards of war. Wise men do not go to war unless there are gains.”

“Warriors fight for their country when they are insulted. But this fellow skulks in a fortress. You know he came out of a fortress when he held us up. And an enemy in a fortress is hard to handle.” When he heard this, Bhasuraka said: “My good fellow, show me that thief. Even if he is hiding in a fortress, I will kill him. Don’t you know that you have to crush the enemy and disease at the first opportunity? Otherwise, they will grow in strength and crush you.

“Very true,” said the rabbit. “But after all it was a mighty lion that I saw. So the master should not set out without realizing the enemy’s capacity.”

Growing impatient, the lion roared, “why all this tall talk. Show him to me, even in his fortress.” “Very well,” said the rabbit. “Follow me, master.” And he led the way to the well, where he said to the lion: “Master, who can endure your majesty? The moment he saw you, that thief crawled clear into his hole. Come, I will show him to you.” “Be quick about it, my good fellow,” said Bhasuraka.

So the rabbit showed him the well. And the lion, being a dreadful fool, saw his own reflection in the water, and gave voice to a great roar. Then from the well issued a roar twice as loud, because of the echo. This the lion heard, decided that his rival was very powerful, hurled himself down, and met his death. Thereupon the rabbit cheerfully carried the glad news to all the animals, received their compliments, and lived there contentedly in the forest.