Week 5: Hitopadesa (Hitopadesha)

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BOOK ONE: The Acquisition of a Friend

Reading time: 2 minutes. Word count: 400 words.

The teacher Vishnu-Sarma is telling a story about a crow to the young princes, and in that story a pigeon flies up and sees some rice scattered on the ground by a hunter. This makes the pigeon alarmed, and that pigeon, in turn, starts telling a story to the other pigeons. So you have a story within a story within a story!

FABLE 1: The Pigeon & The Mouse, The Crow, The Tortoise, and The Deer
(a story told by the teacher, Vishnu-Sarma, to the young princes in the frametale)

On the banks of the river Godavaree there was a Salmalee tree (silk cotton tree), to whose spreading branches birds of various species were wont to flock from every quarter, to roost. Early one morning, when darkness was dispersing, and the moon, whose emblem is the flower Kumudini-nayaka (night lotus), was reclining upon the summit of the mountain Charama, a certain crow, whose name was Laghu-patanaka (Light-flier), being awake, chanced to espy a fowler coming that way, who appeared to him another angel of death.

Having regarded him, and considered for a moment, he said to himself, "This unwelcome visit happeneth today very early, and I know not what may be the consequence."

So, pondering upon what he saw, he was seized with a panic, and flew out of the way; for,

A thousand occasions for sorrow, and a hundred for fear, day by day assail the fool; not so the wise man.

Yet it is said that men of the world must absolutely act according to these lines:

Every time we rise, great fear is to be apprehended; for, to-day, of death, sickness, and sorrow, who knoweth which may fall upon us?

The fowler, having first strewed some rice upon the ground, spread his nets; and whilst this was transacting, it happened that Chitra-greeva (Motley-neck), the chief of a flock of pigeons, was in the air flying about with his attendants. He saw the grains of rice upon the ground; and perceiving that his flock showed an inclination to partake of them, he addressed them thus: "Beware my friends! Whence, think you, should rice be produced in a place like this, void of inhabitants? Let this, therefore, be investigated; for I conceive no good can come of it, lest we should experience a fate similar to what is mentioned in the following lines:

"A traveller, through lust of gold, being plunged into an inextricable mire, is killed and devoured by an old tiger."

"How did this happen?" demanded the pigeons, and their chief related as follows:

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • how did the crow Laghu-patanaka react when he saw the man who had come to hunt birds?
  • how did the pigeon Chitra-greeva react when he saw the rice upon the ground?
  • what story does Chitra-greeva begin to tell to the other pigeons?

Source: Fables and Proverbs from the Sanskrit, Being the Hitopadesa. Charles Wilkins (1787), with an introduction to the second edition by Henry Morley (1886). Reprinted by Kessinger Publishing (www.kessinger.net). There is no online edition of this text. IMPORTANT NOTE: The text has been substantially abridged. Where you see one or two proverbs in the text here, there are frequently four or five or more proverbs in the original edition.

Modern Languages MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:48 PM