Week 5: Hitopadesa (Hitopadesha)

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BOOK ONE: The Acquisition of a Friend

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

You are about to get some nested stories again! Remember that the mouse Hiranyaka is telling a story to show the crow why it is not good for a mouse and a crow to be friends because they are so different. So the story he tells to prove this point is a story about a deer and a crow who are friends. This deer becomes friends with a jackal: big mistake. In order to show that this is a mistake the crow decides to tell that deer a story! So now we will have a story within a story within a story within a story! Notice the opposition between the wicked jackal and the good crow which is made clear by their names: the jackal is "Mean-spirited" and the crow is "Good-spirited."

FABLE 3 - The Deer, The Crow and The Jackal
(a story told by Hiranyaka, the mouse, to Laghu-patanaka, the crow, in FABLE 1, which is a story told by Vishnu-Sarma to the young princes in the frametale)

In Magadha-desa (near modern Gya) there is a forest called Champakavatee, and under the branches of one of the champaka trees there dwelt, in great good fellowship, a deer and a crow.

One day, as the deer, who was plump and fat, was freely roaming about the woods, he was spied by a certain jackal, who having examined him, said to himself, "Ah! with what exquisite pleasure could I feast upon his flesh! Be it so; but first, let me remove all suspicion."

So having thus resolved, he advanced towards him, and said, "Peace be with thee, friend!"

"Who art thou?" said the deer.

"I am Kshudra-budhee (Mean-spirited), the jackal," said he; "and being without relations, I dwell here in this forest, as it were, like one dead; but now that I have fallen in with a true friend, I am no longer destitute of connections, and am again entered into the land of the living; and henceforward it shall be my duty to attend thy steps."

Accordingly, as soon as the sun had retired to the western mountain, the jackal followed the deer to his place of residence, beneath the branches of the champaka tree, where with him lived also his friend the crow, whose name was Su-budhee (Good-spirited).

Upon seeing him, the crow said, "Who is this second?" and the deer replied, "It is a jackal, who is come here desirous of our friendship."

"Friend," said the crow, "it is not proper to place confidence in one who cometh without any apparent cause. It is not well done, for it is said:

"To one whose family and profession are unknown, one should not give residence: the jackal Jarad-gava was killed through the fault of a cat."

"How was that?" said they; and the crow related as follows:

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

  • what did the jackal think when he first caught sight of the deer?
  • how did the jackal persuade the deer to let him go home with him?
  • how did the crow react when he found out the deer had made friends with a jackal?

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