Week 5: Hitopadesa (Hitopadesha)

Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

BOOK ONE: The Acquisition of a Friend

Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 1000 words.

Okay, that story about the crow and the deer and the jackal was a story that the mouse Hiranyaka was telling to the crow Laghu-patanaka... remember that story? So now that the mouse has told his story about why he cannot risk being friends with the crow, we will find out what happens to them.

back to 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)

To all this the crow replied, "In eating thee, I should not enjoy a plenteous meal. But, like Chitra-greeva, I live but in they life.

"The mind of a good man doth not alter, even when he is in distress: the waters of the ocean are not to be heated by a torch of straw."

"But, friend crow, " observed the mouse Hiranyaka, "thou art an unsteady and inconstant animal, and one's affections should, on no account, be placed on such a character. Besides, thou art on the side of our enemies, and on this head they say,

"A man should not enter into alliance with his enemy, even with the tightest bonds of union. Water made ever so hot, will still quench fire.

"And again:

"That is not possible which is impossible. That which is possible is ever possible. A cart moveth not upon the waters, nor a boat upon dry ground."

"I have heard every book upon these subjects," said the crow Laghu-patanaka, "nevertheless my mind is impressed with this idea, that I must absolutely form a friendly acquaintance with thee; but if I should fail, after our separation I shall destroy myself. It is said, that those of evil character are like an earthen pot - easy to be broken, but hard to be re-united; and that those of a good character resemble a vessel of gold, which, though difficult to be broken, may easily be joined again. It is said,

"Metals unite from fluxility; birds and beasts from motives of convenience; fools from fear and stupidity; and just men at sight.

"The qualities of a friend should be, sincerity, liberality, bravery, constancy in joy and sorrow, rectitude, attachment, veracity.

"Whom, then, but thyself shall I find endued with all these?"

Upon hearing this, Hiranyaka slipped out of his hold, and said, "Well, by the immortal water of thy words, I have ventured out; for it is said,

"Nor bathing with cool water, nor a necklace of pearls, nor anointing with sandalwood, yieldeth such comfort to the body oppressed with heat, as the language of a good man, cheerfully uttered, doth to the mind.

"Then as long as we both shall live, so long let this our friendship be nourished, like that which existed between Rama and Sugreeva."

So Hiranyaka having promised his friendship, and entertained the crow with such provisions as he had, retired into his hold; and the crow also retired to his usual place of abode.

From that time there existed a mutual friendship between them. Day after day passed away in making presents to one another of provisions, and the like; in reciprocal inquiries after each other's health, and in amusing conversation.

One day the crow said to the mouse, "Friend Hiranyaka, provisions are very difficult to be procured in this place, wherefore I am about to abandon it, to repeat to some other."

Hiranyaka replied,

"Teeth, hair, nails, and the human species, prosper not when separated from their place. A wise man, being informed of this, should not totally forsake his native home."

"Friend," observed the crow, "this is the sentiment of weak men; for it is said,

"Wise men, lions, and elephants, quit one place and go to another; whilst crows, weak men, and the deer species, meet death in the same place."

"Then, whither shall we go?" demanded Hiranyaka. "They say,

"A wise man moveth with one foot, and standeth fast with the other. A man should not quit one place until he hath fixed upon another."

Said the crow, "There is a place well thought of."

"Where is it?" replied the mouse; and the crow replied, "In Dandakaranya there is a river celebrated by the name of Karpooragow, where there resides my friend, by many years accumulated kindness, a tortoise of innate virtue, whose name is Manthara."

"He will treat us," added the crow, "with a variety of choice fish."

Hiranyaka then said, "If I stay here, what shall I do? It is said,

"A man should abandon that country, wherein there is neither respect, nor employment, nor connections, nor the advancement of science.

"So conduct me there also," added the mouse.

The crow accordingly set off with his friend, and as they amused the time by conversing upon a variety of pleasing subjects, they arrived with ease upon the banks of the river. They were perceived at a considerable distance by the tortoise Manthara. He rose to receive them, and having first performed the duties of hospitality to Laghu-patanaka, he next extended them to Hiranyaka; according to these lines:

Whether a child, or an old man, or a youth, be come to thy house, he is to be treated with respect; for of all men, thy guest is the superior.

"Whether he who come to thy house be of the highest or even of the lowest rank in society, he is worthy to be treated with due respect; for of all men thy guest is the superior."

"Friend," said the crow to the tortoise, "pray pay attention to this stranger; for he is the very axis of those who are famed for virtuous deeds. His name is Hiranyaka, the prince of mice, to celebrate whose great qualities, the chief of serpents may sometimes have occasion to employ a second thousand tongues."

Having said this, he related the story of the pigeon Chitra-greeva.

The tortoise Manthara, having made respectful inquiries after his health, said to the mouse, "Be pleased to inform me of thy motives for quitting thy own uninhabited wilds;" and Hiranyaka replied, "I will recount them."

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

  • why did the crow Laghu-patanaka say to the mouse Hiranyaka that they should move?
  • what was the mouse's initial reaction to the crow's suggestion that they move?
  • how did Manthara the tortoise receive the crow and the mouse when they arrived?

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