BOOK ONE: The Acquisition of a Friend
Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 700 words.
FABLE 5: The History of Hiranyaka The Mouse
(a story told by Hiranyaka the mouse to Manthara the tortoise in FABLE 1, which is a story told by Vishnu-Sarma to the young princes in the frametale)
Be it known [said Hiranyaka the mouse] that there is a city called Champakavatee, where many mendicants are wont to resort. Amongst the rest there was one whose name was Choorakarna. This mendicant, having placed the disk containing what was left of the alms he collected upon a forked stick fixed in the wall, used to go to sleep, whilst I, every day, contrived to jump from a distance and devour the hoard.
At length, one day his friend, another mendicant, whose name was Veenakarna, came in, and whilst he was engaged with him talking over various subjects, Choorakarna, in order to frighten me away, struck the ground with a piece of bamboo.
This being observed by Veenakarna, he said, "What, at present, thou art inattentive to my story, and employed about something else?"
To all this Choorakarna replied, "I am not inattentive to thy story. Behold what it is! This mouse is my plunderer. He is for ever devouring I get by begging out of that dish."
Upon this, Veenakarna having examined the forked stick in the wall, said, "What, is it this little weak-looking mouse who contrives to jump so very far? There must be some reason to account for this; as in the subject of these lines:
"Without an apparent cause, a young woman by force draweth an old man to her, and kisseth him. When a husband is embraced without affection, there must be some reason for it."
Choorakarna having demanded what this meant, Veenakarna related the following story:
FABLE 6: The Old Man and His Young Wife
(a story told by Veenakarna to his friend Choorakarna in FABLE 5, which is a story told by Hiranyaka the mouse to Manthara the tortoise in FABLE 1, which is a story told by Vishnu-Sarma to the young princes in the frametale)
In the country which is called Gowr, there is a city , by name Kowsamvee, where dwelt Chandana-dama, a merchant of immense wealth. When in the last stage of life, his understanding being blinded by desire, by the glare of his riches he obtained for his wife Leelavatee ("Wanton Lady"), the daughter of another merchant. She was youthful, and, as it were, the victorious banner of Makaraketu, the god of love; so her aged partner was ill calculated to be agreeable to her; for,
As the hearts of those who are pinched with cold, delight not in the rays of the moon; nor of those who are oppressed with heat, in the beams of the sun; so the heart of a woman delighteth not in a husband stricken in years.
But her old husband was exceedingly fond of her; according to these sayings:
The lust of wealth, and the hope of life, are ever of importance to man; but a youthful wife to an old man is dearer than life itself.
Nevertheless, Leelavatee, through the intoxication of youth, attached herself to a certain merchant's son.
They say, Woman is like a pot of oil, and man a burning coal. A wise man will not put the oil and the fire together.
In infancy the father should guard her, in youth her husband should guard her, and in old age her children should guard her; for, at no time, is a woman proper to be trusted with liberty.
One day, as she was carelessly sitting with the merchant's son, in agreeable conversation, upon a sofa white as camphire, and fringed with strings of gems, having unexpectedly discovered her husband coming towards them, she rose up in a great hurry, seized him by the hair, and eagerly embracing, began to kiss him; whilst the gallant found means to escape. But one who saw this understood her motive, and Leelavatee was corrected by a hidden rod. (That is, she was obliged to silence the woman with hush money.)
Upon the whole I say, Without an apparent cause, a young woman by force draweth an old man to her, and kisseth him. When a husband is embraced without affection, there must be some reason for it.
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:
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.
MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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