Week 5: Hitopadesa (Hitopadesha)

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BOOK ONE: The Acquisition of a Friend

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 800 words.

Now we are getting nested again: remember that Hiranyaka is telling his friend the story of the prince Tungavala who is infatuated with Lavanyavatee, and in that story, Tungavala's servant tells him a story. This is the story of the jackal and the elephant, and it is a story that is going to persuade Tungavala to use trickery in order to seduce Lavanyavatee and fool her husband.

FABLE 9. The Jackal and The Elephant
(a story told by the messenger to the Rajah's son in FABLE 8, which is a story told by Hiranyaka the mouse in FABLE 1, which is a story told by Vishnu-Sarma to the young princes in the frametale)

In the forest Brahmaranya there was an elephant, whose name was Karphooratilaka ("Marked With White Spots"), who having been observed by the jackals, they all determined, that if he could by any stratagem be killed, he would be four months provisions for them all. One of them, who was exceedingly viciously inclined, and by nature treacherous, declared, that he would engage, by the strength of his own judgment, to effect his death.

Some time after, this deceitful wretch went up to the elephant, and having saluted him, said, "Godlike sir! Condescend to grant me an audience."

"Who art thou?" demanded the elephant, "and whence comest thou?"

"My name," replied he, "is Kshudra-buddhi ("Bad-Hearted"), a jackal, sent into thy presence by all the inhabitants of the forest, assembled for that purpose, to represent, that as it is not expedient to reside in so large a forest as this, without a chief, your Highness, endued with all the cardinal virtues, hath been selected to be anointed Rajah of the woods. It is said,

"The lord of the land, like the clouds, is the reservoir of the people; for when the clouds fail, do they not find succor in their king?


"In this world, which is subject to the power of One above, a man of good principles is hard to be found living in a country for the most part governed by the use of the rod.

"Then, that we may not lose the lucky moment," continued the jackal, "be pleased to follow quickly." Saying this, he cocked his tail and went away.

The elephant, whose reason was perverted by the lust of power, took the same road as the jackal, and followed him so exactly that, at length, he stuck fast in a great mire.

"O my friend!" cried the elephant, "what is to be done in this disaster? I am sinking in a deep mire!"

The jackal laughed, and said, "Please your divine Highness, take hold of my tail with your trunk, and get out! This is the fruit of those words which thou didst place confidence in." After a few days, the elephant dying for want of food, his flesh was devoured by the jackals.

I say, therefore:

That which cannot be effected by force may be achieved by cunning. An elephant was killed by a jackal, by going over a swampy place.

back to FABLE 8: The Rajah's Son and The Merchant's Wife
(a story told by Hiranyaka the mouse to his friends in FABLE 1, which is a story told by Vishnu-Sarma to the young princes in the frametale)

The young Rajah, by the advice of his messenger, sent for the husband of Lavanyavatee, and having treated him with great marks of attention, took him into his service, and employed him in the most confidential affairs.

One day, when the young Rajah had bathed and anointed himself, and was clothed in robes of gold, he said to the husband, "Charudanta, I am going to give a feast to the goddess Gowree ("Fair-Lady"), which will last for a month, and this evening it shall commence. Go then, and, just before night, bring to me a young maiden of singular beauty; and when she hath been presented, she shall have due respect paid to her, according to what is ordained."

Charudanta did as he was commanded, and brought to his master such a young woman as he had described; and having delivered her, he privately resolved to find out how she was treated. The young Rajah, Tungavala, caused the young woman to sit down upon a rich sofa; and having entertained her with costly presents of cloth and garments, and given her a keepsake, he, that instant, sent her to her own house.

Charudanta having been a spectator of all which had passed, said to himself, "This is a man of strict principles, who regardeth the woman of another as his own mother."

So after that, thought the confidence created by this stratagem, his mind being biased by the lust of gain, he fetched his own wife and presented her; and the young Rajah upon beholding Lavanyavatee, the delight of his heart, exclaimed, "Dear Lavanyavatee! whither art thou going?"

Saying this, he got up from his seat, and, quite forgetful who was present, began to embrace her; whilst Charudanta, the miserable husband, stood gazing at her, motionless as a statue. And thus was a fool, by his own contrivance, plunged into the greatest distress.

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

  • why did the jackal tell the elephant that he had been elected king of the forest?
  • what finally happened to the elephant in the end?
  • why did Lavanyavatee's husband willingly bring her into the presence of the prince? and what happened as a result?

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