Week 5: Hitopadesa (Hitopadesha)

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BOOK ONE: The Acquisition of a Friend

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 700 words.

Now that Hiranyaka's story is over, we can return to the adventures of the friends in the woods: Hiranyaka the mouse, Manthara the tortoise, Laghu-patanaka the crow and the deer Chitranga.

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)

"Now, I fear lest a similar fate should befall thee," concluded the mouse.

Manthara, having attended to what had been said by the mouse, in great fear cried out, "My friends, I must go for security into the water."

Saying this, he marched away, and Hiranyaka and the rest followed him; but they had not gone far, before Manthara was seized by a certain sportsman, who chanced to be hunting about in that forest, and who, finding himself hungry and fatigued, immediately fastened his game to the end of his bow, and turned his face towards home. The deer, the crow, and the mouse were exceedingly sorry for this event; and Hiranyaka expressed his lamentations in these lines:

"Before I have attained the end of one trouble, boundless as the great ocean, still a second is ready to succeed! How many misfortunes are come upon me for my faults!"

In this manner having lamented the fate of the tortoise, the mouse continued, crying out, "Oh! how hard is my fate!" in the following words:

"The body is compounded with disorders, the state of opulence with calamities, advantages with disadvantages! Thus everything is produced with a companion who shall destroy it."

Hiranyaka, having in this manner greatly lamented the fate of his friend, said to the deer Chitranga and the crow, "Let our efforts be exerted for the deliverance of Manthara, before the hunter departs from the forest."

"Let us," said they, "be instructed in what we should do."

"Let Chitranga go near the water," said Hiranyaka, "and feign himself senseless and dead, and let the crow appear as if he were pecking at him; when the hunter, spying a deer, and longing to taste of his flesh, will be overjoyed, and so laying the tortoise upon the ground, will run to secure him. In the meantime I will gnaw asunder the cords by which Manthara is confined."

The deer and the crow did as they were instructed immediately. The hunter being thirsty, laid the tortoise upon the ground, and having drank some water, sat down in the shade of a tree, when he discovered the deer in the situation above described. He concluded that he had been killed by some sportsman, and pleased with his good fortune, went towards him with a knife in his hand.

In the meantime Hiranyaka contrived to loosen the cords by which Manthara was held; who finding himself at liberty made haste into the water; whilst the deer seeing the huntsman approaching, started up and ran away.

The huntsman then turned back, and repairing to the foot of the tree, and not finding the tortoise there, he began to reflect in this manner, "I have been served right," said he, "for not having been more circumspect.

"He who forsaketh a certainty, and attendeth to an uncertainty, loseth both the certainty and the uncertainty together."

So, having said this, he returned home disappointed by his own folly; and the tortoise with the rest remained together in mutual happiness.

--- END OF STORY: back to the FRAMETALE ---

The Rajah's sons then said, "We have all been greatly entertained; and now is completed what we first wished for."

"May every other of your Highness's inclinations," replied Vishnu-Sarma, "be accomplished like this!

"May the conduct of those who act well afford pleasure to the mind! By words alone no one is great. May he on whose diadem is a crescent (the god Seeva), cause prosperity to the people of the earth!"

"Having, sir," said the young princes, "heard The Acquisition of a Friend, we are not anxious to be informed of what respects The Separation of a Favorite."

"Attend then," answered Vishnu-Sarma, "and you shall hear concerning The Separation of a Favorite, of which these lines are an introduction:

"In a certain forest there subsisted a great and increasing friendship between a lion and a bull, which is destroyed by a cruel and very envious jackal."

"How was this?" demanded the Rajah's sons; and Vishnu-Sarma related the following story:

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

  • how did they trick the hunter into putting down Manthara the tortoise?
  • how did the crow help to fool the hunter?
  • who set Manthara the tortoise free?

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