Week 5: Hitopadesa (Hitopadesha)

Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

BOOK TWO: The Separation of a Favorite

Reading time: 6 minutes. Word count: 1200 words.

Damanaka realizes that the problem he has caused, introducing the bull into the court, is his own fault. As he thinks about his situation, he tells a story about a barber and his wife. What makes this story complicated is that the story of the barber and his wife is told by someone who witnessed that story: Prince Kandarpa-Ketu of Sri Lanka. So before you get to here the story of the barber and his wife, you first need to hear the story about Prince Kandarpa-Ketu, and how he was forced to leave his own home and go wandering...

After that, he being appointed accordingly, the lion and the bull passed their time together in great mutual kindness. But the two jackals, upon experiencing a relaxation in serving out the provisions to the officers and dependents, began to consult together what was to be done.

"It is an evil of our own seeking," said Damanaka, "and it is not proper to lament about a misfortune of one's own making.

"I, for having touched Swarna-rekha ("Marked-with-lines of gold); the barber's wife, for having bound herself; the merchant, for having attempted to steal a jewel: all these suffered for their own faults."

"How was this?" demanded Karattaka; and Damanaka related the following stories.

FABLE 6: The Traveller Kandarpa-ketu
(a story told by Damanaka the jackal to Karattaka the jackal in FABLE 1, which is a story told by Vishnu-Sarma to the young princes in the frametale)

In the city which is called Kanchana-pura there was a Rajah, whose name was Veera-vikrama. Once upon a time, as his chief officer of justice was conducting a certain barber to the place of execution, one Kandarpa-ketu, who was a traveller, accompanied by a merchant, taking him by the skirt of his garment, cried out, "This man is not guilty!"

"How so!" said the king's officers; "not guilty, sayest thou?"

"Hear me," said he, and he immediately began to repeat these lines:

"I, for having touched Swarna-rekha ("Marked-with-lines of gold); the barber's wife, for having bound herself; the merchant, for having attempted to steal a jewel: all these suffered for their own faults."

"What does this mean?" demanded the officers; and the traveller recounted the following adventure:

FABLE 6a: The Story of Kandarpa-ketu
(a story told by Kandarpa-ketu the traveller to the king's officers in FABLE 6, which is a story told by the jackal Damanaka, in FABLE 1, which is a story Vishnu-Sarma to the young princes in the frametale)

The king of Singhala-dweepa (Ceylon), whose name is Jeemoota-ketu, hath a son called Kandarpa-ketu, and I am he. One day a boatman, who attended in the pleasure gardens, told me that, on the fourth day of the moon, there was to be seen in the sea, which was near, under what had the appearance of the Kalpa-taru, or tree of thought, seated upon a silver sofa, ornamented with a fringe of precious gems, a certain nymph, playing upon a Veena, as it were the goddess Lakshmee.

At the proper time I sent for the boatman, and getting into the boat, set sail for the appointed place; and there I beheld a damsel, with only one half of her body appearing above the surface of the water. In short, attracted by the beautifulness of her appearance, I gave a jump with intention to catch her; but failing, I laid hold of a branch of the tree of thought, and was immediately transported to her golden palace; where I found her waiting in an apartment of gold, seated upon a bed of the same materials, attended by Vidya-dharees (divine female attendants).

I no sooner saw her, than, spying me at a distance, she addressed me with respect, and offered to be my bride, to which I consented with my eyes; and we were immediately united by that mode of marriage which is called Gandharva-vivaha (requiring nothing but the consent of the two parties).

Her name was Ratna-manjaree ("String-of-Jewels"), and she was the daughter of Kandarpa-kelee, the king of Vidya-dharas. One day, as we were in private together, she said, "Husband, thou mayest enjoy everything which is here according to thy wish, except it be the beautiful Swarna-rekha, a certain Vidya-dharee who is not to be touched of any one."

Some time after this, at an entertainment, being in a merry mood, I was tempted to touch her, and for my presumption she spurned me with the sole of her foot; after which I found myself in this country; and, at length, travelling about in great distress, I chanced to discover this city, and having wandered about all day, I went to sleep at the house of a certain cowkeeper.

FABLE 6b: The Story of the Woman Without A Nose
(a story told by Kandarpa-ketu the traveller to the king's officers in FABLE 6, which is a story told by the jackal Damanaka, in FABLE 1, which is a story Vishnu-Sarma to the young princes in the frametale)

This man, too, perceiving the season for the commission of crimes (night) was approaching, prudently quitted the conversation of his friends, and came home, where he found his wife planning evil with another woman. So, having given her a good beating, he made her fast to a post, and went to sleep.

About midnight, the other woman, who was the barber's wife, returning, said to the cowkeeper's wife, "Such a one, burning with the fire of separation, is ready to die for thee. Go, then, to speak to him, and return quickly; and in the meantime I will bind myself to the post, and stay till thou shalt come back."

Things having been thus managed, it so fell out that the cowkeeper waked. "Why dost thou not now go to see thy gallant, my dear?" said he; to which no answer being made, he continued, saying, "Pray who has taught thee to be so proud, that thou wilt not deign to give me an answer?" and, saying this, he got up in a great rage, cut off her nose, and lay himself down to sleep again. After a while, the cowkeeper's wife returning, asked her neighbor what news.

"What news!" said she; "look in my face, and see what news!"

The cowkeeper's wife now takes her place, and binds herself to the post as before; and the barber's wife took up her nose and repaired to her own house.

In the morning early, when the barber was hunting about for his razor case, his wife said, "Here is a razor," putting one into his hand; but as it did not chance to please him, he threw it in a passion upon the ground; upon which his wife seized the occasion to cry out, "Oh! without the least provocation, he hath cut off my nose!" And away she went to the officer of justice.

In the meantime, the cowkeeper's wife, being questioned by her husband, exclaimed, "Who, guilty wretch, thinkest thou, is able to disfigure one so innocent as I? The eight guardians of the universe are acquainted with my actions! Is it not said,

"The sun and moon, fire and air, heaven, earth, and water; the heart, and conscience; day and night, with morning and evening; justice and all, are witnesses of a man's actions?

"Then let this be the trial of my innocence: Ye mighty angels who guard the universe! if I am an innocent wife, let this my countenance remain no longer without a nose! Now," said she, "look at my face!"

Accordingly, her husband, having brought a light, examined her face; and when he beheld that it was free from any appearance of having been wounded, he fell down at her feet, and with a joyful heart released her from her confinement, and put her into bed.

And now I have laid before you all this, I cannot help meditating upon the circumstance of the barber's wife having bound herself; but,

Honey dwelleth upon a woman's speech; but in her breast there is nothing but poison.

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

  • why did the barber's wife get tied to the post in place of the cowkeeper's wife?
  • how did the barber's wife manage to blame her husband the barber for having cut off her nose, even though he was innocent?
  • how did the cowkeeper's wife persuade her husband the cowkeeper that she was innocent of adultery, even though she was guilty?

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