Week 5: Hitopadesa (Hitopadesha)

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BOOK TWO: The Separation of a Favorite

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

Now that Prince Kandarpa-Ketu has told the story of why the barber should be freed (remember how the barber was being led to execution for having cut off his wife's nose?), he next tells the story of his traveling companion, a poor man who used to be a rich merchant. The theme that unites all these stories is that Kandarpa-Ketu, the barber's wife, and the merchant are all the causes of their own suffering... just like the jackal Damanaka. For good measure, he also throws in the story of a woman who was having an affair with both a young man and with the young man's father - but by being sneaky, she managed to fool her husband on both accounts.

FABLE 6c: The Story of the Greedy Merchant
(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)

Now attend to the history of the merchant. He left his own house, and after an absence of twelve years, he returned to this city, having brought with him, from Manasotkantha, a great many jewels, and went to sleep at a house.

The mistress of the house had made a wooden image of a certain spirit, on whose head she had placed a valuable gem. This being told to the merchant, instigated by avarice, he got up in the middle of the night; but just as he had put his hand to the jewel, he was caught between the arms of the image, which were held by wires, and squeezed very closely, os that he cried out with pain.

The mistress of the house got up immediately. "Ho, ho! master merchant! Thou art come from Manasotkantha! Then deliver all thy jewels, or else thou wilt not be released from thy present confinement."

In short, he was helpless, and so sent for all his treasures, and made an offering of them for his enlargement; since which, having been thus plundered of all his wealth, he has joined our party of pilgrims.

back to FABLE 6: The Adventures of 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)

The traveller Kandarpa-ketu having thus concluded the story of the merchant, the officers of justice released the poor barber.

I repeat, therefore,

"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.

back to FABLE 1: The Bull, The Lion and The Two Jackals
(a story told by the teacher, Vishnu-Sarma, to the young princes in the frametale)

"Now," continued Damanaka, "as this also is an evil of our own seeking, it does not become us to grieve about it." And having considered for a moment, he added, "Friend, the friendship which subsists between them was brought about by me; and, by me, that friendship may be dissolved, for

"The understanding which, upon unexpected occurrences, remaineth unaffected, may pass through the greatest difficulties; like the farmer's wife with her two gallants."

"How was that?" demanded Karattaka; and Damanaka recounted the following story:

FABLE 7: The Farmer's Wife and Her Two Gallants
(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)

At a place called Dwaravatee, a certain farmer had a beautiful wife, who used to keep company with the son of the magistrate of the place; according to these sayings:

The fire is never satisfied with the addition of fuel, the ocean with the influx of rivers, the angel of death with the mortality of all things which have life, nor a beautiful woman with the conquest of all mankind.

One day, as she stood playing with the magistrate's son, she happened to see his father coming towards them; upon which, hiding the young man in the barn, she began to amuse herself with the justice himself. In the meantime, however, the husband making his appearance, she hastily told the magistrate to take stick in his hand, and depart in a hurry, and with his eyes flaming, as it were, with anger.

This being done accordingly, the farmer came up to his wife, and asked her what had occasioned the justice to be there in such a passion. "Why," said the artful woman, "you must know, that, for some cause or other, he is angry with his son, who flying here for my protection, I hid him in the barn; but the father coming, and not finding him, is gone away in a rage." Saying this, she conducted her young gallant from the barn and introduced him to her husband.

Wherefore, I repeat:

The understanding which, upon unexpected occurrences, remaineth unaffected, may pass through the greatest difficulties; like the farmer's wife with her two gallants.

back to FABLE 1: The Bull, The Lion and The Two Jackals
(a story told by the teacher, Vishnu-Sarma, to the young princes in the frametale)

"Be it so," replied Karattaka; "but how will it be possible to dissolve the ingrafted friendship which subsists between them?"

"Some artifice must be thought of," replied Damanaka, "according to this saying:

"That may be effected by stratagem, which could not be effected by strength. A female crow, by means of a gold chain, caused the death of a black serpent."

"How was that brought about?" demanded Karattaka; and Damanaka told the following story:


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

  • how was the merchant trapped and forced to hand over his jewels?
  • where did the wife hide the young man she was having an affair with?
  • how did the wife explain the young man's presence to her husband?

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