Week 5: Hitopadesa (Hitopadesha)

Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images


BOOK TWO: The Separation of a Favorite

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

Damanaka realizes that in order to break up the friendship of the lion and the bull, he will need to use some kind of trick... and to provide an illustration of how he might be able to do that, he tells the story of a family of crows who need to use a trick in order to defeat their enemy, the snake. And inside that story, the crow's husband gives her some advice in the form of a story about a rabbit and a lion (this story about the rabbit and the lion is probably my favorite of all the stories here!)

FABLE 8: The Crow and the Black Serpent
(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 female companion of a crow resided in a certain tree, where she had young ones; but they were all devoured by a black serpent, who concealed himself in the hollow of its trunk. Now, finding herself breeding again, she said to her mate, "My dear, let us abandon this tree; for we shall never be able to raise any of our offsprings, because of that vile black serpent; for, you know,

"A bad wife, a false friend, servants who give pert answers, and living in a house infested by serpents, is death, as it were, inevitable."

"My dear," replied the crow, "thou shalt have no further cause to be alarmed. I have pardoned his offence again and again; but this time he shall be prevented."

"How, husband," said the female, "wilt thou be able to contend with one so powerful?"

"Never fear," answered her mate:

"He who hath sense hath strength. Where hath he strength who wanteth judgment? See how a lion, when intoxicated with anger, was overcome by a rabbit."

"How was that?" demanded the female; and the crow related the following tale:

FABLE 9: The Rabbit and The Lion
(a story told by the crow to his wife in FABLE 8, 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)

Upon the mountain Mandara, there lived a lion, who name was Durganta ("Hard-To-Go-Near"), who was perpetually complying with the ordinance for animal immolation; so that, at length, all the different species assembled, and, in a body, represented, that as by his present mode of proceeding, the forest would be cleared all at once; if it pleased his Highness, they would, each of them in his turn, provide him an animal for his daily food; and the lion gave his consent accordingly.

So every beast delivered his stipulated provision, till at length, it coming to the rabbit's turn, he began to meditate in this manner: "Policy should be practised by him who would save his life; and I myself shall lose mine, if I do not take care. Suppose I lead him after another lion? Who knows how that may turn out for me? Then I will approach him slowly, as if fatigued."

The lion, by this time, began to be very hungry; so, seeing the rabbit coming towards him, he called out in a great passion, "What is the reason thou comest so late?"

"Please your Highness," said the rabbit, "as I was coming along, I was forcibly detained by another of your species; but having given him my word, that I would return immediately, I came here to represent it to your Highness."

"Go quickly," said the lion in a rage, "and show me where this vile wretch may be found!"

Accordingly, the rabbit conducted the lion to the brink of a deep well, where being arrived, "There," said the rabbit, "look down and behold him;" at the same time he pointed to the reflected image of the lion in the water; who, swelling with pride and resentment, leaped into the well, as he thought, upon his adversary; and thus put an end to his life.

I repeat, therefore,

He who hath sense hath strength. Where hath he strength who wanteth judgment? See how a lion, when intoxicated with anger, was overcome by a rabbit.

back to FABLE 8: The Crow and the Black Serpent
(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)

"I have attended," said the female, "to all this; and now, do as thou shouldst do in this matter."

"Every day," observed the crow, "the king's son comes to bathe in the adjacent river. i mean to take away a golden chain he wears, when he shall take it off, and to put it into the hole where the serpent is; and when those who shall be employed to hunt after it shall search for it in the hollow of the tree, and shall see a black serpent, they will presently destroy it."

Some time after, when the king's son was bathing in the river, the crow executed his plan; and the people sent to look after the golden chain found it in the hole, and killed the serpent.

Wherefore, I say: 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.


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

  • what kind of problems is the snake causing for the family of crows?
  • how did the rabbit manage to trap the lion in the well?
  • how was the crow able to bring about the death of the snake?

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