The Panchatantra – Story 45

THE ASS WITHOUT HEART AND EARS

The jackal went near the ass and said, ‘Uncle, deign to accept my humble salutations. It is a long time since I have seen you. How have you grown so weak?’ Lambakarna replied, ‘ Oh, nephew, what can I do ? The washer-man callously overloads me always. He never gives me even a handful of grass. The body cannot be well nourished with a scanty meal of this Durva grass mingled with dust.’ The jackal said, ‘Uncle, that is so. But there is pleasant place with beautiful grass on the banks of the river near yonder forest. Come there and pass your time peacefully, eating that grass and having friendly chats with me.’ The ass replied, ‘Nephew, what you say is right. But domestic animals like me are killed by the fierce beasts of prey of the forest if they venture there. So what use is that pleasant place to me ?’ 

The jackal said, ‘Don’t say so – That place is protected by me. Not a soul can come there without my permission. Besides, three poor female asses oppressed by hardhearted washer-men like your master have been given asylum there by me. They have become strong and quite different from the usual run of asses by eating the beautiful grass and drinking the crystal water. They are all now in the bloom of youth and unmarried They told me “Uncle, go to some village and bring a suitable husband for us. “So I have come to take you there.’ Hearing these words, Lambakarna became overwhelmed by lust and said, Friend, if that is so walk in front and let us go there speedily. It has been said, ‘There is no nectar or poison apart from woman ; with her, life becomes possible and like nectar; separated from her, it becomes a veritable poison from which suicide is the only escape. It is a great wonder that a male does not melt away with love at the sight of a female when the very thought of a woman, without seeing her or being with her, inflames the passions so strongly’. 

The jackal took the ass near the lion. The foolish lion saw the ass approaching very slowly and, being mad with joy at getting an animal so soon, hastily leapt on him with a view to kill him, overshot the mark. and fell beyond him. He lay momentarily exhausted by the great lead he had taken despite his wounds. The ass» who was unhurt, did not know what to make of this tremendous leap, which was like a thunderbolt, and fled from the place in panic flight. Turning behind in the course of his flight, he saw a strange animal with fearsome teeth, red eyes and fierce mien, and, being terribly afraid, ran back to his village. The lion, dazed by his fall, was not able to give pursuit. 

The jackal then said to the lion. ‘What is this? I have seen all your boasted skill and bravery today.’ The lion replied, ‘I was not quite ready for the leap and lost my head in sudden joy. What could I do ? Can even an elephant escape from me if I am quite ready ?’ The jackal said, ‘Then stand ready from now. I shall bring him again to you.’ The lion said, ‘Friend, he has seen me in person and fled. How then can you persuade him to come here again ? So, bring some other animal.’ The jackal replied, ‘why do you worry about this ? I shall see to it.’ 

So saying, the jackal followed the footsteps of the ass and found the animal grazing in the same place near the tank. On seeing the jackal, the ass said, ‘Oh, nephew, you led me to that wonderful place. By God’s grace I escaped death there. Tell me, what most angry one from whose blow I narrowly escaped. Hearing this, jackal laughed and said, ‘Uncle, that was one of the female asses I talked to you about. She has grown unrecognizably plump by eating the fine grass there and drinking the crystal water. She was dressed in her best and was awaiting her promised husband. Anxious to get precedence over the other two female asses and to embrace you as soon as she saw you, she sprang on you with outstretched arras and missed you, having overshot the mark in the excess of her joy. You, owing to cowardice, fled. This is the whole truth. Now you ought to be thoroughly ashamed of yourself. So, come again and make good your folly’.

‘She is, for your sake, abstaining from food and drink and sends word to you thus “If Lambakarna does not consent to be my husband, I shall end mm life by entering fire or water or taking poison. I can never bear to be separated from him. “So, kindly come there. If not, you will incur the sin of killing a woman The god of love will also be angry with you and will never give you another chance to get a mate. It has been said, “Those foolish and thoughtless persons who care not for woman, the banner of Cupid, the abode of joy, and go in search of vain pursuits are mercilessly punished by Cupid and made into ugly ascetics wearing repulsive red garments and matted hair and carrying human skulls for bowls(All unmarried males were in olden times ascetics So, having rejected woman, they are, poetically, said to be forced to wear garments etc.)”. Hearing these words, the foolish ass believed the jackal and followed him. Truly has it bean said. ‘Even a wise man does a foolish act, led on by fate How else are we to explain his doing such acts open eyed, for surely he will not have any love for calamities.’ As soon as the ass came within striking distance, the lion made a well-directed spring on him and killed him in a moment. 

The lion left the jackal to guard the carcass of the ass while he went for his bath to the adjoining river* The jackal was very hungry and was most covetous of the delicate heart and ears of the dead animal. Unable to control himself, he ate these portions. The Hon returned from his bath and saw the heart and ears missing. Burning with anger, he asked the jackal, ‘Oh, wretch, why did you do such an improper act? By eating the heart and ears before me, you will make me commit the sin of eating the leavings’.

The jackal said with deep humility, ‘Sire, do not speak thus: I am innocent. This animal was without a heart and ears even from the outset. How else can we explain his returning here after once having come here and seen you in person? The truth is that he had no ears and did not therefore hear your roar or the reverberation of your leap. Nor had he a heart That is why the sight of your fierce figure did not make him tremble, for, as you know, a thing without a heart never knows fear. It is the heart which palpitates and creates fear. The ass came here and fled by mere whim. So, I was able to bring him again to be killed by you/ The lion believed the jackal’s words and ate the ass’s carcass along with the jackal with a perfectly unsuspecting heart. 

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