The Panchatantra – Story 6

CROWS KILL A SERPRENT

There was in a certain tract a big banyan tree. A crow and his wife were living there. A serpent began to go up the tree and eat their unfledged children. The crow, though deeply pained at the loss of his offspring by the wicked depredations of the serpent, was unwilling to leave the tree where he had lived so long. It has been said that a crow, a coward, and a deer never leave their abodes under any circumstances whereas a lion a good man and an elephant leave their abodes and go elsewhere when subjected to insult. The serpent’s raids became regular, and not a single unfledged crow escaped. At last, the- crow’s wife fell at her husband’s feet and said, ‘Lord of my life, the wicked serpent has eaten all our children. Any future children born to us will also share this grue- some fate. So, let us go somewhere else. Let us choose some other tree, far away, for our abode. There is no friend like health and security, and no enemy like disease’ and death. There is no love like that we have for our offspring, and no grief equal to that of losing one’s children. One’s mind can never be happy when his house is on the edge of a river or his wife has taken to a paramour or when a serpent has taken up his abode in his house. Besides, we are ourselves living in imminent peril of our lives. So let us go elsewhere.’ 

The crow replied in deeply sad tones ‘Beloved, we have lived on this tree for long. So I am not able to abandon it. Wherever he goes, a deer can easily get the pail of water and the handful of grass he requires for his subsistence but even so he will never willingly leave the forest of his birth though subjected to great danger or mortal insult there. Are we, the cunning crows, to do what even the simple deer will not do? Besides, I shall kill this wicked serpent by some trick or other.’ His wife said, ‘This serpent is very poisonous. So, how can you kill it?’ The crow replied, ‘Though I may be unable myself to do this, still I have got some learned friends who are deeply versed in law and politics. I shall go to them, get from them some advice, and kill this serpent speedily.’ 

Saying so in anger, the crow went to another tree and calling his dear friend the jackal who lived there told him everything about his affliction and said, ‘Friend, think out some good device by which this wicked serpent, which has eaten our children, may be killed.’ The jackal replied, ‘I have thought out a device. You need not grieve any more. Death will quickly overtake that wicked serpent. It has been said, ” You need not think of taking vengeance on evil-doers, for they perish by themselves like a tree on the edge of a river. After eating all kinds of fishes, a crane perished through excess of greed, being killed by a crab”.’ The crow asked, ‘ What is the story ?’ The jackal then related the story of the crane and the crab

When the jackal had completed the story, the crow asked, ‘ Friend, tell me how that wicked serpent is to be killed.’ The jackal said, ‘ Go to some temple or tank and taking some diamond necklace or other costly jewel of some rich and noble person throw it into the serpent’s hole in the view of the pursuing owner or his. men. They are sure to dig up the hole to recover the ornament and will certainly kill the serpent in the process.’ The crow went home and told his wife about the jackal’s plan. Both flew out at once to carry it out. The female crow went to the palace tank and watched. The queen soon came to the tank, removed and placed her diamond necklace and other ornaments on the bank, got into the limpid waters and began to sport in them. The chamberlain, the maidservants, and the guards of honour were watching the jewels from a distance. The female crow snatched the diamond necklace in full view of these and flew slowly in direction of her tree.

The chamberlain and others saw the crow carrying away the necklace and followed her at once with stout sticks and loud cries. She put the necklace into the serpent’s hole and flew to a distant branch and watched. The chamber- lain and the guards dug up the hole in order to find out the necklace. The serpent, resenting this unexpected interference, came out and was promptly smashed to pieces and killed. Then the queen’s servants went away with the necklace, leaving the crows in peaceful and joyous possession of the tree. 

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