Talking Thrush, The: And Other Tales from India | Annotated Tale

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Beware of Bad Company

A BEAUTIFUL young Swan lived by a beautiful lake. All day long he used to sail gracefully over the water, curving his neck to look at his own image, or pluming his white wings; and when he was tired, he would go to his nest in the rushes, and sleep, or play with his brothers and sisters.

               In a tree above that lake was a Crow. You know that Crows are dirty birds, and they feed on offal and refuse, and people dislike them; but the Swan was white and clean. Still, strange as it may seem, this Swan struck up a fast friendship with the Crow. His mother and father begged him to keep out of bad company, but he would not listen to them. He had done better to keep to his own kind, but wilful will have his way, and the Swan was sorry for it too late.

               One day the Crow said to his friend the Swan, "Come, old boy, let us go and have some fun."

               "I'm your Swan," says the other, and away they flew.

               They came to a tree, and under the tree was a very pious man, saying his prayers.

               "Here's a joke," said the Crow. "Now we shall see sport."

               He picked up a lump of mud from the ground, and flew up into the tree, and then he dropped the mud, splash, on the pious man's head.

               This interrupted his prayers, and he could not help feeling angry, although he was so pious. So up got he, and looked about to see who had done the mischief.

               By this time the mischievous Crow had flown off, and he was caw-caw-cawing on another tree, out of reach. But the Swan sat still: he was not learned in mischief, and he did not know what to do. Then the pious man looked up into the tree, and saw the Swan sitting there, so of course he thought it was the Swan who had dropped a piece of mud on his head. He had a big catapult with him, so he put a stone in his catapult, and slick! he shot the Swan.

               Down fell the Swan with a great thud. He felt that his end was near, and how sorry he was now that he had had anything to do with the bad Crow. However, it was too late now to be sorry, so he began to sing. They say that Swans never sing in all their life, but when they are about to die they sing beautifully; and this is what the Swan sang to the pious man:--

"I am no Crow, as you must know,             
     But a Swan that lived by a lovely lake;           
With bad companions I would go,             
     And now I die for a bad friend's sake."

Then the Swan died, and the pious man finished
his prayers.


Told by Jagat Kishor, master at the Government School, Gondá, Oudh.

A Swan made friends with a Crow—They fly away from Mánsarowar to find some sport—Perch on a pipal tree under which a pious Raja is worshipping his Thákurji (idol of Rám or Krishna)—Crow drops filth on his head and flies away—He sees the Swan and shoots it—Swan says:—

"Kák náhin, ham hans hain,
Mán karat ham bás;
Dhrisht kág ké mél són,
Bhayo hamaró nás."

("I am no Crow but a Swan, dwelling in Mán Sarówar; being friend of an ignoble Crow I am destroyed.")

The Crow, as in several tales in this collection, is in Oriental folk-lore the representative of all that is thievish and mischievous.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Beware of Bad Company
Tale Author/Editor: Crooke, W. & Rouse, W. H. D.
Book Title: Talking Thrush, The: And Other Tales from India
Book Author/Editor: Crooke, W. & Rouse, W. H. D.
Publisher: E. P. Dutton & Co.
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1922
Country of Origin: India
Classification: unclassified

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