ONCE upon a time there was a Stag living in a certain jungle, and in the same jungle lived a Crow. These two were bosom friends. Why a Stag should take a fancy to a Crow, I cannot say; but so it was; and if you do not believe it, you had better not read any further.
It so befell that a Jackal came by one day, and his eye fell on this Stag, and a fine plump Stag he was. The Jackal's mouth began to water. How he would like to make a meal of so dainty a piece of flesh. But he knew it was of no use trying to attack the Stag, who seemed very strong. Still, by hook or by crook, that Stag he would have. So in the depths of his cunning heart he concocted a trick, of which you shall shortly hear.
The Jackal watched his chance, and as soon as he had found the Stag alone, he began to say, sidling up to the Stag, and whispering in his ear--
"Beware of that Crow; he's fooling thee. Beware, beware all birds of the air. There's no trusting any bird, let alone a Crow, who is worst of the whole feathered tribe. Now you and I, who never try in the air to fly, good honest gentlemen with four legs apiece, we are marked out for friends by Nature herself."
Will you be surprised to hear that the Stag listened to the crafty and slanderous words, and deserted his friend the Crow? When your hair is grey you will know that such is the way of the world, and that a true friend who sticks to the end, is harder to find than a diamond mine.
But although this Stag was shallow-hearted and weak, not so the Crow. He was a true friend, and he was cut to the heart by the unkindness of his friend the Stag; but he wasted no time in fruitless tears. He went about his work as usual, and waited for a chance of winning back his recreant friend.
Well, Stag and Jackal scoured about the woods together, and the Jackal did his best to make himself agreeable. In this he had poor success; for though the Stag tried hard to like his new comrade, yet he could not help seeing that he was dirty; moreover, the Jackal ate all sorts of dead animals, but the Stag was a vegetarian, and did not approve of this kind of food. But though the Stag had qualms now and again, he was not strong enough to break loose from the friendship of the Jackal.
But the time was ripening for the Jackal's blow. He knew a place where huntsmen used to set gins and snares, to catch the wild animals. So one day, as he and the Stag were out a-walking together, the Jackal so managed that they passed by this place. The Jackal took good care to keep clear of the snare; but the innocent Stag knew nothing of snares or gins, so into a snare he stept, and snap! he was fast.
Now was the time for a true friend to show his friendship. But the Jackal, as we already know, was a humbug; accordingly, all he did was to sit by the side of the Stag, and try not to look pleased.
"Oh dear, what shall I do?" said the Stag, when he found himself caught. "Oh my friend, do help me out."
"You shock me, friend," said the Jackal, pulling a long face; "surely you have not forgotten that it is Sunday? We are told in the Ten Commandments to do no work on the Sabbath day. If it were not so, how gladly would I help you!" So saying, he wiped away a crocodile tear. He sat down and waited in the hope that the Stag would die, and then he would eat him.
But the faithful Crow was not far. Though his friend the Stag would not so much as cast him a look, the Crow followed him ever, biding his time; and now the time had come.
The Crow perched on a neighbouring tree, and said--
"Dear friend, I am only a weak little bird, and I cannot help you; but I can teach you to help yourself. My advice is, pretend to be dead, and when the Hunter comes, he will open the snare without any care, and you can escape."
"Thank you, long-suffering friend!" said the Stag; and so he did. When the Huntsman came, he thought the Stag was dead; he opened the snare, and before he was aware, the Stag was up and off and away.
The Stag asked his friend the Crow to forgive
him, and they lived happily together as
before. As for the treacherous
Jackal, he never came
near them more.
Told and recorded by Balbír Prasád, Brahman, of Mirzápur.
Stag and Crow are friends—Jackal covets Stag—Says, "A crow is not a friend for you; choose a denizen of earth like me"—They become friends—Jackal leads him to snare—Stag is trapped—"I cannot help you, because there is leather in the snare, and it is the Ekádashi (eleventh day of the lunar fortnight) when I fast"—Crow advises him to feign death—He does so, and escapes.
Stag, the Crow, and the Jackal, The
Crooke, W. & Rouse, W. H. D.
Talking Thrush, The: And Other Tales from India
Crooke, W. & Rouse, W. H. D.
E. P. Dutton & Co.
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