Indian Fairy Tales | Annotated Tale

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Broken Pot, The

THERE lived in a certain place a Brahman, whose name was Svabhavakripana, which means "a born miser." He had collected a quantity of rice by begging, and after having dined off it, he filled a pot with what was left over. He hung the pot on a peg on the wall, placed his couch beneath, and looking intently at it all the night, he thought, "Ah, that pot is indeed brimful of rice. Now, if there should be a famine, I should certainly make a hundred rupees by it. With this I shall buy a couple of goats. They will have young ones every six months, and thus I shall have a whole herd of goats. Then, with the goats, I shall buy cows. As soon as they have calved, I shall sell the calves. Then, with the calves, I shall buy buffaloes; with the buffaloes, mares. When the mares have foaled, I shall have plenty of horses; and when I sell them, plenty of gold. With that gold I shall get a house with four wings. And then a Brahman will come to my house, and will give me his beautiful daughter, with a large dowry. She will have a son, and I shall call him Somasarman.

               When he is old enough to be danced on his father's knee, I shall sit with a book at the back of the stable, and while I am reading, the boy will see me, jump from his mother's lap, and run towards me to be danced on my knee. He will come too near the horse's hoof, and, full of anger, I shall call to my wife, 'Take the baby; take him!' But she, distracted by some domestic work, does not hear me. Then I get up, and give her such a kick with my foot." While he thought this, he gave a kick with his foot, and broke the pot. All the rice fell over him, and made him quite white. Therefore, I say, "He who makes foolish plans for the future will be white all over, like the father of Somasarman."


SOURCE: Pantschatantra, V. ix., tr. Benfey, ii. 345-6.

PARALLELS: Benfey, in § 209 of his Einleitung, gives bibliographical references to most of those which are given at length in Prof. M. Müller's brilliant essay on "The Migration of Fables" (Selected Essays, i. 500-76), which is entirely devoted to the travels of the fable from India to La Fontaine. See also Mr. Clouston, Pop. Tales, ii. 432 seq. I have translated the Hebrew version in my essay, "Jewish Influence on the Diffusion of Folk-Tales," pp. 6-7. Our proverb, "Do not count your chickens before they are hatched," is ultimately to be derived from India.

REMARKS: The stories of Alnaschar, the Barber's fifth brother in the Arabian Nights, and of La Perette, who counted her chickens before they were hatched, in La Fontaine, are demonstrably derived from the same Indian original from which our story was obtained. The travels of the "Fables of Bidpai" from India to Europe are well known and distinctly traceable. I have given a rough summary of the chief critical results in the introduction to my edition of the earliest English version of the Fables of Bidpai, by Sir Thomas North, of Plutarch fame (London, D. Nutt, "Bibliothèque de Carabas," 1888), where I have given an elaborate genealogical table of the multitudinous versions. La Fontaine's version, which has rendered the fable so familiar to us all, comes from Bonaventure des Periers, Contes et Nouvelles, who got it from the Dialogus Creaturarum of Nicholaus Pergamenus, who derived it from the Sermones of Jacques de Vitry (see Prof. Crane's edition, No. li.), who probably derived it from the Directorium Humanæ Vitæ of John of Capua, a converted Jew, who translated it from the Hebrew version of the Arabic Kalilah wa Dimnah, which was itself derived from the old Syriac version of a Pehlevi translation of the original Indian work, probably called after Karataka and Damanaka, the names of two jackals who figure in the earlier stories of the book. Prof. Rhys-Davids informs me that these names are more akin to Pali than to Sanskrit, which makes it still more probable that the whole literature is ultimately to be derived from a Buddhist source.

                The theme of La Perette is of interest as showing the literary transmission of tales from Orient to Occident. It also shows the possibility of an influence of literary on oral tradition, as is shown by our proverb, and by the fact, which Benfey mentions, that La Fontaine's story has had influence on two of Grimm's tales, Nos. 164, 168.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Broken Pot, The
Tale Author/Editor: Jacobs, Joseph
Book Title: Indian Fairy Tales
Book Author/Editor: Jacobs, Joseph
Publisher: David Nutt
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1912
Country of Origin: India
Classification: ATU 1430: The Man and His Wife Build Air Castles

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