IN A mill a rat once lived and prospered. It took after the miller, and from day to day its paunch grew bigger. It became as round as cucumber and as fat as a candle.
One day, looking at his round, sleek figure, the rat said to itself, "Behold I am so beautiful and strong. Why should I not go and pay a visit to God? He is sure to receive me."
No sooner said than done. Leaving the mill, he started on his journey to God. After travelling a few days and not coming nearer to God, he stopped and said, "Methinks that either God lives much farther away than I believed, or I have lost my way. I will go to the sun and ask where God is." Coming to the sun, the rat asked, "Where is God?" "Off with thee," shouted the sun, "I have no time for idle talkers."
The rat went to the clouds and asked them, "Where is God?" The clouds stared at him and said, "We cannot stop to bandy words with the like of you." Away the rat went and came to the wind. "Where is God?" asked the rat. "There," replied the wind, whistling, and getting hold of the rat hurled him down into an ant-heap, and there he found his level.
This story is a curious parallel to another series of rat or mouse tales. In these a rat wishes to marry the daughter of the mightiest thing, and asked for the daughter of the sun. But he is not great enough. The sun is covered by the clouds. The clouds are carried by the wind, the wind is stopped by the mountain, the mountain is sapped by the rat, thus he comes back to his own and finds his proper level. So in the Rumanian Tale (Sevastos, Basme, Moldov. p. 236). (Cf. Benfey, Pantschatantra, i. 375 ff.)
In an ancient Biblical legend Abraham discusses with Nimrod, Who might be God? The sun cannot be worshipped as God, for the sun sets and is followed by darkness, the moon is eclipsed by the sun, the fire is quenched by water, the clouds of rain are carried by the wind, the wind is stopped by the mountains, and so on. (Cf. Gaster, Chronicles of Jerahmeel, London 1899, chap. xxxiv. p. 72 ff.)
The biblical setting of the legend is about two thousand years old. In the Rumanian tale the comparison has disappeared, but the principal elements have been preserved whilst invested with a different rôle.
Story of the Rat and His Journey to God, The.
Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories
Sidgwick & Jackson
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