The Monkey and the Crocodile – The Panchatantra
On the shore of the sea was a great rose-apple tree that was never without fruit. In it lived a monkey named Red-Face.
Now one day a crocodile named Ugly-Mug crawled out of the ocean under the tree and burrowed in the soft sand. Then Red-Face said: “You are my guest, sir. Pray eat these rose-apples which I throw you. You will find them like nectar. You know the proverb:
A fool or scholar let him be,
Pleasant or hideous to see,
A guest, when offerings are given,
Is useful as a bridge to heaven
Ask not his home or education,
His family or reputation,
But offer thanks and sacrifice:
For so prescribes the lawbook wise.
By honoring the guests who come
Wayworn from some far-distant home
To share the sacrifice, you go
The noblest way that mortals know.
And once again:
If guests unhonored leave your door,
And sadly sighing come no more,
Your fathers and the gods above
Turn from you and forget their love.”
Thus he spoke and offered rose-apples. And the crocodile ate them and enjoyed a long and pleasant conversation with the monkey before returning to his home. So the monkey and the crocodile rested each day in the shade of the rose-apple tree. They spent the time in cheerful conversation on various subjects, and were happy.
Now the crocodile went home and gave his wife the rose-apples which he had not eaten. And one day she asked him : “My dear husband, where do you get such fruits? They are like nectar.”
“My dear,” he said, “I have an awfully good friend, a monkey named Red-Face. He gives me these fruits in the most courteous manner.”
Then she said: “If anyone eats such nectar fruit every day, his heart must be turned to nectar. So, if you value your wife, give me his heart, and I will eat it. Then I shall never grow old or sick, but will be a delightful companion for you.”
But he objected: “In the first place, my dear, he is our adopted brother. Secondly, he gives us fruit. I cannot kill him. Please do not insist. Besides, there is a proverb:
To give us birth, we need a mother;
For second birth we need another:
And friendship’s brothers seem by far
More dear than natural brothers are.”
But she said: “You have never refused me before. So I am sure it is a she-monkey. You love her and spend the whole day with her. That is why you will not give me what I want. And when you meet me at night, your sighs are hot as a flame of fire. And when you hold me and kiss me, you do not hug me tight. I know some other woman has stolen into your heart.”
Then the crocodile was quite dejected, and said to his wife:
When I am at your feet
And at your service, sweet,
Why do you look at me
With peevish jealousy?
But her face swam in tears when she heard him, and she said:
“You love her, you deceiver;
Your wishes never leave her;
Her pretty shamming steals upon your heart.
My rivalry is vain, sir;
And so I pray abstain, sir,
From service that is only tricky art.
“Besides, if you do not love her, why not kill her when I ask you? And if it is really a he-monkey, why should you love him? Enough! Unless I eat his heart, I shall starve myself to death in your house.”
Now when he saw how determined she was, he was distracted with anxiety, and said: “Ah, the proverb is right:
Remember that a single grab
Suffices for a fish or crab,
For fool or woman; and ’tis so
For sot, cement, or indigo.
“Oh, what shall I do? How can I kill him?” With these thoughts in mind, he visited the monkey.
Now the monkey had missed his friend, and when he saw him afflicted, he said: “My friend, why have you not been here this long time? Why don’t you speak cheerfully, and repeat something witty?”
The crocodile replied: “My friend and brother, my wife scolded me today. She said: ‘You ungrateful wretch! Do not show me your face. You are living daily at a friend’s expense, and make him no return. You do not even show him the door of your house. You cannot possibly make amends for this. There is a saying:
The Brahman – murderer or thief,
Drunkard or liar, finds relief;
While for ingratitude alone
No expiation will atone.
“‘I regard this monkey as my brother-in-law. So bring him home, and we will make some return for his kindness. If you refuse, I will see you later in heaven’ Now I could not come to you until she had finished her scolding. And this long time passed while I was quarreling with her about you. So please come home with me. Your brother’s wife has set up an awning. She has fixed her clothes and gems and rubies and all that, to pay you a fitting welcome. She has hung holiday garlands on the doorposts. And she is waiting impatiently.”
“My friend and brother,” said the monkey, “your lady is very kind. It is quite according to the proverb:
Six things are done by friends:
To take, and give again;
To listen, and to talk;
To dine, to entertain.
“But we monkeys live in trees, and your home is in the water. How can I go there? Rather bring your lady here, brother, that I may bow down and receive her blessing.”
The crocodile said: “My friend, our home is on a lovely sand-bank under the water. So climb on my back and travel comfortably with nothing to fear.”
When the monkey heard this, he was delighted and said: “If that is possible, my friend, then hasten. Why delay? Here I am on your back”
But as he sat there and saw the crocodile swimming in the bottomless ocean, the monkey was terribly frightened and said: “Go slow, brother. My whole body is drenched by the great waves.”
And the crocodile thought when he heard this: “If he fell from my back, he could not move an inch, the water is so deep. He is in my power. So I will tell him my purpose, and then he can pray to his favorite god.”
And he said: “Sir, I have deceived you and brought you to your death, because my wife bade me do it. So pray to your favorite god.”
“Brother,” said the monkey, “what harm have I done her or you? Why have you planned to kill me?”
“Well,” replied the crocodile, “those nectar fruits tasted so sweet that she began to long to eat your heart. That is why I have done this.”
Then the quick-witted monkey said: “If that is the case, sir, why didn’t you tell me on shore? For then I might have brought with me another heart, very sweet indeed, which I keep in a hole in the rose-apple tree. As it is, I am forlorn in this heart, at being taken to her in vain, without my sweet heart.”
When he heard this, the crocodile was delighted and said: “If you feel so, my friend, give me that other heart. And my cross wife will eat it and give up starving herself. Now I will take you back to the rose-apple tree.”
So he turned back and swam toward the rose-apple tree, while the monkey murmured a hundred prayers to every kind of a god. And when at last he came to shore, he hopped and jumped farther and farther, climbed up the rose-apple tree, and thought: “Hurrah! My life is saved. Surely, the saying is a good one:
We dare not trust a rogue; nor must
We trust in those deserving trust:
For danger follows, and we fall
Destroyed and ruined, roots and all.
So today is my rebirthday.”
The crocodile said: “My friend and brother, give me the heart, so that my wife may eat it and give up starving herself.”
Then the monkey laughed, and scolded him, saying: “You fool! You traitor! How can anyone have two hearts? Go home, and never come back under the rose-apple tree. You know the proverb:
Whoever trusts a faithless friend
And twice in him believes,
Lays hold on death as certainly
As when a mule conceives.”
Now the crocodile was embarrassed when he heard this, and he thought: “Oh, why was I such a fool as to tell him my plan? If I can possibly win his confidence again, I will do it.” So he said: “My friend, she has no need of a heart. What I said was just a joke to test your sentiments. Please come to our house as a guest. Your brother’s wife is most eager for you.”
The monkey said: “Rascal! Go away this moment. I will not come.”