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Right and Might

A Tale From Ancient India


While a deer was eating wild fruit, he heard an owl call, "Haak, haak", and a cricket cry, "Wat", and, frightened, he fled. In his flight he ran through the trees up into the mountains and into streams. In one of the streams the deer stepped upon a small fish and crushed it almost to death. Then the fish complained to the court, and the deer, owl, cricket, and fish had a lawsuit. In the trial came out this evidence:

As the deer fled, he ran into some dry grass, and the seed fell into the eye of a wild chicken, and the pain of the seed in the eye of the chicken caused it to fly up against a nest of red ants. Alarmed, the red ants flew out to do battle, and in their haste, bit a mongoose.

The mongoose ran into a vine of wild fruit and shook several pieces of it on the head of a hermit who sat thinking under a tree. "Why did you, O fruit, fall on my head?" cried the hermit. The fruit answered: "We did not wish to fall; a mongoose ran against our vine and threw us down." And the hermit asked, "O mongoose, why did you throw the fruit?"

The mongoose answered: "I did not wish to throw down the fruit, but the red ants bit me, and I ran against the vine." The hermit asked, "O ants, why did you bite the mongoose?" The red ants replied: "The hen flew against our nest and angered us."

The hermit asked: "O hen, why did you fly against the red ants' nest?" And the hen replied: "The seed fell into my eyes and hurt me." And the hermit asked, "O seed, why did you fall into the hen's eyes?" And the seed replied: "The deer shook me down."

The hermit said unto the deer, "O deer, why did you shake down the seed?" The deer answered: "I did not wish to do it, but the owl called, frightening me, and I ran." "O owl," asked the hermit, "why did you frighten the deer?" The owl replied: "I called, but as I am accustomed to call - the cricket, too, called."

Having heard the evidence, the judge said, "The cricket must replace the crushed parts of the fish and make it well," as he, the cricket, had called and frightened the deer. The cricket WAS smaller and weaker than the owl or the deer, therefore had to bear the penalty.

Next Tale: The Man in the Moon

Source: Eva March Tappan, ed., The World's Story: A History of the World in Story, Song and Art, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914), Vol. II: India, Persia, Mesopotamia, and Palestine, pp. 67-79. From Internet Indian History Sourcebook

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