Brief Synopsis of "The Cruel Crane Outwitted":
Most, if not all, fairy tales teach children something about morals, ethics, values etc. Some teach more than one, and this tale is an example of that. I can see several lessons to be learned from this story, I think the most important perhaps might be "What comes around goes around
a fairy tale from Indian Fairy Tales
by Joseph Jacobs, 1890
THE CRUEL CRANE OUTWITTED
Long ago the Bodisat was born to a forest life as the Genius of a tree
standing near a certain lotus pond.
Now at that time the water used to run short at the dry season in a
certain pond, not over large, in which there were a good many fish. And
a crane thought on seeing the fish.
"I must outwit these fish somehow or other and make a prey of them."
And he went and sat down at the edge of the water, thinking how he
should do it.
When the fish saw him, they asked him, "What are you sitting there for,
lost in thought?"
"I am sitting thinking about you," said he.
"Oh, sir! what are you thinking about us?" said they.
"Why," he replied; "there is very little water in this pond, and but
little for you to eat; and the heat is so great! So I was thinking,
'What in the world will these fish do now?'"
"Yes, indeed, sir! what are we to do?" said they.
"If you will only do as I bid you, I will take you in my beak to a fine
large pond, covered with all the kinds of lotuses, and put you into
it," answered the crane.
"That a crane should take thought for the fishes is a thing unheard of,
sir, since the world began. It's eating us, one after the other, that
you're aiming at."
"Not I! So long as you trust me, I won't eat you. But if you don't
believe me that there is such a pond, send one of you with me to go and
Then they trusted him, and handed over to him one of their number--a
big fellow, blind of one eye, whom they thought sharp enough in any
emergency, afloat or ashore.
Him the crane took with him, let him go in the pond, showed him the
whole of it, brought him back, and let him go again close to the other
fish. And he told them all the glories of the pond.
And when they heard what he said, they exclaimed, "All right, sir! You
may take us with you."
Then the crane took the old purblind fish first to the bank of the
other pond, and alighted in a Varana-tree growing on the bank there.
But he threw it into a fork of the tree, struck it with his beak, and
killed it; and then ate its flesh, and threw its bones away at the foot
of the tree. Then he went back and called out:
"I've thrown that fish in; let another one come."
And in that manner he took all the fish, one by one, and ate them, till
he came back and found no more!
But there was still a crab left behind there; and the crane thought he
would eat him too, and called out:
"I say, good crab, I've taken all the fish away, and put them into a
fine large pond. Come along. I'll take you too!"
"But how will you take hold of me to carry me along?"
"I'll bite hold of you with my beak."
"You'll let me fall if you carry me like that. I won't go with you!"
"Don't be afraid! I'll hold you quite tight all the way."
Then said the crab to himself, "If this fellow once got hold of fish,
he would never let them go in a pond! Now if he should really put me
into the pond, it would be capital; but if he doesn't--then I'll cut
his throat, and kill him!" So he said to him:
"Look here, friend, you won't be able to hold me tight enough; but we
crabs have a famous grip. If you let me catch hold of you round the
neck with my claws, I shall be glad to go with you."
And the other did not see that he was trying to outwit him, and agreed.
So the crab caught hold of his neck with his claws as securely as with
a pair of blacksmith's pincers, and called out, "Off with you, now!"
And the crane took him and showed him the pond, and then turned off
towards the Varana-tree.
"Uncle!" cried the crab, "the pond lies that way, but you are taking me
"Oh, that's it, is it?" answered the crane. "Your dear little uncle,
your very sweet nephew, you call me! You mean me to understand, I
suppose, that I am your slave, who has to lift you up and carry you
about with him! Now cast your eye upon the heap of fish-bones lying at
the root of yonder Varana-tree. Just as I have eaten those fish, every
one of them, just so I will devour you as well!"
"Ah! those fishes got eaten through their own stupidity," answered the
crab; "but I'm not going to let you eat me. On the contrary, is
it you that I am going to destroy. For you in your folly have
not seen that I was outwitting you. If we die, we die both together;
for I will cut off this head of yours, and cast it to the ground!" And
so saying, he gave the crane's neck a grip with his claws, as with a
Then gasping, and with tears trickling from his eyes, and trembling
with the fear of death, the crane beseeched him, saying, "O my Lord!
Indeed I did not intend to eat you. Grant me my life!"
"Well, well! step down into the pond, and put me in there."
And he turned round and stepped down into the pond, and placed the crab
on the mud at its edge. But the crab cut through its neck as clean as
one would cut a lotus-stalk with a hunting-knife, and then only entered
When the Genius who lived in the Varana-tree saw this strange affair,
he made the wood resound with his plaudits, uttering in a pleasant
voice the verse:
"The villain, though exceeding clever,
Shall prosper not by his villainy.
He may win indeed, sharp-witted in deceit,
But only as the Crane here from the Crab!"
THE CRUEL CRANE OUTWITTED.
Source.--The Baka-Jataka, Fausboll, No. 38, tr. Rhys-Davids, pp.
315-21. The Buddha this time is the Genius of the Tree.
Parallels.--This Jataka got into the Bidpai literature, and
occurs in all its multitudinous offshoots (see Benfey, Einleitung,
S 60) among others in the earliest English translation by North (my
edition, pp. 118-22), where the crane becomes "a great Paragone of
India (of those that live a hundredth yeares and never mue their
feathers)." The crab, on hearing the ill news "called to Parliament all the
Fishes of the Lake," and before all are devoured destroys the Paragon,
as in the Jataka, and returned to the remaining fishes, who "all with one
consent gave hir many a thanke."
Remarks.--An interesting point, to which I have drawn attention
in my Introduction to North's Bidpai, is the probability that the
illustrations of the tales as well as the tales themselves, were
translated, so to speak, from one country to another. We can trace them
in Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic MSS., and a few are extant on Buddhist
Stupas. Under these circumstances, it may be of interest to compare
with Mr. Batten's conception of The Crane and the Crab (supra,
p. 50) that of the German artist who illustrated the first edition of
the Latin Bidpai, probably following the traditional representations of
the MS., which itself could probably trace back to India.
from Project Gutenberg (public domain)
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