Brief synopsis of The Talkative Tortoise:
This tale teaches the value of being less verbose
, in a very interesting and colorful way. My thought of irony as I read it, the animals in all of these Indian Fairy Tales seem a bit verbose themselves.
a fairy tale from Indian Fairy Tales
by Joseph Jacobs, 1890
THE TALKATIVE TORTOISE
The future Buddha was once born in a minister's family, when Brahma-
datta was reigning in Benares; and when he grew up, he became the
king's adviser in things temporal and spiritual.
Now this king was very talkative; while he was speaking, others had no
opportunity for a word. And the future Buddha, wanting to cure this
talkativeness of his, was constantly seeking for some means of doing
At that time there was living, in a pond in the Himalaya mountains, a
tortoise. Two young hamsas, or wild ducks, who came to feed there, made
friends with him. And one day, when they had become very intimate with
him, they said to the tortoise:
"Friend tortoise! the place where we live, at the Golden Cave on Mount
Beautiful in the Himalaya country, is a delightful spot. Will you come
there with us?"
"But how can I get there?"
"We can take you, if you can only hold your tongue, and will say
nothing to anybody."
"Oh! that I can do. Take me with you."
"That's right," said they. And making the tortoise bite hold of a
stick, they themselves took the two ends in their teeth, and flew up
into the air.
Seeing him thus carried by the hamsas, some villagers called out, "Two
wild ducks are carrying a tortoise along on a stick!" Whereupon the
tortoise wanted to say, "If my friends choose to carry me, what is that
to you, you wretched slaves!" So just as the swift flight of the wild
ducks had brought him over the king's palace in the city of Benares, he
let go of the stick he was biting, and falling in the open courtyard,
split in two! And there arose a universal cry, "A tortoise has fallen
in the open courtyard, and has split in two!"
The king, taking the future Buddha, went to the place, surrounded by
his courtiers; and looking at the tortoise, he asked the Bodisat,
"Teacher! how comes he to be fallen here?"
The future Buddha thought to himself, "Long expecting, wishing to
admonish the king, have I sought for some means of doing so. This
tortoise must have made friends with the wild ducks; and they must have
made him bite hold of the stick, and have flown up into the air to take
him to the hills. But he, being unable to hold his tongue when he hears
any one else talk, must have wanted to say something, and let go the
stick; and so must have fallen down from the sky, and thus lost his
life." And saying, "Truly, O king! those who are called chatter-boxes--
people whose words have no end--come to grief like this," he uttered
"Verily the tortoise killed himself
Whilst uttering his voice;
Though he was holding tight the stick,
By a word himself he slew.
"Behold him then, O excellent by strength!
And speak wise words, not out of season.
You see how, by his talking overmuch,
The tortoise fell into this wretched plight!"
The king saw that he was himself referred to, and said, "O Teacher! are
you speaking of us?"
And the Bodisat spake openly, and said, "O great king! be it thou, or
be it any other, whoever talks beyond measure meets with some mishap
And the king henceforth refrained himself, and became a man of few
THE TALKATIVE TORTOISE.
Source.---The Kacchapa Jataka, Fausboll, No. 215; also in
his Five Jatakas, pp. 16, 41, tr. Rhys-Davids, pp. viii-x.
Parallels.--It occurs also in the Bidpai literature, in nearly
all its multitudinous offshoots. See Benfey, Einleitung, S 84;
also my Bidpai, E, 4 a; and North's text, pp. 170-5, where it
is the taunts of the other birds that cause the catastrophe: "O here is a
brave sight, looke, here is a goodly ieast, what bugge haue we here,"
said some. "See, see, she hangeth by the throte, and therefor she
speaketh not," saide others; "and the beast flieth not like a beast;" so
she opened her mouth and "pashte hir all to pieces."
Remarks -I have reproduced in my edition the original
illustration of the first English Bidpai, itself derived from the
Italian block. A replica of it here may serve to show that it could be
used equally well to illustrate the Pali original as its English great-
from Project Gutenberg (public domain)
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