Wednesday, August 02, 2006
The Elephant and the Dog
There are several stories in the Jataka Tales (stories of the Buddha’ former lives) about elephants. Here's a happy tale!
Once upon a time a Dog used to go into the stable where the king’s Elephant lived. At first the Dog went there to get the food that was left after the Elephant had finished eating.
Day after day the Dog went to the stable, waiting around for bits to eat. But by and by the Elephant and the Dog came to be great friends. Then the Elephant began to share his food with the Dog, and they ate together. When the Elephant slept, his friend the Dog slept beside him. When the Elephant felt like playing, he would catch the Dog in his trunk and swing him to and fro. Neither the Dog nor the Elephant was quite happy unless the other was nearby.
One day a farmer saw the Dog and said to the Elephant-keeper: “I will buy that Dog. He looks good-tempered, and I see that he is smart. How much do you want for the Dog?”
The Elephant-keeper did not care for the Dog, and he did want some money just then. So he asked a fair price, and the farmer paid it and took the Dog away to the countryside.
The king’s Elephant missed the Dog and did not care to eat when his friend was not there to share the food. When the time came for the Elephant to bathe, he would not bathe. The next day again the Elephant would not eat, and he would not bathe. The third day, when the Elephant would neither eat nor bathe, the king was told about it.
The king sent for his chief servant, saying, “Go to the stable and find out why the Elephant is acting in this way.”
The chief servant went to the stable and looked the Elephant all over. Then he said to the Elephant-keeper: “There seems to be nothing the matter with this Elephant’s body, but why does he look so sad? Has he lost a playmate?”
“Yes,” said the keeper, “there was a Dog who ate and slept and played with the Elephant. The Dog went away three days ago.”
“Do you know where the Dog is now?” asked the chief servant.
“No, I do not,” said the keeper.
Then the chief servant went back to the king and said, “The Elephant is not sick, but he is lonely without his friend, the Dog.”
“Where is the Dog?” asked the king.
“A farmer took him away, so the Elephant-keeper says,” said the chief servant. “No one knows where the farmer lives.”
“Very well,” said the king. “I will send word all over the country, asking the man who bought this Dog to turn him loose. I will give him back as much as he paid for the Dog.”
When the farmer who had bought the Dog heard this, he turned him loose. The Dog ran back as fast as ever he could go to the Elephant’s stable. The Elephant was so glad to see the Dog that he picked him up with his trunk and put him on his head. Then he put him down again.
When the Elephant-keeper brought food, the Elephant watched the Dog as he ate, and then took his own food.
All the rest of their lives the Elephant and the Dog lived together.