Children Stories

Aladdin And The Magic Lamp

A famous tale from Arabia

Long time ago in China, there lived a poor boy, whose name was Aladdin. Aladdin lived with his mother. One day a rich and distinguished looking man came to their house and said to Aladdin's mother, "I am a merchant from Arabia and want your son to come with me. I will reward him handsomely." Aladdin's mother instantly agreed. Little did she know that the man pretending to be a rich merchant was in reality a magician.

Next day, Aladdin having packed his belongings left with the 'merchant'. After many hours of traveling the 'merchant' stopped. Aladdin too stopped, surprised that they should stop in such a desolate spot. He looked around; there was nothing in sight for miles.

The 'merchant' pulled out some colored powder from his pocket and threw in the ground. The next instant the whole place was filled with smoke. As the smoke cleared, Aladdin saw a huge opening in the ground; it was a cave. The 'merchant' turned to Aladdin and said, "I want you to go inside this cave; there will be more gold than you have ever seen; take as much as you want. You will also see an old lamp; please bring that back to me. Here, take this ring; it will help you." Aladdin was very suspicious but the decided to do as was told.

He lowered himself into the cave, thinking all the while that it would be difficult to climb out without help. Aladdin entered the cave and just like the 'merchant' had said saw gold, jewelry, diamonds and other valuables. He filled his pockets. When this was done, he looked for the lamp; it was lying in the corner, full of dust and dirty. He picked it up and ran to the cave's opening and shouted to the 'merchant', "I have your lamp. Can you please pull me out?" "Give me the lamp," said the 'merchant'. Aladdin was not sure that he would be pulled out if he gave back the lamp; so he said, "First, please pull me out."

This angered the 'merchant'. With a loud cry, he pulled out the same colorful powder and threw it on the cave opening, sealing it with a huge boulder. Aladdin was depressed. He thought, "That was no rich merchant; he was surely a magician. I wonder why this lamp was so important to him." As he was thinking he rubbed the lamp. All of sudden a strange mist filled the room and from the mist emerged a stranger looking man. He said, "My master, I am the genie of the lamp, you have rescued me; what would your wish be?" Aladdin was scared but he said in quivering voice, "Ta.. Take me back home."

And the next moment Aladdin was home hugging his mother. He told her of the magician and the lamp. Aladdin again summoned the genie. This time when the genie appeared he was not scared. He said, "Genie, I want a palace, not an old hut." Again to Aladdin and his mother's amazement in front of them was a magnificent palace.

Time passed. Aladdin married the Sultan's daughter and was very happy. It so happened that the evil magician got to know of Aladdin's good fortune. He came by Aladdin's palace pretending to exchange old lamps for new. The princes, Aladdin's wife, not knowing the value of the lamp to Aladdin called out to the magician to wait.

As soon as the magician saw the lamp he grabbed it from the princess' hand and rubbed it. The genie appeared, "you are my master and your wish is my command," he said to the magician. "Take Aladdin's palace to the great desert faraway from here," ordered the magician.

When Aladdin came home, there was no palace and no princess. He guessed it must be the evil magician who had come to take revenge on him. All was not lost, Aladdin had a ring that the magician had given to him. Aladdin pulled out that ring, rubbed it. Another genie appeared. Aladdin said, "Take me to my princess."

Soon, Aladdin was in Arabia with his princess. He found his lamp lying on a table next to the magician. Before the magician could react, Aladdin jumped for the lamp and got hold of it. As soon as he had the lamp, Aladdin rubbed it.

The genie appeared again and said, "My master, Aladdin, it is indeed good to serve you again. What is it that you wish?" "I want you to send this magician to another world so that he never harms anybody," said Aladdin. Aladdin's wish was carried out; the evil magician disappeared forever.

The genie carried Aladdin, the princes and the palace back to China. He stayed with Aladdin for the rest of his life.


Gulliver's Travels

One stormy night at sea, a ship was wrecked. All the passengers on board drowned, except Lemuel Gulliver. Gulliver was a excellent swimmer and swam for many miles before he reached shore. Gulliver was very tired and decided to sleep. He would look for food after he had had sufficient rest.

Gulliver slept for a whole day. When he woke up, the Sun was beating down upon him. He tried to move, he could not. His hair, hands, legs and body were tied to the ground. He saw little men running all around him. Someone had got a tiny ladder and was climbing up to him. The little man, no bigger than Gulliver's thumb nail, came up to him ears and said, "You are in the land of Lilliput; we are Lilliputians. We are taking you to our Emperor, so please do not make any trouble. You will be shot at." Gulliver almost laughed at this threat but nodded.

A huge wooden structure with wheels was brought. Gulliver was slid on to it after much struggle. The wooden structure was pulled through the streets of Lilliput with all the Lilliputians lining up the streets.

It was a carnival atmosphere which the Lilliputians seemed to be enjoying themselves, much to the amusement of Gulliver.

Finally, they arrived at the Emperor's palace. The Emperor was there to receive Gulliver, "You are indeed a strange sight. If you are to stay here you will have to be of service to my people here," he said pointing to the crowd. Gulliver said, "I agree to any condition but only if you untie me."

Gulliver was freed. He was provided with food and water, a house was built for him. It was a monumental effort by the Lilliputians, who were all out to serve Gulliver. Gulliver stayed with the Lilliputians, helping them with many small tasks.

It so happened, that the neighboring kingdom of Bleuse were not on very friendly relationship with Lilliput. The King of Bleuse declared war on Lilliput. He took a hundred ships to mount an attack.

The Lilliputians ran to Gulliver for help. The Emperor said, "Don't let us down now Gulliver; we need your help." Gulliver walked into the sea. He took long rope, tied all the hundred ships together and dragged them in the water. Gulliver pulled the ships the whole day, until the army of Bleuse was giddy and in no position to fight.

The King of Bleuse came begging for peace between the two kingdoms. The Emperor agreed. Gulliver was hailed as the hero and lived in Lilliput for many years.


Why Dogs Wag Their Tails

Long long ago in a village, there lived a rich man who lived in a big house with only a dog and a cat. His wife had died and his only daughter lives some miles away in the city to pursue her studies. The man was very fond of her girl and once every week, he used to send a present to her through the dog and the cat.

But the dog was very old. It had lost all its teeth and was incapable of fighting. The cat, however, was strong. It was also very cunning. Together, they were a force and could help the other. The cat could use its intelligence to protect itself and the dog, while the dog knew how to find the way as its senses were still powerful. So the man sent them together on errands like these.

One day, he wished to send a magic ring to his daughter and who better to carry it to her than his faithful pets? He sent the dog and the cat to take her the ring. He told the cat,

"Take this magic ring to my daughter, but be sure to take very great care of it. Prudent that you are, see that nobody manages to steal it away from you two."

"Meow!" the cat uttered, as if in agreement to his master's words.

He told the dog,

"You should lead the cat to my daughter. Take care not to lose the way, and see that no one messes with the cat."

The dog nodded.

The animals set out immediately. They travelled for some distance until they were near a wide and deep river. There was no bridge over this river or any boat to help them cross over easily. They had to swim across it.

"Give me the magic ring." the dog said to the cat, "You are not very good at swimming, and may lose the ring, while I am strong and can take good care of it."

"Oh, no," replied the cat. "Did you not hear the master say just what each of us had to do?"

They argued for sometime until the dog lost its patience and threatened to kill the cat unless it submitted the ring in his custody. The cat reluctantly put the ring down from its mouth and the dog picked it up with its lips.

Then they began to swim across the river, but the current was very strong and the two animals had to struggle a lot to get themselves over to the other side. After an hour of swimming, they were very tired and weak and decided to rest on the bank for a while when suddenly the cat let out a scream and asked the dog in a frightened voice

"Where is the ring? I don't see it in your mouth?"

The dog was equally shocked and remembered that it had opened his mouth now and then to gasp for breath while swimming.

"It must have fallen out into the waters then." said the dog.

"We can't find it out in any way" said the cat, and suggested to the dog that they should better go back and inform their master about the unhappy turn of events.

"Yes," answered the dog, "but I am very much afraid to face our master."

They turned back towards home, but as they drew near the house the dog became more and more fearful about the possible consequences of his actions. He ran away as fast as he could and was never seen again.

The cat went back alone and informed him how the dog had lost the ring and had ran away out of fear.

The master became very angry and promised to punish the dog by cutting off its tail if he ever found it again. He called everyone he knew and asked them to find him his dog, in return for an attractive reward.

He himself set out on a world tour, looking for his fugitive pet. Whenever he came by any dog, he asked it "Are you my old toothless dog who lost my magic ring? If you are, your tail must be cut off." Immediately the dog showed its teeth and wagged its tails to mean no. This became a habit with every dog and it is also from that time that cats became afraid of water, and will never swim across a river if it can be avoided.

So now you know why dogs wag their tails?


Eagle and the Hen

Once upon a time, the eagle was flying aimlessly across the sky when he suddenly saw a beautiful red headed creature walking on the ground. It was the hen, who was looking lovelier that day.

The eagle came near the hen and said, "My pretty hen, I love you very much. Will you be my mate?"

The hen was scared for the eagle was so strong. Her husband, the cock had gone out to search for food and her kids had gone away somewhere to play with other children. She lived alone.

Quickly thinking up a way to avoid any quarrel, the hen answered: "I am willing, but let me first grow wings like yours, so I can fly as high as you."

The eagle replied: "I will bring nice feathers for you, and as a sign of our betrothal I will give you this ring. Keep it safely. Tie it around your neck until I return."

The hen promised to do so, and the eagle flew away.

When the cock met the hen the next day, he was very much surprised and annoyed to see the ring around her neck. He said: "Where did you get that ring? I don't think you love me any more. You promised to be my mate just a few days ago. If you still want to keep your promise, throw that ring away immediately."

The hen did this and the cock regained his cheerfulness.

But as the week came to an end, the eagle came back with beautiful feathers to dress the hen. The frightened hen hid herself behind her door but the eagle soon found her out and was about gift the beautiful dress to her when he suddenly gave a cry and said:

"But where is the ring that I gave you? Why are you not wearing it?"

The hen was too scared to answer but at last she said,

"Forgive me! I lost it yesterday. I was walking in the garden when I met a large snake. I was so frightened that I ran back fast. But when I came back, I saw towards the house. When I reached it I found that I had lost the ring, and I looked everywhere for it; but alas! I have not yet found it."

The eagle looked keenly at the hen and said: "I don't believe one word of what you have said. You have hurt me badly and have been unfaithful towards me for that cock. I will punish you for this. If you marry him, I will snatch away all your chickens from you. I promise to forgive you and accept you as my mate only if you find my ring. Good-bye."

With these words the eagle flew away. And ever since, all the hens all over the world have been scratching the ground to find the eagle's ring.


The Battle of the Crabs

Long long ago, a shrimp was walking cheerfully on a beach when it saw a dozen land crabs crawling towards the sea. Curious, it went towards the crabs to ask what so many of them were doing together.

"We are going to fight the waves." replied the head of the crabs. "They sing so loudly all the time that we cannot sleep well at night."

"I don't think you will win the battle," said the shrimp. "The waves are so strong, and look at you. Your legs are so weak that your bodies bend almost to the ground when you walk. How can you hope to keep them down when you cannot even keep yourselves up?"

It laughed at the crabs. But the crabs became angry and pinned it down to the ground.

"How dare you insult us?" they shouted. "Now you too must help us in our fight."

What could the poor shrimp possibly do? It promised to help the crabs in their battle.

When they reached the shore, the crabs looked at the shrimp and said: "Your face is turned the wrong way, friend shrimp. How can you fight your enemy when you cannot even look at him?"

And they laughed at the shrimp, for crabs are much like humans, who think they are the only ones who are right.

But as they were laughing, the shrimp saw a huge wave coming, and it ran away as fast as it could. The crabs, who were all looking towards the shore, did not see it, and were killed.

When their husbands did not come home even after a long time, the wives of the dead crabs thought that the battle must be a long one, and decided to go down and help their husbands. But as they reached the shore and entered the water to look for their husbands, the waves killed them too. Their children were left living alone.

When the little crabs were old enough to walk, the shrimp often visited them and related to them the sad fate of their parents.

Even today, you can watch the fiddlers, as little crabs are now often called, rushing into the sea waters, as if about to fight the waves and running back to the land as they find the waves rushing on them, as if due to a lack of courage to combat. They continually run back and forth. They live neither on dry land, as their ancestors did, nor in the sea, like the other crabs, but up on the beach, where the waves wash over them at high tide and try to dash them to pieces.


The Monkey And The Crocodile

A monkey lived on a rose-apple tree by the side of a river. He lived alone. But was happy. The rose apple tree had plenty of fruit all the year round. There is nothing a monkey likes better than rose-apples.

One day a crocodile came out of the river and went close to the rose-apple tree.

“Who are you?” shouted the monkey from the tree- top.

The crocodile looked up, saw the monkey, and said, “I am a crocodile from a place far away. I am just wandering in search of food.”

“Food? I have plenty of rose- apples here. Try one. If you like it, I can give you as many as you want.” So saying the monkey plucked a few rose-apples and threw them down.The crocodile ate them and said, “I like them very much. This is the best fruit I have eaten in all my life.”

The monkey threw down more rose-apples and the crocodile ate them all. The crocodile asked, “Can I come again? Will you give me some more fruit?”

“You are always welcome,” said the monkey. “You are my guest; you can eat as many rose-apples as you want.”

The crocodile said he would come again and took leave of the monkey.

Next day the crocodile came back. The monkey was happy to see him and gave him more rose-apples to eat. The monkey and the crocodile became friends.

Every day the crocodile visited the monkey. They spent much time together. They talked about everything they knew. One day they talked about their families and friends. The monkey said he was alone and was lucky to have a friend like a crocodile. The crocodile said he lived with his wife on the other side of the river.

“You have a wife?” said the monkey. “You did not tell me that before. I would have given you rose-apples for her also’”

The crocodile said he would love to take some for his wife. The monkey plucked many rose-apples and gave them to the crocodile for his wife.

The crocodile went home that day with the monkey’s gift. His wife liked the rose-apples very much. She wanted to have more of them and her husband said he would try to get her some every day

The monkey and the crocodile became close friends and spent more and more time together. When they parted in the evenings, the monkey always gave the crocodile a gift of rose-apples for his wife.

The crocodile’s wife loved rose-apples, but she did not like her husband coming home late every day. “ I feel you have been telling me a lie. How can you, a crocodile, spend so much time in the company of a monkey? He is not our kind. We kill monkeys and eat them.”

“ I am telling you the truth,” said the crocodile.” This monkey is a friend of mine. He likes me and I like him. He lives on the rose-apple tree and I visit him every day. He gives me rose-apples to eat and even sends some for you.”

‘If the monkey eats only these sweet rose-apples,’ thought the crocodile’s wife, ‘his flesh must be sweet too. A most delicious dinner he would make if only I could get him here.’ Then she said aloud, “If you are really his friend, why don’t you invite him home one day? I would very much like to meet him.”

“No, no, I don’t think I can do that,” said the crocodile. “He lives on the land and may drown if he tries to swim across.”

“But you are his friend,” said the crocodile’s wife. “You must invite him. A monkey is always clever. He is sure to find a way to come here.”

The crocodile was not happy about inviting his friend home. With every passing day, his wife’s craving for the monkey’s flesh increased. She had to find a way to get at the monkey and she thought of a plan.

One day she pretended to be very ill. She shed tears as though she was in great pain.. The crocodile was sad his wife was ill. He sat by her side and said, “What can I do to help


“I am very ill,” said his wife. “I asked the doctor and he said I would get well only if I ate a monkey’s heart.”

“A monkey’s heart?”

“Yes, dear, a monkey’s heart. You must get your friend’s heart if you want me to get well.”

“How can I do that? He is my only friend and I cannot think of doing him any harm.”

“Then go and live with your friend. You don’t love your wife. You only love your friend. You want to see me dead. Then you can be with him always.”

The crocodile was unhappy. He could not think of doing his friend any harm. At the same time, he could not let his wife die.

“How can I kill my only friend?” he asked again, shedding tears.

“What is your difficulty in killing a monkey? Crocodiles have to kill monkeys and other animals if they are to live.”

The crocodile shed more tears; he did not know what to do.

“You don’t love me,” said his wife. “I have decided to end my life. When you come back today, you will find me dead.”

The crocodile began to think. As a husband it was his duty to look after his wife. He decided to save her life. So he went to the apple tree.

When the monkey saw him, he asked, “Why, my friend, why are you so late? Did you meet with an accident on the way?’

“No accident,” said the crocodile. “My wife and I had a quarrel. She said I am not your friend. You have done so much for us, but I have not invited you home. Now she is eager to meet you and has asked me to take you home today.”

“How sweet of her to ask me home,” said the monkey. “I, too, would like to meet her. But how can I get there? You live in water and I would drown if I tried to go to your place.”

“We live on the river bank,” said the crocodile. “ I can take you there easily. You can ride on my back while I swim.”

The monkey thought it was a good idea. He felt happy he had a good friend like the crocodile.

With the monkey sitting on his back, the crocodile swam across the river. On reaching the middle of the river, the crocodile began to sink.

“Hey,” cried the frightened monkey, “what are you doing? I shall drown if you go down any further.”

“ I am going down further,” said the crocodile. “I want to kill you.”

“Kill me? Why?” asked the monkey in surprise. “Why, my friend, why do you want to kill me?”

“My wife is ill. And the doctor has said she must eat the heart of a monkey if she is to get well. You are the only monkey I know. I have to kill you and give her your heart.”

The monkey was shocked. He knew his life was in danger.

What could he do? He thought hard for a while and said, “My good friend, why didn’t you tell me before? I would be most happy to give my heart to save your wife. But how can I do it now? I keep my heart safe in a hole on the rose-apple tree. I have not brought it along. If you had told me what you wanted before we set out, I would have gladly given you my heart then and there.”

“Is that so?” asked the crocodile.

“Yes,” said the monkey, “let us go back at once and get the heart before your wife gets worse.”

The crocodile turned back and swam as fast as he could to the rose-apple tree. When they got there, the monkey jumped off and hurried up the tree. Perched safely on a high branch, he looked down at the crocodile and said, “Now you can go back alone to your wicked wife and tell her that her husband is the biggest fool in the world.”


A Mate For The Mouse

There was a holy sage called Shalankayan who lived in a certain hermitage. Once he went to have a bath in the river Ganga. While he was busy with his devotions, a she mouse happened to be seized by a sharp taloned hawk. Seeing this the sage was moved by compassion, and exclaiming ‘let go!’ threw a stone at the bird. The latter, stunned by the blow, fell to the ground, releasing its prey. The frightened she- mouse, not knowing what to do, fled to the sage’s feet, crying ‘help! help.’

The hawk, having regained its senses, then addressed the holy man: “ O sage, you did not do well in striking me with the stone. Aren’t you afraid of transgressing Dharma? So, hand over the she-mouse to me. Otherwise you will be committing a great sin.”

“You wretched fool,” replied the sage sternly, “the life of all beings deserves protection. The wicked deserve protection. Holy men should be respected, just as spiritual teachers should be adored, and the gods praised. So, what is this nonsense you speak?”

The hawk said: “Sage, you do not understand Dharma. When all beings were created by Providence, their food was likewise created. Just as grain is ordained for you, mice and the like are for us. How can you fault me for wanting my designated diet?”

Completely taken aback by this answer the sage said, “I am confused. Could you tell me something more?”

The hawk said: “Once there were three brother saints who practiced austerities on the banks of a river. Such was the power of their penances that the still wet garments, which they had laundered and put out to dry, were afraid to touch the ground and stood in the air without support while they bathed. One day, while this miracle was taking place, a she-frog was forcibly taken by a vulture. Seeing her seized, the eldest brother was moved by compassion and exclaimed: “Let go, Let go!” Thereafter the dhoti washed by him fell to the ground. Seeing this, the second brother feared for his own garment, and cried: “Don’t let go,” whereupon his dhoti also fell down. Then, seeing what had happened to the other two, the third brother remained silent.”

Hearing this, the sage laughed derisively and said: “O foolish bird, such was the Dharma in the golden age of Sat Yug. Then it was sinful to even talk to a sinner. The garments fell because of talking to a rogue, not because he was reproached wrongly. Now it is the age of Kal Yug. All are sinners. So what is the point of useless talk. Go, otherwise I will lay a curse on you.”

When the hawk had gone, the she-mouse addressed the sage: “Lord, take me to your home. Otherwise some other wicked bird may kill me. I will spend my time in your home, on the handful of grain you give me.”

The compassionate saint thought to himself: ‘ How can I carry this little mouse in my hand. Everyone will laugh. So I will turn her into a maid and take her home.’ Then he turned her into a little girl.

When the sage’s wife saw him with a little girl, sha asked him from where he had got her. The sage told her the whole story and said, “Now you must protect her. Later, I will turn her back into a she-mouse.”

“You must not do that,” said the wife. “According to Dharma, you are her father. You have given her a new life. Apart from that, I too have no child. So she will be my daughter.”

Thus installed, the little girl grew into a beautiful girl. Attending on the sage and his wife, she soon crossed the threshold of youth and was fit to be married. The sage, in consultation with his wife, decided to find her a husband.

Accordingly, he invoked the Sun God who arrived in a moment and asked: “Sir, say quickly why I have been invoked?”

“This is my daughter,” replied the sage. “Marry her if she chooses you.” Then, he showed the Sun God to her and asked:” Daughter, does this god, the light of the three world’s, please you?”

“Dear father,” she answered, “he is rather fiery. I don’t wasn’t him. Call someone who is more excellent.” Hearing her the sun god realized that she was a she-mouse, and wishing to go said, ”Sir, greater than me is the cloud. Why don’t you summon him.”

The cloud was summoned and the sage asked the daughter: “Does he please you.” The daughter replied, “he is black and wet. Ask me about someone greater.”

Then the sage asked the cloud: “ Who is greater than you?” and the cloud replied, “the wind is greater than me. Struck by him, I am driven in a thousand directions.”

The sage then called the wind and on being asked, “ daughter, does this one seem better to you for marriage got the reply, “he is too empty and fickle, father. Get someone greater.” So the sage asked the wind who is greater than you and was told, “ Greater than me is the mountain. Stopped by him I say stopped, even though I am strong.” And so the mountain was summoned.

“Little girl,” said the sage, “I will give you to him.”

“Father, he is hard and cannot move. Give me to someone else.”

Then the sage said to the mountain: “O, king mountain, is there someone greater than you?’ The mountain replied: “Greater than me are the mice who pierce my body at will.” Thereupon the sage called a mouse and showed him to her.

“Little girl, do you thing the needful can be done with this king among mice?” Then seeing him and knowing that he was of her own race, she was thrilled and said; “Father, turn me into a she-mouse, and give me to him. With him I will be happy as he is of my race.”

The sage now understood the meaning of Dharma and turned her into a she-mouse before marrying her to the king of mice.

The moral of the story is do not try to upset the laws of the providence by denying a hawk his right to eat his prey or wanting to marry a mouse to a person of a different race. This is Dharma.


Why the Egret Rides on the Carabao

A bird often seen in the rice fields is the egret. It is a white bird with long legs and got it’s name from it’s habit of standing on the back of the cattle, especially carabaos.

Perhaps you have sometimes wondered why the carabao does not drive off the egret with its large horns. Wise men who know about animals tell us that the egret stands on the carabao’s back to catch the flies which bite the carabao. The egret also eats frogs and insects that may be frightened out of the grass while the carabao is grazing. The carabao is rid of the insects, and the egret gets its food; therefore both of them like the arrangement.

There is however, an old tale which explains in a much more interesting way why the egret rides on the back of the carabao.

The tale is as follows:

Once, when the world was young, the carabao and the egret had a quarell. They spoke many angry words to each other but their quarell was not settled. At last the carabao said, “Let us settle our differences through a contest. Let us go down to the river and drink its water, each as much as he can. The winner will make the other his slave.”

“How shall we tell who drinks more water.”

The carabao replied: “The one who can make the water shallow will have drunk more water.”

The egret thought about the matter for a moment. Then she said. “You have such a large stomach that it will be easy for you to win the contest. But I am willing to compete with you in this contest.”

“Then let us go to the river,” said the carabao.

“Don’t be in too much of a hurry,” replied the egret. “We do not have judges yet. Let us wait till tomorrow. You ask the four footed animals to come and judge our contest and I shall invite the birds.”

After they had parted, the egret flew behind the bamboo groves and hid in the tree beside the river. She sat watching the water for a long time. At last she flew away and asked the birds of the surrounding fields to come and judge the contest the following day.

Next morning the birds and the beasts came to the river .The judges formed a long line at the bank of the river and said, “Let the contest begin.”

“You drink first, egret,” said the carabao.

“No, you drink first,” repled the egret.

“If I drink the river dry, you will have no water left to drink,” said the carabao.”Then there will be no contest.”

“Do not be too sure of that.” said the egret. She turned and said to the judges, “Honorable judges, which of us should drink first? It was the carabao who suggested this contest.”

“In that case let the carabao begin,” the judges ordered.

So the carabao dipped his mouth into the water and started drinking. He drank and drank until the birds and the beasts thought that he would never stop.

Strangely enough, however, the more the carabao drank, the deeper the water became. No one but the egret knew that at this time, the tide was rising. The water from the sea coming in through the mouth of the river made the water in the stream deeper. So the longer the carabao drank, the higher went the tide.

Finally the carabao was swimming where he had stood at the water in the beginning of the contest, and the judges started laughing at him. Then the carabao came out of the water and said, “Let the egret drink if she can.”

“I shall be ready to drink as soon as I have arranged my feathers,” said the egret. She spent a long time arranging her feathers, but she was waiting for the tide to turn.

When the egret saw the water start flowing back into the sea, she walked to the edge of the water and said, “Now I’ll try to drink as much water as I can.”

“She dipped her bill in the water and pretended to drink. Soon the judges could see that the water was becoming shallower. Not knowing the secret of the tides, they looked on in amazement. The carabao was alarmed when he saw that the water was getting lower every moment.When the tide was entirely out, the river became very shallow. The egret lifted her head and said, “Now, honorable judges, pronounce your judgement.”

“The egret wins,” said the beasts.

“The carabao loses,” said the birds.

“Let the carabao become the slave of the egret,” said the birds and the beasts together.

And that is why you often see the egret standing on the back of her slave, the carabao. As she rides on the carabao, her head is thrown back and her eyes are half closed. It is said, she thinks of the great drinking contest that she won long ago.


The Longevity Peaches

This tale from China is very akin to our own fables of Akbar and Birbal. This just shows how similar are the thoughts of people in Asia

On one occasion, the Emperor of China presented the kings of Annam some uncommonly large peaches called longevity peaches.

The gift was brought in during a royal audience. The courtiers vied with each other in their admiration of the marvelous fruits. Trang Quynh was there, as he was an official too. He went up to the peaches, picked up one, carried it to his mouth and bit into it with relish.

“Arrest that wretch and cut off his head!” ordered the monarch, pale with anger.

The officers of the court seized Trang Quynh, who began to shed bucket of tears.

“You have had the audacity to taste these delicacies destined for your sovereign, a crime for which you must pay with your life. Are you afraid of dying, cowardly scoundrel?”

cried the king.

“No, sire” replied Trang Quynh, sobbing even more bitterly.’ If I am crying, it is because I fear for your august person, for you are going to die soon.”

“What nonsense you are talking, you mad fool? Who told you I’m soon to stop living?”

“Well, sire, seeing these peaches called longevity. I wanted to eat one, because I wanted to live as long as possible. But I hadn’t even eaten a quarter, when already death, without a word of warning, came and grasped me by the neck. This leads me to conclude that if Your Majesty commits the fatal mistake of eating all the remaining peaches, you can imagine what will happen.”

“Release that cheeky rascal!” ordered the king, amused by Trang Quynh’s wit.


Kabayan and the Magic Bird

Kabayan is a very famous character in west Javanese folk tales. He is known to be lazy, goes off to sleep at the drop of a hat, and this annoys his wife and her parents. However, he is also an honest, simple and funny man. Because of this he is loved by all. Kabayan is also clever and quick witted, and can solve any problem.

One day, Kabayan sat on a chair brooding. The drink that his wife had placed before him had not been touched since morning. Kabayan’s wife was bewildered by his behavior.

“Early in the morning you should be working in the rice fields like others. What are you brooding about? You are really behaving strangely,” said his wife.

Yawning widely, Kabayan answered casually, “I’m in trouble. That is why I am brooding, my dear wife.”

“What should be troubling you, my husband? Is it our poverty? But aren’t we used to living a life of hardship?” asked the wife.

“I am not thinking about poverty. I am thinking about Wan Abukomar. Haven’t we borrowed seven thousand rupiahs from him and not paid him back? Wan Abu has already come twice to ask for the money. He is to come again today. Last time he said, “If you cannot pay back the debt, I will take you to the court.”

The mention of ‘court’ frightened Kabayan’s wife. She felt like crying. “What is this, my husband? You will be taken to court? Oh, if you are punished what will become of me? Oh, don’t go, please don’t.”

“Don’t disturb me, wife. Let me think and find a solution. You hamper my thoughts by standing there. Go away.” Kabayan’s wife retreated to the kitchen while Kabayan continued to brood

After a short while, Kabayan suddenly shouted “got it” and ran to the kitchen to find his wife. He acted like a mad man.

“Wife! Wife! Hurray! I’ve found the perfect way! Yes, the perfect way! You should rejoice and no longer worry. We can pay back the debt today,” said Kabayan.

“What are you going to do?” asked the wife.

“Enough, do not ask questions. Now quickly make a lot of glue from sweet potato flour.”

“What? Make glue?”

“Yes, glue. Do it quickly, before Wan Abu comes.”

While his wife made glue by stirring sweet potato flour into boiling water, Kabayan ripped open one of his pillows. He then scattered the capok filling on the flour.

“The glue is ready. What should I do with it now?” asked his wife.

“Wait until it cools. Once it is cool, you should spread it all over my body until it covers my head,” ordered Kabayan.

His wife obeyed, although she did not understand what was going on. After the glue had been spread all over his body including the head, Kabayan rolled on the capok filling which was scattered on the floor. Now Kabayan was completely covered with capok. Even his face.

“Wife, I will now go inside the goat pen. When Wan Abu comes to ask for his money, tell him I’ve gone to the king to sell a magic bird,” said Kabayan.

His wife nodded in agreement. Then Kabayan ran and hid in the goat pen.

Not long after this, Wan Abu arrived to claim his money.

“Asslamualaikum,” said Wan Abu.

“Walaikumsalam,” answered Kabayan’s wife.

“Ah, good afternoon. Where is Kabayan? I’ve come for the third time this week to claim my money. This is the last day. If Kabayan cannot pay back his debt, I will take him to the court,” said Wan Abu.

“But Kabayan is not home today, Wan Abu,” answered Kabayan’s wife

“Hm, so he is not at home? Where has he gone?”

“He’s gone to the king to talk about the magic bird.”

“What did you say? Magic bird?”

“Yes, Kabayan has a magic bird and the king wishes to buy it.”

Wan Abu nodded and smiled.

“Well in that case I would also like to see it. Where is the bird now?”

“In it’s cage. But you must not see it. If it flies away I will surely be blamed.”

Since he was denied, Wan Abu insisted more and more on seeing the bird.

“Why am I not allowed to see it? If the cage door is closed, there is no chance of the bird flying away. Come, show me the magic bird. I really wish to see it,” pleaded Wan Abu.

“Don’t Wan! Please don’t! Kabayan will be very annoyed with me.”

But Wan Abukomar could wait no longer. He stepped outside. He started looking for the bird, to his left and right. As he passed the goat pen, Wan Abu was startled to see a strange creature. He hurriedly approached the pen and opened the gate. Kabayan, covered in capok, quickly ran out of the pen and disappeared. Kabayan’s wife suddenly started crying loudly and said, “Help! Help! The magic bird has escaped! Oh, Kabayan’s bird has disappeared. What should I do now? How could you do this, Wan Abu? I told you not to see the bird, now it has escaped….”

“Hush, don’t cry. Don’t cry….” said Wan Abu, trying to quieten her. But the woman continued to cry.

“Oh, woe! Disaster! His Highness will surely be angry. But it does not matter. I will tell him that Wan Abu freed the bird,” said Kabayan’s wife, still crying loudly like a child.

Wan Abu was scared at the mention of the king’s name. He said, “Please don’t tell the king that I left the bird out. Alright, I will apologise. I have done wrong by letting the bird out. To compensate for this, I will consider Kabayan’s debt already repaid. But please don’t tell the king that I let the bird loose,” pleaded Abukomar.

“No. I will still tell the His Majesty, because he was so keen on buying the bird for ten thousand rupiahs. This is quite a high price,” said Kabayan’s wife.

Wan Abu quickly answered, “Alright, alright. I will add another three thousand. Didn’t Kabayan owe me seven thousand? It adds upto exactly ten thousand, the same price that His Highness was willing to pay for that magic bird.”

Then Wan Abukomar gave Kabayan’s wife three thousand rupiahs. The woman received the money and stopped crying. Wan Abu hurriedly returned home.

After his visitor had left, Kabayan, who was hiding under some trees in the garden, quickly returned to the house

“Husband, our debt is now settled. We have even made a profit of three thousand rupiahs from the deal,” said his wife happily. Kabayan laughed heartily.

“I am lucky to have such a clever wife. Between us we can outsmart the whole world.”


The Elephant And The Rabbit

There lived in the forest a mighty elephant called Four Tusk, who was the leader of a herd of elephants.

Once there was a great drought which lasted for many years. Because of it all the lakes, pools, brooks and springs became dry. Then all the elephants told Four Tusk, “Lord, our calves are almost dead with thirst. Some have already died. So, we must search for some water for them to drink and regain their health.”

After thinking for long, Four Tusk said: “There is a deep pool in the middle of some land in a lonely place. Fed by the river Ganga, it is always full. Let us go there.”

Having so decided, they reached the pool after having journeyed five nights. There they plunged into the river at will, coming out only at sunset.

Around the pool there were countless rabbit warrens located in the soft earth. They were all damaged by the elephants, wandering here and there. Many rabbits were hurt. Some suffered broken heads, necks and limbs, some were killed and some were left barely alive.

When the elephant herd had gone, the rabbits gathered quickly. They began to lament: “Alas! We are lost. This elephant herd will come here everyday as there is no water elsewhere. So, all will be destroyed.”

Then one exclaimed; “We must quit this place. What else can we do?”

But the others said: “ Oh, the land of our fathers and grandfathers cannot be abandoned suddenly. Let us do something to scare them away, so that they do not come here again.”

All the rabbits then became silent and started wagging their tails to think. At last one said: “Our king, the rabbit Vijay Dutta, lives in the moon. Let us send to the leader of the elephant herd, a make believe ambassador who will say that the moon king forbids your coming to this pool because his subjects live around it. Thus addressed, if he is convinced, he may go away.”

“In that case,” said the others, “there is a rabbit called Long Ears. He is clever with words and knows diplomacy. Let us send him.”

Thus appointed, Long Ears went to the elephants path and climbing to an inaccessible place, addressed the elephants: “O ye good creatures of the earth, why is it that you come so carelessly to the lake of the moon? Entry here is forbidden. Go away.”

Hearing this the elephants were bewildered. “Who are you?” many said in unison.

The other replied: “ I, the rabbit Vijaya Dutta, live in the lunar world. At present I have been sent as a messenger to you by the moon god. You know, sir, that no blame should be attached to the messenger in speaking the truth. All kings speak through envoys.”

Then Four Tusk said: “O rabbit, then speak out the moon god’s message which must be quickly executed.” Long Ears replied: “Sir, many rabbits were killed by your coming here the other day with you herd.. Do you know, sir, they are my subjects? So, if you are interested to live, then you must not come to this lake for whatever reasons. This is the message.”

After some thought Four Tusk said: “Well, where is the moon god?”

“At present,” replied the rabbit Long Ears, “The god is in the lake, where he has come to console the rabbits who survived the depredations of your herd.”

“Then show me your master,” said Four Tusk, “so that I may salute him before going elsewhere.” Then the rabbit took him to the lakeshore in the night, and showing him the moon’s reflection in the water said: “Behold, this is our master. He sits in deep meditation in the water. Salute him silently so that he is not disturbed, and then quickly go your way. For, if his meditation is disturbed, he will be very angry.”

Completely overawed, the king of elephants, Four Tusk, then raised his trunk in salutation to the reflection and he went away along with his herd. From that day the rabbits lived happily in their own homes with their families.


The Stork and the Crab

In a certain forest there was a great lake, a home for all types of aquatic creatures. A stork lived there but because of old age he was unable to catch fish. So he sat by the lakeshore, his throat parched with thirst and hunger, weeping and bemoaning. Moved by his sorrow, a crab approached him and said respectfully: “Uncle, you are not eating anything these days. Will you stay only with sighs and tearful eyes?”

“Child,” he replied, “ you observe correctly. I have renounced the eating of fish and undertaken a fast unto death. So I do not eat even the fish which come near me.”

Hearing this the crab asked: “Uncle, why this renunciation?” The stork replied: “Child, I was born by this lake and grew up here. Now I have heard that a twelve year long drought is about to commence.”

“From where did you get the news?” asked the crab.” “From providence,” replied the stork. “If Saturn enters Rohini in the universe, then for twelve years it does not rain on this earth. And if Rohini stands on the moon, then people flee everywhere for water.

“This lake has little water. Soon it will become dry. When that happens, all those with whom I grew up will be destroyed for want of water. Unable to bear their separation, I have gone on this fast to death.

“Now some of the denizens of this lake will be taken by their friends to a bigger lake. Some will go by themselves. But I weep specially for those who stay carefree in this lake, for not one of them will be saved.”

The crab quickly conveyed this news to the other water creatures. Their minds oppressed by fear, the fish, the tortoises and the others then approached the stork and asked: “Uncle, is there any way for us to be saved?”

“Not far from this lake,” said the stork, “there is another, full of water and adorned with a mass of lotuses.It will not dry up even in drought for twenty four years. If someone mounts on my back, I will take him there.” Then all those trusting creatures, calling out “Father,” “Uncle,” “Brother,” “First I,” “First I,” started climbing over him.

Then the wicked intentioned old stork began to take them one by one on his back. He would take them to a rock not far from the lake, and throwing them on it, would eat them according to his will and taste. He would return to the lake and keep the other creatures happy with false news and messages. Thus he ensured his livelihood.

One day the crab said: “Uncle, it was with me that your first loving talk took place. Then why do you leave me and take the others?” Hearing this, the villain thought: ‘I am fed up of eating fish. Today I will have a change with this crab.’ Then he put him on his back and proceeded towards the killing rock.

From far the crab saw a mound of bones on that rock. Realizing that they were fish bones, he asked the stork: How far is this lake, uncle? Say, if you are not tired with the weight of carrying me?”

The foolish bird, thinking that no aquatic creature can do anything on the land, replied with a smile : “What lake, crab? This is my livelihood. So please remember your favourite god. For I am going to eat you also, after throwing you on that rock.”

When he thus spoke, the crab caught the stork’s soft neck in his pincers and killed him.

Then he slowly dragged the stork’s neck to the lake. There all the lake creatures asked him, “O Crab, what have you done? Now who will take us from here?”

The crab laughed and said: “All those foolish fish were cheated by this liar, and thrown on a rock not far from here and duly eaten. But my time was not yet up and I realized the intentions of this cheat. So I killed him and have brought his neck. Now none of you will be killed and all will be well for us aquatic creatures.”

And so it is said:

“Weapons cannot win that

Which strategem can.

He who knows stratagems,

Even though weak.

Cannot be defeated by warriors”

“Having devoured many fish.

The big, the medium and the small

The stork did die, by excess of greed,

In the pincers of the crab.”


The Imitation Vishnu

There lived in a certain city two friends, a weaver and a chariot maker. They had been together since childhood and were deeply attached to one another.

Once there was a festival at a temple in that city. There they saw a beautiful princess, mounted on a she elephant and accompanied by eunuchs and footmen. Seeing her the weaver suddenly fell to the ground, as if possessed, but actually struck by the darts of love.. Worried at his condition the chariot maker had him picked up by kinsmen and took him home. There, after much medications, prescribed by physicians and exorcists, the weaver revived somewhat. After much coaxing the weaver said: “ My dear friend, I no longer wish to live. I am very unhappy. Prepare my funeral pyre.”

On further questioning as to why he was unhappy the weaver said that he is deeply in love and since he cannot get near the beloved one, as she lives in the inner apartments of the highly guarded palace, he wishes to die. Hearing this the chariot maker heaved a sigh of relief and said : “Friend, I will arrange a rendezvous with her today itself. Now just see the power of my mind.” Saying this he immediately set about making from the varuna tree a clockwork Garuda eagle, together with a diadem, a mace and a divine jewel. Giving all these insignia of the god Vishnu to the weaver, and explaining the operations of the clockwork bird, he told him: “ Comrade, you can go to the inner apartments at night in the guise of Vishnu. The princess will think you are Vishnu. Then enchanting her innocent heart with your fine falsehood, you may seek your happiness.”

The weaver did so and said to her: “Princess! Drawn by love for you. I have come here across the ocean, abandoning the goddess Laxmi. Come, lie with me.” Seeing him thus, mounted on the Garuda and sporting the divine weapons and jewel, she got up from the bed wonderstruck and said, “Lord, I am human, an impure insect. You are the purifier of the three worlds. How can this be proper.?”

“You speak truly, beautiful one, “ he replied. “But in the beginning I had a wife named Radha, who was born in a human family. You are her incarnation. That is why I have come here.”

She then replied: “Lord, if that be so, then please ask my father. He will doubtless give me to you.”

The weaver said: “Beautiful one, I do not go in sight of human beings, what to say of talking to them. So give yourself to me of your own free will. If not, I will curse your father and all his line and reduce them to ashes.”

Saying this, he descended from the eagle, and taking her by the left hand led her, shy, afraid and trembling, to the bed. Then for the rest of the night, he enjoyed her company. In the morning he went home without being seen. Much time passed with such regular meetings.

One day, seeing some marks on her lips, the footmen said to themselves, ‘ It appears she is being used by some man, although this seems impossible in such a well protected place. We must report the matter to the king.’

Hearing this the king was greatly agitated. He shared this information with the queen who in a state of great agitation rushed to her daughter. Seeing the bite marks on her lips and nail scratches on her limbs, the queen exclaimed: “O you sinner and besmircher of family honour! Why have you outraged your modesty? Who plays with death to come to you? Speak the truth before me.”

Then the princess hung her head in fear and shame and replied to her infuriated mother: “Mother, the God Vishnu himself, mounted on his eagle Garuda, comes to me at night. If you do not believe me then see with your own eyes the Lord coming to me at dead of night.”

Hearing this the queen was filled with happiness. She quickly went to the king and told him the good news. The king too was overjoyed. That night the king and queen watched in astonishment Vishnu, mounted on the eagle Garuda, and displaying the mace, discus and other known signs, descending from the sky.

The king was so delighted that he decided to bring the whole earth under his control with the help of his would be son-in- law, the Lord Vishnu. He cancelled all peace talks with his neighbors, who incensed with his belligerence, joined together and declared war on him.

After some time the king conveyed to his daughter through the queens intermediary: “Child, when you are my daughter and the god Vishnu, my son in law, how can it be proper that all these kings make war on me? Therefore, please ask your husband that he destroys my enemies.”

That night the princess asked the weaver humbly:” Lord, when you are his son in law, it is not proper that my father suffers enemies. Kindly condescend, therefore, to destroy them all.”

The weaver said: “My beauty, rest assured, I will cut them into bits with my discus, even in a moment.”

More time passed. Pressed by foes from all sides the king was now reduced to only one fortress. Still unaware that it was the weaver in the guise of Vishnu, the king sent to him as always all kinds of food and drink, together with rare perfumes like camphor and musk. With these he also conveyed to him through his daughter: “Lord, this fortress will definitely fall in the morning. With it all would be lost. Now please command whatever is appropriate in this situation.

Hearing this the weaver pondered: ‘If the fortress falls I too will be separated from this princess. So I will mount the Garuda with the weapons and show myself from the sky. Perhaps believing me to be Vishnu, the enemies will take fright and be slain by the king’s soldiers.’

Having made up his mind, he told her in the morning after cleaning his teeth: “Fair one, I will not lie with you in bed till I have destroyed the enemies. You should tell your father that he should go out with all his troops in the morning and announce the battle. I will station myself in the sky and make the enemies powerless. Then he can kill them at ease. If I kill them myself then these wretches may become eligible for heaven. Therefore, they should be so dealt with, that being killed while fleeing, they do not go to heaven.”

Meanwhile the God Vishnu, who was aware of all that was happening, summoned his eagle and said to him: “O Garuda, do you know that a certain weaver, disguised as myself and riding a wooden Garuda, desires the princess?”

Garuda replied: “God, all that he has done is known. The point is, what shall we do?”

Lord Vishnu, in all his wisdom, then said: “ This weaver has set forth today for battle, determined to die. He will certainly get killed by the soldiers arrows. Then all the people will say ‘many soldiers joined together and felled Vishnu and Garuda.’ These people will then worship us no longer. As such you should quickly energize the wooden Garuda. My discus will also enter into its replica. I myself will enter the weaver’s body, so that he can destroy the enemies. Their destruction will also increase our prestige.”

Garuda having carried out his command, Lord Vishnu entered the weavers body whilst the latter was still in the sky. In a moment he rendered all the enemy soldiers powerless. They were all defeated and killed by the king and his army. And the people said: “ With the help of his son in law Vishnu, the king has killed all his enemies.”

Thereafter, when the weaver descended happily from the sky, the king, the ministers and the citizens saw him for what he actually was- the city weaver. He also related his tale from the beginning.

Then the king, pleased by the weavers daring and the destruction of his enemies, gave the princess to him in marriage in front of all the populace. And the weaver and the princess lived in joy and happiness thereafter.1


Why The Whale Eats Small Fish

There once lived in the sea a whale who ate all types of fishes- the garfish, the crab, the skate, the eel and so on. Whatever he could find he ate till there was left only a small cute fish who swam a little behind the whale’s right ear so as to be out of harm’s way.

One day the whale stood up on his tail and said, “I’m hungry.”

The small cute fish replied: “ Have you ever tasted man?”

“No,” said the whale. “What is it like?”

“Nice, “ said the small cute fish. “Nice but difficult.”

“I don’t care about the difficult part. Fetch me some,” said the whale and he made the sea froth up with his tail.

“One at a time is enough,” said the cute fish, “If you swim to latitude fifty north and latitude forty west, you will find sitting on a raft, in the middle of the sea, a ship wrecked man in his blue jeans with his jack-knife. I must, however, tell you my friend that he is a man of infinite resource and energy.

So the whale swam and swam to latitude fifty north and latitude forty west, and on a raft found the shipwrecked man. Then the whale opened his mouth, back and back till it touched his tail, and swallowed the man.

But as soon as the man found himself inside the whale’s warm inside, he began jumping, thumping and scratching the insides of the whale in such a ferocious manner that the whale became very uncomfortable.

So the whale said to the cute fish, “This man is very difficult. And besides he is giving me hiccups. What shall I do?”

“Tell him to come out,” said the cute fish.

So the whale called down his throat and yelled: “Come out and behave yourself. I’ve got hiccups.”

“No,” said the man. “Not here. Take me to my shore.”

“Where is your shore?” asked the whale.

And then the man whispered something in the hearing box of the whale.

So the whale swam and swam till he reached the man’s shore. But while the whale was swimming, the man, who indeed was a person of infinite resource and energy, used his jack-knife to cut the raft into a little square grating all running criss-cross, and tied it firmly around his waist. While coming out he dragged the grating into the whale’s throat where it got stuck!

From that day onwards with the grating in his throat, which the whale could neither cough out or push down, the whale, dear Iyra, only eats small fish. It doesn’t eat small boys, girls or men. Dadaji


Why the Camel Has A Hump

There once lived in the middle of the great Sahara desert a lazy Camel who did not want to work. Whenever anybody spoke to him he said ‘Humph!’ Just ‘Humph’ and nothing more.

Presently a horse came to him and said to him, ‘Camel, O Camel, come and trot like the rest of us.’

‘Humph!’ said the Camel; and the Horse went away and told the Man.

Presently the Dog came to him and said, ‘Camel, O Camel,’ come and fetch and carry like the rest of us.

‘Humph!’ said the Camel; and the Dog went away and told the Man.

Presently the Ox came to him and said, ‘Camel, O camel. Come and plough like the rest of us.

‘Humph!’ said the Camel; and the Ox went away and told Man.

At the end of the day the Man called all three-the Horse, the Dog and the Ox and told them, “I’m very sorry for you; but since that Hump thing in the Desert can’t work, you have to work double time to make up for him.”

The three worked double time for three days and at the end of it were very angry. They decided to complain to the Jinn (a spirit of the Islamic mythology, formed of fire, which encircles the earth and assumes various shapes) , whenever it visits the great Sahara desert. Presently the Jinn in charge of All Deserts, rolling in a cloud of dusk, came and the three complained of the Camel’s idleness.

“What does he do when you ask him to work?” asked the Jinn

“He only says Humph!” said the three in unison.

“Very well, “ said the Jinn, “I’ll teach him what Humph means, if you will wait a minute.”

Saying this the Jinn rolled himself in his dust- cloak and flew towards the centre of the great Sahara desert where he found the Camel sitting idly.

“My friend,” said the Jinn, “what is this I hear of your doing no work?”

“Humph!” said the camel.

“It is not fair on your part to sit idle while others have to wok double to make up for you.”

“Humph!” said the Camel and swung his tail.

“If you say that once again, “ said the angry Jinn, ‘I’ll do something which will make you regret all life long.”

“Humph!’ said the Camel again; but no sooner had he said it than he saw his back, that he was so proud of, puffing up and puffing up into a big lolloping hump

“Do you see that?” said the Jinn. “That’s your very own humph that you have brought upon yourself for not working. Now go to Man and start working.”

“How can I,” said the Camel, “with this humph on my back.”

“That’s made on purpose,” said the Jinn, “all because you have missed three days of work. You will now be able to work for three days without eating anything because you can live on your humph. This is a punishment for your laziness.”

And the Camel reluctantly went to work. But to this day he wears a humph (we call it hump now) as he has never been able to catch up with the three days work he missed in the beginning ; and to this day he has not learnt to be agile and active.

Isn’t this a cute story Iyra? So now you know why the African is black, why the elephant has a trunk, and why the Leopard has spots on his skin. And today you have come to know why the Camel has a hump. One day I will tell you a story of a Whale. Love Dadaji


Why The Leopard Has Spots

My dear Iyra,

In my earlier letter I told you a story of how the elephant got his trunk. In this letter I will tell you the story of why the African is black and the Leopard has spots on his skin.

In the yonder times in Africa, the Leopard, the Giraffe and the Zebra along with various other animals lived not in forests but in an open ,thinly- forested , hot, grass land. Their skins were sandy-yellow brownish and matched the colour of the land in which they lived. This was very bad for the Giraffe, the Zebra and the other animals because the Leopard would lie down beside a yellowish brown stone or clump of grass and surprise his prey whenever they came by.

Now along with the Leopard there was another hunter, an African , whose skin was as fair as the skin of an Englishman or a European. He too hunted along with the Leopard. The difference was that the African hunted with bows and arrows whereas the Leopard did his job with teeth and claws.

After a long time the Giraffe, the Zebra and the other animals realised that they were living in unfriendly terrain and moved away from this open grassland. They scuttled for weeks till they came to a great forest, full of trees and bushes. They made this their abode and what with the shadows of trees falling on them, the Giraffe grew blotchy , the Zebra stripy, and the other animals darker. They all started having a lovely time in this forest while the Leopard and the African became miserable with no prey and got reduced to eating rats, beetles and rabbits.. Unable to bear their hunger no longer, they approached their friend, the Baboon, to inquire where all their prey had vanished.

The wise Baboon told the twosome that their prey had migrated to a thick forest and also changed the colours of their skins to escape detection. He advised them to likewise by going to this forest and changing the colours of their skins so that they can too can hide themselves properly and get their prey.

So the two reached the thick forest but refused to change the colour of their bodies. This resulted in their not getting their food because they were easily distinguishable from their back ground. Wherever they went they were seen and their prey fled.

Unable to take it any longer, the African decided to change the colour of his skin to a blackish-brownish colour so that he could hide, without being noticed, behind the trees. He did this by rubbing himself with a special blackish-brown herb which he found in the forest. This herb had the magical property of permanence i.e. it changed the colour permanently

“But what about me?” said the Leopard, when the African had worked his last little finger into his fine new black skin.

“I’ll help you,” said the African. Then the African put his five fingers close together (there was plenty of black left on his new skin till then) and pressed all over the Leopard, and wherever the five fingers touched they left little black marks, all close together. Sometimes the fingers slipped and the marks grew a little blurred

“Now you look a beauty,” said the African. “You can now lie bare on the ground and look like a heap of pebbles or you can lie on a leafy branch and look like sunshine sifting through the leaves; and you can lie right through the path and look like nothing in particular. Think of that and purr!”

The Leopard walked a short distance and watched his reflection in a river. He was pleased. The two lived happily thereafter.

And this dear Iyra is why the African is black and the Leopard has spots on his skin. Bye. Dadaji


Cows of Moomooland

Once upon a time in the land of Moomooland, atop the Himalaya mountains, lived a large number of cows.The fields of Moomooland were covered with rich, green grass. It was surrounded by water on three sides, and a cliff to the east, which was as tall as the sky and as steep as a wall. . .

On top of the cliff, lived a very special cow. She was known as “ Gyani,” which meant “The Wise One.” The Wise One lived inside a cave, and sat at its mouth all day long. None of the other cows knew much about her, and nobody ever asked about her except one.

Her name was Munmun, but she was known to all the othersas “Musibat,” which means “The Annoying One.”

Munmun never stopped asking questions.

She woke up with new questions to ask every morning.

“Why is the sky blue?” Munmun asked herfather.

“Nobody knows,” said Munmun’sfather.

“Then how do we know it won’t be purple tomorrow?” Munmun continued.

“I cannot spend all day answering your questions Munmun. Why don’t you go play in the stream.”And she did .

“How does the grass grow?” Munmun asked her mother the next day.

“Nobody knows,” said Munmun’s mother.

“Then how do you know it will keep growing?” Munmun continued.

“I’m busy, Munmun. Go play in the stream.”Andshe did.

“How did The Wise One get atop the cliff?” Munmun asked an elder cow.

“Nobody knows,” the elder cow replied.

“Then how can…never mind,” said Munmun, “should I go play in the stream?”

The elder cow nodded.

By this time, Munmun was beginning to be called, “MusibatMunmunacchitairaki,” which means “The Annoying One Who Swims Very Well.”

“Nobody ever answers my questions,” thought Munmun. “I don’t want to play in the stream all day. I want to learn things. I want to know as much as The Wise One. I must talk to her.”

Munmun spent a long time trying to figure out how to reach the top of the cliff and meet The Wise One. She watched the other cows swimming in the stream, she watched the calves playing with building blocks, and she watched the elder cows playing Shabdong (Shabdong is similar to the human game of scrabble, but much harder. If a cow ever challenges you to a game of Shabdong, it is best to decline or you may get a headache).

Munmun came up with a plan and called a meeting of all the cows on the field.

“I have decided to speak with The Wise One, so that I may finally have the answers to all my questions. Will you help me?”

The crowd of cows moo-mured to themselves for a moment;.then cheered in agreement. They were tired of Munmun asking so many questions, all day long.

“We will help in any way you need!” shouted an elder cow.

Munmun got started right away. She made her father stand at the base of the cliff. Then she made her mother climb up and stand on top of him. Then she made another cow climb up and stand on top of her. Then she made another cow climb up and stand on top of her. This continued until every cow in the Moomooland had climbed up! Only Munmun remained at the bottom.

They had made the tallest cow tower in the world!

Munmun slowly climbed the tower, cow after cow, until she reached the tippy-top. She was just high enough to touch the top of the cliff, but the tower had started to sway back and forth from the wind. As the tower moved to and fro,Munmun had no choice but to jump on top of the cliff! Just as she did, the tower began to crumble and the cows fell on top of one another. Munmun had just made it.

As all the cows at the bottom of the cliff dusted themselves off, Munmun moved towards the cave. She saw The Wise One sipping a cup of tea.

“Hello,” said The Wise One, “Would you like a cup of tea?”

“No, thank you,” said Munmun, “I came to get answers to all of my questions.”

The Wise One took a sip of her tea.

“I will answer a single question,” she said.

Munmun couldn’t believe it. One question! She had so many questionsshe wanted answered, but she had to make her one question count. It had to be the most important question she could think of. What did she want to know more than anything in the world?

Munmun knew what to ask. It was something that one of the wisest cow in the world could answer.

“ Why do all cows avoid giving answers to my questions? Munmun asked

The Wise One put down her tea and looked at Munmun and smiled.

“ An excellent question,” she said. “ It is because they do not know the answer. But you were persistent in knowing the answers. So you came here. The first step is to be curious and the next step is pursuing your curiosity.. This is the first and second thing all cows must understand: Be curious and persist with your curiosity. Don’t give up.

“ Your question was very good. So I give you a chance to ask another question”, said Gyani

“I got tired of not getting any answers so I climbed up here by taking the help of other cows. They all helped me knowing fully well I am a nuisance and apest. Why?,” askedMunmun.

“ Because they wanted to be rid of you. So you helped them devise a novel way of getting rid of you-by standing on the shoulders of each other. This is called innovation. This is the third step. Be innovative.. So you see you have reached me by your own efforts of curiosity, persistence and innovation..

“You may ask me another question tomorrow. For now let us have some tea.”

From that day on Munmun asked the Wise One all the questions thatshe had in her head. For years this continued until one day Munmun woke up and the Wise One was gone.

Munmun remained atop the cliff, living inside the cave, and became known as the Wise One to all the cows on the field below. Nobody knew much about her and nobodyever asked about her, except one young cow…who happened to be a very good swimmer…


The Golden Goose

Once upon a time, there lived a wood cutter and his wife who had three sons. The eldest two were strong and tall, and their mother and father were always telling them how handsome and clever they were. But the youngest son was just a bit simple in the head. He wasn’t very tall, and he wasn’t very strong, and his family thought he was good for nothing. They hardly ever called him by his real name, but instead they gave him a cruel nickname. They called him Dummy, because they said he was stupid.

One day the eldest son wanted to go to the forest to cut wood. The mother praised him for being such a useful boy and before he set out, she gave him some of her best fruit cake for his lunch, and a bottle lemonade to wash it down. While the boy was walking through the forest, he met a little grey old man who said to him:

“Do give me a little piece of your cake and a swig of your lemonade. I’m so terribly hungry and thirsty.”

And the eldest son replied;

“Be off with you, you filthy old beggar. “

And the little grey old man went away, but not without taking his revenge. He put a curse on the boy, so that when he started to cut a tree down, his axe slipped and went into his leg. The boy limped home to his mother who washed his wound and bandaged him.

The next day, the second eldest son went out to the forest to cut wood. Before he set out, his mother praised him for being such a useful boy, but especially asked him to be careful with the axe, so as not to have a nasty accident like his brother. The boy promised not to be careless, and his mother gave him some of her best sponge cake for his lunch, and a bottle of lemonade to wash it down.

It happened that as the boy was walking through the woods, he came across the same little gray old man. The man said to him, “Do please share your sponge cake and your lemonade with me, for I am so terribly weak with hunger and thirst.” And the boy said;

“Be off with you, you lazy old scoundrel. If you want to eat, you’d better work.”

And the little grey old man went away, but not without taking his revenge. Not long after, when the boy was cutting down a tree, his axe flew out of his hand and hit him on the head. He crawled home to his mother who bandaged up his wound and asked him why he had not kept his promise to be more careful.

For the rest of the week, the two eldest sons were both lying in bed recovering from their wounds. The father said to the third and youngest son:

“Get on your feet, you lazy Dummy, why are you sitting around doing nothing, when both brothers are hurt and unable to work? Get out to the forest and cut some wood – if you’re not too stupid to do that.”

The mother laughed at him and said, “It’s more than likely that Dummy will cut his own head off – but it won’t be much of loss to anyone.” And before he left she gave him some cake that she had burnt almost to a crust in the oven, and a bottle of sour lemonade to wash it down.

As the youngest boy was going through the woods, he met the same little gray old man who had crossed the path of his brothers. The man said to him:

“Do please share some of your cake and lemonade with me. I am so terribly hungry and thirsty, and I fear that if I don’t have something to eat and drink soon, I will surely die”

The young boy replied:

“Old man, I will gladly share with you what I have. But the cake is burned and the lemonade is sour.”

“Never mind that,” said the man. “I am grateful for what you can give me.”

And the boy and the little gray old man sat down and shared the cake and the lemonade. After they had finished their lunch, the man said:

“Since you have a good heart, and have shared what you have with me, I will give you a reward. You see that old tree over there. Cut it down with your axe and you will find something of value inside its hollow trunk.”

And so when the little gray old man had left, the young boy took his axe and cut down the hollow tree just as he had been told. Inside he found a goose – but this was no ordinary bird – for its feathers were made of gold.

The boy realised that he was in luck, and thought to himself: “Why should I go home now and suffer the insults of my parents and brothers? They will take this valuable bird from me, and I shall have nothing.”

And so the boy decided to run away from home. He put the golden goose under his arm and set out for the town. Then he went to the inn, intending to stay there. He stood at the bar and asked the innkeeper if he would accept a golden feather as payment for his board and lodgings. When the innkeeper, saw the golden goose, he readily agreed. But after the boy had gone to bed he said to his three daughters:

“That young boy whose parents call him Dummy is staying up in our guest room. But he can’t be as simple in the head as they say – for he’s got a valuable bird with him – a goose with feathers made of gold.”

The eldest daughter thought to herself, “ Well fancy that. Feathers made of gold. I’ll pluck one or maybe more of those for myself.”

After the clock struck midnight, she sneaked into the boy’s room, and saw that he was asleep with his arm around the golden goose. She crept up and tried to pluck a feather. But the feather wouldn’t budge, and when she tried to take her hand away, she found that she was stuck to it. She couldn’t move, and she couldn’t cry out for fear of waking the boy. She had to stay where she was, on her knees by the bed, with her hand on the feather.

After the clock struck one in the morning, the second sister came in the room, planning to take one feather or more for herself. In the dark she didn’t see her sister, but as soon as she touched her back, she found that her hand was stuck fast to her, and she had to stay where she was, not moving and not making a sound.

After the clock struck two in the morning, the third sister came in. The other two shouted: “Stay back !” but it was too late, – she reached out hoping to steal a feather and found that her hand was stuck to the middle sister.

The boy and the goose slept soundly through all of this. In the morning the boy got up, paid his bill with a golden feather, and left with inn with the goose under his arm. The sisters had no choice but to follow on behind him. A pretty procession they made.

Along the way they met the Bishop:

“What a sight!” he exclaimed. “It’s hardly right for three young women to follow a boy around like that !”

And as the girls went past he tapped the youngest on the shoulder. In doing so he found that he was stuck to her and had to follow.

Further up the road they met a Police Sergeant. The Bishop called out to him “Sergeant: Help me get free from this young woman’s shoulder. I’m stuck to her and people are bound to start all kinds of gossip about it!”

The Police Sergeant tried to pull the Bishop free, but in doing so he found that both his hands stuck to his waist, and he had to follow along with the procession.

At the top of the road they met the Mayor.

‘What’s this town coming to?” cried the Mayor. “The Bishop and the police sergeant following three young girls who are following a young boy, all holding on to each other in a most unseemly fashion. Have they gone mad?”

And as he spoke, he tried to pull the Police Sergeant and the Bishop away – but in doing so he found that he was stuck to both of them, and had to follow on.

The boy led the little line of townspeople along up the road, and at the top of the hill they passed the King’s Palace. Now the King’s daughter was very beautiful, but she had the saddest face in the whole wide world. She had never laughed and not once even smiled. The king was so troubled by the young Princess’s unhappiness, that he had made a special law. Whosoever could make her laugh and smile would win her hand in marriage.

But the truth was that nothing very funny ever happened inside the Royal Palace. All the King’s servants and advisers were far too high and mighty to understand what would make a young girl laugh – or indeed to allow anything amusing to happen at all.

As the boy known as Dummy went past the palace, he still held the golden goose under his arm, and he was followed by the innkeeper’s three daughters, the Bishop, the Police Sergeant, and the Mayor. The Princess looked out at saw the important people in their uniforms being tugged along behind three girls and a boy with a goose, and she thought that it was the first thing she had seen in her life that was truly funny. She burst out laughing and ran, still giggling, to her father to tell him all about what she had seen. When the King looked out of his window and saw the procession, he couldn’t help laughing himself. He sent for his guards and told them to bring the boy and his followers directly to him. When the boy entered the King’s chamber, with the followers behind him, the Mayor, the Bishop and the Policeman all called out angrily that he should pay for his crime with his head. The King, still laughing, said that on the contrary – he would be rewarded with the hand in marriage of his daughter the Princess.

For an entire week after that , the innkeeper’s three daughters, the Bishop, the policeman, and the Mayor were all stuck to the gold goose and to one another. And while they were stuck , all the townspeople and the whole court laughed and laughed at them.

And the boy whose family called him Dummy married the Princess and inherited the kingdom. He lived with his beautiful wife and they had six happy smiling children, and the palace was often filled with laughter.


The Stone Cutter

Long, long back, the summer had been very hot and dryin a valleyfull of pine trees and green grass. However, no matter how hot the day, the children always played in the grass and ran around a particular spot where stood a large, long, horny and scaly stone that looked like a sleeping crocodile.

Often on a cool night, the elders would clutter around the stone crocodile and then the stories about how the crocodile got there began. Nobody knew for sure but one rhyme which everybody knew was this:

Tra la lalala

The crocodile is asleep

One day the crocodile will awake

And make a lake

The days went by slowly, quietly, without any rain. The wells were starting to dry and the harvest was withering. The valley turned browner, drier, thirstier, every hot, baking day.

"The tale of the Crocodile cannot be true," said old Mahavir, the shopkeeper.

"It hasn't moved an inch, I swear," replied a customer, shrugging his shoulders.

Standing near the shop, a child said. "The Crocodile will help us soon. I am sure he will do something.”

"He must do something," agreed another.

They all nodded in agreement.

But nothing happened as days turned into a week.

Meanwhile, the children had a plan.

Quickly and quietly, they moved around the village, picking and plucking at the fading flowers. With outstretched arms and bouquets up to their chins, they went to where the giant stone lay, as still as ever.

The boys and girls placed bunches of flowers around the Crocodile in a big circle. They scattered petals around its head and over its nose, then danced around it, skipping and chanting the rhyme that they all knew so well.

Tra la lalala

The Crocodile is asleep

One day it will awake

And make a lake

Nothing happened.

A dry wind lazily picked up some flower heads and swirled them around.

“I saw something," cried the youngest boy.

They stared intently.

An ear swivelled.

The ground began to rumble.

"Look out! Run! Run!"

The children scampered in all directions, shrieking and squealing, arms pumping with excitement.

The rumbling grew and grew.

The Crocodile raised its sleepy head. It got onto its front feet and sat like a dog. It stood up and stretched. It blinked and looked around with big,wide eyes.

And then its nostrils twitched and quivered again.

The older folk were alerted by the screams and shrieks.They rushed to this spot and soon the whole village stood together staring up at the large beast with its mouths open.

"AHHHHH CHOOOOOO !" sneezed the Crocodile

The sneeze blasted from the Crocodile like a rocket, throwing it back fifty paces, causing a whirlwind of dust and dirt.


The second blast split open the dry earth, sending explosions of soil and tree roots high into the sky like missiles, and something else too ...

The people heard the sound but couldn't recognize it at first for it had been such a long time since their ears had heard such melody. As their eyes widened in wonder, their smiles turned into grins and then yelps of joy.

Water, cold, clear spring water, oozed, then trickled, then roared out of the hole, down the hillside and along the valley floor.

As the people hooted and whistled with joy, they saw with amazement the dirty, brown dust bowl of their village filling quickly with water. It was now a lake filled to the brim..

"HMMMMM," sighed the Crocodile sleepily, and showed his large teeth.

He lumbered forward and disappeared into the cool dark water with a small wave of a claw and flick of his tail.

They never saw him again.

After the families had restored and rebuilt the village,which had been substantially destroyed by the surging waters, they erected a concrete monumentat the spot where the Crocodile used to lie. Every year to mark the occasion, they would bring garlands of flowers and leaves and arrange them in a big circle. The village school would be closed as it was known as 'Water Crocodile Day' and wearing the Crocodile masks that they had been working on all week, the children would skip and clap and sing.

Tra la lalala

One day the Crocodile awoke

It achhooed and achhooed

And made a lake

And that is the end of the story.


Jhagraloo in Swapnadesh

Once upon a time there existed a magical land called*Swapnadesh. It had bright blue skies, tiny red birds that fluttered together in groups of six,and mountains which were covered with tall trees that smelled of honey. The ponds on Swapnadesh were home to white swans with pink tipped feathers. This special land was ruled by a kind and beautiful princess named Sujata..

The princess lived in a castle full of kittens and ruled over a kingdom filled with kind-hearted people who shared snacks in the afternoon and animals that danced in the moonlight.

Swapnadesh was a land of plenty with lots of wonderful food to share. Juicy grapes grew on vines, agreeable chicken lay eggs with a strawberry smell, pink and white cows gave orange flavoured milk and baker’s made sweetmeats for everyone. Lovely dogs of various breeds took charge of toasting wheat nut bread while bees covered it in sweet honey.

The Princess herself made peanut butter and jelly-filled donuts and the little red birds delivered them to all who lived in this magic land. Everyone gave to each other so their hearts were happy.

Swapnadesh was a peaceful place until one day a dark blue bear came down from the mountains who had crossed over from a neighboring land. He didn’t want to dance by the moon’s light and he definitely did not want to share. His name was *Jhagralooand he was most quarrelsome.

Jhagraloo gobbled up grapes and so frightened the chickens that they couldn’t lay eggs. He grabbed biscuits and stuffed every single one into his mouth, leaving crumbs all over the bakers’ kitchen. He gulped down large quantities of milk and splashed through the swan’s ponds. When the bees saw what Jhagraloowas doing, they kept all their honey and the dogss hid their nutty bread. Jhagraloo caused chaos everywhere.

When the princess heard about Jhagraloo, she said, “Oh my. This will not do. ” She came down from the castle and found Jhagraloo, who was busy raiding a honey pot. “Mr. Bear,” she said, “You are welcome in Swapnadesh but not your ways. ”Startled,Jhagraloo stopped his pursuit of the pot and looked up at the Princess. She said “Here we give to others, not take from them. I would think you feel quite disagreeable now and not just because of all you’ve eaten. ”

Jhagraloothought about it for a moment and realized that was true. “Well,” he grumbled, “Maybe all that orange flavoured milk wasn’t the best idea. ” The princess continued, “Mr. Bear, you can eat and eat but you won’t ever really feel good because that comes only from giving. I think you’ll find that it is better to be full in your heart, then in your stomach. ” With that, she went back up to the castle leaving a dazed Jhagraloo behind.

Jhagraloo continued with his greedy ways for awhile. However, no matter how much Jhagraloo would eat, he still felt empty inside. One day, after he’d just taken a batch of biscuits from the baker’skitchen he paused for a moment and remembered what the pretty princess said to him. He slowly turned around and then…gave them back. The baker was pleased and surprised and said, “Thank you, Mr. Bear, for your kindness. These biscuits will now taste twice as sweet because they were given to us by a friend. If you’d like, come back tomorrow and we’ll have a batch fresh out for you. ”

Jhagraloo was filled with joy and went through the land, giving back everything he’d taken. In return, he received a promise from everyone to share their food with him and a pledge of friendship. The dark blue bear became very popular in Swapnadesh. He even opened up a side-business with dogs, making grilled cheese out of his cave. It tasted wonderful on their nutty bread. Jhagraloo was so delighted that he even started dancing in the moonlight, with the wise princess as his partner.

PS The moral of the story is ‘life becomes joyful by sharing; not quarreling’

*Swapnadesh: Dreamland

*Jhagraloo: Quarrelsome


The Steel Cane

Once upon a time there lived an old woman who had a small cottage on the edge of the forest. Behind the cottage was a garden in which all sorts of vegetables grew, and, beyond that, a field with two or three cows in it, so her neighbours considered her quite rich, and envied her greatly.

As long as she was strong enough to work all day in her garden the old woman never felt lonely, but after a while she had a bad illness, which left her much weaker than before, and she began to think that now and then it would be nice to have some one to speak to. Just at this moment she heard of the death of a shepherd and his wife, who dwelt on the other side of the plain, leaving a little boy quite alone in the world.

'That will just suit me,' she said; and sent a man over to bring the child, whom she intended to adopt for her own.

Now the boy, who was about twelve years old, ought to have considered himself very lucky, for his new mother was as kind to him as the old one. But, unfortunately, he made friends with some bad rude companions whose tricks caused them to be a terror to everyone, and the poor old woman never ceased regretting her lost solitude.

Things went on in this way for some years, till the boy became a man.

'Perhaps, if he were to be married he might sober down,' she thought to herself. And she inquired among the neighbours what girls there were of an age to choose from. At length one was found, good and industrious, as well as pretty; and as the young man raised no objections the wedding took place at once, and the bride and bridegroom went to live in the cottage with the old woman. But no change was to be seen in the husband's conduct. All day long he was out amusing himself in the company of his former friends, and if his wife dared to say anything to him on his return home he beat her with his stick. And next year, when a baby was born to them, he beat it also.

At length the old woman's patience was worn out. She saw that it was quite useless to expect the lazy, idle creature to mend his ways, and one day she said to him:

'Do you mean to go on like this for ever? Remember, you are no longer a boy, and it is time that you left off behaving like one. Come, shake off your bad habits, and work for your wife and child, and above all, stop beating them. If not I will transform you into an ass, and heavy loads shall be piled on your back, and men shall ride you. Briars shall be your food, a goad shall prick you, and in your turn you shall know how it feels to be beaten.'

But if she expected her words to do any good she soon found out her mistake, for the young man only grew angry and cried rudely:

'Bah! hold your tongue or I will whip you also.'

'Will you?' she answered grimly: and, swift as lightning she picked up a steel cane that stood in the corner and laid it across his shoulders. In an instant his ears had grown long and his face longer, his arms had become legs, and his body was covered with close grey hair. Truly, he was an ass; and a very ugly one, too!

'Leave the house!' commanded the old woman. And, shambling awkwardly, he went.

As he was standing in the path outside, not knowing what to do, a man passed by.

'Ho! my fine fellow, you are exactly what I was looking for! You don't seem to have a master, so come with me. I will find something for you to do.' And taking him by the ear he led him from the cottage.

For seven years the ass led a hard life, just as the old woman had foretold. But instead of remembering that he had brought all his suffering on himself, and being sorry for his evil ways, he grew harder, and more bitter. At the end of the seven years his ass skin wore out, and he became a man again, and one day returned to the cottage.

His wife opened the door in answer to his knock; then, letting fall the latch, she ran inside, crying:

'Grandmother! grandmother! your son has come back!'

'I thought he would,' replied the old woman, going on with her spinning. 'Well, we could have done very well without him. But as he is here I suppose he must come in.'

And come in he did. But as the old woman expected, he behaved still worse than before. For some weeks she allowed him to do what he liked; then at last she said:

'So experience has taught you nothing! After all, there are very few people who have sense to learn by it. But take care lest I change you into a wolf, to be a prey for dogs and men!'

'You talk too much. I shall break your head for you!' was all the answer she got.

Had the young man looked at her face he might have taken warning, but he was busy making a pipe, and took no notice. The next moment the steel cane had touched his shoulders, and a big grey wolf bounded through the door.

Oh! what a yapping among the dogs, and what a shouting among the neighbours as they gave chase.

For seven years he led the life of a hunted animal, often cold and nearly always hungry, and never daring to allow himself a sound sleep. At the end of that time his wolf skin wore out also, and again he appeared at the cottage door. But the second seven years had taught him no more than the first—his conduct was worse than before; and one day he beat his wife and son so brutally that they screamed to the old woman to come to their aid.

She did, and brought the steel cane with her. In a second the ruffian had vanished, and a big black crow was flying about the room, crying 'Gour! Gour!'

The window was open, and he darted through it; and seeking the companions who had ruined him, he managed to make them understand what had happened.

'We will avenge you,' said they; and taking up a rope, set out to strangle the old woman.

But she was ready for them. One stroke of her cane and they were all changed into a troop of black crows, and this time their feathers are lasting still.


The Sick King

One upon a time, there was a king who was sick. All the doctors in his kingdom and outside could not provide a remedy for his disease and he continued to suffer until he fell very ill. The best of the medicine men saw no hope for him and predicted that there was about a month or so for him to live.

The king did not want to die, for he was not very old. He called the royal astrologer who told him,

"I see you with an woman, not the queen, who will either save your life or bring you back from the dead."

The king saw a glimmer of hope and asked,

"But who is that woman?"

"I cannot say that. Her face is not very clear, but she is certainly not the queen. But I see you living with this woman in a healthy state."

Though he was already married to a beautiful and charming woman, the king proclaimed through his land that he was ready to marry any woman who could save his life or revive him after death.

But none could keep him alive. The king took his last breath one day and opened his eyes no more.

Shortly after his death, a woman came to the palace and told the king's mother that she could make him live again. She asked for permission to be admitted into the room where the king's corpse had been kept. This was readily granted and while the queen, was busy superintending the preparations for burial,, this woman put her hand on the king's head and uttered some magic words. Soon the king arose, but he had lost his memory. He embraced the woman tightly and spoke many sweet words to her.

News soon spread across the land that the king had fallen in love with a woman and could not recognize his own wife, the queen. Meanwhile, the woman forced the queen to obey her and work as a slave in the kitchen, while she wore the queen's robes and lay on the queen's couch. The queen being a gentle woman by nature and due to her gratitude to the woman for reviving her husband, obeyed her orders without any protest and suffered silently.

But the royal astrologer could not bear this. One day, as the woman forced the queen to mop the floors, he went to the king and told him about all that happened after his death. The king was at first disbelieving, but then he slowly began to remember it all. When his wife, the queen, was brought to him, he could finally recognize her as the real queen. Infuriated beyond words, he called for the woman who was his life-giver and said to her,

"I thank you for the fact that you gave me a new life. But because you maltreated my wife,, I will make you pay dearly."

He did not marry the woman but gave her a lot of gold and other valuables. Then he had her caned a hundred times and banished from his kingdom.


The Paper Boy

A clump of hair smacked across Rajesh’s face. The wind even tried wrestling him to the ground. Instead of newspapers, it felt as if Rajesh’s news-bag was full of Punjab’s potatoes.

Maybe it had to do with the news his father read before Rajesh left the house. The morning headlines were full of the usual sad stories.

"For goodness sakes," his father said. "No good news again!"


Rajesh wished he could have been able to cheer up his father. He moved quickly from house to house leaving papers on the veranda or in the mailbox.

It helped being a fast cyclist-the fastest in his school

Right now Rajesh wished he could bring only good news to his family, also to his friendly neighbors. "There's that paper boy bringing sad news again," they were probably saying.

"How could he make things better for everyone?" he wondered as he continued to deliver his papers.

He met Suresh near HausKhas Park. Rajesh really liked Suresh, even if his words sometimes got mixed up.

Someone told him Suresh was mentally challenged. But Rajesh didn't care. Suresh was his friend.

Rajesh noticed Rakhi coming. She was in his class. She only had one real eye. The other was made of glass. He liked Rakhi even if people called her, "Kana (one eyed)," behind her back.

He didn't realize how much It helped her, having a friend like Rajesh.

Each time Rajesh left a paper by a customer's door he felt bad, such sad news. How could he make some good news? He thought about it a lot, as he made his rounds.

Rajesh gave his usual cheerful "Hi" to everyone on his route. Adults and children on both sides of the street yelled and waved back.

His smile was like the rising sun.

Someone was crying and he ran to where a little boy had fallen and hurt his leg. Rajesh calmed him down until the boy's mother arrived.

"I'm glad you're my paperboy," she told Rajesh.

He continued on his route, still ten more customers to go. But, he didn't feel tired. It was fun doing what he usually did, helping others.

Now, let's see. What else could he do to cheer up people?

His friend Maya came by to pick up her paper. It saved him from going all the way to the second floor.

He liked Maya a lot.

Mr.Mandal was such a grouch but Rajesh didn't mind. He always had an unfriendly look. And Mr.Mandal’s lawn was all grown up, again.

Rajesh would come later and cut the grass. And earn some money.

He cycled up the street to his last customer. Rajesh had quite a bit of energy left, as he bounded up the stairs. Mrs.Jerath saw him coming and had her usual tea waiting.

She wondered why such a lively boy always had time to chat with an old lady. She liked the Paperboy immensely

His own treat for his customers came from his little boy's heart. Rajesh was so full of joy, and it made him many friends.

Everyone looked forward to his daily trips with the newspaper, even if some of the news was sad.

There were customers from all over India. Some from Tamil Nadu and some from Bengal.. Many had thick, wavy hair and some, no hair.

Rajesh didn't mind. He liked them all.

Some of his customers were fat, others skinny. And some had customs and clothes, which were different. But it didn't matter to Rajesh.

He liked them all.

Rajesh did have much good news to share, even if he didn't realize it. His smile and polite manners brought cheering-up news to all his customers.

Yes, Rajesh was a very special paperboy.


The Clever Weaver

Once upon a time the king of a far country was sitting on his throne, listening to the complaints of his people, and judging between them. That morning there had been fewer cases than usual to deal with, and the king was about to rise and go into his gardens, when a sudden stir was heard outside, and the lord high chamberlain entered, and inquired if his majesty would be graciously pleased to receive the ambassador of a powerful emperor who lived in the east, and was greatly feared by the neighbouring sovereigns. The king, who stood as much in dread of him as the rest, gave orders that the envoy should be admitted at once, and that a banquet should be prepared in his honour. Then he settled himself again on his throne, wondering what the envoy had to say.

The envoy said nothing. He advanced to the throne where the king was awaiting him, and stooping down, traced on the floor with a rod which he held in his hand a black circle all round it. Then he sat down on a seat that was near, and took no further notice of anyone.

The king and his courtiers were equally mystified and enraged at this strange behaviour, but the envoy sat as calm and still as an image, and it soon became plain that they would get no explanation from him. The ministers were hastily summoned to a council, but not one of them could throw any light upon the subject. This made the king more angry than ever, and he told them that unless before sunset they could find someone capable of solving the mystery he would hang them all.

The king was, as the ministers knew, a man of his word; and they quickly mapped out the city into districts, so that they might visit house by house, and question the occupants as to whether they could fathom the action of the ambassador. Most of them received no reply except a puzzled stare; but, luckily, one of them was more observant than the rest, and on entering an empty cottage where a swing was swinging of itself, he began to think it might be worth while for him to see the owner. Opening a door leading into another room, he found a second swing, swinging gently like the first, and from the window he beheld a patch of corn, and a willow which moved perpetually without any wind, in order to frighten away the sparrows. Feeling more and more curious, he descended the stairs and found himself in a large light workshop in which was seated a weaver at his loom. But all the weaver did was to guide his threads, for the machine that he had invented to set in motion the swings and the willow pole made the loom work.

When he saw the great wheel standing in the corner, and had guessed the use of it, the merchant heaved a sigh of relief. At any rate, if the weaver could not guess the riddle, he at least might put the minister on the right track. So without more ado he told the story of the circle, and ended by declaring that the person who could explain its meaning should be handsomely rewarded.

'Come with me at once,' he said. 'The sun is low in the heavens, and there is no time to lose.'

The weaver stood thinking for a moment and then walked across to a window, outside of which was a hen-coop with two knuckle-bones lying beside it. These he picked up, and taking the hen from the coop, he tucked it under his arm.

'I am ready,' he answered, turning to the minister.

In the hall the king still sat on his throne, and the envoy on his seat. Signing to the minister to remain where he was, the weaver advanced to the envoy, and placed the knuckle-bones on the floor beside him. For answer, the envoy took a handful of millet seed out of his pocket and scattered it round; upon which the weaver set down the hen, who ate it up in a moment. At that the envoy rose without a word, and took his departure.

As soon as he had left the hall, the king beckoned to the weaver.

'You alone seem to have guessed the riddle,' said he, 'and great shall be your reward. But tell me, I pray you, what it all means?'

'The meaning, O king,' replied the weaver, 'is this: The circle drawn by the envoy round your throne is the message of the emperor, and signifies, "If I send an army and surround your capital, will you lay down your arms?" The knuckle-bones which I placed before him told him, "You are but children in comparison with us. Toys like these are the only playthings you are fit for." The millet that he scattered was an emblem of the number of soldiers that his master can bring into the field; but by the hen which ate up the seed he understood that one of our men could destroy a host of theirs.'

'I do not think,' he added, 'that the emperor will declare war.'

'You have saved me and my honour,' cried the king, 'and wealth and glory shall be heaped upon you. Name your reward, and you shall have it even to the half of my kingdom.'

'The small farm outside the city gates, as a marriage portion for my daughter, is all I ask,' answered the weaver, and it was all he would accept. 'Only, O king,' were his parting words, 'I would beg of you to remember that weavers also are of value to a state, and that they are sometimes cleverer even than ministers!'


Dipty and Her Wiggly Tooth

Dipti, the baby hippo wasn’t very happy. In fact, it had been two days since she

had smiled at all! It all began a couple of days back when she was brushing her teeth

as usual in the morning and she felt a strange feeling in her mouth. She continued

brushing. Brush, brush, brush…… There, she felt it again. She looked in the pond at

her reflection and touched the spot where she had felt it. And goodness! Oh,

goodness! Her teeth was wiggling. Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle……. it went.

She ran to her mother and in a trembling voice and said, “ Amma, my tooth is falling out. I brush it every day and still, why?” Amma smiled at her and said, “Oh, my little one has become a big girl now! It is only your milk tooth, Dipti. Milk teeth will fall out one by one and new strong ones will come in their place, my dear”. Dipti was horrified. What? Her teeth will fall out one by one!? What a sight she will look then?.

She didn’t want to lose her white pearly teeth. Oh, no!! And that is why she stopped smiling, lest her teeth fall out.

Mother Hippo kept asking her again and again to wiggle it lose or the new one would come out crooked. But she refused to listen. Mother hippo was worried

she might accidently swallow it, but Dipti didn’t let her come anywhere close. Tired

of all the fuss Dipti was making, she told Dipti sternly that she would give her

one more day to take the tooth out herself and after that she would have to take her

to Dr Shankar Giraffe to pull it out.

Dipti went to bed a very scared hippo. She had a very restless night, twisting and turning. Suddenly, in the middle of the night she sat up straight. She thought she

heard a strange sound coming from her mouth. Boo... hoo… hoo…!!! It went. Hippo

ran to look in the tiny piece of mirror she kept in her little treasure hole in the corner

of the cave. She had quite a few collection of things there. One lost shoe, a broken basket and a key were just among some of the things she found near the river bank

on days she managed to slip away unnoticed from her mother. Now she opened her

mouth wide and what do you think she saw there?!! Her wiggly tooth was crying!

Yes, it had eyes and a mouth and as soon as it saw Dipti looking at it, it started

wailing even louder. BOOO…..HOOO….HOOO….!!! Dipti was so shocked she

nearly forgot to breathe for a few seconds.

Then she gathered her wits and gently asked, “Can you tell me why you are crying?”.The tooth stopped crying and said, “Didn’t you know, that if you don’t pull out your teeth in time and put it under your pillow for the Tooth Fairy to find it, it will be lost forever?”

“Lost forever?”, asked the confused Dipti. “Yes”, said the Tooth.

“When the Tooth Fairy finds the milk tooth, she takes it to a faraway land called Milky Land.All the milk teeth collected from children around the world are brought here where we have the Milky River. All the teeth jump into it, splash around and have fun till they are spotless and white again! A few days later they are taken back to the children and planted in the same spot in the mouth as a new tooth.”

Wow! I didn’t know that”, said Dipti, feeling very excited now. “So what is the problem then?”, she asked.

“Well, you see when the child doesn’t pull out a tooth in time, the Tooth Fairy plants another tooth beside it. The new tooth grows and pushes the milk tooth giving the mouth a rather crooked smile and very soon the child is taken to a doctor to get the milk tooth removed. And when that happens the tooth is lost forever and it can never go to Milky Land!” said the tooth and began crying all over again louder and louder!!

“Alright, alright, I understand”, said Dipti. “But are you sure?”. “Of course I am sure. If you don’t believe me see for yourself. There is the new tooth right beside me,” said the tooth indignantly. Dipti looked inside her mouth closely and sure enough there was a new tooth right next to it. It was just a white little spot.

“Hmm…. Alright then. I will pull you out. But you better come out fast because I am scared”. The tooth nodded happily. Dipti closed her eyes and nervously tugged at it. And out it came! It was so easy and it hardly hurt her at all. She felt very proud of herself for doing it all by herself. “But what will happen to you?” she asked. “Are you lost forever now?” “No, no I can stay in Milky Land forever thanks to you”, said the Milk Tooth as Dipti placed her gently under the pillow. And Dipti went to sleep yawning, for she was very tired after this little night adventure.

Wasn’t it brave of Dipti to help out the tooth even though she was scared? I am sure the Tooth Fairy will be leaving a nice amount of money for her under the pillow for being such a brave little girl. Did you pull out your first tooth on your own too?


Prince Raman

There was once a king who was such an honourable man that his subjects called him “The Good King.”

One day while he was out hunting, a little rabbit that his dogs were about to kill, threw itself into his arms. The King caressed the little creature, and said:

“As you have put yourself under my protection nobody shall harm you,” and he carried the rabbit to his palace, and ordered a pretty little hutch to be made for it.

That night when he was alone in his room, there appeared a lovely lady. She wore a robe as white as snow, and a wreath of white roses on her head. She addressed him thus:

“I am the Fairy Sujata; I wished to see if you were as good as everybody declares you are, and for this reason I changed myself into the little rabbit, and ran to you in my distress, for I know that those who have pity for dumb creatures have still more pity for mankind. I have come to thank you for what you did and to say that I shall always be your friend, and will grant any request you would now like to make.”

“Madam,” replied the King, “I have one only son whom I love devotedly; he is named Prince Raman; if you have any good will for me, be a friend to my son.”

“Willingly,” responded the Fairy, “I will make your son the most handsome prince in the world, or the richest, or the most powerful; choose which you will for him.”

“I desire none of these things,” replied the King, “but I shall be very much obliged if you will make him the best of all princes, for what good would it do to him to be handsome, rich, or powerful if he were wicked? You know he would be unhappy, for it is only goodness which brings content.”

“You are right,” answered the Fairy, “but that I cannot do; Prince Raman must himself strive to become good. All that I can promise is that I will give him good advice, and punish him for his faults;as for being good,,it is het himself who has to correct himself.”

And with this the father had to rest content.

Not long afterwards the good King died, and two days later the Fairy appeared to Prince Raman.

“I promised your father to be your friend,” she told him; “here is a little gold ring, take care of it, for it is worth more than diamonds. Every time that you are about to do any wrong action it will prick you. If, in spite of the pricks, you continue your bad actions, you will lose my friendship and I shall become your enemy.”

Saying this the Fairy vanished, leaving the Prince very much astonished.

For some time Raman behaved so well that the ring did not prick at all, but one day when he returned from a hunting chase, having caught nothing, he felt so ill-humoured, that when his dog Bibo came fawning upon him, he kicked the poor, faithful creature from him. At that moment the ring pricked like a pin running into his finger.

“What is this?” he exclaimed: “the Fairy must be mocking me, surely I’ve done no great harm in kicking an animal that annoyed me. What’s the use of being ruler of a great empire if I may not treat my dog as I will?”

“I am not mocking you,” he heard in reply to his thoughts; “you have been bad tempered, and you have behaved unkindly to a poor animal who did not deserve such treatment. I know you are higher than a dog, but the advantage of being ruler of a great empire is not in doing all the harm one wishes, but in doing all the good one can.”

Raman promised to be better, but he did not keep his word, and so the ring often pricked him, sometimes until his finger bled, and at last, in anger, he threw it away.

Now he thought he would be truly happy, and he gave way to any foolish fancies and wrong wishes that came into his head, until he really became very wicked and was disliked by everyone.

One day when he was out walking he saw a girl named Prerna, who was so beautiful that he resolved to marry her.

But Prerna was as good as she was beautiful, and said to him:

“Sir, I am only a cowherd and have no fortune, but, in spite of that, I will never marry you, for although I should be a Queen, and you are handsome and rich, your evil behaviour would make me hate you.”

Upon this, Raman flew into a passion, and ordered his officers to carry Prerna to the Palace, but she was not used unkindly there, for the Prince loved her.

However, after a while, the young prince grew impatient. He ruled that, if she still refused to marry him, the very next day she should be sent to the prison.

Great was his surprise, on entering the apartment, to find the captive had disappeared, for he carried the key of the door in his pocket.

Amongst those at the Royal Court was a Councillor named Harshvardhan, a man of a noble mind, who had often dared to tell the Prince of his faults. In his heart of hearts the Prince respected this good man. The wicked flatterers at court disliked him all the more for his honesty.

So now they falsely said, that it was Harshvardhan who had helped Prerna to escape, and beyond himself with fury, Raman commanded soldiers to bring Harshvardhan to him in chains, like a criminal.

After giving these orders Raman retired to his chamber, but scarcely had he entered, when the earth trembled, there came a great clap of thunder, and the Fairy Sujata appeared before him.

“I promised your father,” said she in a stern voice, “to give you good advice, and to punish you if you refused to follow it. You have despised my counsels and your crimes have converted you into a monster, the horror of heaven and earth. Now it is time to fulfil my promise of punishment. I condemn you to take the resemblance of the beasts you are like in your character—a lion, because of your fury—a wolf, on account of your greediness—a serpent, for destroying him who has been your second father—a bull, by reason of your brutality.”

Hardly had the Fairy pronounced these words, when Raman perceived with horror that his body had been transformed.

He had a lion’s head, a bull’s horns, the feet of a wolf, and the tail of a viper. At the same moment he found himself in a forest, and there, after roaming about miserably for some time, he fell into a pit dug by hunters. He was captured and led into the capital of his Kingdom.

On the way to the city, instead of acknowledging that he had brought this evil plight upon himself, he bit at his chains, and cursed the Fairy. As he was nearing the city great rejoicings were seen on every side, and, when the hunters enquired the reason, they were told that Prince Raman, whose only pleasure it was to torment his people, had been crushed to death in his chamber by a thunder-bolt, a just punishment for his offences. Four of his wicked companions had tried to partition the Kingdom between them, but the people would have none such to rule, and they had offered the crown to the good and wise Harshvardhan.

Raman panted with rage on hearing this, and in the Palace Square he saw Harshvardhan on a superb throne, and all the people who shouted with joy, and wished him a long life to repair the evil brought about by their former sovereign.

“I accept the throne,” said Harshvardhan, “but it is to preserve it for Prince Raman. A fairy has revealed to me that he is not dead, and possibly will return to you as virtuous as in his earliest years. Alas!” cried Harshvardhan, bursting into tears, “his flatterers have ruined him, I know that at heart he is good.”

These words moved Raman to sorrow for his crimes, and he felt that he had not been punished as severely as he deserved, and he now resolved to amend his faults.

Raman was kept in a cage at the zoo. He lived quietly and did not growl at his keeper or at the visitors. If children wanted a better look at him, he would wake up from his slumber and prowl around the cage. But the animals did not have enough to eat at the zoo, and many of them were unhappy. One day, when a tiger jumped over the walls of his den, Raman too leapt into action.

The keeper was trembling with fear when he saw not one but two fierce beasts had escaped.

The Tiger said :

“I am hungry. The food in this place is disgusting. Now I shall eat the keeper.”

But Raman bravely fought the fierce beast, and saved the man’s life.

Then a voice was heard saying, “a good action shall be rewarded!” and, to Raman’s joy he was instantaneously transformed into a pretty little dog which the keeper carried to the Queen.

The Queen was delighted with him, but, for fear he should grow bigger, she gave him only small pieces of bread to eat, so that poor Raman nearly died of hunger.

One day he carried his little piece of bread into the garden to eat it there, but wandering with it in his mouth, still further on, he saw a young girl pale and thin, and almost fainting for want of food.

“I am hungry,” thought Raman, “but if I give my breakfast to this poor thing, perhaps I shall save her life.” He placed his bread in the girl’s hand, and she ate it hungrily.

Presently from a window, an old man threw out a plateful of tempting-looking food. Raman was just about to devour it, when the girl to whom he had given the bread, rushed forward and throwing her arms around him cried,

“Poor little dog, do not touch that food, it is poisoned. The old man likes to kill stray cats and dogs.”

Just then a voice was heard saying, “You see that a good action meets with reward,” and at the same time Raman was changed into a pretty white pigeon.

For several days he flew around hoping to catch sight of his long lost princess Prerna, and at last, seated by a hermit, outside a cave, he found her. Fluttering down he alighted upon her shoulder. Prerna stroked his feathers whispering kind words.

Raman hopped onto a stone to take a better look at her. At that moment he regained his natural figure, and Fairy Sujata appeared saying

“Come, my children, I am going to transport you to your Palace, that Raman may receive his crown of which he has now become worthy,” and hardly had she ceased speaking, when they found themselves in Harshvardhan’s presence. The worthy Councillorr was delighted to behold his dear master, and gladly resigned the throne to him.

Raman and Prerna reigned long and happily, and the ring, which the Prince now wore again, never once severely pricked him.


The Lazy Rajesh

Once upon a time there was a boy whose name was Rajesh, and he lived with his mother in a dreary cottage. They were very poor, and the mother earned a few rupees by tailoring but Rajesh was so lazy that he would do nothing except bask in the sun in the cold weather, and sit under the shade of a tree in hot weather. His mother could not make him do anything until at last she warned him that if he did not begin to work for his food, she would turn him out of the house to get his living as best he could.

This threat finally stirred Rajesh and he went out and found a job for the day working as a laborer on a agriculture field. The farmer paid him a few rupees, but he was not used to having money, and as he was coming home he lost it as he passed over a puddle of water.

. “You stupid boy,” said his mother, “you should have put it in your pocket.” “Next time I will,” replied Rajesh.

The next day Rajesh went out again and found a job as a a cowkeeper of a farmer. The farmer gave him a jar of milk for his day’s work. Rajesh took the jar and put it into the pocket of his trousers spilling it all, long before he got home.

“Dear me!” said the old woman; “you should have carried it on your head.” “Next time I will,” replied Rajesh.

The following day Rajesh found a job with another farmer, who agreed to give him curd for his work. In the evening, Rajesh took the curd and went home with it on his head. By the time he got home the curd was completely spoiled, part of it being lost, and part matted with his hair.

“You good-for-nothing boy,” said his mother, “you should have carried it very carefully in your hands.” “Next time, I will,” replied Rajesh.

The day after this Rajesh again went out, and found a job with a tea stall owner, who would give him nothing for his work but a large cat. Rajesh took the cat, and began carrying it very carefully in his hands, but in a short time the cat scratched him so much that he was forced to let it go.

When he got home, his mother said to him, “You silly fellow, you should have tied it with a string, and pulled it after you.” “Next time I will” said Rajesh.

The next day Rajesh hired himself to a butcher, who rewarded his labours by the handsome present of a shoulder of goat meat.. Rajesh took the meat, tied it to a string, and trailed it along after him in the dirt so that by the time he got home, the meat was completely spoiled.

This time his mother completely lost her patience with him, for the next day was Sunday.. “You nincompoop,” she said to her son, “you should have carried it on your shoulder.” “Next time I will,” replied Rajesh.

On the Monday, Rajesh went out once more, and found a job with a man who transported goods on his donkeys for a fees. This man gave him a donkey for his trouble. Although Rajesh was very strong, he found some difficulty in hoisting the donkey on his shoulders, but at last he managed it, and began walking slowly home with his prize.

Now it happened that in a house along his way there lived a rich man with his only daughter, a beautiful girl, but unfortunately deaf and dumb; she had never really laughed in her life and the doctors said she would never recover until somebody made her laugh.

Many tried without success and at last her father, in despair, said he would offer her in marriage to the first man who could make her laugh. This young lady happened to be looking out of the window when Rajesh was passing with the donkey on his shoulders, with the legs sticking up in the air. This sight was so comical and strange that she burst out into a great fit of laughter, and immediately recovered her speech and hearing. Her father was overjoyed and kept his promise by marrying her to Rajesh, who was thus became a rich man.

They thereafter lived in a large house and Rajesh’s mother lived with them in great happiness until she died.


The Enchanted Ring

Long long ago there lived an old king who was very sad. And why should he not be so? He had been suffering from a painful disease for a long time. Not even the best doctors in his kingdom or in other countries could find a cure for it. The disease weakened the king and pained him so much that he went so far as to declare that he would marry off his daughter to whoever could cure him of his illness.

One day, a snake appeared in the royal court and paid its respects to the king.

"What do you want?" asked the amazed king.

"Good lord, I heard that you have long been a patient of some seemingly incurable disease. My body has some gall whose curative powers are wonderful. It so happens that nobody dies out of my sting, but rather has his or her health improved due to the beneficient powers of my venom. I would advice you try it and see."

The king and his courtiers were hesitant at first. But the snake talking in a human voice was itself a miraculous thing and the agony of his illness proved too strong for fears of the the king. After some thought, he allowed the snake to bite him. The snake bit the king and the monarch fell as if dead. A cry went out from all present in the court but the snake shouted,

"Quiet, he is only in a daze. He will recover soon."

And truly did the king recover. Soon the great monarch stood upright. His illness was gone and he thanked the snake a million times for his favour. As promised, he got the snake married to his youngest daughter, Maria.

Maria was very sad when she learnt that she was being married off to a snake. But on the night after her marriage, she was overjoyed to see a handsome prince sitting in her bed. The snake was no ordinary serpent. He was actually Don Juan, a prince who had been changed into this form by an enchantment. However, he was allowed to regain his human form only at night.

The life of snake and the monotonous days in the royal household seemed to stifle Don Juan. A few days after marriage, he requested Maria to allow him to go for a walk around the city. Maria kept his request and he secretly continued his nocturnal adventures more than once.

But the other daughters of the king came to know about the 'stranger' in Maria's room and one night, when the prince was away as usual, they questioned Maria about the secret of the man who could be spotted only at night in the royal household. As instructed by Don Juan, Maria kept mum about her husband's secret till her sisters tied her to a tree that contained the nest of red ants. The ants bit Maria all over till she could endure no longer and told her sisters about the truth of Don Juan. Satisfied, the sisters let him go.

But on that day, the prince did not return before daybreak, as was his custom. From that day, he was nowhere to be seen and nowhere to be found. While the king's men looked everywhere for the snake, Maria looked all around for her prince. She asked the birds and she asked the trees. She asked the bees and she asked the ants. She asked the flowers and she asked the clouds. But none could tell her of Don Juan. Tired and gloomy, she slept under a tree which was barren of leaves, except for three large ones at the very top. Soon she fell fast asleep under it.

In her dream, she saw her husband lying ill in a house nearby. She saw that he was having the leaves of that same tree under which she was sleeping and then, he was smiling at her.

As soon as she awoke, she climbed the tree and got the leaves and searched for the house that she saw in her dreams. Soon she found it and entered through its gate.

But as she came near the door of the house she found a black woman standing before her. On being asked about Don Juan, the woman replied,

"Yes, he is here. But he is very ill."

"Please let me meet him. I have got these magical leaves which may cure him of his disease." cried Maria.

"You can save him, if you follow my orders" said the woman. "You must live as my servant and you will not be allowed to live with your husband. But you may serve him whenever you need. He will not recognize you, for I am going to cast a spell on you and change you into an ugly woman."

"But why are you doing so?" asked an amazed Maria.

"I love the prince and I am going to make him my husband. I am a sorceress and I have broken the spell that he was under. That makes him live as a human for all times. I have also made him forget about his past life, including you. But I could not find a way to cure his recent illness. If you are prepared to obey me, I will save him."

"Do as you want" said Maria, "but please save Don Juan".

"I will now turn you into an ugly girl. But I am also giving you this enchanted ring. Whenever you wear it, you will regain your beauty. But do not wear it before Don Juan and never dare to tell him about yourself or this ring, or I will kill both of you."

The woman took the leaves to the prince and fed those to him. In no time did the prince regain his health. He had forgotten Maria and was ready to accept the sorceress as his wife for her immense assistance in curing him. The woman was overjoyed and Maria, who had been turned into an ugly lady shed her tears secretly. She served Don Juan everyday without telling him of herself.

But love goes beyond external beauty and the inner purity and loveliness of Maria drew Don Juan to her. He found himself attracted to this ugly lady and often sympathised with her. This earned Maria the wrath of the black woman.

Just a few nights before his marriage, Don Juan was taking a walk through the palatial house he was staying in. Suddenly, he heard a sweet music. He followed the sound and found it coming from the direction of Maria's room. The prince hesitated and then peeped through the keyhole of Maria's room.

Now it so happened that the enchanted ring that Maria was given obtained her maids of honor, fine dresses, and a band which played sweet music. She made use of her ring every night when she was alone in her room Maria and it was the sound of this band that the prince had heard.

The prince was greatly astonished when he saw the ugly Maria being transformed into a beautiful woman. He began to remember who he was and that Maria was his wife. But he was horrified to see Maria throwing up a pair of scissors into the air. The scissors did not fall but remained suspended, as if waiting for orders to pierce Maria's heart upon given the signal. It was indeed supposed to be the last night of her life, for the angry black woman had asked to end her life that very night and clear her way of marrying Don Juan.

Don Juan used all his strength to break open the door. He rushed into the room and caught the scissors just as they were falling.

Then Maria told him all that had happened to her. Together, they escaped from the house and went back to the prince's own kingdom. The king was delighted to have his son back. Upon his orders, the black woman was put to death. Maria's father was informed of the happy events. Don Juan and Maria lived happily ever after.


The Fish Prince

Once there were a king and queen who had two sons. The older of the two was a very short and ugly man with only one eye, and that was in the middle of his forehead. His brother was tall and handsome and carried himself like a prince.

Naturally the king preferred his handsome son and wished to make him his heir. "My people will never obey a dwarf with only one eye," he said.

This made Srikant, the older son, very angry. "The kingdom ought to be mine," he said, "or if I cannot have it all it should be divided."

He said this to his wife, whose name was Kekai, and as she was an enchantress she determined to get the whole of the kingdom for her husband, if possible. She thought it all over and then invited the younger brother to a banquet in that part of the palace where she lived.

Then she said to her husband, "After supper you must sit with your brother on the balcony overlooking the river. I will change him into a fish and then you can throw him into the water. In this way we shall hear no more of him."

Srikant agreed to this, and after supper invited his brother to sit with him on the balcony. Then Kekai went up on the roof of the palace and threw down some powder on the younger Prince's head. Just as soon as she did this, the Prince was changed into a little fish, and his brother picked him up and threw him into the river.

All this was done so suddenly that the Prince hardly knew what had happened to him. Over and over he turned before he struck the water, but when it had closed over him he found that he had been changed into a fish and could swim very nicely underneath the water.

He seemed to know, too, that Kekai had enchanted him, and he wanted to get out of her way; so he swam on and on until at the end of two days he was outside of his father's kingdom.

Then one day he was caught in a net by some fishermen and taken to the palace of the king of that country to be served up for dinner. He was not very big, and one of the servants thought it would be much nicer to have him in a bowl than to cook him.

So the servant begged for the little fish. "I will take it to the Queen's room," she said. "She has no children and is sometimes very dull. This little fish may amuse her."

The Queen was very much pleased with the pretty little fish and became very fond of him. When he grew to be too large for the bowl, she had another one prepared for him, and fed him boiled rice twice every day. "He is such a dear," she said, "that he shall be called Machli-Rajah, the Fish Prince."

After awhile the Fish Prince grew so big that the Queen had a tank made for him through which the clear water of the river flowed in and out.

Then one day the Queen feared that the Fish Prince was not comfortable in his tank and would prefer to be in the beautiful shining river which flowed past her windows. So she said to him one day, "Are you quite happy here, Machli-Rajah?"

After a moment's thought the Fish Prince replied, "I am quite happy here, dear Queen-mother, but if you could get me a nice little wife I should be happier. It is really quite lonely here all by myself."

Now the Queen looked upon the Fish Prince as her own son, and never imagined that any girl would have the least objection to marrying him. So she said, "If you want a wife I can easily find one for you."

"But would you not like to go and swim in the river?" she went on.

"Certainly not," replied the Fish Prince. "All I want is to have a nice little wife and live right here." The answer astonished the Queen, but then she did not know that he was a fish only in appearance.

"All right," she said. "I will find you a wife at once, and have a room built in the tank for her." She had the room built at once, but it was not an easy matter to find a wife for the Fish Prince!

Everybody knew that Machli-Rajah was a pet of the Queen's, but for all that, they said he was a monster of a fish, and that all he wanted of a wife was to devour her. But the Queen sent messengers far and wide, among the rich and the poor alike, but found no one who was willing to give his daughter as a wife to the Fish Prince.

Even the people who had five or six daughters were very polite about it, but said, "We cannot give one of our children to your Fish Prince." Then the Queen offered a great bag of gold to any father who would send his daughter to be the Fish Prince's wife, but nothing came of it for a long time.

At last a fakir or beggar-man heard of the bag of gold and said to the messenger, "You may have my eldest daughter. She cannot be worse off than where she is now, and the gold will make me rich."

"Tell me where she is?" asked the Queen's messenger.

"She is down by the river, washing," said the man. "She is my first wife's child, and her stepmother makes her do all the hard work, and will not give her enough to eat."

"She gets more than she deserves," cried the stepmother angrily. "Much more than she deserves. You can take her and are welcome. We shall be well rid of her, and it would be good for all of us."

So the messenger gave the bag of gold to the fakir, and went down to the river, where he found a very pretty girl washing clothes on the edge of the water. She cried very much when she heard what his errand was, and begged him to let her say good-bye to an old friend before he took her away.

"Tell me who is this friend," said the messenger. "The Queen said we were to lose no time." And the girl replied, "It is a parrot whom I have known ever since I was a little child."

Still crying, the girl, whose name was Maya, ran along the bank to a tree where the parrot lived..

"I know all about it," he said. "Don't cry. Pick up those three pebbles, lying next to the tree and put them in your dress. When you see the Machli-Rajah coming, throw the first at him. If it hits him he will sink to the bottom of the tank."

Then the parrot went on. "When he rises to the surface, hit him with the second, and the same thing will happen. Throw the third pebble at him, and he will change from a fish into a handsome young prince."

"Then he isn't really a fish?" asked Maya.

"He is the son of a Rajah and is under an enchantment," replied the parrot. "But you can break the enchantment in the way I have told you."

So Maya dried her tears and went away with the messenger to the palace, where they showed her a beautiful little room that had been prepared for her inside the tank where the Fish Prince lived. Then the Queen kissed her and said, "You are just the dear little wife I want for my Machli-Rajah."

Maya would have been quite happy for every one was very kind to her, if it had not been for the thought of the cold dark water, and her fear that she might not be able to hit the Fish Prince with the pebbles. But she let them put her into the little room where she sat down and waited for a long time, with the pebbles in her hand.

Then there was a sound of rushing water and of waves dashing against the door. She looked out and there was a huge fish swimming towards her with his mouth wide open!

"I want to see my wife!" cried the Fish Prince. "Unfasten the door!"

Trembling from head to foot with fright, Maya opened the door and threw the first pebble, which went right down his throat. He sunk like a stone but in a minute or two came up to the surface again.

Then Maya threw the second pebble which hit the Fish Prince on the head, and he sunk the second time.

Maya was so nervous that she nearly missed hitting him with the third pebble, for it only touched the tip of his fin. This time he did not sink, but changed into a handsome prince, who took her in his arms and kissed her tenderly.

"You have broken my enchantment!" he cried. "Now we can enjoy sunshine and happiness in the world above, and need not live in a tank any longer."

So they were drawn up out of the water and taken to the palace, where no one could possibly live happier than Maya and the Fish Prince.


The Two Wives and the Witch

Long long ago, there was a woman who was very sad. For she was not pretty and her husband did not like to look at her. How she wished that she were beautiful!

One day, her husband met another woman who was very pretty. This woman adviced him to leave his first wife and marry her instead. So he did and left his home, leaving his first wife alone.

The poor women cried every day. She wondered what she had done that destiny was meting out such a cruel treatment to her. Nothing could bring joy to her. She yearned to hear his husband's footsteps again but knew that he had left her for ever.

One day as she was crying by the well, where she had gone for water, she heard the voice of a woman. She turned around to see a lovely woman standing before her.

"Why are you weeping?" asked the lady.

"My husband has left me and gone to live with another wife." the poor wife replied.

"Why? Did you two quarrel?" asked the woman.

"No. He left me because I do not have a pretty face," answered the wife.

The lovely woman touched the face of the wife with her hands and said, "That is so bad. But go home dear. Everything will be alright. I must go too".

The sad wife went back home, little knowing that the woman she had just met was a witch. She finished her daily chores and was about to sleep when she was startled to find a very beautiful woman standing in her room, staring at her. Soon she realized that she was standing before the mirror, staring at her own face that had magically changed into a countenance that could well be described as the prettiest in town.

Soon, news spread through the town that the plain woman in such and such a house had been transformed into a very beautiful woman. Many young men went to see the pretty woman, and all were pleased with her beauty.

Soon the bad husband came to the house. And how he was surprised to find that her plain wife was now a pretty woman, living alone by herself. He tried to persuade her into accepting him back into her life. But she would not listen to his entreaties. He promised never to leave her again and said,

"Now I understand that this miracle has happened only to bring me back to my senses. Even if you were your plain self, I would have wanted to come back to you. I promise that I will never make such a mistake again".

The lady at first refused to believe him. But at last she said:

"If you will leave the woman who is now your wife and come to live with me right along I will take you for my husband."

The man agreed, and the pretty wife took him back in her house.

When the other woman heard about all this, she became very angry. She had also heard about the transformation of the plain wife and how she was changed by a witch. All plain women of the town had already started to visit that well in the hope of meeting the witch some day in their lives. This woman went there too, for she hoped that the witch would make her even more beautiful than her husband's first wife. She determined to try what the witch could do for her, and went to get water at the same well. Once she reached there, she kept her pitcher by her side and began to cry loudly.

But the witch knew what was in her mind. While she made herself visible only to poor souls, she made an exception this time. She appeared before the woman and asked: "Why are you weeping, my good woman?"

The woman told her that her husband had gone away to live with the pretty woman. As she was speaking, the witch touched her face, and said: "Go home, my good woman, and do not weep, for your husband will come very soon to see you."

Overjoyed, the woman ran home as fast as she could and shut her door. Then she took a deep breath and looked at her mirror.

But what was this? Gone was all her beauty. Was this her own face? Her nose was about two feet long, her ears looked like large handkerchiefs, and her eyes were as big as saucers.

Frightened, she ran back to her mother. But not even her own mother could recognize her. In fact, whoever saw her became afraid of such a creature. When she understood how ugly she was, she refused to eat, and in a few days she died.


The Magic Pen

I am sitting in my backyard on a sunny early spring afternoon. My blue spiral notebook is on my lap and a magic pen is in my hand. The pen doesn’t look that special if you see it in my bag or on my desk, just a black gelstick pen with a cap. The magic begins when I touch it to paper.

Two fussy blue jays chase each other overhead. “Are they mad at each other or just playing?” My pen writes the question before I have time to think of it.

A squirrel buries a pecan in the next door neighbor’s yard, his bushy tail twitching as he digs. “How will he remember where he hid it?” my pen asks. I really don’t know.

There are tiny yellow flowers tucked throughout the greening grass. “Why do we call them weeds?” the pen questions.

Oh, and there are six fluffy dandelion seed balls lined up against the side of my house. “You can make a wish, you know. What will you wish for?” my pen asks. I stop writing for a moment to think of all the possibilities.

A yellow and black butterfly the size of my hand flits by. My pen records its brief appearance. A gentle breeze stirs the air around me and my pen takes note. I hear children playing down the street, and my pen scribbles the sounds across the page.

The sun goes behind a cloud, then peeks out again but I’m not looking at the sky. I know this because of the shadow of my pen that follows the in and out dance with the sun.

What good is all this magic from a pen on such a pleasant day, I think. I really don’t know.

But my pen keeps writing. Taking word pictures of the world around me and the thoughts running through my head to be read to some child I don’t even know before he or she goes to bed.

“They will be able to see the pictures and hear your thoughts,” the pen explains.

Oh. Now that’s magic.


Voice In A Bottle

The sun was warm on Mutthu’s neck, as he lay upon the grass on grandpa’s property.

He stared across the bay along a village near Ernakulam’s shore, the water smooth as a still piece of cloth..

Boats were dropping lobster traps, also called ‘pots.’ Mutthu was fascinated the first time he saw a model of one. It looked like a small barrel cut in half.

Fish netting covered the open end, with an open space in the center called a 'Head.' Lobsters were trapped easily after crawling through to the herring bait.

Mutthu drew a monster-sized one in the sand. This island was like a straight line in the distance. Behind it splashed the Arabian Sea..

Last week Mutthu’s grandpa launched a jar. It once contained a piece of red cloth.. But on that windy day it held a note.

Grandpa understood this village could be lonely for an energetic boy. And he had a plan to find a friend for his grandson.

Mutthu had placed a note in the bottle that read--

“Hi. My name is Mutthu Cherian. I'm 8 years old.

I like to fish and swim. My mother and me live with

grandpa at a village near Ernakulam in India. Want to be

my friend? . My mother’s mobile telephone number is…….....

That day the jar floated away on an ocean swell. And Mutthu hoped it would bring back a friend, soon.

Waiting for an answer took a lot of patience. Minutes and hours tumbled into days. It left Mutthu time to think of other things. Like, Amma (mother) working at grandpa's general store while father was working in Dubai. Why was Grandpa’s health not so good?.

He wished Grandpa would hurry up and get well. If Amma didn’t have to help in the store every day, Mutthu would have someone to play with.

But, it was nice living here by the ocean shore. Living in grandpa’s house was good..

It had large windows on four sides. Each morning the sunrise was bright as an egg yolk. On the western side of the cabin evening sunsets completed the day.

This morning Mutthu felt rays pour into his bedroom. “An early dip in the cool ocean might be neat,” he said to his amma.

A natural rock stairway led to the salt water. In some places it was very deep, so he remained in the tiny cove with a sandy beach.

As he waited for lunch, Mutthu watched the waves of the ocean. He hoped someone would answer his message soon.

Perhaps a new friend from far away as Sri Lanka might find his bottle. Or, it could be someone from Dubai where his father worked.

His eyes followed the sun climb upwards in the sky. Sea gulls continued to fly around the lobster boats.

“Time for lunch,” his mother finally called.

She convinced Mutthu to go with her for a walk after they ate. “Maybe you can pick out a little gift for yourself, ” she added.

Mutthu had a worried look on his face. “Do you think I should?” he asked.

"Yes," his mother said quickly. "If someone finds your bottle, grandpa will be here."

Mutthu wished it would happen soon. What if it had already smashed up on rocks or on a coastline.? He quickly pushed the thought from his mind.

.“Wow!” Mutthu said as they walked beside the beautiful coconut trees next to the green rice fields. The smell from the paddy fields was exhilerating. It wasn’t anything like the rocky shore near grandpa's house..

.After visiting a bakery to buy bread Mutthu became restless. “Can we go soon, amma?” he asked. He needed to return to his lookout by the ocean.

What if his bottle simply travelled in circles in the middle of the ocean? Or, some boy already found the bottle and didn’t want to be his friend? His mind battled various thoughts..

Just then, Amma’s cell phone rang.

Mutthu watched her smile as she hung up. “Hurry,!” she yelled. Fast moving legs matched his heartbeat as they headed home.

Mutthu knew it had to be something good. But, his mother wasn’t saying anything.

Grandpa was waiting in front of his house. "Mutthu! Here’s his telephone number!" Shouting turned to a whisper as he leaned closer. "Someone found your bottle."

Mutthu’s mouth opened wide and his eyes almost leaped from his head. "My bottle? Someone found it?" He turned to his mother. “That’s why you didn’t tell me.”

"Yes. He's waiting for your call," she said.

"Who?" Mutthu asked. It was confusing coming all at once.

"Your message was found near here this morning," Grandpa said.

"Here?" Mutthu asked, disappointment in his voice. “Not even as far as Dubai?”

"Just phone," Grandpa said. Mutthu did.

His new friend Ramesh lived only two miles away. Both boys spent much time talking on the phone. After all, new friends had to get to know each other.

Ramesh said how excited he was to find the bottle, and the note. He was Tamilian (from Tamil Nadu) but also spoke English. And he wanted Mutthu for a friend.

After both boys, parents had a chat, plans were made.

Ramesh was to visit first.

The next day couldn’t come quickly enough for an excited Mutthu.

Finally his new friend Ramesh arrived. Mutthu wiped his face once more checking for any left over ketchup from a toast and egg breakfast.

.“Allo.” You are taller than me,” Ramesh said in his Tamilian accent.

At first Mutthu was shy, but what the heck. .

Soon they were sitting on the beach at grandpa's shore.

Mutthu shook his head in amazement. Imagine his new friend lived just a few miles away from his home..

Plans were made for Mutthu to attend school in July.. He was even going to be in Ramesh’s class.

Grandpa was very pleased his daughter and grandson would be staying through the winter. His health hadn’t improved enough to be alone at the store.

Mutthu didn’t mind living here either. Having a new friend changed everything.

“Ramesh, time for a swim,” he said. Then Mutthu raced his new friend to the water.



There was once a child, and he strolled about a good deal, and thought of a number of things. He had a sister, who was a child too, and his constant companion. These two used to wonder all day long. They wondered at the beauty of the flowers; they wondered at the height and blueness of the sky; they wondered at the depth of the bright water; they wondered at the goodness and the power of God who made the lovely world.

They used to say to one another, sometimes, supposing all the children upon earth were to die, would the flowers, and the water, and the sky be sorry? They believed they would be sorry. For, said they, the buds are the children of the flowers, and the little playful streams that gambol down the hill-sides are the children of the water; and the smallest bright specks playing at hide and seek in the sky all night, must surely be the children of the stars; and they would all be grieved to see their playmates, the children of men, no more.

There was one clear shining star that used to come out in the sky before the rest, near the church spire, above the graves. It was larger and more beautiful, they thought, than all the others, and every night they watched for it, standing hand in hand at a window. Whoever saw it first cried out, "I see the star!" And often they cried out both together, knowing so well when it would rise, and where. So they grew to be such friends with it, that, before lying down in their beds, they always looked out once again, to bid it good-night; and when they were turning round to sleep, they used to say, "God bless the star!"

But while she was still very young, oh very, very young, the sister drooped, and came to be so weak that she could no longer stand in the window at night; and then the child looked sadly out by himself, and when he saw the star, turned round and said to the patient pale face on the bed, "I see the star!" and then a smile would come upon the face, and a little weak voice used to say, "God bless my brother and the star!"

And so the time came all too soon! when the child looked out alone, and when there was no face on the bed; and when there was a little grave among the graves, not there before; and when the star made long rays down toward him, as he saw it through his tears.

Now, these rays were so bright, and they seemed to make such a shining way from earth to Heaven, that when the child went to his solitary bed, he dreamed about the star; and dreamed that, lying where he was, he saw a train of people taken up that sparkling road by angels. And the star, opening, showed him a great world of light, where many more such angels waited to receive them.

All these angels, who were waiting, turned their beaming eyes upon the people who were carried up into the star; and some came out from the long rows in which they stood, and fell upon the people's necks, and kissed them tenderly, and went away with them down avenues of light, and were so happy in their company, that lying in his bed he wept for joy.

But, there were many angels who did not go with them, and among them one he knew. The patient face that once had lain upon the bed was glorified and radiant, but his heart found out his sister among all the host.

His sister's angel lingered near the entrance of the star, and said to the leader among those who had brought the people thither:

"Is my brother come?"

And he said "No."

She was turning hopefully away, when the child stretched out his arms, and cried, "O, sister, I am here! Take me!" and then she turned her beaming eyes upon him, and it was night; and the star was shining into the room, making long rays down towards him as he saw it through his tears.

From that hour forth, the child looked out upon the star as on the home he was to go to, when his time should come; and he thought that he did not belong to the earth alone, but to the star too, because of his sister's angel gone before.

There was a baby born to be a brother to the child; and while he was so little that he never yet had spoken word he stretched his tiny form out on his bed, and died.

Again the child dreamed of the open star, and of the company of angels, and the train of people, and the rows of angels with their beaming eyes all turned upon those people's faces.

Said his sister's angel to the leader:

"Is my brother come?"

And he said "Not that one, but another."

As the child beheld his brother's angel in her arms, he cried, "O, sister, I am here! Take me!" And she turned and smiled upon him, and the star was shining.

He grew to be a young man, and was busy at his books when an old servant came to him and said:

"Thy mother is no more. I bring her blessing on her darling son!"

Again at night he saw the star, and all that former company. Said his sister's angel to the leader:

"Is my brother come?"

And he said, "Thy mother!"

A mighty cry of joy went forth through all the star, because the mother was reunited to her two children. And he stretched out his arms and cried, "O, mother, sister, and brother, I am here! Take me!" And they answered him, "Not yet," and the star was shining.

He grew to be a man, whose hair was turning gray, and he was sitting in his chair by the fireside, heavy with grief, and with his face bedewed with tears, when the star opened once again.

Said his sister's angel to the leader: "Is my brother come?"

And he said, "Nay, but his maiden daughter."

And the man who had been the child saw his daughter, newly lost to him, a celestial creature among those three, and he said, "My daughter's head is on my sister's bosom, and her arm is around my mother's neck, and at her feet there is the baby of old time, and I can bear the parting from her, God be praised!"

And the star was shining.

Thus the child came to be an old man, and his once smooth face was wrinkled, and his steps were slow and feeble, and his back was bent. And one night as he lay upon his bed, his children standing round, he cried, as he had cried so long ago:

"I see the star!"

They whispered one to another, "He is dying."

And he said, "I am. My age is falling from me like a garment, and I move towards the star as a child. And O, my Father, now I thank Thee that it has so often opened, to receive those dear ones who await me!"

And the star was shining, and it shines upon his grave.


The Bhutua Horse

Once there was a rich businessman. His business was expanding every day and he had to travel to distant places. He felt the need for a good, strong horse.

He went to several marketplaces where horses were sold. But he did not like any horse that he saw. People advised, “If you want a really good horse, you should go in for a bhutua. It can cover in one day the distance for which an ordinary horse would take seven days.”

The businessman set his heart on getting a bhutua horse. He went to the biggest horse market. As he was looking around, a trickster sighted him and knew immediately that he would be an easy and good catch. The man, who was selling pumpkins, waited for the rich man to pass by. As he approached his stall, he asked him, “Sir, what are you looking for? I have been watching you going round and round. Maybe I can be of help?”

Touched by the man’s politeness, the businessman said, “I have been looking for a bhutua horse, friend. Can you tell me where I could get one?”

“You have come to the right place, sir. A bhutua horse will cost you the earth if you get one at all, which is highly unlikely. I have bhutua eggs. Buy one. It will hatch soon and you will get a beautiful strong colt.”

“How much do you want for an egg?” asked the rich man.

“Only one thousand taka for you sir.”

The rich man readily bought a huge yellow pumpkin and paid a thousand taka.

As he counted the silver coins, the young trickster cautioned him, “Please carry the egg on your shoulders. If you ever put it down the colt will escape and run away. Good luck with your horse, sir.”

The businessman carried the pumpkin on his shoulders and started walking back towards his village.

The sun had set and it was getting dark. The rich man, however, kept walking until he could walk no longer.

He set the pumpkin down under a banyan tree and leaned against the trunk of the tree, wiped the sweat of his face and body and closed his eyes to rest. Just then a fox came running by. It saw the pumpkin and, perhaps out of curiosity, hit it hard. The pumpkin broke open. Frightened, the fox ran.

All the hustle and the sound of the dry leaves as the fox ran made the man open his eyes. He was amazed to see the animal running. He ran after it, presuming that it was the colt which had come out of the broken egg. He ran after it, saying, “If it can run that fast soon after birth, I can’t imagine how it will gallop when it grows up.”

The fox had never been chased by a man like this. It hid in a haystack. The man started beating the haystack with a stick.

Now it so happened that a tiger was in that haystack too. The stick hit the tiger. It came out and ran. The man was even more surprised. He thought, “How could the colt grow that much within minutes?” He was immensely pleased with his buy. He was sure the horse would be his most prized possession. Now all that he had to do was to run after the animal and catch it.

At last the tiger slowed down, as it was very tired. The man caught up with it and mounted its back. He patted the tiger on the back and said, “No more hanky-panky, son. Take me home fast like a good boy.” Carrying the man on his back, the tiger ran.

The night was over. It was dawn. The eastern sky was a brilliant red as the sun rose like a gold disc. What the man saw now in the daylight almost killed him with a shock. He was actually riding a tiger.

But the tiger continued to run. The man, now desperate to save his life somehow, jumped and held on to a low branch of a tree. The animal, unaware of this, continued to run.

After a while, the man fell off the tree and hurt his legs. Some passers-by helped him to reach home.

Now if someone even mentioned the word bhutua, the businessman would fly into a rage. That was one word he wanted to forget for the rest of his life.


The Three Little Pigs

There was once a family of pigs. The mother pig was very poor, and so she sent her three little pigs out to seek their fortunes. The first that went off met a man with a bundle of straw, and said to him:

“Please, man, give me that straw to build me a house.”

Which the man did, and the little pig built a house with it. Presently came along a wolf, and knocked at the door, and said:

“Little pig, little pig, let me come in.”

To which the pig answered:

“No, no, by the hair of my chiny chin chin.”

The wolf then answered to that:

“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.”

So he huffed, and he puffed, and he blew his house in, and ate up the little pig.

The second little pig met a man with a bundle of furze, and said:

“Please, man, give me that furze to build a house.”

Which the man did, and the pig built his house. Then along came the wolf, and said:

“Little pig, little pig, let me come in.”

“No, no, by the hair of my chiny chin chin.”

“Then I’ll puff, and I’ll huff, and I’ll blow your house in.”

So he huffed, and he puffed, and he puffed, and he huffed, and at last he blew the house down, and he ate up the little pig.

The third little pig met a man with a load of bricks, and said:

“Please, man, give me those bricks to build a house with.”

So the man gave him the bricks, and he built his house with them. So the wolf came, as he did to the other little pigs, and said:

“Little pig, little pig, let me come in.”

“No, no, by the hair of my chiny chin chin.”

“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.”

Well, he huffed, and he puffed, and he huffed and he puffed, and he puffed and huffed; but he could not get the house down. When he found that he could not, with all his huffing and puffing, blow the house down, he said:

“Little pig, I know where there is a nice field of turnips.”

“Where?” said the little pig.

“Oh, in Mr. Smith’s Home-field, and if you will be ready tomorrow morning I will call for you, and we will go together, and get some for dinner.”

“Very well,” said the little pig, “I will be ready. What time do you mean to go?”

“Oh, at six o’clock.”

Well, the little pig got up at five, and got the turnips before the wolf came (which he did at about six) and who said:

“Little Pig, are you ready?”

The little pig said: “Ready! I have been and come back again, and got a nice potful for dinner.”

The wolf felt very angry at this, but thought that he would be up to the little pig somehow or other, so he said:

“Little pig, I know where there is a nice apple-tree.”

“Where?” said the pig.

“Down at Merry-garden,” replied the wolf, “and if you will not deceive me I will come for you, at five o’clock tomorrow and get some apples.”

Well, the little pig bustled up the next morning at four o’clock, and went off for the apples, hoping to get back before the wolf came; but he had further to go, and had to climb the tree, so that just as he was coming down from it, he saw the wolf coming, which, as you may suppose, frightened him very much. When the wolf came up he said:

“Little pig, what!are you here before me? Are they nice apples?”

“Yes, very,” said the little pig. “I will throw you down one.”

And he threw it so far, that, while the wolf was gone to pick it up, the little pig jumped down and ran home. The next day the wolf came again, and said to the little pig:

“Little pig, there is a fair at Shanklin this afternoon, will you go?”

“Oh yes,” said the pig, “I will go; what time shall you be ready?”

“At three,” said the wolf. So the little pig went off before the time as usual, and got to the fair, and bought a butter-churn, which he was going home with, when he saw the wolf coming. Then he could not tell what to do. So he got into the churn to hide, and by so doing turned it round, and it rolled down the hill with the pig in it, which frightened the wolf so much, that he ran home without going to the fair. He went to the little pig’s house, and told him how frightened he had been by a great round thing which came down the hill past him. Then the little pig said:

“Hah, I frightened you, then. I had been to the fair and bought a butter-churn, and when I saw you, I got into it, and rolled down the hill.”

Then the wolf was very angry indeed, and declared he would eat up the little pig, and that he would get down the chimney after him. When the little pig saw what he was about, he hung on the pot full of water, and made up a blazing fire, and, just as the wolf was coming down, took off the cover, and in fell the wolf; so the little pig put on the cover again in an instant, boiled him up, and ate him for supper, and lived happy ever afterwards.