Read Indian Fairy Tales Online

Authors: Joseph Jacobs

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Indian Fairy Tales

* * *
Edited by
Indian Fairy Tales
From a 1912 edition
ISBN 978-1-62011-510-7
Duke Classics
© 2012 Duke Classics and its licensors. All rights reserved.
While every effort has been used to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information contained in this edition, Duke Classics does not assume liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in this book. Duke Classics does not accept responsibility for loss suffered as a result of reliance upon the accuracy or currency of information contained in this book.

From the extreme West of the Indo-European world, we go this year to
the extreme East. From the soft rain and green turf of Gaeldom, we seek
the garish sun and arid soil of the Hindoo. In the Land of Ire, the
belief in fairies, gnomes, ogres and monsters is all but dead; in the
Land of Ind it still flourishes in all the vigour of animism.

Soils and national characters differ; but fairy tales are the same in
plot and incidents, if not in treatment. The majority of the tales in
this volume have been known in the West in some form or other, and the
problem arises how to account for their simultaneous existence in
farthest West and East. Some—as Benfey in Germany, M. Cosquin in
France, and Mr. Clouston in England—have declared that India is the
Home of the Fairy Tale, and that all European fairy tales have been
brought from thence by Crusaders, by Mongol missionaries, by Gipsies,
by Jews, by traders, by travellers. The question is still before the
courts, and one can only deal with it as an advocate. So far as my
instructions go, I should be prepared, within certain limits, to hold a
brief for India. So far as the children of Europe have their fairy
stories in common, these—and they form more than a third of the whole
—are derived from India. In particular, the majority of the Drolls or
comic tales and jingles can be traced, without much difficulty, back to
the Indian peninsula.

Certainly there is abundant evidence of the early transmission by
literary means of a considerable number of drolls and folk-tales from
India about the time of the Crusaders. The collections known in Europe
by the titles of
The Fables of Bidpai, The Seven Wise Masters, Gesia
, and
Barlaam and Josaphat
, were extremely popular
during the Middle Ages, and their contents passed on the one hand into
of the monkish preachers, and on the other into the
of Italy, thence, after many days, to contribute their
quota to the Elizabethan Drama. Perhaps nearly one-tenth of the main
incidents of European folktales can be traced to this source.

There are even indications of an earlier literary contact between
Europe and India, in the case of one branch of the folk-tale, the Fable
or Beast Droll. In a somewhat elaborate discussion
I have come to the
conclusion that a goodly number of the fables that pass under the name
of the Samian slave, Aesop, were derived from India, probably from the
same source whence the same tales were utilised in the Jatakas, or
Birth-stories of Buddha. These Jatakas contain a large quantity of
genuine early Indian folk-tales, and form the earliest collection of
folk-tales in the world, a sort of Indian Grimm, collected more than
two thousand years before the good German brothers went on their quest
among the folk with such delightful results. For this reason I have
included a considerable number of them in this volume; and shall be
surprised if tales that have roused the laughter and wonder of pious
Buddhists for the last two thousand years, cannot produce the same
effect on English children. The Jatakas have been fortunate in their
English translators, who render with vigour and point; and I rejoice
in being able to publish the translation of two new Jatakas, kindly
done into English for this volume by Mr. W. H. D. Rouse, of Christ's
College, Cambridge. In one of these I think I have traced the source
of the Tar Baby incident in "Uncle Remus."

Though Indian fairy tales are the earliest in existence, yet they are
also from another point of view the youngest. For it is only about
twenty-five years ago that Miss Frere began the modern collection of
Indian folk-tales with her charming "Old Deccan Days" (London, John
Murray, 1868; fourth edition, 1889). Her example has been followed by
Miss Stokes, by Mrs. Steel, and Captain (now Major) Temple, by the
Pandit Natesa Sastri, by Mr. Knowles and Mr. Campbell, as well as
others who have published folk-tales in such periodicals as the
Indian Antiquary
The Orientalist
. The story-store of
modern India has been well dipped into during the last quarter of a
century, though the immense range of the country leaves room for any
number of additional workers and collections. Even so far as the
materials already collected go, a large number of the commonest
incidents in European folk-tales have been found in India. Whether
brought there or born there, we have scarcely any criterion for
judging; but as some of those still current among the folk in India can
be traced back more than a millennium, the presumption is in favour of
an Indian origin.

From all these sources—from the Jatakas, from the Bidpai, and from the
more recent collections—I have selected those stories which throw most
light on the origin of Fable and Folk-tales, and at the same time are
most likely to attract English children. I have not, however, included
too many stories of the Grimm types, lest I should repeat the contents
of the two preceding volumes of this series. This has to some degree
weakened the case for India as represented by this book. The need of
catering for the young ones has restricted my selection from the well-
named "Ocean of the Streams of Story,"
Katha-Sarit Sagara
Somadeva. The stories existing in Pali and Sanskrit I have taken from
translations, mostly from the German of Benfey or the vigorous English
of Professor Rhys-Davids, whom I have to thank for permission to use
his versions of the Jatakas.

I have been enabled to make this book a representative collection of
the Fairy Tales of Ind by the kindness of the original collectors or
their publishers. I have especially to thank Miss Frere, who kindly
made an exception in my favour, and granted me the use of that fine
story, "Punchkin," and that quaint myth, "How Sun, Moon, and Wind went
out to Dinner." Miss Stokes has been equally gracious in granting me
the use of characteristic specimens from her "Indian Fairy Tales." To
Major Temple I owe the advantage of selecting from his admirable
Wideawake Stories
, and Messrs. Kegan Paul, Trench & Co. have
allowed me to use Mr. Knowles' "Folk-tales of Kashmir," in their
Oriental Library; and Messrs. W. H. Allen have been equally obliging
with regard to Mrs. Kingscote's "Tales of the Sun." Mr. M. L. Dames has
enabled me add to the published story-store of India by granting me the
use of one from his inedited collection of Baluchi folk-tales.

I have again to congratulate myself an the co-operation of my friend
Mr. J. D. Batten in giving beautiful or amusing form to the creations
of the folk fancy of the Hindoos. It is no slight thing to embody, as
he has done, the glamour and the humour both of the Celt and of the
Hindoo. It is only a further proof that Fairy Tales are something more
than Celtic or Hindoo. They are human.


The Lion and the Crane

The Bodhisatta was at one time born in the region of Himavanta as a
white crane; now Brahmadatta was at that time reigning in Benares. Now
it chanced that as a lion was eating meat a bone stuck in his throat.
The throat became swollen, he could not take food, his suffering was
terrible. The crane seeing him, as he was perched an a tree looking for
food, asked, "What ails thee, friend?" He told him why. "I could free
thee from that bone, friend, but dare not enter thy mouth for fear thou
mightest eat me." "Don't be afraid, friend, I'll not eat thee; only
save my life." "Very well," says he, and caused him to lie down on his
left side. But thinking to himself, "Who knows what this fellow will
do," he placed a small stick upright between his two jaws that he could
not close his mouth, and inserting his head inside his mouth struck one
end of the bone with his beak. Whereupon the bone dropped and fell out.
As soon as he had caused the bone to fall, he got out of the lion's
mouth, striking the stick with his beak so that it fell out, and then
settled on a branch. The lion gets well, and one day was eating a
buffalo he had killed. The crane, thinking "I will sound him," settled
an a branch just over him, and in conversation spoke this first verse:

"A service have we done thee
To the best of our ability,
King of the Beasts! Your Majesty!
What return shall we get from thee?"

In reply the Lion spoke the second verse:

"As I feed on blood,
And always hunt for prey,
'Tis much that thou art still alive
Having once been between my teeth."

Then in reply the crane said the two other verses:

"Ungrateful, doing no good,
Not doing as he would be done by,
In him there is no gratitude,
To serve him is useless.

"His friendship is not won
By the clearest good deed.
Better softly withdraw from him,
Neither envying nor abusing."

And having thus spoken the crane flew away.

And when the great Teacher, Gautama the Buddha, told this tale, he
used to add: "Now at that time the lion was Devadatta the Traitor, but
the white crane was I myself

How the Raja's Son Won the Princess Labam

In a country there was a Raja who had an only son who every day went
out to hunt. One day the Rani, his mother, said to him, "You can hunt
wherever you like on these three sides; but you must never go to the
fourth side." This she said because she knew if he went on the fourth
side he would hear of the beautiful Princess Labam, and that then he
would leave his father and mother and seek for the princess.

The young prince listened to his mother, and obeyed her for some time;
but one day, when he was hunting on the three sides where he was
allowed to go, he remembered what she had said to him about the fourth
side, and he determined to go and see why she had forbidden him to hunt
on that side. When he got there, he found himself in a jungle, and
nothing in the jungle but a quantity of parrots, who lived in it. The
young Raja shot at some of them, and at once they all flew away up to
the sky. All, that is, but one, and this was their Raja, who was called
Hiraman parrot.

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