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The King Who Learnt the Speech of Animals


In a certain country a king was rearing wild animals. The king had learnt in a thorough manner the speech of animals.

One day at that time the fowls were saying, "Our king assists us very much; he gives us food and drink." They thanked the king very much. The king having heard their talk, the king laughed with pleasure.

The royal queen having been near, asked, "What did you laugh at?"

"I merely (nikan) laughed," the king said. Should he explain and give the talk to any person the king will die. Because of it he did not explain and give it. That the king knows the speech of animals he does not inform anyone.

The royal queen says, "There is no one who laughs in that way without a reason. Should you not say the reason I am going away, or having jumped into a well I shall die."

Thereupon the king, because he was unable to be released from [the importunity of] the queen, thought, "Even if I am to die I must explain and give this."

Thinking thus, he went to give food to the animals. Then it was evident to those animals that this king is going to die. Out of the party of animals first a cock says, "His majesty our king is going to be lost. We don't want the food. We shall not receive assistance. Unless his majesty the king perish thus we shall not perish. In submission to me there are many hens. When I have called them the hens come. When I have told them to eat they eat. When I have told them to go they go. The king, having become submissive in that manner to the thing that his wife has said, is going to die."

The king having heard it, laughed at it also.

Then, also, the royal queen asked, "What did you laugh at?"

Thereupon, not saying the [true] word, the king said, "Thinking of constructing a tank, I laughed."

Then the queen said, "Having caused the animals that are in this Lankawa (Ceylon) to be brought, let us build a tank."

Then the king having said, "It is good," caused the animals to be brought. The king having gone with the animals, showed them a place [in which] to build a tank; and telling them to build it came away.

The animals, at the king's command being unable to do anything, all together began to struggle on the mound of earth. Those which can take earth in the mouth take it in the mouth. All work in this manner. The jackal, not doing work, having bounded away remained looking on.

After three or four days, the king having gone [there] trickishly stayed looking on. The king saw that the other animals are all moving about as though working. The jackal, only, having bounded off is looking on.

Having seen it he asked the jackal, "The others are all working. Thou, only, art looking upward. Why?"

Thereupon the jackal said, "No, O lord, I looked into an account."

Then the king asked, "What account art thou looking at?"

The jackal says, "I looked whether in this country the female3s are in excess or the males are in excess."

The king asked, "By the account which thou knowest, are the females in excess or the males in excess?"

The jackal said, "So far as I can perceive, the females are in excess in this country."

Then the king said that men are in excess. Having said it the king said, "I myself having gone home and looked at the books, if males are in excess I shall give thee a good punishment."

The king having come home and looked at the books, it appeared that the males were in excess. Thereupon the king called the jackal, and said, "Bola, males are in excess."

Then the jackal says, "No, O lord, your majesty, they are not as many as the females. Having also put down to the female account the males who hearken to the things that females say, after they counted them the females would be in excess."

Then the jackal said, "Are the animals able to build tanks? How shall they carry the earth?"

Thereupon the king having considered it, and having said, "Wild animals, wild animals, you are to go to the midst of the forest," came home.

At that time, the queen asked, "Is the tank built and finished?"

Then the king, taking a cane, began to beat the queen. Thereupon the queen, having said, "Ané! O lord, your majesty, I will never again say anything, or even ask anything," began to cry aloud.

The king got to know that the jackal was a wise animal.


H. Parker: Village Folk-Tales of Ceylon. London 1914. Nr. 238, vol. 3. (AT 670, Sri Lanka)




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