panchatantra story 11

The unreliable friend

Once a merchant was leading a caravan of heavily-laden camels through a jungle when one of them, overcome by fatigue, collapsed. The farmer decided to leave the camel in the jungle and go on his way. Later, when the camel recovered his strength, he realized that he was alone in a strange jungle. Fortunately there was plenty of grass and he survived. One day the king of the jungle, a lion, arrived along with his three friends – a leopard, a fox, and a crow. The king lion wondered what the camel was doing in the jungle! He came near the camel and asked how he, a creature of the desert, had ended up in the hostile jungle? The camel tearfully explained what happened. The lion took pity on him and said, “You have nothing to fear now. Henceforth, you are under my protection and can stay with us. The camel began to live happily in the jungle.

One day the lion was wounded in a fight with an elephant. He retired to his cave and stayed there for several days. His friends came to offer their sympathy. They tried to catch prey for the hungry lion but failed. The camel had no problem as he lived on grass while the others were starving.

The fox came up with a plan. He secretly went to the lion and suggested that the camel be sacrificed for the good of the others. The lion got furious, “I can never kill an animal who is under my protection.” The fox humbly said, “But Lord, you have provided us food all the time if any one of us voluntarily offered himself to save your life, I hope you won’t mind!” The hungry lion did not object to that and agreed to take the offer.

The fox went back to his companions and said, “Friends, our king is dying of starvation. Let us go and beg him to eat one of us. It is the least we can do for such a noble soul.” So they went to the king and the crow offered his life. The fox interrupted, and said, “You are a small creature, the master’s hunger will hardly be appeased by eating you. May I humbly offer my life to satisfy my master’s hunger.” The leopard stepped forward and said, “You are no bigger than the crow, it is me whom our master should eat.” The foolish camel thought, “Everyone has offered to lay down their lives for the king, but he has not hurt any one. It is now my turn to offer myself. So he stepped forward and said, “Stand aside friend leopard, the king and you have close family ties. It is me whom master must eat.” An ominous silence greeted the camel’s offer, then the king gladly said, ” I accept your offer, O noble camel.” And in no time he was killed by the three rogues, the false friends.

“Be careful in choosing your friends.”