THE ROYAL ELEPHANT
When Brahmadatta reigned in Varanasi, there lived a colony of carpenters near the city. Every day the carpenters would sail down the river to cut trees and would bring the timber from the forest to the village. The work was plentiful and they were happy.
One day, when the carpenters were having their midday meal in the forest they saw an elephant approaching them. He was limping.
The elephant came up to the kind carpenters and held out a foot saying, “I stepped on something and I think it is a splinter.”
The carpenters looked at it and said, “You are right. Hold still and we will get it out.”
The carpenters soon removed the splinter. Then they lovingly gave the elephant a bath and dressed the wound. The elephant was relieved of his pain and felt grateful to the carpenters.
“I will come here every day and help you out,” said the grateful elephant.
He served the carpenters for a number of years. Then one day the carpenters saw the big elephant coming with a cute white baby elephant.
“I am getting old and I am not as active as I used to be. So I have brought my son to serve you,” the elephant said.
The carpenters were overjoyed. The young elephant was very smart. He helped the carpenters loading and unloading the timber, carrying the tools, transporting the logs and even playing with the children. He brought joy and laughter into the carpenters’ lives and became a part of their families.
One day, quite by accident, the rain washed some of the young elephant’s droppings into the river. Downstream the royal elephants refused to get into the polluted water.
After studying it closely, the elephant keepers concluded that the droppings were from a noble animal. They decided to report the matter to the king.
The king immediately issued an order to look for the noble elephant. “I must have him in my royal stable,” said the king.
The king himself set out in search of the elephant and found it with the carpenters. The carpenters were surprised to see the king.
“Your majesty, we are honored,” said their leader. “How can we be of service to you?”
“We want this elephant for our royal stable,” said the king.
The elephant seized the opportunity to help his friends. “Your Highness,” he said. “These men have been very kind to me and I am greatly indebted to them.”
The king offered a large amount of gold to the carpenters in order to make the elephant happy. But the elephant was not satisfied. “Oh king, these people are poor! They need clothes and their children need all the amenities of life.”
“I admire your loyalty and I am ready to pay as much as you say,” the king replied. “I promise to take care of the children through my treasury.“
Upon receiving this assurance the elephant agreed to go with the king. The elephant and the carpenters tearfully bade each other farewell.
The city of Varanasi celebrated the arrival of the royal elephant. The nobles and ministers looked on in great admiration. He was indeed a beauty.
The king patted the elephant with great love. “You are like a brother to me and shall be my life-long companion.”
The elephant followed the king wherever he went. He would not eat unless the king came to feed him.
A few months later the queen found that she was expecting a baby. The childless king was thrilled. “The elephant has brought good fortune for us. My power as a monarch is now unchallenged. I am so very thankful to him.”
“I feel our child is destined for great things,” the queen replied.
But their joy was short-lived. The king suddenly fell seriously ill and died.
“How can we hide this sad news from the elephant? He will not eat without being fed by the king!” the elephant keepers wondered.
In the meantime the king of Kosala marched towards Varanasi, taking advantage of the king’s death. The army camped outside the palace and demanded that Varanasi surrender.
“Let us ask the enemy to suspend fighting for a week,” the minister suggested.
“How will that help?” questioned the royal advisor.
“The queen is going to give birth to her baby within a week,” the minister explained. “If it is a son, we will fight to our last man. If it is not a son, we will surrender without any blood shed.”
The king of Kosala agreed to suspend fighting for one week. A week later the queen gave birth to a son. The palace rejoiced and the soldiers prepared for battle. They fought bravely but without leadership they were unable to defeat the king of Kosala. They went to the queen to give her the bad news of their defeat. The queen immediately sent for the elephant.
The queen broke the sad news to the elephant, “My baby’s father is dead. If the king meant anything to you, the baby is now your charge.”
The elephant had been starving for more than a week, thinking that the king was on his way to recovery. He was shocked to hear that the king was dead.
“How can I live without him?” the elephant wailed.
“As I do for his child and for the kingdom that rightfully belongs to him!” the queen replied sadly. “His child’s life is now in danger. “
The elephant knelt to receive the queen’s blessing and said, “I shall talk no more about the king’s death. His son will rule.”
“We now have something to live for!” the queen replied and prayed for the elephant.
The keeper of the royal stable soon readied the elephant for battle. The king’s men followed him. Then the elephant charged forward and the sky filled with the mighty sound of his trumpeting.
The soldiers were inspired. “Follow the leader!” they cried and routed the Kosala army in no time. The battle won, the elephant stood before the queen, his proud head bowed before the infant master.
“Oh my little prince! My grief is great for your dead father. But I live for you and for the great destiny that awaits you.”
The child grew up to inherit the kingdom which he ruled wisely and well.