Gateway to the Classics: Eastern Stories and Legends by Marie L. Shedlock
Eastern Stories and Legends by  Marie L. Shedlock

The Monkey That Saved the Herd

I T came to pass that the Buddha was re-born as the King of the monkeys. He lived with his herd of 80,000 monkeys in a thick forest, near a lake. In this lake there lived an ogre who used to devour all those who went down to the water.

The Buddha spoke to his subjects and said: "My friends, in this forest there are trees that are poisoned, and lakes that are haunted by ogres. Eat no fruit and drink no water of which you have not already tasted without consulting me."

This they agreed to. And one day, having arrived at a spot which they had never visited before, they found a great lake. They did not drink, but awaited the return of their King.

Now when he arrived he went round the lake, and found that all the footsteps led down to the lake, but none came up again. And he said: "Without doubt this is the haunt of an ogre."

When this water-ogre saw that they were not invading his domain he appeared in the form of a terrible monster with a blue belly, a white face, and bright red hands and feet. In this shape he came out of the water and said to the King: "Why are you seated here? Go down to the lake to drink." But the King said: "Are you not the ogre of this water?" "Yes, I am," was the answer. "Do you take as your prey all those who go down into this water?" "Yes, I do, from small birds upwards. I never let anything go which comes down into this water. I will eat the lot of you, too." "But we shall not let you eat us." "Just drink the water." "Yes, we will drink the water, and yet not fall into your power." "How do you propose to drink the water, then?" "Ah, you think we shall have to go down to the water to drink; whereas we shall not enter the water at all, but the whole eighty thousand of us will take a cane each and drink therewith from your lake as easily as through the hollow stalk of a lotus. And so you will not be able to eat us."

So saying the King had a cane brought to him, and in true belief that the miracle would take place he blew down the cane, which straightway became hollow throughout, without a single knot being left in its length. In this fashion he had another, and another brought, and blew down them. Then he made the tour of the lake, and commanded, saying, "Let all canes growing here become hollow throughout." Now, thanks to the saving goodness of their re-born chiefs, their commands are always fulfilled. And henceforth every single cane that grew round that lake became hollow throughout. After giving his commands the King seated himself with a cane in his hand. All the other 80,000 monkeys, too, seated themselves round the lake each with a cane in his hands. At the same moment when the King sucked up the water through his cane, they all drank in the same manner as they sat on the bank. This was the way they drank, and the ogre could get no power over any one of them, so he went off in a rage to his habitation. The King, with his following of 80,000 monkeys, went back into the forest.

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