Gateway to the Classics: Fables from Afar by Catherine T. Bryce
Fables from Afar by  Catherine T. Bryce

The Elephant and The Rats

In a country across the sea the people raise large crops of rice and sugar cane. Now it happened that once at the time of the year when the crops were ripe, a great many elephants and hundreds of rats came from the mountains and the jungle. The elephants ate most of the sugar cane and trampled down the rest. The rats destroyed the rice crop.

While they were feasting, the rain fell and the river flooded. So when the elephants and rats reached the river on their way back to the mountains and the jungle, they found it flowing broad and fast and deep.

The elephants waded in but the little rats could not cross over.

"O elephants," they cried, "if you will carry us across the big river, we will help you when you are in trouble."

But the elephants laughed and said: "Help us, indeed! How can poor, weak little rats help us, who are the kings of the jungle!"

And without another word they passed over—all but one. This elephant was sorry for the rats.

"Climb on my back, little brothers," he said, "and I will carry you over."

The rats scrambled up on his back, and the friendly elephant soon landed them on the other side of the river.

Before scurrying to their homes, the rats cried: "You will see that we are grateful. Some day we will help you, our good friend."

No long after this, the people who owned the sugar cane and the rice made up their minds to catch the elephants who had destroyed their crops. They dug deep pits and covered them with grass.

The next time the elephants went to steal the sugar cane, they fell into these pits and could not get out. They bellowed for help.

The rats heard them and came rushing to the place. From pit to pit hurried the rats, looking into each. At last they found the friendly elephant, caught like his brothers.

"Now," said they, "we will show you how we can help you."

At once they set to work and pushed the dirt back into the pit. As they threw it in, the elephant trampled it under his great hoofs. Soon the pit was so well filled that the elephant stepped out and got away just as the hunters came up.

When the friendly elephant found himself safe in the jungle, he said, "It always pays to be kind."

While the rats said as they scurried to their homes, "One good turn deserves another."

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