Jataka: The Princes and the Turtle

There was once a king who lived in a palace beside a lake where his two young sons loved to swim and sail. One day, however, they came running back to the palace, terrified. "Father," they cried, "we saw a monster on the shore of the lake! A demon made of stone who is able to move! It was terrible!"

The so-called demon was really only a turtle, but the princes had never seen a turtle before. To calm their fears, the king ordered his servants to go capture the demon and bring it to the palace. When they had done so, he ordered them to kill the demon.

"Throw it into the fire!" shouted one of the princes.

"Smash it with a hammer!" shouted the other prince.

The king's advisors also shouted out their various proposals. Finally, the king's oldest advisor proclaimed, "I think we should drown the creature by throwing it into the deepest part of the lake!"

At this point, the turtle spoke up in a quavering voice. "Oh no," he cried, "not into the lake! Not into the deep waters! I don't care if you pound me with a hammer or throw me into the fire but please, I beg you, don't throw me into the lake!"

The princes immediately began chanting, "Into the lake! Into the water! Into the lake! Into the water!" Their father then ordered the servants to go throw the creature at once into the lake where the waters were deepest.

The turtle shrieked the whole way, pretending to be afraid. The servants, as ordered, hurled him into the deep end of the lake. The turtle then plunged down into the depths of the water, laughing happily to himself. He was glad to have escaped with his life and vowed never to come near humans again.

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