Tibetan Folk Tales: How the Raven Saved the Hunter

In this folktale, the raven pays a terrible price for the poor man's foolishness! You can find a similar motif of a bird (in this case, an eagle) saving a man from drinking poison in this Aesop's fable: The Snake, The Eagle, and The Farmer.

Explore: Compare these other stories about animal helpers: The Ingratitude of Man and The Man and the Monkeys.

[notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Tibetan Folktales unit. Story source: Tibetan Folk Tales by A.L. Shelton with illustrations by Mildred Bryant (1925).

How the Raven Saved the Hunter 

For a foolish official to speak skillful words is as difficult as for lightning to split a lump of bronze.
Tibetan Proverb.

ONCE upon a time there was a very poor man, with nothing much to eat and very little to wear, who made his living by hunting. One day he went out to hunt and traveled and traveled up hill and down. At last he came to the top of a mountain, hungry, tired and thirsty, as he had had nothing to eat all day. He stood still a few minutes thinking and wondering what he would do.

Looking around he saw a valley far below with a cold stream of water flowing through it. Starting down, he made him a cup of a leaf as he went, came to the stream, dipped his leaf full and started to drink it. Just as he was ready to swallow it a big raven flew by and with his wing struck the cup from his hands. The hunter thought it was an accident, so dipped another drink, when the old raven knocked it from his hand again.

Then he began to be angry at the bird, when he dipped the third time and the raven knocked this out of his hand. He said angrily, "All right, I'll fix you," drew his bow and shot the raven dead.

When the bird was dead the man began to wonder why he didn't want him to drink the water. "Perhaps I had better not drink now, but I'll go to the head of the stream and see where the water comes from." He went a short distance and found that the stream issued from the mouth of a great snake, and looking along the banks he saw many skeletons of birds and animals that had been drinking the water. Then he grieved greatly because he had killed the raven that had tried to save his life.

(300 words)

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