Panchatantra: The Loyal Mongoose

This Indian story about the mongoose has traveled all over the world; in Europe the story is usually told about a loyal dog. The folklorist Dan Ashliman has collected versions of the story from many different countries: Llewellyn and His Dog Gellert. You can find several versions of this story here in the UnTextbook, too: Gelert Stories.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Panchatantra unit. Story source: The Panchatantra of Vishnu Sharma, translated by Arthur W. Ryder (1925).

The Loyal Mongoose

There was once a Brahman named Godly in a certain town. His wife mothered a single son and a mongoose. And as she loved little ones, she cared for the mongoose also like a son, giving him milk from her breast, and salves, and baths, and so on.

But she did not trust him, for she thought: "A mongoose is a nasty kind of creature. He might hurt my boy." Yes, there is sense in the proverb:

A son will ever bring delight,
Though bent on folly, passion, spite,
Though shabby, naughty, and a fright.

One day she tucked her son in bed, took a water-jar, and said to her husband: "Now, Professor, I am going for water. You must protect the boy from the mongoose." But when she was gone, the Brahman went off somewhere himself to beg food, leaving the house empty.

While he was gone, a black snake issued from his hole and, as fate would have it, crawled toward the baby's cradle. But the mongoose, feeling him to be a natural enemy, and fearing for the life of his baby brother, fell upon the vicious serpent halfway, joined battle with him, tore him to bits, and tossed the pieces far and wide. Then, delighted with his own heroism, he ran, blood trickling from his mouth, to meet the mother; for he wished to show what he had done.

But when the mother saw him coming, saw his bloody mouth and his excitement, she feared that the villain must have eaten her baby boy, and without thinking twice, she angrily dropped the water-jar upon him, which killed him the moment that it struck.

There she left him without a second thought, and hurried home, where she found the baby safe and sound, and near the cradle a great black snake, torn to bits. Then, overwhelmed with sorrow because she had thoughtlessly killed her benefactor, her son, she beat her head and breast.

At this moment the Brahman came home with a dish of rice gruel, which he had got from someone in his begging tour, and saw his wife bitterly lamenting her son, the mongoose.

"Greedy! Greedy!" she cried. "Because you did not do as I told you, you must now taste the bitterness of a son's death, the fruit of the tree of your own wickedness.

(400 words)

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