Panchatantra: Mouse-Maid Made Mouse

This "chain of spouses" story is found in different versions all over the world, with more or less the same chain: the sun is covered by the cloud; the cloud is moved by the wind; the wind is blocked by the mountain ... but mice dig their little tunnels throughout the mountain and cannot be stopped. For more versions of this story, see The Mouse Who Was to Marry the Sun.

[Notes by LKG]

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

Mouse-Maid Made Mouse

The billows of the Ganges were dotted with pearly foam born of the leaping of fishes frightened at hearing the roar of the waters that broke on the rugged, rocky shore. On the bank was a hermitage crowded with holy men devoting their time to the performance of sacred rites — chanting, self-denial, self-torture, study, fasting, and sacrifice. They would take purified water only, and that in measured sips. Their bodies wasted under a diet of bulbs, roots, fruits, and moss. A loin-cloth made of bark formed their scanty raiment.

The father of the hermitage was named Yajnavalkya. After he had bathed in the sacred stream and had begun to rinse his mouth, a little female mouse dropped from a hawk's beak and fell into his hand.

When he saw what she was, he laid her on a banyan leaf, repeated his bath and mouth-rinsing, and performed a ceremony of purification. Then through the magic power of his holiness, he changed her into a girl, and took her with him to his hermitage.

As his wife was childless, he said to her: "Take her, my dear wife. She has come into life as your daughter, and you must rear her carefully." So the wife reared her and spoiled her with petting.

As soon as the girl reached the age of twelve, the mother saw that she was ready for marriage, and said to her husband: "My dear husband, how can you fail to see that the time is passing when your daughter should marry?"

And he replied: "You are quite right, my dear. The saying goes:

Before a man is gratified,
These gods must treat her as a bride -
The fire, the moon, the choir of heaven;
In this way, no offense is given.

Holiness is the gift of fire;
A sweet voice, of the heavenly choir;
The moon gives purity within:
So is a woman free from sin.

Before nubility, it's said
That she is white; but after, red;
Before her womanhood is plain,
She is, though naked, free from stain.

The moon, in mystic fashion, weds
A maiden when her beauty spreads;
The heavenly choir, when bosoms grow;
The fire, upon the monthly flow.

To wed a maid is therefore good
Before developed womanhood;
Nor need the loving parents wait
Beyond the early age of eight.

The early signs one kinsman slay;
The bosom takes the next away;
Friends die for passion gratified;
The father, if she never be bride.

For if she bides a maiden still,
She gives herself to whom she will;
Then marry her in tender age:
So warns the heaven-begotten sage.

If she, unwed, unpurified,
Too long within the home abide,
She may no longer married be:
A miserable spinster, she.

A father then, avoiding sin,
Weds her, the appointed time within
(Wherever a husband may be had)
To good, indifferent, or bad.

Now I will try to give her to one of her own station. You know the saying:

Where wealth is very much the same,
And similar the family fame,
Marriage (or friendship) is secure;
But not between the rich and poor.

And finally:

Aim at seven things in marriage;
All the rest you may disparage:


Get money, good looks,
And knowledge of books,
Good family, youth,
Position, and truth.

"So, if she is willing, I will summon the blessèd sun, and give her to him."

"I see no harm in that," said his wife. "Let it be done."

The holy man therefore summoned the sun, who appeared without delay, and said: "Holy sir, why am I summoned?"

The father said: "Here is a daughter of mine. Be kind enough to marry her."

Then, turning to his daughter, he said: "Little girl, how do you like him, this blessèd lamp of the three worlds?"

"No, father," said the girl. "He is too burning hot. I could not like him. Please summon another one, more excellent than he is."

Upon hearing this, the holy man said to the sun: "Blessed one, is there any superior to you?"

And the sun replied: "Yes, the cloud is superior even to me. When he covers me, I disappear."

So the holy man summoned the cloud next, and said to the maiden: "Little girl, I will give you to him."

"No," said she. "This one is black and frigid. Give me to someone finer than he."

Then the holy man asked: "O cloud, is there anyone superior to you?"

And the cloud replied: "The wind is superior even to me."

So he summoned the wind, and said: "Little girl, I give you to him."

"Father," said she, "this one is too fidgety. Please invite somebody superior even to him."

So the holy man said: "O wind, is there anyone superior even to you?"

"Yes," said the wind. "The mountain is superior to me."

So he summoned the mountain and said to the maiden: "Little girl, I give you to him."

"Oh, father," said she. "He is rough all over, and stiff. Please give me to somebody else."

So the holy man asked: "O kingly mountain, is there anyone superior even to you?"

"Yes," said the mountain. "Mice are superior to me."

Then the holy man summoned a mouse, and presented him to the girl, saying: "Little girl, do you like this mouse?"

The moment she saw him, she felt: "My own kind, my own kind," and her body thrilled and quivered, and she said: "Father dear, turn me into a mouse, and give me to him. Then I can keep house as my kind of people ought to do."

And her father, through the magic power of his holiness, turned her into a mouse, and gave her to him.

(1000 words)

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