Santal: The Elephant and the Ants

This story is part of the Santal Folklore unit. Story source: Folklore of the Santal Parganas by Cecil Henry Bompas (1909).

The Elephant and the Ants

In the days of old, there was a great deal more jungle than there is now, and wild elephants were very numerous; once upon a time a red ant and a black ant were burrowing in the ground when a wild elephant appeared and said, “Why are you burrowing here? I will trample all your work to pieces,” the ants answered, “Why do you talk like this? Do not despise us because we are small; perhaps we are better than you in some ways.”

The elephant said, “Do not talk nonsense: there is nothing at which you could beat me; I am in all ways the largest and most powerful animal on the face of the earth.”

Then the ants said, “Well, let us run a race and see who will win; unless you win, we will not admit that you are supreme.”

At this, the elephant got into a rage and shouted, “Well, come we will start at once,” and it set off to run with all its might and, when it got tired, it looked down at the ground, and there were two ants.

So it started off again and, when it stopped and looked down, there on the ground were two ants, so it ran on again, but wherever it stopped, it saw the ants, and at last it ran so far that it dropped down dead from exhaustion.

Now it is a saying that ants are more numerous in this world than any other kind of living creature, and what happened was that the two ants never ran at all but stayed where they were, but whenever the elephant looked at the ground, it saw some ants running about and thought that they were the first two, and so ran itself to death.

This story teaches us not to despise the poor man, because one day he may have an opportunity to put us to shame.

From this story of the elephant we should learn this lesson: the Creator knows why He made some animals big and some small, and why He made some men fools, so we should neither bully nor cheat men who happen to be born stupid.

(400 words)

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