Bidpai: Three Stories about Apes

This story is part of the Bidpai unit. Story source: The Tortoise and the Geese and Other Fables of Bidpai by Maude Barrows Dutton,  with illustrations by E. Boyd Smith, 1908.

The Carpenter and the Ape

AN APE one day sat watching a Carpenter who was splitting a piece of wood with two wedges. First the Carpenter drove the smaller wedge into the crack, so as to keep it open, and then, when the crack was wide enough, he hammered in the larger wedge and pulled the first one out.

At noon the Carpenter went home to dinner, and the Ape now thought that he would try his hand at splitting boards. As he took his seat on the Carpenter's bench, his long tail slipped into the crack in the board. The Ape did not notice this, but set to work.

The first wedge he drove in exactly as he had seen the Carpenter do. But then he forgot and pulled it out before he had driven in the second one. The two sides of the board instantly sprang together and caught the Ape's tail between them.

The poor prisoner had now nothing to do but sit there groaning with pain until the Carpenter's return, when he was given a sound beating and told that he had suffered justly for meddling with other people's business.

The Apes, the Glow-Worm, and the Popinjay

A TROOP of Apes once lived on a mountain, where they fed upon fruits and herbs. When the winter came on, the cold drove them down into the valleys. As they were wandering about here, looking for food and shelter, one of them came upon a Glow-Worm in the bushes.

"Come quickly," he called to his brother Apes, "and bring a large pile of driftwood. I have found a spark of fire, and we shall soon be warm now!"

From all directions the Apes came, running and scrambling along the ground, their arms full of driftwood. A few moments later, the huge pile was heaped on top of the Glow-Worm, and the Apes, sat around in a circle waiting for the wood to catch fire.

As they were waiting, a Popinjay in a tree called out, "You silly Apes, you may sit there with your teeth chattering until Doomsday, but that pile will never catch fire. That was not a spark that you found, but only a worm with a shining light in his tail!"

"Foolish bird," retorted the Apes, "do you think that we do not know a worm from a spark of fire?"

"It is not a spark," repeated the Popinjay. "It is not a spark. It is not a spark." And she flew down into their midst, still crying, "It is not a spark."

Whereupon the foolish Apes in anger sprang upon the Popinjay and tore her to pieces, feather by feather and bone by bone, until there was nothing left of her.

The Ape and the Boar

AN Ape once took up his abode in a corner of the desert where there were many fig trees. He was a wise creature, and reasoned thus with himself: "I cannot live without food, and there is nothing here except fig trees. I must therefore eat sparingly of this fruit while it is ripe and store away a quantity for my winter food."

Accordingly, it was his custom every day to shake a fig tree, eat a few green figs, and then dry the rest. One morning when he was in the top of one of the trees, a wild Boar ran by. He had been chased by a hunter far from his home.

When the Ape saw the Boar, he trembled with fear so that the whole tree shook. The Boar, however, bowed low to the Ape, and said, "Do you want a guest?"

The Ape thereupon assumed a friendly air, and replied, "You are, indeed, most welcome. I regret only that I did not know beforehand of your coming. If I had, I would have prepared a feast in your honor. Now I have nothing to offer you but a few green figs."

The Boar again bowed humbly. "I have come a long distance," he replied, "and am hungry and weary. Anything, however simple it may be, that you will set before me, will taste as fine to me as a feast."

Thereupon the Ape shook the fig tree until not a single fig was left upon it. The Boar ate the fruit eagerly and should have been content, for the Ape had given him a generous meal. But, being a greedy creature, he remarked as he ate the last fig on the ground: "My dear host, these figs are delicious, but I am still ravenous with hunger. I pray you to shake another tree."

The Ape, who was still afraid of his guest, swung himself over into another tree and shook it. The Boar again fell to eating, nor was he satisfied when he had again swallowed the last fig.

"Make haste," he cried rudely to the Ape, at last forgetting his manners, his greediness was so great, "and find another tree as good as this last one."

But the Ape sat quietly where he was. "You have already made way with more figs than I eat in a month," he said. "If I give you any more, I myself must starve, for these figs are my only source of food."

Then the Boar growled with rage. "To pay you for your stinginess, I will bring you down from that tree and eat you alive!" he shouted.

He climbed into the tree, still growling, to bring down the Ape, but scarcely had he lodged in the first branch before it cracked beneath his weight and he fell to the ground, breaking his own neck.

(900 words)

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