Story of the Day: The Louse and the Crow

This is another cumulative tale in which an elephant appears (by virtue of its size), and, like The Little Blackbird, this comes from Indian Folk Tales: Being Side-lights on Village Life in Bilaspore, Central Provinces by E. M. Gordon (1908).The defiant little louse may remind you of a character in another chain tale: the Gingerbread Man!

The Louse and the Crow 

Once a louse and a crow made a covenant of friendship. The louse said to the crow, "Go friend and bring me some fire." So the crow brought his friend the louse some fire. Then said the louse, "Now, friend, I will broil and eat you."

The crow replied, "If I strike you once with my beak, you will disappear. How then can you talk of eating me?" But the louse broiled and ate his friend the crow.

Passing on, the louse came across a loaf of bread which a man was cooking on the fire. Then said the louse to the loaf of bread, "I will eat you, my friend." But the bread replied that the louse would be scorched in the fire and how could he eat the bread. But the louse ate the bread also.

Passing on, the louse met a she-goat. To the goat he said, "I am about to feast on you." The goat replied that if she would trample on the louse, he would be reduced to nothing. The louse replied that he had eaten the crow and the loaf of bread and he could eat the goat also. And he quickly finished the goat.

Passing on, the louse met a cow. To the cow he said, "I am about to eat you, O cow."

But the cow replied, "If I trample you underfoot, you will be reduced to nothing."

The louse said, "If I have eaten the crow and the bread and the goat, what then can hinder me from eating you?" So he ate the cow also.

Passing on, the louse met a buffalo. To the buffalo the louse said, "I will eat you also."

But the buffalo replied, "I have but to tread on you and you will be nowhere." Then the louse ate the buffalo also.

The louse next met five strong sepoys. To the sepoys the louse said, "I am about to eat you five men."

The sepoys replied, "You will lose yourself in the head of but one of us and here you speak of feasting on us five warriors." But true to his word the louse ate the five sepoys.

(from Armies of India, 1911)

Next the louse met a wedding procession in which there were one lakh (a hundred thousand) of people.  Addressing them the louse said that he would eat them. The men replied that the louse would be lost in the head of but one man and how then could he speak of eating a hundred thousand people. But the louse replied that he had eaten first the crow, then the loaf, then the goat and the cow and the buffalo and the five sepoys, and he would certainly eat the hundred thousand people in the procession and he quickly devoured the whole number.

Next the louse came upon an elephant and to the elephant the louse said, "I will eat you in no time." The elephant replied that he could blow away the louse with but one puff of breath from his trunk. The louse then related how he had eaten the crow, the loaf, etc. etc., and accordingly he ate the elephant also.

Now the louse, being thirsty, came across a huge tank of water. Said the louse to the tank, "I am about to drink in all of your water." The tank replied that the louse would be washed away with but one wave from the waters of the tank and how then could he talk of drinking in the waters of the tank. The louse again proceeded to narrate how he had eaten the crow, the loaf the goat etc. etc., and the louse then drank in all the waters of the tank.

Now it so happened that some women came as usual to fill the vessels of water at the tank and to their great astonishment they found that the waters had disappeared. While they were looking around, one of the women who had but one eye spied on the bank of the tank a small shining object which proved to be the louse. Said the woman, "This surely is the creature which has drunk the waters of our tank."

Just then a strong sepoy came along to have a drink at the tank. The women showed him the louse which had taken up all the water. This strong warrior immediately drew his sharp sword and with one stroke he cut in two the greedy louse.

Immediately the crow appeared and the loaf and the goat, the cow, the buffalo, the five men, the one lakh of people, the elephant also, and the waters of the tank. Each of these went to their respective places and the women, after thanking the brave sepoy who had befriended them, filled their water pots as usual and went to their homes.

800 words

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