Myth-Folklore Unit: Jataka Tales (Babbitt)

Overview. The jatakas are ancient stories from India, the "birth tales" of the Buddha, stories of his previous incarnations in the form of people and also animals. The Buddha told these stories as teaching parables, much like the way in which Jesus used parables for teaching. Meanwhile, the plots of the jataka stories are often very similar to Aesop's fables, and some of the Aesop's fables from Greece are probably Indian in origin; for example, the story of "The Woodpecker and the Lion" that you will read here is very similar to the Aesopic fable of "The Wolf and the Crane." This particular selection of jataka stories by Ellen Babbit (from her two books, Jataka Tales and More Jataka Tales) emphasizes animal stories, featuring all kinds of creatures: monkeys, elephants, turtles, lions, and even some foolish otters who put their trust in a wolf.

Language. These tales come from a book written for a young audience; the language should not pose any problems.

Story Length. This unit contains only single-page stories.

Choosing Between Units. If you are choosing between the two Jataka Tales unit, Babbitt or Shedlock, here's something to keep in mind: the Babbitt unit presents the stories without the Buddhist framework, in a way that is very similar to Aesop's fables, while the Shedlock unit presents the stories in a more explicitly Buddhist context. So if you are specifically interested in Buddhism, choose the Shedlock unit!

Navigation. You will find the table of contents below, and you can also use this link to see the story posts displayed on two pages total: Jataka Tales (Babbitt). Click "Older Posts" at the bottom of that page to see the second page.

Free audiobooks available:

  1. The Monkey and the Crocodile
  2. How the Turtle Saved His Own Life
  3. The Turtle Who Couldn't Stop Talking
  4. The Ox Who Won the Forfeit
  5. The Quarrel of the Quails
  6. The Foolish, Timid Rabbit
  7. The Banyan Deer
  8. The Princes and the Water-Sprite
  9. The King's White Elephant
  10. The Ox Who Envied the Pig
  11. The Crab and the Crane
  12. The Girl Monkey and the String of Pearls
  13. The Three Fishes
  14. The Tricky Wolf and the Rats
  1. The Golden Goose
  2. The Stupid Monkeys
  3. The Cunning Wolf
  4. The Woodpecker and the Lion
  5. The Otters and the Wolf
  6. How The Monkey Saved His Troop
  7. The Hawks and Their Friends
  8. The Foolhardy Wolf
  9. The Stolen Plow
  10. The Lion In Bad Company
  11. The Wise Goat and the Wolf
  12. Beauty and Brownie
  13. The Elephant and the Dog

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