Most animal tales that are included in children’s book are…well, the pg-rated ones. Either through selection or through editing. This lead to the broadly held belief that folktales are generally maybe not without violence but certainly without obscenities and sex. That they not ever even mention the unmentionables.
Let’s have a look at one of the truly classical collections of fables, the Panchatantra, and see how that goes…
The Testicles of the Bull
In a certain place lived a big bull called Tikshnavrishana that is The One with the Big Testicles. Exuberant with pride, he left his herd behind and wandered through the woods, walked along the rivers, eating from the most delicious, emerald grass whenever he pleased. In the same forest, though, lived a jackal called Pralobhaka, the Greedy One. One day, he sat with his wife happily on an isle in the middle of the river, when Tikshnavrishana came climbing down to exactly that isle to drink some water. As soon as the wife saw his low-hanging testicles, she said to her husband: “Husband! Look how two pieces of meat hang from this bull! They are surely about to fall off right now or in a few hours time. You must follow him!” The jackal answered: “Love! It is not certain at all if these will fall off or if they will not. Why do you, therefore, ask me to do this futile work? Let me stay here and eat those mice with you that come here to drink because it is their way. But if I leave you behind to follow this bull then somebody else will come along and claim this place. Therefore it is not fitting to do this. As one says: ‘Who gives up the certain to strive for the uncertain, will lose the certain while the uncertain is lost already.’”The jackal’s wife said: “Ah! You are a lowly creature who is content with anything, even the lowest that you can get. One also says: ‘Easy to fill are tiny rivers as are the mice’s paws, easily content are common people who are happy about tiny bits and pieces.’ Therefore a good man must always be active. One also says: ‘Where the beginning is full of action and without laziness, there a marriage of wisdom and strength brings luck unfailingly.’ One must not think ‘destiny is ruling!’ and must not stop working hard because without work there will never be a reward.’ Furthermore: ‘When a foolish person is already content with the lowest of things, then his heart is already happy when wealth is only just pointed out to him.’ And when you say that it is uncertain that the pieces of meat will fall off, then that is unfitting. One also says: ‘People of action are to be praised, people of pride will be commended. What a lowly person who waits for the water to be brought to him.’ Furthermore I am by now thoroughly fed up with mice and these two pieces of meat look as if they will fall off soon. Thus you must act as I say.”
The jackal, after he had heard her speech, left this place of mice hunting and followed Tikshnavrishana.
As one rightly says: ‘Man is master of all things as long as he is not swayed by a woman’s talk.’ And thus: ‘The impossible appears possible, the unattainable easily attainable, the inedible seems edible to the man who is spurred on by a woman’s talk.’
The jackal spent a long while following the bull with his wife in tow, only the two piece of meat did not fall off. In the fifteenth year finally, the jackal was fed up and said to his wife: “Fifteen years, dear, have I followed with my eyes these low-hanging ones to see if they would fall off or not. They will not fall off in the future either. Let us return to hunting mice!”
Copyright for translation from the German: TaleTellerin (Text source: Pantschatantra. Translated from the Sanskrit and with introduction and annotations by Theodor Benfrey. 1859.)
Copyright for image: jackal @ WikiMedia Commons
What really amuses the heck out of me is the combination of the tongue-in-cheek motif of the testicles and all those very moralic phrases. What do you think?
And next Sunday? Let’s have a look how pg-rated Mongolian tales really are. 🙂