How The Turtle Saved His Own Life
A Buddhist Folk Tale
A king once had a lake made in the courtyard for the young princes to play in. They swam about in it, and sailed their boats and rafts on it. One day the king told them he had asked the men to put some fishes into the lake.
Off the boys ran to see the fishes. Now, along with the fishes, there was a Turtle. The boys were delighted with the fishes, but they had never seen a Turtle, and they were afraid of it, thinking it was a demon. They ran back to their father, crying, "There is a demon on the bank of the lake."
The king ordered his men to catch the demon, and to bring it to the palace. When the Turtle was brought in, the boys cried and ran away.
The king was very fond of his sons, so he ordered the men who had brought the Turtle to kill it.
"How shall we kill it?" they asked.
"Pound it to powder," said some one. "Bake it in hot coals," said another.
So one plan after another was spoken of. Then an old man who had always been afraid of the water said: "Throw the thing into the lake where it flows out over the rocks into the river. Then it will surely be killed."
When the Turtle heard what the old man said, he thrust out his head and asked: "Friend, what have I done that you should do such a dreadful thing as that to me? The other plans were bad enough, but to throw me into the lake! Don't speak of such a cruel thing!"
When the king heard what the Turtle said, he told his men to take the Turtle at once and throw it into the lake.
The Turtle laughed to himself as he slid away down the river to his old home. "Good!" he said, "those people do not know how safe I am in the water!"
Sources And Further Reading
Sacred Texts Jataka Tales by Ellen C. Babbitt