The Monkey And The Crocodile
A Buddhist Folk Tale
A monkey lived in a great tree on a river bank.
In the river there were many Crocodiles. A Crocodile watched the Monkeys for a long time, and one day she said to her son: "My son, get one of those Monkeys for me. I want the heart of a Monkey to eat."
"How am I to catch a Monkey?" asked the little Crocodile. "I do not travel on land, and the Monkey does not go into the water."
"Put your wits to work, and you'll find a way," said the mother.
And the little Crocodile thought and thought.
At last he said to himself: "I know what I'll do. I'll get that Monkey that lives in a big tree on the river bank. He wishes to go across the river to the island where the fruit is so ripe."
So the Crocodile swam to the tree where the Monkey lived. But he was a stupid Crocodile.
"Oh, Monkey," he called, "come with me over to the island where the fruit is so ripe."
"How can I go with you?" asked the Monkey. "I do not swim."
"No--but I do. I will take you over on my back," said the Crocodile.
The Monkey was greedy, and wanted the ripe fruit, so he jumped down on the Crocodile's back.
"Off we go!" said the Crocodile.
"This is a fine ride you are giving me!" said the Monkey.
"Do you think so? Well, how do you like this?" asked the Crocodile, diving.
"Oh, don't!" cried the Monkey, as he went under the water. He was afraid to let go, and he did not know what to do under the water.
When the Crocodile came up, the Monkey sputtered and choked. "Why did you take me under water, Crocodile?" he asked.
"I am going to kill you by keeping you under water," answered the Crocodile. "My mother wants Monkey-heart to eat, and I'm going to take yours to her."
"I wish you had told me you wanted my heart," said the Monkey, "then I might have brought it with me."
"How queer!" said the stupid Crocodile. "Do you mean to say that you left your heart back there in the tree?"
"That is what I mean," said the Monkey. "If you want my heart, we must go back to the tree and get it. But we are so near the island where the ripe fruit is, please take me there first."
"No, Monkey," said the Crocodile, "I'll take you straight back to your tree. Never mind the ripe fruit. Get your heart and bring it to me at once. Then we'll see about going to the island."
"Very well," said the Monkey.
But no sooner had he jumped onto the bank of the river than--whisk! up he ran into the tree.
From the topmost branches he called down to the Crocodile in the water below:
"My heart is way up here! If you want it, come for it, come for it!"
The Monkey soon moved away from that tree. He wanted to get away from the Crocodile, so that he might live in peace.
But the Crocodile found him, far down the river, living in another tree.
In the middle of the river was an island covered with fruit-trees.
Half-way between the bank of the river and the island, a large rock rose out of the water. The Monkey could jump to the rock, and then to the island. The Crocodile watched the Monkey crossing from the bank of the river to the rock, and then to the island.
He thought to himself, "The Monkey will stay on the island all day, and I'll catch him on his way home at night."
The Monkey had a fine feast, while the Crocodile swam about, watching him all day.
Toward night the Crocodile crawled out of the water and lay on the rock, perfectly still.
When it grew dark among the trees, the Monkey started for home. He ran down to the river bank, and there he stopped.
"What is the matter with the rock?" the Monkey thought to himself. "I never saw it so high before. The Crocodile is lying on it!"
But he went to the edge of the water and called: "Hello, Rock!"
Then he called again: "Hello, Rock!"
Three times the Monkey called, and then he said: "Why is it, Friend Rock, that you do not answer me to-night?"
"Oh," said the stupid Crocodile to himself, "the rock answers the Monkey at night. I'll have to answer for the rock this time."
So he answered: "Yes, Monkey! What is it?"
The Monkey laughed, and said: "Oh, it's you, Crocodile, is it?"
"Yes," said the Crocodile. "I am waiting here for you. I am going to eat you."
"You have caught me in a trap this time," said the Monkey. "There is no other way for me to go home. Open your mouth wide so I can jump right into it."
Now the Monkey well knew that when Crocodiles open their mouths wide, they shut their eyes.
While the Crocodile lay on the rock with his mouth wide open and his eyes shut, the Monkey jumped.
But not into his mouth! Oh, no! He landed on the top of the Crocodile's head, and then sprang quickly to the bank. Up he whisked into his tree.
When the Crocodile saw the trick the Monkey had played on him, he said: "Monkey, you have great cunning. You know no fear. I'll let you alone after this."
"Thank you, Crocodile, but I shall be on the watch for you just the same," said the Monkey.
Sources And Further Reading
Sacred Texts Jataka Tales by Ellen C. Babbitt