Elephants and Hares
Once upon a time a great elephant called Chaturdanta ruled over a vast stretch of forest as the king of his subjects. They were not happy because for several years there had been no rains and all the lakes, tanks, ponds and water holes in the forest became arid. The subjects went in a delegation to the king and appealed to him, “O mighty king, there is no water to drink in the forest. Many of the younger ones are on the verge of extinction. Please look for a lake full of water and save us.”
The king told them, “I know of a hidden lake that is always full of water. Let us go there and save ourselves.”
The elephants then set off for the hidden lake and after plodding through the jungle for five nights reached the great lake. They colonised the land around the lake and once again started their revelry in water. But as the elephants daily marched their way to the lake, they trampled upon hundreds of hares that made the land around the lake their home. Hundreds of them died and thousands more were maimed.
One day the hares assembled to chalk out a plan to save themselves from the menace of the wayward elephants. An older one among them said, “these elephants will come every day and every day many of us will die. We must find a solution to this problem.”
A wiser one among them said, “The great Manu had said that it was better to abandon a person to save the whole community, abandon the community to save the village and abandon the village to save the country. Even if the land were fertile, a wise king would abandon it if it were in the interests of his subjects.”
But the other hares protested and said, “How can we do that? We have been living here for several generations. Let us find an alternative. Let us see if we can scare the elephants by some means.”
Some of them said, “We know of a trick that works with the elephants. However, we need a very intelligent person.”
Pressed to reveal the plan, they said, “Our ruler Vijayadatta lives in the lunar sphere. Let us send a messenger to the elephant king. The plan is to tell the elephant king that the Moon does not like the elephants visiting the lake for water because they are killing and maiming hundreds of hares. The Moon has declared the lake out of bounds for the elephants.”
Some others agreed and said, “Yes, there is a hare whose name is Lambakarna. He is an expert negotiator. He can do the job with success.”
After a lot of discussions, the hares decided to send Lambakarna to the elephant king. Addressing the king, Lambakarna said, “O heartless king, I live in the lunar sphere. The Moon has sent me as envoy to you. This lake belongs to the Moon. He has forbidden all of you from drinking water from the lake. So, go back.”
“But where is you lord, the Moon,” asked the elephant king.
Lambakarna said, “He is very much in this lake. He has come to console the survivors of your rampage.”
“Then, let me see him,” the elephant king challenged the envoy.
“Come alone with me, I will show you.”
“Let us go then,” said the elephant.
Lambakarna took the elephant king one night to the lake and showed the reflection of the Moon in the lake and said,
“Here he is, our King, the Moon. He is lost in meditation. Move quietly and salute him. Otherwise, you will disturb his meditation and bring upon you his wrath.”
Taking him for the real Moon, the elephant king saluted him and left quietly. The hares breathed a sigh of relief and lived happily ever after.
The crow told the birds gathered to elect a leader, “that is why it is important to choose a wise and experienced person as your leader. If you do not, listen to this story of how a hare and a partridge destroyed themselves because they chose a wicked mediator.”
“Very interesting,” said the birds and asked the visiting crow to tell them the account of the mediator.
The visiting crow began narrating the story: