THE STORY OF THE HERON AND’ THE CRAB
In the heart of a lush jungle, there nestled a sprawling lake teeming with all manner of aquatic life. Amongst the residents of this aquatic realm was a once-mighty heron, now reduced to a feeble shadow of its former self. Age had robbed him of his strength, rendering his attempts to catch fish futile, and as a result, he had withered away to skin and bones.
One day, the heron found himself perched at the water’s edge, letting out pitiful cries that resembled pearls of sorrow cascading from his eyes. His forlorn wails caught the attention of a curious crab who, along with a group of concerned fish, approached the heron. The crab inquired, “Uncle, are you alright? Why aren’t you eating today? Why the tears and sighs?”
With a mournful voice, the heron replied, “Ah, my dear child, I’ve decided to renounce the world. I used to be a fish-eater, but now, I wouldn’t even touch them if they swam right into my beak. I’ve embarked on a fast unto death.”
“Why such a drastic decision?” inquired the crab.
The heron explained, “You see, I was born in this very pond, and it’s here that I’ve grown old. But now, I’ve heard from an astrologer that there will be no rain here for the next twelve years. The stars have conspired against us. The water is already dwindling, and soon, it will vanish completely. I can’t bear the thought of being separated from the water creatures I’ve grown up with. That’s why I’ve chosen this path of fasting.
While the creatures from smaller ponds are being relocated by their families, the tortoises, crocodiles, and larger animals are seeking refuge elsewhere. But our pond’s inhabitants seem oblivious to the impending doom, and it breaks my heart to think that everything we know and love will be wiped out.”
The crab wasted no time and relayed this dire news to all the other water dwellers – crabs, fish, and tortoises alike. Panic ensued, and they beseeched the heron for a glimmer of hope. The heron, seizing an opportunity to regain their trust, assured them, “Fear not, dear ones. Not far from here lies a lake, abundant with water. Even if the skies withhold their rains for twenty-four years, this lotus-covered haven will never run dry. If someone rides on my back, I can take them there.”
The heron’s words won their confidence, and they gathered around him, clamoring, “Uncle, father, brother, pick me first! Me first!” Unbeknownst to them, the heron harbored wicked intentions. One by one, he ferried them away, only to mercilessly dash them against jagged rocks and feast upon their tender flesh. Upon his return, he would spin a web of lies to their waiting relatives.
However, one day, the crafty crab devised a plan. “Uncle,” it implored, “I was your friend from the beginning, yet you choose others over me. Please, save my life too.”
The heron, weary of his daily fish diet, decided to oblige. He carried the crab to the same treacherous rock where the fish had met their demise. The crab, recognizing the grim pile of bones and fish skeletons, understood the heron’s sinister plot. Nevertheless, it maintained a calm facade and said, “Uncle, how much farther is this pond? You must be exhausted carrying me; I’m quite heavy.”
The heron, believing it had the upper hand, responded with a sly grin, “Crab, there is no other pond in sight. This journey is for my sustenance. I intend to smash you against this rock and devour you.”
As soon as those words escaped the heron’s beak, the clever crab sprang into action. It clamped its sharp claws around the heron’s neck, white as a lotus stem, and strangled the devious bird to its demise.
The crab, dragging the heron’s lifeless body back to the pond, triumphantly proclaimed, “Foolish ones! This impostor wasn’t leading us to safety; he was luring us to our doom, smashing us against the rocks. I recognized his deceit, and I’ve brought back his neck. We are now safe.”
And thus, the water dwellers celebrated their narrow escape, thanks to the ingenuity of the clever crab.
With a chuckle, Damanaka continued his tale, “That’s why I say, my friends, what can’t be achieved through force can often be accomplished through cunning.”
The animals listened intently, and one of them, a curious crow, spoke up, “Tell us, Damanaka, how can we outsmart the wicked cobra?”
Damanaka, ever the mastermind, shared his plan. “Travel to the capital of a kingdom, find the house of a wealthy man, a minister, or someone of importance. Keep an eye out for any valuable gold chains or necklaces carelessly left lying around. Pick up one of these treasures and, with the servants watching, fly off slowly with it, dropping it into the hollow of the tree where the cobra resides. When the servants pursue you to retrieve the necklace, they will inevitably discover the snake and put an end to his reign of terror.”
The crows decided to heed Damanaka’s advice and took flight, but little did they know that their feathered journey was about to take a thrilling turn.
As they soared through the skies, a vigilant female crow caught sight of a glistening lake where the women of a harem were indulging in their royal bath. The women had left their precious gold and pearl necklaces by the lakeside while they frolicked in the water. With a quick beak, the female crow snatched a golden chain and began her slow ascent back to her nest.
The spectacle did not go unnoticed by the eunuchs guarding the harem. Alarmed by the theft, they armed themselves with sticks and set off in hot pursuit of the audacious crow. The female crow, aware of the ruse, strategically released the gold chain near the hollow of the tree where the cobra lurked. Perching herself on a nearby tree, she watched the impending drama unfold.
When the king’s servants reached the scene, they were met not by a mere crow but by a cobra with its hood spread wide in defiance. The serpent, however, stood no chance against the combined wrath of the eunuchs and their sticks. The cobra met its end, and the crow’s clever plot had succeeded.
From that day forward, the crows lived happily, and the jungle was rid of the wicked cobra.
Damanaka, reflecting on the events, grinned slyly, “You see, my friends, nothing is truly impossible in this world for a clever and cunning mind. Even the mightiest foes can be outwitted.”
The assembled animals nodded in agreement, taking to heart the lessons of deception and ingenuity in the animal kingdom.
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