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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Vishnu Sharma (Pilpay) (c. 1000 B.C.?)

The Elephant Devoured by Jackals

From “The Friendly Instructor” (Hitopadesa), translated by Charles Wilkins

That which cannot be effected by force may be achieved by cunning. An elephant was killed by a jackal, through going over a swampy place.

IN the forest Brahmaranya there was an elephant, whose name was Karphooratilaka [spotted white], who having been observed by the jackals, they all determined, that if he could by any stratagem be killed, he would be four months’ provisions for them all. One of them, who was exceedingly viciously inclined, and by nature treacherous, declared that he would engage, by the strength of his own judgment, to effect his death. Some time after, this deceitful wretch went up to the elephant, and having saluted him, said, “God-like sir, condescend to grant me an audience.” “Who art thou?” demanded the elephant, “and whence comest thou?” “My name,” replied he, “is Kshudrabuddhi [evil-minded], a jackal, sent into thy presence by all the inhabitants of the forest, assembled for that purpose, to represent that, as it is not expedient to reside in so large a forest as this without a chief, your Highness, endued with all the cardinal virtues, hath been selected to be anointed Rajah of the woods.”

It is said:

He who, by walking forever in the ways of those who are preferred, is exceedingly pure, of a noble mind, virtuous and just, and experienced in the rules of policy, is worthy to be chosen master of the earth.


The lord of the land, like the clouds, is the reservoir of the people; for when the clouds fail, do they not find succor in their king?


In this world, which is subject to the power of One above, a man of good principles is hard to be found living in a country for the most part governed by the use of the rod. From the dread of the rod, like a woman of good repute unto her husband, he will repair for protection even unto the weak or unfortunate, to the sick, or to the poor.

“Then, that we may not lose the lucky moment,” continued the jackal, “be pleased to follow quickly.” Saying this, he cocked his tail and went away. The elephant, whose reason was perverted by the lust of power, took the same road as the jackal, and followed him so exactly that at length he stuck fast in a great swamp. “Oh, my friend,” cried the elephant, “what is to be done in this disaster? I am sinking in a deep swamp!” The jackal laughed, and said, “Please your divine Highness, take hold of my tail with your trunk, and get out. This is the fruit of those words which thou didst place confidence in.”

They say:

As often as thou shalt be deprived of the society of the good, so often shalt thou fall into the company of knaves.

After a few days, the elephant dying for want of food, his flesh was devoured by the jackals.

I repeat, therefore:

That which cannot be effected by force may be achieved by cunning.