The Cruel Crane Outwitted
A tailor who used to make robes for the brotherhood was wont to
cheat his customers, and thus prided himself on being smarter
than other men. But once, on entering upon an important business
transaction with a stranger, he found his master in fraudulent
practices, and suffered a heavy loss.
And the Blessed One said: "This is not an isolated incident in
the greedy tailor's fate; in other incarnations he suffered
similar losses, and by trying to dupe others ultimately ruined
"This same greedy character lived many generations ago as a crane
near a pond, and when the dry season set in he said to the fishes
with a bland voice: 'Are you not anxious for your future welfare?
There is at present very little water and still less food in this
pond. What will you do should the whole pond become dry, in this
'Yes, indeed' said the fishes, 'what should we do?'
"Replied the crane: 'I know a fine, large lake, which never
becomes dry. Would you not like me to carry you there in my
beak?' When the fishes began to distrust the honesty of the
crane, he proposed to have one of them sent over to the lake to
see it; and a big carp at last decided to take the risk for the
sake of the others, and the crane carried him to a beautiful lake
and brought him back in safety. Then all doubt vanished, and the
fishes gained confidence in the crane, and now the crane took
them one by one out of the pond and devoured them on a big
"There was also a lobster in the pond, and when it listed the
crane to eat him too, he said: 'I have taken all the fishes away
and put them in a fine, large lake. Come along. I shall take
'But how wilt thou hold me to carry me along?' asked the lobster.
'I shall take hold of thee with my beak,' said the crane.
'Thou wilt let me fall if thou carry me like that. I will not go
with thee!' replied the lobster.
'Thou needst not fear,' rejoined the crane; 'I shall hold thee
quite tight all the way.'
"Then said the lobster to himself: 'If this crane once gets hold
of a fish, he will certainly never let him go in a lake! Now if
he should really put me into the lake it would be splendid; but
if he does not, then I will cut his throat and kill him!' So he
said to the crane: 'Look here, friend, thou wilt not be able to
hold me tight enough; but we lobsters have a famous grip. If thou
wilt let me catch hold of thee round the neck with my claws, I
shall be glad to go with thee.'
"The crane did not see that the lobster was trying to outwit him,
and agreed. So the lobster caught hold of his neck with his claws
as securely as with a pair of blacksmith's pincers, and called
out: 'Ready, ready, go!'
"The crane took him and showed him the lake, and then turned off
toward the varana-tree. 'My dear uncle!' cried the lobster, 'The
lake lies that way, but thou art taking me this other way.'
"Answered the crane: 'Thinkest thou so? Am I thy dear uncle? Thou
meanest me to understand, I suppose, that I am thy slave, who has
to lift thee up and carry thee about with him, where thou
pleasest! Now cast thine eye upon that heap of fish-bones at the
root of yonder varana-tree. Just as I have eaten those fish,
every one of them, just so will I devour thee also!'
'Ah! those fishes got eaten through their own stupidity,'
answered the lobster, 'but I am not going to let thee kill me. On
the contrary, it is thou that I am going to destroy. For thou, in
thy folly, hast not seen that I have outwitted thee. If we die,
we both die together; for I will cut off this head of thine and
cast it to the ground!' So saying, he gave the crane's neck a
pinch with his claws as with a vise.
"Then gasping, and with tears trickling from his eyes, and
trembling with the fear of death, the crane besought the lobster,
saying: 'O, my Lord! Indeed I did not intend to eat thee. Grant
me my life!'
'Very well! fly down and put me into the lake,' replied the
"And the crane turned round and stepped down into the lake, to
place the lobster on the mud at its edge. Then the lobster cut
the crane's neck through as clean as one would cut a lotus-stalk
with a hunting-knife, and then entered the water!"
When the Teacher had finished this discourse, he added: "Not now
only was this man outwitted in this way, but in other existences,
too, by his own intrigues."
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