| Jataka Tales|
|by Ellen C. Babbitt|
|Eighteen fables from the Jatakas of India, skillfully retold and attractively illustrated. Includes The Monkey and the Crocodile, The Merchant of Seri, The Turtle Who Wouldn’t Stop Talking, The Foolish Timid Rabbit, The Banyan Deer, and others. Ages 7-10 |
THE PRINCES AND THE WATER-SPRITE
NCE upon a time a king
had three sons. The
first was called Prince of the Stars. The next was
called the Moon Prince and the third was called the Sun
Prince. The king was so very happy when the third son was
born that he promised to give the queen any boon she might
The queen kept the promise in mind, waiting until the third
son was grown before asking the king to give her the boon.
On the twenty-first birthday of the Sun Prince she said to
the king, "Great King, when our youngest child was born you
said you would give me a boon. Now I ask you to give the
kingdom to Sun Prince."
But the king refused, saying that the kingdom must go to the
oldest son, for it belonged by right to him. Next it would
belong by right to the second son, and not until they were
both dead could the kingdom go to the third son.
 The queen went away, but the king saw that she was not
pleased with his answer. He feared that she would do harm to
the older princes to get them out of the way of the Sun
So he called his elder sons and told them that they must go
and live in the forest until his death. "Then come back and
reign in the city that is yours by right," he said. And
with tears he kissed them on the foreheads and sent them
As they were going down out of the palace, after saying
good-by to their father, the Sun Prince called to them,
"Where are you going?"
And when he heard where they were going and why, he said,
"I will go with you, my brothers."
So off they started. They went on and on and by
and by they reached the forest. There they sat down to rest
in the shade of a pond. Then the eldest brother said to Sun
Prince, "Go down to the pond and bathe and drink. Then
bring us a drink while we rest here."
Now the King of the Fairies had given this pond to a
water-sprite. The Fairy King had said to the water-sprite,
"You are to have in your power all who go down into the
water except those who give the
 right answer to one question. Those who give the right
answer will not be in your power. The question is, 'What are
the Good Fairies like?' "
The Sun Prince went into the pond.
When the Sun Prince went into the pond the watersprite saw
him and asked him the question, "What are the Good Fairies
"They are like the Sun and the Moon," said the Sun Prince.
"You don't know what the Good Fairies are like,"
 cried the water-sprite, and he carried the poor boy down
into his cave.
By and by the eldest brother said, "Moon Prince, go down and
see why our brother stays so long in the pond!"
As soon as the Moon Prince reached the water's edge the
water-sprite called to him and said, "Tell me what the Good
Fairies are like!"
"Like the sky above us," replied the Moon Prince.
know, either," said the water-sprite, and dragged the Moon
Prince down into the cave where the Sun Prince sat.
"Something must have happened to those two brothers of
mine," thought the eldest. So he went to the pond and saw
the marks of the footsteps where his brothers had gone down
into the water. Then he knew that a water-sprite must live
in that pond. He girded on his sword, and stood with his bow
in his hand.
The water-sprite soon came along in the form of a woodsman.
The water-sprite in the form of a woodman.
"You seem tired, Friend," he said to the prince. "Why don't
you bathe in the lake and then lie on the bank and rest?"
 But the prince knew that it was a water-sprite and he said,
"You have carried off my brothers!"
"Yes," said the water-sprite.
"Why did you carry them off?"
"Because they did not answer my question," said the
water-sprite, "and I have power over all who go down into
the water except those who do give the right answer."
 "I will answer your question," said the eldest brother. And
he did. "The Good Fairies are like
The pure in heart who fear to sin,
The good, kindly in word and deed."
"O Wise Prince, I will bring back to you one of your
brothers. Which shall I bring?" said the water-sprite.
"Bring me the younger one," said the prince. "It was on
his account that our father sent us away. I could
never go away with Moon Prince and leave poor Sun Prince
"O Wise Prince, you know what the good should do and you are
kind. I will bring back both your brothers," said the
After that the three princes lived together in the forest
until the king died. Then they went back to the palace. The
eldest brother was made king and he had his brothers rule
with him. He also built a home for the water-sprite in the
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