Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE MONKEY AND THE CROCODILE
ONCE upon a time, while Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the
Bodhisatta, came to life at the foot of Himalaya as a
Monkey. He grew strong and sturdy, big of frame,
well-to-do, and lived by a curve of the river Ganges
in a forest haunt.
Now at that time there was a Crocodile dwelling in the
Ganges. The Crocodile's mate saw the great frame of the
monkey, and she conceived a longing for his heart to eat.
So she said to her lord: "Sir, I desire to eat the heart
of that great king of the monkeys!"
"Good wife," said the Crocodile, "I live in the water and
he lives on dry land: how can we catch him?"
"By hook or by crook," she replied, "caught he must be. If
I don't get him, I shall die."
"All right," answered the Crocodile, consoling her, "don't
trouble yourself. I have a plan; I will give you his heart
So when the Bodhisatta was sitting on the bank of the
Ganges, after taking a drink of water, the Crocodile
drew near, and said:
"Sir Monkey, why do you live on bad fruits in this old
familiar place? On the other side of the Ganges there is
no end to the mango trees, and labuja trees, with fruit
sweet as honey! Is it not better to cross over and have
all kinds of wild fruit to eat?"
"Lord Crocodile," the Monkey made answer, "deep and wide
is the Ganges: how shall I get across?"
"If you will go, I will mount you on my back, and carry
The Monkey trusted him, and agreed. "Come here, then,"
said the other, "up on my back with you!" and up the
Monkey climbed. But when the Crocodile had swum a little
way, he plunged the Monkey under the water.
"Good friend, you are letting me sink!" cried the Monkey.
"What is that for?"
Said the Crocodile, "You think I am carrying you out of
pure good nature? Not a bit of it! My wife has a longing
for your heart, and I want to give it to her to eat!"
"Friend," said the Monkey, "it is nice of you to tell me.
Why, if our heart were inside us when we go jumping among
the tree-tops, it would be all knocked to pieces!"
"Well, where do you keep it?" asked the other.
The Bodhisatta pointed out a fig-tree, with clusters of ripe
fruit, standing not far off. "See," said he, "there are
our hearts hanging on yon fig-tree."
"If you will show me your heart," said the Crocodile, "then
I won't kill you."
"Take me to the tree, then, and I will point it out to you
hanging upon it."
The Crocodile brought him to the place. The Monkey leapt
off his back, and climbing up the fig-tree sat upon it. "O
silly Crocodile!" said he, "you thought that there were
creatures that kept their hearts in a tree-top! You are a
fool, and I have outwitted you! You may keep your fruit to
yourself. Your body is great, but you have no sense." And
then to explain this idea he uttered the following stanzas:
"Rose-apple, jack-fruit, mangoes too across
the water there I see;
Enough of them, I want them not; my fig is
good enough for me!
"Great is your body, verily, but how much
smaller is your wit!
Now go your ways, Sir Crocodile, for I have
had the best of it."
The Crocodile, feeling as sad and miserable as if he had
lost a thousand pieces of money, went back sorrowing to
the place where he lived.