The Brahman’s Wife and the Mongoose
March 5, 2011 in Panchatantra
In a certain city there lived a Brahman by the name of Devasarman. His wife gave birth to a son, and then to a mongoose. Full of love for her children, she cared for the mongoose like a son, nursing him at her breast, rubbing him with salve, and so forth. However, she did not trust him, thinking that in keeping with the evil nature of his species he might harm her son. As is rightly said:
A son will bring joy to his parents’ heart, even if he is uneducated, bad, malformed, foolish, and sinful.
And as also is said:
Sandalwood salve cools and soothes, but a son’s embrace far excels sandalwood salve.
The relationship with one’s son is more important than that with a best friend, a good father, or any other person.
One day, after nicely tucking the boy into his bed, she took the water pitcher and said to her husband, “Listen, master, I am going to the pond to fetch water. You must protect our son from the mongoose.”
After she departed, the Brahman went off somewhere to collect alms, leaving the house empty. In the meantime a black snake crept out of its hole and — as fate would have it — approached the boy’s bed. However, the mongoose confronted this, his natural enemy, and fearing that it might kill his brother, the mongoose attacked the wicked snake, tore it to bits, and threw the pieces far and wide.
Proud of his valor and his face covered with blood, the mongoose approached the mother to tell her what had happened.
However, the mother, seeing his blood-spattered face and sensing his excitement, feared, “without doubt this evildoer has devoured our son.” Driven by anger and without further investigation she threw the water-filled pitcher at the mongoose, killing the him instantly.
Paying no further attention to the mongoose, she rushed into the house where she found the boy still asleep. Near the bed she saw a large black snake, torn to bits. Then her heart was overcome with sorrow because of the thoughtless murder of her praiseworthy son, the mongoose, and she beat herself on the head, the breast, and her other body parts.
While this was happening the Brahman returned home with alms from wherever he had been begging.
“See there!” she cried, overcome with grief for her son, the mongoose. “Oh, you greedy one! Because you let greed rule you instead of doing what I told you to, you now must taste the fruit of your own tree of sin, the pain of your son’s death.”