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The Two-Headed Weaver

March 5, 2011 in Panchatantra

In a certain place there lived a weaver by the name of Mantharaka, which means “the simpleton.” One day, while weaving cloth, the wooden pieces on his loom broke. He took an ax, and set forth to find some wood. He found a large sissoo tree at the ocean’s shore, and said aloud, “Now this is a large tree. If I fell it, I will have wood enough for all my weaving tools.”

Having thus thought it through, he raised his ax to begin cutting. However, a spirit lived in this tree, and he said, “Listen! This tree is my home, and it must be spared in any event, because I like it here where my body can be stroked by the cool breezes that blow in from the ocean’s waves.”

The weaver said, “Then what am I to do? If I don’t find a good tree, then my family will starve. You will have to go somewhere else. I am going to cut it down.”

The spirit answered, “Listen, I am at your service. Ask whatever you would like, but spare this tree!”

The weaver said, “If that is what you want then I will go home and ask my friend and my wife, and when I return, you must give me what I ask for.”

The spirit promised, and the weaver, beside himself with joy, returned home. Upon his arrival in his city he saw his friend, the barber, and said, “Friend, I have gained control over a spirit. Tell me what I should demand from him!”

The barber said, “My dear friend, if that is so then you should demand a kingdom. You could be king, and I would be your prime minister, and we two would first enjoy the pleasures of this world and then those of the next one. For they say: A prince who piously gives to others, achieves fame in this world, and through these good deeds, he will arrive in heaven, equal to the gods themselves.”

The weaver spoke, “Friend, so be it! But let us also ask my wife.”

The barber said, “One should never ask women for advice. They also say: A wise man gives women food, clothing, jewelry, and above all the duties of marriage, but he never asks for their advice. And further: That house must perish where a woman, a gambler, or a child is listened to. And: A man will advance and be loved by worthy people as long as he does not secretly listen to women. Women think only of their own advantage, of their own desires. Even if they love only their own son, still, he will serve their wishes.”

The weaver spoke, “Even though this is true, she nonetheless must be asked, because she is subservient to her husband.”

Having said this, he went quickly to his wife and said to her, “Dear one, today I have gained control over a spirit who will grant me one wish. Hence I have come to ask for your advice. Tell me, what should I ask for? My friend the barber thinks that I should request a kingdom.”

She answered, “Oh, son of your excellence, what do barbers understand? You should never do what they say. After all, it is stated: A reasonable person will no sooner take advice from dancers, singers, the low born, barbers, or children, than from beggars. Furthermore, a king’s life is an unending procession of annoyances. He must constantly worry about friendships, animosities, wars, servants, defense alliances, and duplicity. He never gets a moment’s rest, because: Anyone who wants to rule must prepare his spirit for misfortune. The same container that is used for salve can also be used to pour out bad luck. Never envy the life of a king.”

The weaver said, “You are right. But what should I ask for?”

She answered, “You can now work on only one piece of cloth at a time. That is barely enough to pay for the necessities. You should ask for another pair of arms and a second head so that you can work on two pieces of cloth at once, one in front of you, and one behind you. We can sell the one for household necessities, and you can use the money from the second one for other things. You will thus gain the praise of your relatives, and you will make gains in both worlds.”

After hearing this he spoke with joy, “Good, you faithful wife! You have spoken well, and I will do what you say. That is my decision.”

With that he went to the spirit and let his will be known, “Listen, if you want to fulfill my wish, then give me another pair of arms and another head.”

He had barely spoken before he was two-headed and four-armed. Rejoicing, he returned home, but the people there thought that he was a demon and beat him with sticks and stones, until he fell over dead.

And that is why I say: He who cannot think for himself and will not follow the advice of friends, he will push himself into misfortune, just like the weaver Mantharaka.


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