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Marie L. Shedlock.

A collection of eastern stories and legends for narration or later reading in schools online

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EASTERN STORIES AND LEGENDS***


E-text prepared by David King and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
(http://www.pgdp.net) from page images generously made available by
Internet Archive (https://archive.org)



Note:
Transcriber's note:

Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).





EASTERN STORIES AND LEGENDS

by

MARIE L. SHEDLOCK

Foreword by
Prof. T. W. Rhys Davids

Introduction by
Annie Carroll Moore
Of the New York Public Library






New York
E. P. Dutton & Company
681 Fifth Avenue
1920




FOREWORD


I recollect riding late one night along the high-road from Galle to
Colombo. The road skirts the shore. On the left hand the long breakers
of the Indian Ocean broke in ripples on the rocks in the many little
bays. On the right an endless vista of tall cocoanut palms waved their
top-knots over a park-like expanse of grass, and the huts of the
peasantry were visible here and there beneath the trees. In the distance
a crowd had gathered on the sward, either seated on the grass or leaning
against the palms. I turned aside—no road was wanted—to see what brought
them there that moonlight night.

The villagers had put an oval platform under the trees. On it were
seated yellow robed monks with palm-leaf books on their laps. One was
standing and addressing the folk, who were listening to _Bana_, that is
“The Word”—discourses, dialogues, legends, or stories from the Pali
Canon. The stories were the well-known Birth-stories, that is the
ancient fables and fairy-tales common to the Aryan race which had been
consecrated, as it were, by the hero in each, whether man or animal,
being identified with the Buddha in a former birth. To these wonderful
stories the simple peasantry, men, women and children, clad in their
best and brightest, listen the livelong night with unaffected delight,
chatting pleasantly now and again with their neighbors; rising quietly
and leaving for a time, and returning at their will, and indulging all
the while in the mild narcotic of the betel-leaf, their stores of which
afford a constant occasion for acts of polite good-fellowship. Neither
preachers nor hearers may have that deep sense of evil in the world and
in themselves, nor that high resolve to battle with and overcome it,
which animated some of the first disciples. They all think they are
earning “merit” by their easy service. But there is at least, at these
full-moon festivals, a genuine feeling of human kindness, in harmony
alike with the teachings of Gotama and with the gentle beauty of those
moonlit scenes.[1]

Footnote 1:

_See_ Rhys Davids’ _Buddhism_ (S.P.C.K.), pp. 57, 58.

It is not only under the palm groves of the South that these stories are
a perennial delight. Wherever Buddhism has gone they have gone with it.
They are known and loved on the plains of Central Asia, in the valleys
of Kashmir and Afghanistan, on the cold tablelands of Nepal, Tartary and
Tibet, through the vast regions of India and China, in the islands of
Japan and the Malay archipelago, and throughout the jungles of Siam and
Annam.

And not only so. Soldiers of Alexander who had settled in the East,
wandering merchants of many nations and climes, crusading knights and
hermits who had mixed with Eastern folk, brought the stories from East
to West. They were very popular in Europe in the Middle Ages; and were
used, more especially by the clergy, as the subjects of numerous
homilies, romances, anecdotes, poems and edifying plays and mysteries.
The character of the hero of them in his last or former births appealed
so strongly to the sympathies, and especially to the religious
sympathies, of mediæval Christians that the Buddha (under another name)
was included, and has ever since remained, in the list of canonized
saints both in the Roman and Greek Churches; and a collection of these
and similar stories—wrongly but very naturally ascribed to a famous
story-teller of the ancient Greeks—has become the common property, the
household literature, of all the nations of Europe; and, under the name
of Æsop’s Fables, has handed down, as a first moral lesson-book for our
children in the West, tales first invented to please and to instruct our
far-off cousins in the distant East.

So the story of the migration of the stories is the most marvelous story
of them all.[2] And, strange to say, in spite of the enormous outpouring
of more modern tales, these old ones have not, even yet, lost their
charm. I used to tell them by the hour together, to mixed audiences, and
never found them fail. Out of the many hundred Birth-stories there are
only a small proportion that are suitable for children. Miss Shedlock,
so well known on both sides of the Atlantic for her skill and judgment
in this regard, has selected those she deems most suitable; and, so far
as I can judge, has succeeded very admirably in adapting them for the
use of children and of teachers alike. Much depends, no doubt, upon the
telling. Could Miss Shedlock herself be the teller, there would be
little doubt of the success. But I know from my own experience that less
able story-tellers have no cause at all to be discouraged.

Footnote 2:

For the details of this story the introduction to my _Buddhist Birth
Stories_ may be consulted; and for the history of the Jâtakas in India
the chapter on that subject in my _Buddhist India_.

The reason is, indeed, not far to seek. The stories are not ordinary
ones. It is not on sharpness of repartee, or on striking incidents, that
their charm depends. These they have sometimes. But their attraction
lies rather in a unique mixture of subtle humor, cunning make-belief,
and earnestness; in the piquancy of the contrast between the humorous
incongruities and impossibilities of the details, and the real serious
earnestness, never absent but always latent, of the ethical tone. They
never raise a boisterous laugh: only a quiet smile of delighted
appreciation; and they leave a pleasant aroma behind them. To the
child-mind the impossibilities are no impossibilities at all, they are
merely delightful. And these quaint old-world stories will continue to
appeal to children, young and old, as they have done, the world over,
through the long centuries of the past.

T. W. RHYS DAVIDS.




EDITOR’S PREFACE


These stories of the Buddha-Rebirths are not for one age or for one
country, but for all time, and for the whole world. Their philosophy
might be incorporated into the tenets of faith of a League of Nations
without destroying any national forms of religious teaching. On the
other hand those who prefer the foundation of more orthodox views will
be astonished to find their ethics are identical with many of those
inculcated in the stories: here we find condemnation of hypocrisy,
cruelty, selfishness, and vice of every kind and a constant appeal to
Love, Pity, Honesty, loftiness of purpose and breadth of vision. And
should we reject such teachings because they were given to the World
more than 2,000 years ago? Since it is wise to take into consideration
the claims and interests of the passing hour it is well to re-introduce
these stories at a moment when, perhaps more than ever before, East and
West are struggling to arrive at a clearer understanding of one another.

In Tagore’s essay on the relation of the Individual to the Universe, he
says: “In the West the prevalent feeling is that Nature belongs
exclusively to inanimate things and to beasts; that there is a sudden
unaccountable break where human nature begins. According to it,
everything that is low in the scale of beings is merely nature, and
whatever has the stamp of perfection on it, intellectual or moral, is
human nature. It is like dividing the bud and the blossom into two
separate categories and putting their grace to the credit of two
different and antithetical principles. But the Indian mind never has any
hesitation in acknowledging its kinship with nature, its unbroken
relation with all.”

This is perhaps the best summing up of the value of this collection.
Since the publication of the book in 1910, I have had many opportunities
of testing the value of the dramatic appeal in these stories both for
adults and boys and girls of adolescent age. When presented at this
impressionable period, the inner meaning will sink more deeply into
their minds than the same truths presented in a more direct and didactic
fashion.

I am greatly indebted to Professor Rhys Davids, not only because he has
placed the material of his translations from the Pali at my disposal,
but also because of his unfailing kindness and help in directing my
work. I am fortunate to have had the restraining influence of so great a
scholar so that I might not lose the Indian atmosphere and line of
thought which is of such value in these stories.

I most gratefully acknowledge my indebtedness to the Cambridge Press, by
whose courtesy I have been able to include several of the stories
published in their volumes.

I present here a selection from over 500 stories.

MARIE L. SHEDLOCK.

Cambridge, Massachusetts.




CONTENTS



1. THE HARE THAT RAN AWAY 1

2. THE MONKEY AND THE CROCODILE 8

3. THE SPIRIT THAT LIVED IN A TREE 13

4. THE HARE THAT WAS NOT AFRAID TO DIE 19

5. THE PARROT THAT FED HIS PARENTS 27

6. THE MAN WHO WORKED TO GIVE ALMS 35

7. THE KING WHO SAW THE TRUTH 41

8. THE BULL THAT DEMANDED FAIR TREATMENT 49

9. THE BULL THAT PROVED HIS GRATITUDE 57

10. THE HORSE THAT HELD OUT TO THE END 63

11. THE MONKEY THAT SAVED THE HERD 71

12. THE MALLARD THAT ASKED FOR TOO MUCH 77

13. THE MERCHANT WHO OVERCAME ALL 81
OBSTACLES

14. THE ELEPHANT THAT WAS HONORED IN OLD 87
AGE

15. THE FAITHFUL FRIEND 93

16. THE HAWK AND THE OSPREY 99

17. GRANDMOTHER’S GOLDEN DISH 107

18. THE ELEPHANT THAT SPARED LIFE 115

19. HOW THE ANTELOPE WAS CAUGHT 123

20. THE BANYAN DEER 129

21. THE PUPIL WHO TAUGHT HIS TEACHER 139

22. THE MAN WHO TOLD A LIE 145

23. THE CROW THAT THOUGHT IT KNEW 153

24. THE JUDAS TREE 159

25. THE RIVER-FISH AND THE MONEY 163

26. THE DREAMER IN THE WOOD 171

27. THE RICE MEASURE 175

28. THE POISONOUS TREES 183

29. THE WELL-TRAINED ELEPHANT 189

30. THE WISE PHYSICIAN 197




INTRODUCTION


To this new and enlarged edition of Eastern Stories and Legends, Miss
Shedlock has brought years of dramatic experience in the telling of
stories to children and grown people in England and America, and united
with it a discriminating selection from the work of a great Oriental
scholar.

The result is a book of intrinsic merit for the general reading of
children and of great practical value to all who are concerned with
moral or ethical training.

“I feel a great joy in what these stories can unconsciously bring to the
reader,” says Miss Shedlock in a personal letter, “the mere living among
the stories for the past few weeks has given me a sense of calm and
permanence which it is difficult to maintain under present outward
conditions.”

I have observed with growing interest, extending over a period of years,
the effect of such stories as “The Folly of Panic” and “The Tree Spirit”
upon audiences of adolescent boys and girls in the public schools,
public libraries, social settlements, Sunday schools and private
schools, I have visited with Miss Shedlock. There is in Miss Shedlock’s
rendering something more than a suggestion of kinship with Nature and
the attributes of animal life. The story is told in an atmosphere of
spiritual actuality remote from our everyday experience yet confirming
its eternal truths.

My familiarity with the earlier edition of Eastern Stories and Legends
and my personal introduction of “The True Spirit of a Festival Day” and
other stories to audiences of parents and teachers, enables me to speak
with confidence of the value of the book in an enlarged and more popular
form.

In rearranging and expanding her selection of stories Miss Shedlock has
wisely freed the book from limitations which gave it too much the
appearance of a text book. In so doing she has preserved the classical
rendering of her earlier work. Her long experience as a teacher and
story-teller in England and America informs her notes and arouses in the
mature reader a fresh sense of the “power to educate” which rises out of
all great literature at the touch of a true interpreter.

_Annie Carroll Moore_

July 14, 1920.




THE HARE THAT RAN AWAY


And it came to pass that the Buddha (to be) was born again as a Lion.
Just as he had helped his fellow-men, he now began to help his
fellow-animals, and there was a great deal to be done. For instance,
there was a little nervous Hare who was always afraid that something
dreadful was going to happen to her. She was always saying: “Suppose the
Earth were to fall in, what would happen to me?” And she said this so
often that at last she thought it really was about to happen. One day,
when she had been saying over and over again, “Suppose the Earth were to
fall in, what would happen to me?” she heard a slight noise: it really
was only a heavy fruit which had fallen upon a rustling leaf, but the
little Hare was so nervous she was ready to believe anything, and she
said in a frightened tone: “The Earth _is_ falling in.” She ran away as
fast as she could go, and presently she met an old brother Hare, who
said: “Where are you running to, Mistress Hare?”

And the little Hare said: “I have no time to stop and tell you anything.
The Earth is falling in, and I am running away.”

“The Earth is falling in, is it?” said the old brother Hare, in a tone
of much astonishment; and he repeated this to _his_ brother hare, and
_he_ to _his_ brother hare, and _he_ to _his_ brother hare, until at
last there were a hundred thousand brother hares, all shouting: “The
Earth is falling in.” Now presently the bigger animals began to take the
cry up. First the deer, and then the sheep, and then the wild boar, and
then the buffalo, and then the camel, and then the tiger, and then the
elephant.

Now the wise Lion heard all this noise and wondered at it. “There are no
signs,” he said, “of the Earth falling in. They must have heard
something.” And then he stopped them all short and said: “What is this
you are saying?”

And the Elephant said: “I remarked that the Earth was falling in.”

“How do you know this?” asked the Lion.

“Why, now I come to think of it, it was the Tiger that remarked it to
me.”

And the Tiger said: “_I_ had it from the Camel,” and the Camel said:
“_I_ had it from the Buffalo.” And the buffalo from the wild boar, and
the wild boar from the sheep, and the sheep from the deer, and the deer
from the hares, and the Hares said: “Oh! _we_ heard it from _that_
little Hare.”

And the Lion said: “Little Hare, _what_ made you say that the Earth was
falling in?”

And the little Hare said: “I _saw_ it.”

“You saw it?” said the Lion. “Where?”

“Yonder, by the tree.”

“Well,” said the Lion, “come with me and I will show you how——”

“No, no,” said the Hare, “I would not go near that tree for anything,
I’m _so_ nervous.”

“But,” said the Lion, “I am going to take you on my back.” And he took
her on his back, and begged the animals to stay where they were until
they returned. Then he showed the little Hare how the fruit had fallen
upon the leaf, making the noise that had frightened her, and she said:
“Yes, I see—the Earth is _not_ falling in.” And the Lion said: “Shall we
go back and tell the other animals?” And they went back. The little Hare
stood before the animals and said: “The Earth is _not_ falling in.” And
all the animals began to repeat this to one another, and they dispersed
gradually, and you heard the words more and more softly:

“The Earth is _not_ falling in,” etc., etc., etc., until the sound died
away altogether.

NOTE.—This story I have told in my own words, using the language I
have found most effective for very young children.


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 to eat.”

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 you over.”

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.




THE SPIRIT THAT LIVED IN A TREE


And it came to pass that the Buddha was re-born as a Tree-Spirit. Now
there reigned (at Benares) at that time a King who said to himself: “All
over India, the kings live in palaces supported by many a column. _I_
will build me a palace resting on one column only—then shall I in truth
be the chiefest of all kings.”

Now in the King’s Park was a lordly Sal tree, straight and well-grown,
worshiped by village and town, and to this tree even the Royal Family
also paid tribute, worship, and honor. And then suddenly there came an
order from the King that the tree should be cut down.

And the people were sore dismayed, but the woodmen, who dared not
disobey the orders of the King, came to the Park with hands full of
perfumed garlands, and encircling the tree with a string, fastened to it
a nosegay of flowers, and kindling a lamp, they did worship, exclaiming:
“O Tree! on the seventh day must we cut thee down, for so hath the King
commanded. Now let the Deities who dwell within thee go elsewhither, and
since we are only obeying the King’s command, let no blame fall upon us,
and no harm come to our children because of this.”

And the Spirit who lived in the tree, hearing these words, reflected
within himself and said: “These builders are determined to cut down this
tree, and to destroy my place of dwelling. Now my life lasts only as
long as this tree. And lo! all the young Sal trees that stand around,
where dwell the Deities my kinsfolk—and they are many—will be destroyed!
My own destruction does not touch me so near as the destruction of my
children: therefore must I protect their lives.”

Accordingly, at the hour of midnight adorned in divine splendor, he
entered into the magnificent chamber of the King, and filling the whole
chamber with a bright radiance, stood weeping beside the King’s pillow.
At the sight of him, the King, overcome with terror, said: “Who art
thou, standing high in the air, and why do thy tears flow?”

And the Tree-God made answer: “Within thy realm I am known as the
Lucky-Tree. For sixty thousand years have I stood, and all have
worshiped me, and though they have built many a house, and many a town,
no violence has been done to me. Spare thou me, also, O King.”

Then the King made answer and said: “Never have I seen so mighty a
trunk, so thick and strong a tree; but I will build me a palace, and
thou shalt be the only column on which it shall rest, and thou shalt
dwell there for ever.”

And the Tree said: “Since thou art resolved to tear my body from me, I
pray thee cut me down gently, one branch after another—the root last of
all.”

And the King said: “O Woodland Tree! what is this thou askest of me? It
were a painful death to die. One stroke at the root would fell thee to
the ground. Why wouldst thou die piecemeal?”

And the Tree made answer: “O King! My children, the young Sal trees, all
grow at my feet: they are prosperous and well sheltered. If I should
fall with one mighty crash, behold these young children of the forest
would perish also!”

And the King was greatly moved by this spirit of sacrifice, and said: “O
great and glorious Tree! I set thee free from thy fear, and because thou
wouldst willingly die to save thy kindred, thou shalt not be cut down.
Return to thy home in the Ancient Forest.”




THE HARE THAT WAS NOT AFRAID TO DIE


And it came to pass that the Buddha was born a Hare and lived in a wood;
on one side was the foot of a mountain, on another a river, on the third
side a border village.

And with him lived three friends: a Monkey, a Jackal, and an Otter; each
of these creatures got food on his own hunting ground. In the evening
they met together, and the Hare taught his companions many wise things:
that the moral law should be observed—that alms should be given to the
poor, and that holy days should be kept.

One day the Buddha said: “To-morrow is a fast day. Feed any beggars that
come to you by giving from your own store of food.” They all consented.

The next day the Otter went down to the bank of the Ganges to seek his


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Online LibraryMarie L. ShedlockA collection of eastern stories and legends for narration or later reading in schools → online text (page 1 of 6)