The Jackal (Anonymous: 14th Century A.D., or earlier)
Nothing is known of the author of the Hitopadesa, a manual of didac-tic fables composed—on the basis of the Panchatantra—before the year 1373 A.D.
The present story—which has no title in the original—is reprinted from Charles Wilkins’ translation, London, 1787.
From the Hitopadesa
A certain jackal, as he was roaming about the borders of a town, just as his inclinations led him, fell into a dyer’s vat; but being unable to get out, in the morning he feigned himself dead. At length, the master of the vat, which was filled with indigo, came, and seeing a jackal lying with his legs uppermost, his eyes closed, and his teeth bare, concluded that he was dead, and so, taking him out, he carried him a good way from the town, and there left him.
The sly animal instantly got up, and ran into the woods; when, observing that his coat was turned blue, he meditated in this manner: “I am now of the finest color! what great exaltation may I not bring about for myself?” Saying this, he called a number of jackals together, and addressed them in the following words: “Know that I have lately been sprinkled king of the forests, by the hands of the goddess herself who presides over these woods, with a water drawn from a variety of choice herbs. Observe my color, and henceforward let every business be transacted according to my orders.”
The rest of the jackals, seeing him of such a fine complexion, prostrated themselves before him, and said: “According as Your Highness commands!” By this step he made himself honored by his own relations, and so gained the supreme power over those of his own species, as well as all the other inhabitants of the forests. But after a while, finding himself surrounded by a levee of the first quality, such as the tiger and the like, he began to look down upon his relations; and, at length, he kept them at a distance.
A certain old jackal, perceiving that his brethren were very much cast down at this behavior, cried: “Do not despair! If it continue thus, this imprudent friend of ours will force us to be revenged. Let me alone to contrive his downfall. The lion, and the rest who pay him court, are taken by his outward appearance; and they obey him as their king, because they are not aware that he is nothing but a jackal: do something then by which he may be found out. Let this plan be pursued: Assemble all of you in a body about the close of the evening, and set up one general howl in his hearing; and I’ll warrant you, the natural disposition of his species will incline him to join in the cry for.
Whatever may be the natural propensity of anyone is very hard to be overcome. If a dog were made king, would he not gnaw his shoe straps?
And thus the tiger, discovering that he is nothing but a jackal, will presently put him to death.” The plan was executed, and the event was just as it had been foretold.