Panchatantra Stories – The Heron and the Crab
A heron once lived beside a big pond in a forest in South India. He enjoyed eating fish and other creatures from the pond for many years, until he became old and feeble. When he could no longer fish for himself, he had to think of a plan to get his daily food.
One fine day he stood in the middle of the pond, meditating on one leg, and let all the fish and frogs pass by unhurt. All the creatures of the pond were surprised at this.
A crab came to him and said, “Uncle, why are you so inactive these days? You have not caught even a single fish or frog.”
“My child, times have changed,” replied the heron sadly. “We are soon going to face very hard times. The creatures of the pond are going to die. I am told.”
“How?” the crab asked in surprise.
“The pond has been sold off,” explained the heron. “Soon it will be filled in and turned into a farm, which means that the creatures living here are going to die.”
“Oh no,” exclaimed the crab. “This is very serious. I must warn all the creatures immediately.”
“That will be an act of mercy,” said the heron. “God will bless you for your great deed of kindness.” He watched with amusement while the crab rushed about, informing the other creatures of the pond’s near end.
The fish were the first to be frightened. They rushed to the heron and said, “We’ve learnt about your concern for us. Please save us from this situation.”
The heron looked at them thoughtfully and then said calmly, “I am just a bird but I think I know how to help you out of this plight. There is a big pond not far from here which, I am sure, is not sold, nor it is going to be sold, because of the poor quality of land around it. If you are willing and will cooperate, I can safely carry you there.”
The fish surrounded the heron and pleaded, “Please take me first, I trust you, take me first, I am ready.”
“I am not young or strong enough to carry all of you at a time,” replied the heron. “I can only carry one at a time, holding you in my beak.”
The fish were happy at that. They were very frightened and all that was important to them was to be transported to the other pond.
Over the next few days the heron carried them one at a time. But instead of taking the fish to the pond, he flew to a big rock and ate them with great relish.
The crab was observing all this wish suspicion. One day he came to the heron and said, “Uncle, please take me this time. I want to be saved too. You have been only taking the fish. This time, give me a chance.”
“Of course, I will take you,” replied the heron with pleasure, thinking that he would have the opportunity to try flesh of a different taste. He picked up the crab in his beak and began to fly.
From a distance the crab saw a pile of bones on the rock and instantly understood that they were the bones of all the fish who had left the pond in recent days. “Uncle heron, how far is the new pond from here?” he asked, summoning his courage.
The heron replied, “Which pond? This of your god and get ready to meet your death.”
But the crab was smart. Very tightly, he grabbed the heron’s neck in his claws, digging into his flesh. The heron had to open his beak and let the crab free. The crab was able to dig further into the heron’s neck, who tried in vain to escape. Finally, the heron fell to the ground, choked to death.
The crab dragged the dead heron back to the pond and told the other creatures how the heron had betrayed their trust.
All the creatures of the pond thanked him for saving their lives and said that they had learned a lesson.
“Yes”, said the crab. “A sweet tongue can be deceitful and one should beware of it.”