The King Who Understood Animals: A Jataka Tale
. Dharma Press . Berkeley, CA
BQ1462.E5 K57 2001 (Carlson Fable Collection, BIC bldg)
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Senaka, King of Benares, protects a snake attacked by some boys. This snake is actually a naga, He visits Senaka and offers him a secret spell that allows him to understand the speech of animals. But he must never reveal the spell to anyone; if he does, he must die. When he does understand animals around a picnic he is having with the queen--and when he laughs over what he hears--the queen becomes angry and thinks he is laughing at her. He finally admits his gift to her, and she comes to desire it deeply. He finally agrees to tell her the magic words. Shakra appears to Senaka in the form of a goat and lets Senaka know how selfish the queen is to allow his death for her own gain. His people will suffer at her hands. Senaka soon tells his wife that the price for getting the secret spell is to withstand one hundred blows from a bamboo stick. After a few, she gives up. He upbraids her: she would not take a small bit of suffering but was willing to let him die and the people suffer without him. She leaves the kingdom and never returns. From then on, he avoided foolish promises. With Shakra's help, he rules long and well. The art is notable for its emphasis on almond-shaped eyes, akin to those in some very early Greek statues.