The Oldest Sanskrit Fables
Artola, George T
. Adyar Library Bulletin, Vols. 31-32 , Vasanta Press Theosophical Society, . Madras, India
PN989.S26 A78 1968 (Carlson Fable Collection, BIC bldg)
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Here is a strange addition to the collection. This is a reprint of a scholarly article from what I gather may be a fairly obscure scholarly journal. It discusses perhaps eight early Sanskrit fables, none of which is immediately familiar to me. He quotes the original Sanskrit liberally. The article distinguishes three periods that sound sensible to me: in the oldest parts of the Mahabharata, fables are told only incidentally and with reference to a specific situation. In the second period, compilators gather fables together to use them as religious propaganda. This is the era of the Jatakas, for example. In the third period, fable writers came to regard their work as literature in its own right. The Pancatantra would belong to this period. The article correctly reviews Perry on the definition of a fable. He dates the early fables he finds in the Sabhaparvan to the first century BC. The first fable considered has an older bird supposedly watching the eggs of his fellow birds but in actuality eating them; they discover his crime and kill him. The second has to do with a bird that obtains her food by picking the teeth of a lion (289). I gather that the moral is that some actions expose their doers exceedingly! The third fable has to do with birds who produce gold in their dung. This particular story has a counselor telling his king to let such a bird go since gold-dunging birds have never been heard of. The freed bird perches on the doorway, excretes some gold, and tells the appropriate people how foolish they were to let him go! In the fourth, a goat kicks up the earth and thereby kicks up a sharp knife that cuts his own throat. In the next, two birds caught in a net disagree with each other, fall to the ground, and are captured again. A foolish man attempts to eat the honey that gives immortality, but it is guarded by venomous snakes, who poison him. The Hamsa and the Crow is the last fable considered -- and the longest. My, the things I have found!