The Crab and the Crane - Jataka Tales
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The Crab and the Crane

Crane

Crane was very greedy, and not very honest. He wanted to eat all the fish in his little pond, so he thought of a trick. "There's a much better pond over that way," Crane told the fish. "Let me pick you up one by one in my beak and I'll take you over there." The fish were suspicious. "That pond sounds great, but cranes eat fish," they answered. "Why should we trust you?"

Crane pretended to be very hurt by their suspicions. "I'll prove it!" he answered. "Pick out one fish and I'll take him to the pond and bring him back to tell you about it." So the fish picked out one young fish, a bad little fish nobody would miss, and Crane carried the fish to see the new pond. Sure enough, the new pond was really great. Crane carried the fish back to the old pond, and he told all the other fish they should totally move to the new pond.

So one by one, Crane carried all the fish from the old pond to the new pond. And one by one, he ate them all up. He got so fat and stuffed with fish that he could hardly waddle along. But he was still greedy.

crane holding a crab
(Thanks to Alan Murphy)

Then Crane spotted Crab by the side of the old pond. "Wow, Crab looks really good to eat!" he thought. "Hey Crab, my friend," he said out loud. "I took all the fish to a new pond, much better than this one. Wouldn't you like me to carry you there, too?" But Crab took one look at the fat Crane and thought, "Crane has already eaten up all those poor fish and now he wants to eat me too."

"Sure," said Crab, "Thanks! I'd love a ride to the new pond. But not in your beak; I'm too heavy for that. I'll ride on your neck and hold on with my claws." Crane never thought anyone could trick him. He carried Crab on his neck, but when they got to the new pond, Crab immediately pinched right through Crane's neck and killed him, and then went to live in the beautiful new pond. Two can play at that game.

Learn by doing: observe a real crab at the aquarium or the beach
More about the Jataka Tales

Bibliography and further reading about the Jataka Tales:

The Rig Veda
The Ramayana
The Mahabharata
The Bhagavad Gita
Jataka Tales
More about India
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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