This is the story from the chapter Loss of Gains of the Panchatantra. Readers may refer to the background guide for more info on this.
“One who remains cool in the face of adversity, like the monkey in the water (in this story) overcomes all his problems” – is the saying with which the story starts. The story is that of ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’
On the banks of the Ganges was a rose apple tree (Rose apple is called Jambuphalam in Sanskrit and Naaval Pazham in Tamil). On the tree, lived a monkey by name Rakthamukha. True to his name Rakthamukha was a red faced monkey. The tree was full of rose apples which were as sweet as nectar and Rakthamukha was living happily on the tree since he got lots of juicy fruits to eat.
One day, a crocodile by name Karalamukha, who lived with his wife on the opposite bank, came swimming near the rose apple tree and seeing Rakthamukha, started conversing with him.
After mutual introduction, in the course of the conversation, Karalamukha asked Rakthamukha, “Do you find enough food here?”
Rakthamukha said “Why not? These juicy fruits are more than enough! Would you like to try some?”
Without waiting for an answer, Rakthamukha plucked a few fruits and threw them into Karalamukha’s open mouth.
The crocodile chewed them and found that they were sweet and nice. “Hmmm…” he said to the monkey, “they are quite nice, better than I thought, give me some more”.
This practice of Karalamukha meeting Rakthamukha continued every single day from then onwards, with Karalamukha resting on the bank and Rakthamukha safely on the branches of the tree. Everyday Rakthamukha gave fruits to his friend Karalamukha and they both chit chatted for a while on the happenings in the world. Their friendship grew stronger by the day.
One day, it occurred to Karalamukha to carry some fruits to his wife. So he took few extra fruits in his mouth and carried them to his place on the opposite bank.
Karalamukha’s wife was fascinated by the sweetness of the fruit.
“Oh husband, where did you get such fine fruit?” she asked.
Karalamukha told her of his friendship with Rakthamukha and his eating fruits daily with him.
Karalamukha’s wife, with a cunning smile said “Why don’t you bring him home one day huh?”
As Karalamukha was wondering when his wife had become so hospitable, she said, “I am dying to eat his heart.”
To a shocked Karalamukha who was thinking whether heard her right, she continued, “These fruits are so juicy and tasty and you say that your monkey friend eats them every day for all his meals. Did you not even imagine how sweet his heart would be … Ssssss…. How juicy and sweet his heart would be … I can’t wait to eat his heart. Bring him tomorrow, will you?”
Karalamukha was flabbergasted. Never once in all these days did he ever think of eating up Rakthamukha and in fact he liked his company and looked forward to meeting up with him every day and chatting and eating some fruits. And now, his dear wife wanted his friend for dinner, literally for dinner.
Karalamukha hesitantly looked at his wife. “It is true dear, that Rakthamukha’s heart would be sweet, but… but he is my friend and…”
“And what?” shouted Mrs.Karalamukha. “Your friendship is more important to you than your wife’s desire. That means you do not love me at all!”
“No, it’s not like that…” started Karalamukha.
“Now, if you do not bring that monkey for me, I shall stop eating and starve myself to death” she said.
Karalamukha was worried. Neither could he deceive his friend nor could he displease his wife. He thought for a long time and finally decided that he would obey his wife.
Off he went the next day to the tree but he did not chat as usual with Rakthamukha and was looking downcast.
“What happened dear friend?” asked Rakthamukha. “You seem to be upset about something. What is it?”
“Hmmm… well, my wife was very angry with me” said Karalamukha. “She ate the fruit I took for her yesterday and scolded me for not having taken you home even once when every day you are giving me such delicious fruits. She scolded me for being so selfish and told me not to come home without taking you with me” He put up a sad tone in his voice.
“How nice of her to think that way” said Rakthamukha. “But you could have told her that I cannot swim and therefore cannot go under water to you home”
“Well, actually, my house in on the opposite bank near some rocks and you will not need to go under the water. I thought that you could sit on my back and I could swim across and take you home, you see? And if I do not take you home today, I will not be allowed and also she will starve” he said in the same sad tone.
“Oh, okay then” said Rakthamukha. “I can come with you right now. Let there be no misunderstanding between you two on account of me. Are you ready to take me?”
“Yes” said a happy Karalamukha for he thought he was achieving his evil goal. “Jump on to my back.”
Rakthamukha jumped on to Karalamukha’s back and the crocodile started swimming. Ganges is a huge river with lot of currents and Karalamukha started going slowly.
After Karalamukha had completed half the distance, he thought Rakthamukha would not be able to escape even if he wanted to and started swimming faster and faster and the water splashed on Rakthamukha who found it very difficult to keep his balance on the crocodile’s back.
“Slow down my friend” shouted Rakthamukha. “Do not be in such a hurry. I am not so hungry”
With and evil grin, Karalamukha replied, “You are not hungry, but my wife is.” He then went on to tell the monkey the plan of his wife and how he was going to be killed and his heart to be devoured by her. Rakthamukha was shell shocked, but remained calm. He thought very quickly and pretending to be angry, he said, “Oh Karalamukha! What a fool you have been! Why did you not tell me this before I jumped on to your back huh? Had I known that your wife wanted my heart, I would have gladly brought it along!”
It was the crocodile’s turn to be shocked now. He was very confused. What was the use of the monkey without its heart?
As Karalamukha was thinking, Rakthamukha went on. “I usually store my heart in the hollow of the tree only since it is very sweet and precious. I can take it if you go back to the tree and we can come again” He sounded very convincing that Karalamukha believed every word of his. Rakthamukha also kept his calm while the crocodile made a ‘U’ turn and headed back to the tree.
The moment they neared the tree, Rakthamukha, with a giant leap got on to the highest branch of the tree. Karalamukha waited and waited. After a few minutes, he shouted, “Are you ready yet? Take your heart and come. My dear wife will be hungry and waiting”
“Humph” Rakthamukha gave a snort of disgust. “You fool of a crocodile, did you not know that one cannot survive without a heart and no one has two hearts? Would I be foolish enough to come with you again? Go away from here. I do not want to see your face again!”
Saying thus, Rakthamukha disappeared into the bushy branches of the tree which had been his saviour.