The Cranes And The Serpent – The enemy of an enemy is not always a friend!!!

This is a story from the Hitopadesha. Hitopadesha as the name suggests is Hitha+Upadesha in Sanskrit which means, benevolent advice. This set of stories named as Hitopadesha is said to have been written in Sanskrit, by a person by name Narayana Pandit in the 12th century for a King by name Dhavalachandra.

It is understood that Emperor Akbar was very much impressed by these stories and had them translated by none other than Abul Fazl. Like Panchatantra, most of the characters are animals, birds and reptiles in these stories also.

This story tells us that an enemy’s enemy need not always be a friend. Further, when any action is proposed to be taken it is always better to be farsighted instead of looking for quick fix solutions.

Long long ago on the banks of river Airavati (present day River Ravi), there lived a couple of cranes on a fig tree.
Though the river ensured them plenty of fish, the cranes were very unhappy. The reason for their unhappiness was a serpent that lived in a burrow at the bottom of the tree. The serpent ate up the eggs of the cranes when they were laid or ate up the chicks if the chicks were lucky enough to be born.

After a long time, unable to bear this misery, the cranes sought the advice of an elderly crane for a solution for their problem. The elderly crane thought for a while and told them, “Listen, there lives a mongoose in a hole near the bushes not far away from here” and he showed them the bushes. “The mongoose is a natural enemy of the snake. So bring lot of fish from the river and lay a trail from the bushes to your tree in whose burrow the snake lives. The mongoose will surely kill the snake”.

The crane couple was very happy at this advice and the very next day the male crane brought lot of fish and laid a trail from the bushes to the bottom of their tree. As expected, that evening, the mongoose smelt the fish and eating up the fish, came till the bottom of the tree where the snake lived. Fortunately for the cranes, the snake was just the slithering out for his evening outing. The mongoose noticed the snake and immediately pounced on him and there ensued a deadly fight. After a while, the snake was killed.

The cranes cried out in joy on seeing the snake dead. Immediately,seeing their parents make so much noise, the chicks panicked and also made lot of noise from the nest.

That was it! The mongoose looked up and the next moment, much to the horror of the cranes, climbed up the tree and in a split second, had carried away the two chicks crushing them by their necks. The cries of the chicks had attracted the mongoose and now it knew that there was a nest on the tree.

The action of the cranes had been too hasty for they had not even thought that the mongoose also ate small chicks and could climb trees.

So……. The enemy of an enemy is not always a friend and no action should be taken in haste!!!

1 Comment


  1. Nice. I think the cranes should not have celebrated in haste, but rather waited for the mongoose to go away before belting out their loud cheers. Thus while an enemy’s enemy can be a friend in a limited sense, do not trust him blindly and completely. Use your discretion.

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