There was once a little jackal who lived near the banks of a great river. Every day he went down to the water to catch the little crabs that were there.
Now in that same river there lived a cruel alligator. He saw the little jackal come down to the river every day, and he thought to himself, “What a nice, tender morsel this little jackal would be if I could only catch him.” So one day the alligator hid himself in the mud of the river so that just the tip of his nose stuck out, and it looked almost exactly like the back of a crab.
Very soon the little jackal came running along the bank of the river, looking for crabs. When he saw the end of the alligator’s nose, he thought, “That looks like the back of a fine big crab,” and he put in his paw to scoop it out of the mud.
As soon as he did that, snap!—the teeth of the alligator came together, and there he had the jackal by the paw.
The little jackal was terribly frightened, for he was sure the alligator would pull him into the river and eat him. However, he began to laugh, though the alligator’s teeth hurt him terribly. “Oh, you stupid old alligator,” he cried. “You thought you would catch my paw, and you didn’t catch anything but a bulrush root that I stuck down there in the water to tickle your nose. Ah, silly, silly alligator!”
When the alligator heard that, he was much disappointed. “I certainly thought I had caught that little jackal,” he said to himself, “and it seems I have caught nothing but a bulrush root. There is no use in holding on to that.” So he opened his mouth.
Then the little jackal snatched his paw out. “Oh, stupid one!” he cried. “You did have me, and you let me go again. Oh, ring-a-ting! ring-a-ting! You’ll never catch me again.” So saying, away he ran up into the jungle.
The alligator was furiously angry. “Well, he tricked me that time,” he said, “but the next time I catch him he will not get away so easily.” So he hid himself again in the mud and waited and watched. But the little jackal came no more to the river. He was afraid. He stayed up in the country and lived on figs that he gathered under a wild fig-tree.
But the alligator was determined to have the jackal, so when he found the jackal came no more to the river he crawled out one morning very early, and dragged himself to the wild fig-tree and gathered together a great heap of figs, and hid himself under them.
In a little while the jackal came running toward the fig-tree, licking his lips, for he was very hungry. When he saw the great heap of figs he was delighted. “How nice!” he said. “Now I will not have the trouble of gathering the figs together; they are there all ready for me.”
He went nearer and nearer to the heap of figs, and then he stopped. “It really looks almost as though something might be hidden under those figs,” he thought. Then he cried out loud, “When I come to the fig-tree all the figs that are any good roll about in the wind, but those figs lie so still that I do not think they can be fit to eat. I will have to go to some other place if I want to get good figs!”
When the alligator heard this, he thought, “This little jackal is very particular. I will just shake myself and make the figs roll about a little, or he will not come near enough for me to catch him.” So he shook himself, and away the figs rolled this way and that.
“Oh, you stupid old alligator!” cried the jackal. “If you had stayed quite still, you might have caught me. Ring-a-ting, ring-a-ting! Thank you for shaking yourself and letting me know you were there!” And then he ran away as fast as his legs would carry him.
The alligator gnashed his teeth with rage. “Never mind! I will have this little jackal yet,” he cried, and he hid himself in the tall grass beside the path that led to the fig-tree. He waited there for several days, but he saw nothing of the jackal. The jackal was afraid to come to the fig-tree any more. He stayed in the jungle and fed on such roots and berries as he could find there, but as he could find but little, he grew very thin and miserable.
Then one morning the alligator made his way to the jackal’s house while the jackal was away. He squeezed himself in through the doorway (for it was very narrow), and hid under the heap of dead leaves that was the jackal’s bed.
Toward evening the little jackal came running home, and he was very hungry, for he had found little to eat all day, and he was very tired too. He was just about to go in and throw himself down on his bed when he noticed that the sides of the doorway were scraped and broken as though some big animal had forced its way in.
The little jackal was terribly frightened. “Is it possible,” he thought, “that the wicked alligator has come to hunt for me here in my own house and is waiting inside to catch me?” Then he cried out aloud, “What is the matter, little house? Every day when I come home you say ‘All is well, little jackal,’ but to-day you say nothing, and I am afraid to come in.”
This was not true; the little house did not really speak to him, but he wanted to find out whether the alligator was there. But the stupid alligator believed him. He thought to himself, “I will have to speak in place of the little house, or this tiresome little jackal will not come in.” He made his voice as small and soft as he could, and said, “All is well, little jackal.”
When the jackal heard the alligator speak, and knew he was really inside the house, he was more frightened than ever. However, he answered quite cheerfully, “Very well, little house! I will come in as soon as I have been to the brook for a drink of water.”
When the alligator heard that he was filled with joy, but he lay quite still under the leaves without moving. “Now I will have that little jackal at last,” he thought. “This time he shall not escape me.”
But while he waited the little jackal gathered together a great heap of dead-wood and underbrush and piled it up against the door of the house. When it was big enough he set fire to it, and it blazed up with a great noise and burned the wicked alligator to death, and that was the end of him. But the little jackal danced about and sang:
“The alligator’s dead, and I am so glad!
The alligator’s dead, and I am so glad!
Ring-a-ting, ring-a-ting! Ring-a-ting, ring-a-ting!
The alligator’s dead, and I am so glad!”
And always after that the little jackal could go wherever he pleased in safety, and he ate so many ripe figs and so many crabs that he grew as fat as fat could be.
HINDU SHORT STORY FOR CHILDREN BY KATHERINE PYLE
Header illustration from Pixabay, with thanks.
LET’S CHAT ABOUT THE STORIES ~ IDEAS FOR TALKING WITH KIDS
1. The jackal managed to discover each of the alligator’s tricks by thinking up clever ways of knowing whether he was there. If you were the jackal, can you think of some more, different ways you might have known the alligator was in your house?
2. How about when he was under the figs?