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Children's Fiction - Folk Tales

The Panchatantra Retold Part 4 Labdhapranasam

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This is the fourth section, Labdhapranasam (Loss of Gains). The main story is about how the friendship between Karalmukh the crocodile and Raktamukh the monkey is destroyed when Karalmukh, giving in to his wife’s greed, tries to trick and kill Raktamukh. The rest of the stories evolve as the crocodile tries to patch things up with the monkey.

1. Labdhapranasam

Here starts the fourth part of the Panchatantra known as Labdhapranasam. This means Loss of Gains.

“The individual, who does not lose his calm and his presence of mind in an untoward situation, finds a safe passage out of danger, just like the monkey caught at sea did.”

“How is that?” asked the Princes of Mahilaropya.

And so Pandit Vishnu Sharma told them the following story -

Near the sea edge, there was a large rose apple tree and on this tree lived a monkey named Raktamukh. He lived a very contented existence, eating the delicious rose apple fruit.

One day, a crocodile named Karalmukh emerged out on the shore from the sea and rested on the soft white sand under the rose apple tree.

Seeing him, Raktamukh said, “I see I have a guest. Well, you are very welcome. Here, let me offer you some of these rose apple fruits.”

And so he threw down the rose apple fruit and the crocodile ate them and liked them very much.

From then on, the crocodile came every day to the rose apple tree and the monkey would throw the fruits down for him and the crocodile would eat them and they would talk for long hours. They became quite good friends as time passed.

The crocodile began taking some of the fruits back for his wife and she liked them very much too.

She asked him, “Where do you get these delicious fruits?”

“From my friend Raktamukh. He’s a monkey and he lives on the rose apple tree.”

“Oh,” she said. “So his diet must consist entirely of these rose apple fruits. If he eats these delicious fruits, then it is most probable that his heart must taste as delicious, don’t you think?”

“What are you saying?” Karalmukh said. “Put that thought out of your mind at once. You’re not going to find out what his heart tastes like. He is a friend of mine! Why, I practically consider him my brother!”

His wife pouted and said, “And I’m your wife. If you truly love me, you will bring me his heart. I will eat that and it will stave off old age and death, I’m quite sure of it. And then we can live happily together for ever.”

“I’m not listening to this,” said Karalmukh. “I tell you, he’s my friend. He gives me these fruits every day. How can I kill him? It’s not possible!”

His wife became angry. “I don’t believe this,” she said. “You’ve never denied me anything until now. What is it? You prefer that monkey to me? Is it a female monkey? Is that it? Is that why you spend all your time over there? Because you’ve fallen in love with her and no longer want me?”

Startled, Karalmukh denied this accusation and tried to reason with his wife, but she was not willing to listen to anything he had to say.

She wept long and loud and said, “Don’t lie to me. You’ve found another. That’s what this is all about. If it’s not, then why would you disregard my request? How can a monkey be your friend? Why would you rather be friends with him than fulfill my desire? If you don’t get me his heart, I will give up eating and kill myself.”

This really worried the crocodile. He thought, “There’s no reasoning with women, fools, and drunks!”

And he went to see the monkey and found him waiting for his visit.

“You’re late today,” said Raktamukh. “What kept you? Is everything alright? You look so downhearted.”

The crocodile sighed and said, “What can I say, friend? Your sister-in-law, my wife, is very angry with me. She said you go every day to feast with Raktamukh and you say he is like your brother, yet you have not once asked him to come dine with us. Such bad manners! What must he even think of us? If you don’t fetch him here, I shall be very angry and I won’t speak to you. We got into an argument about this and that is why I am late. So, tell me, would you be willing to come?”

“My friend, of course, I would like to!” said the monkey, pleased. “Your wife is right. There are six marks of friendship. A friend gives and takes, listens and talks, and feeds and is fed. But even so, the problem here is that I’m a land-dweller and you are a water-dweller, and I don’t see how we can get past that. Why don’t you bring your wife here instead for a feast?”

Karalmukh said, “We live on a small isle across the sea. I can carry you there on my back. You don’t have to worry, I can take you there very safely and then we can have a fine meal together.”

“Is that so?” said Raktamukh. “Well, then alright. Let’s go.”

And he jumped down from the rose apple tree and got on the crocodile’s back. The crocodile turned and swam into the sea.

As they went into deeper waters, the sea-water began sloshing over the crocodile’s back and Raktamukh cried, “Be careful, my friend, I was nearly swept over just now!”

Karalmukh thought, “We are in very deep waters now and he can’t swim. There is no way he can escape and return back to shore. He is completely in my power now. So there is no harm in telling him of the fate that awaits him. At least it will give him time to prepare himself for death.”

And so he gave Raktamukh a clear picture of what lay in store for him. There was going to be no feast for him. The only feast was the one his wife was going to have when she ate his heart.

“What?” said Raktamukh, shocked and terrified. “Why? What harm have I ever done to you or to your wife that you should want to kill me?”

“It is not my idea,” said Karalmukh. “It is my wife that insists on it. She is sure that your heart will be as sweet as the rose apple fruits which you eat everyday.”

“Oh,” said Raktamukh, his wits returning. “So your wife wants to eat my heart? Well, why didn’t you say so before then? I don’t carry my heart around with me, you know, since it is too heavy. I always keep it in a hole in the rose apple tree.”

“You do?” said the crocodile. “I didn’t know that. Really?”

“Yes, really,” said the monkey. “Now, if you had only told me earlier what your wife wanted, I would have fetched it for you. But it’s not too late. Look, turn back to the shore. There is no point in taking me on without my heart. Turn back. I’ll shimmy up the tree and get the heart at once and give it to you.”

“Alright!” said the crocodile. “Then I can take it back to my wife and she will stop throwing tantrums over this matter.”

And so he turned back to the shore. The monkey held on to his back, hardly being able to believe it, and as soon as they reached the shore, he sprang off the crocodile and scrambled up the rose apple tree as fast as he could.

“Oh, thank goodness, I’m saved!” he thought to himself. “It is true that one must not trust an enemy, but it seems to me that one must not entirely trust one’s friends either.”

“Raktamukh!” called Karalmukh from below. “You’re getting the heart, aren’t you? We mustn’t be too long, because my wife said she wasn’t going to eat a thing until she got it, and she must be very hungry by now.”

“You fool! You wicked, treacherous crocodile! Go away!” shouted Raktamukh. “I was an idiot to believe you and you were an even bigger one to believe me. As if it is even possible to remove one’s heart and hide it in a tree. Go away and don’t ever come back again!”

The crocodile was embarrassed at his own stupidity and regretted telling the monkey in advance about the fate that awaited him at his place.

“I must get him to trust me again,” he thought and called, “Oh, come now, Raktamukh, I didn’t really believe you had hidden away your heart, and surely you didn’t really believe that my wife meant to eat it either, did you? I was only joking to see if I could scare you. Come down now and let’s go. My wife has made all kinds of wonderful delicacies for you.”

“Go away, you idiot!” shouted Raktamukh. “What do you take me for? Do you think I’m foolish enough to take another chance with a treacherous beast like you? It is said, isn’t it, that a hungry individual will be ruthless and a poor person merciless. My dear, tell Priyadarshan, that Gangadutta will never ever come to the well again!”

“What do you mean?” asked Karalmukh.

“I’ll tell you,” said Raktamukh, and began his tale.

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