20 Panchatantra short stories with moral value

Indian literature is thought to be the earliest in the world, having contributed most in terms of classic literature. One of India's most influential contributions to world literature is the “Panchatantra”, a collection of most creative and imaginative stories for children. This oldest surviving fables in Sanskrit  from ancient India, is thought to be written by Vishnu Sharma by around 3rd century BC.

The Panchatantra is the best guide to develop moral values in children, as each tale has a lesson at the end. In all Panchatantra stories, plants and animals can speak. This itself will make children use their imagination and see the world in a different way.

Birth of “Panchatantra”

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King Amarashakti, who used to rule Mahilaropya in southern India, had three sons with much to be desired, as they were not quite bright. The king asked his favorite and brightest scholar in the court, Vishnu Sharma, to educate them. Within first few days of interaction with them, Vishnu Sharma understands the traditional teaching methods is not going to help them as they are way back in absorbing it. And it was then he came up with the Panchatantra as a solution. These stories he made with an intention of teaching them the five tantras or values that empower a human being. The five tantra comprise:

1.   “Mitra labha” or “Gaining of friends”:

Feature stories about how to win friends.

2.   “Mitra bheda” or “Losing of friends”:

Feature stories about how one may lose his closest friends.

3.    “Aparïksitakárakam” or “acting without thinking”:

Tells us how actions have consequences, and that we can lose what is important to us, if we act without thinking twice.

4.     “Labdhapranásam” or “Loss of gains”:

Tells us that it is always possible to get out of a difficult situation without losing anything.

5.   “Kákolùkïyam” or “Of crows and owls”:

This volume of Panchatantra includes stories that feature tactics and rule of war and peace.

As the centuries pass, several stories with similar morals as the Panchatantra are promoted as tales from the Panchatantra, but lacking evidence of the stories being contained in the original version.

Here is the list of stories in the Panchatantra.

Book 1: “Mitra bheda” or “Losing of friends”:

  • The Monkey and the Wedge
  • The Jackal and the Drum
  • The Fall and Rise of a Merchant
  • The Foolish Sage
  • Fighting Goats and the Jackal
  • The Cobra and the Crows
  • The Crane and the Crab
  • The Cunning Hare and the Lion
  • The Bug and the Poor Flea
  • The Story of the Blue Jackal
  • The Lion, Camel, Jackal and Crow
  • The Bird Pair and the Sea
  • The Turtle that fell off the Stick
  • Tale of the Three Fishes
  • The Elephant and the Sparrow
  • The Lion and the Jackal
  • The Bird and the Monkey
  • How a Sparrow came to Grief
  • Right-Mind and Wrong-Mind
  • The Crane and the Mongoose
  • The Rat that ate Iron
  • The King and the Foolish Monkey
  • The Thief and the Brahmins

Book 2: “Mitra labha” or “Gaining of friends”:

  • The Hermit and the Mouse
  • Elephants and King of Mice
  • Shandili and Sesame Seeds
  • Story of the Merchant's Son
  • The Unlucky Weaver

Book 3: “Kákolùkïyam” or “Of crows and owls”:

  • Of Crows and Owls
  • Elephants and Hares
  • The Cunning Mediator
  • The Brahmin and the Crooks
  • The Dove and the Hunter
  • The Brahmin and the Cobra
  • The Old Man, Young Wife and Thief
  • The Brahmin, Thief, and Demon
  • The Tale of Two Snakes
  • The Wedding of the Mouse
  • Tale of the Golden Droppings
  • The Cave that Talked
  • Frogs that rode a Snake
  • The War of Crows and Owls

Book 4: “Labdhapranásam” or “Loss of gains”

  • The Monkey and the Crocodile
  • The Greedy Cobra and Frog King
  • The Lion and the Foolish Donkey
  • The Story of the Potter
  • Lioness and the Young Jackal
  • The Donkey and the Washerman
  • The Price of Indiscretion
  • The Jackal's Strategy
  • The Dog who went Abroad

Book 5:“Aparïksitakárakam” or “acting without thinking”:

  • The Brahmani and the Mongoose
  • The Four Treasure-Seekers
  • The Lion that Sprang to Life
  • The Four Learned Fools
  • The Tale of Two Fishes and a Frog
  • The Musical Donkey
  • The Brahmin's Dream
  • The Bird with Two Heads
  • The Unforgiving Monkey

We at Zenparents have selected 4 stories from each volume for you to read out for your little one during bed time.

BOOK 1

1.     1. The Crane and the Crab:-

Once upon a time, in a lake in a forest, lived lots of fish and crabs. Among them lived an intelligent crab. One day, an old and wicked crane stopped near the lake. He was hungry, but he was getting old and could not hunt for fish properly. He had an idea. He sat near the lake with a sad look, and when the fish asked him what the matter was, he said that he foresaw the lake dying out and killing the fish. The panicked fish begged the crane for help and the crane agreed to carry the fish in his mouth to another lake. Like that, he ate a lot of fish in the lake. Then, he became tired of eating fish and decided to eat a crab. He chose the intelligent crab, who agreed. The crane carried the crab to the place where the crane ate the fish and confessed to the crab. He was sure that the crab would not escape. But the crab was clever. He had been suspicious when he saw the skeletons and had thought of a plan. He lunged at the crane and used his claws to strangle him to death.

Moral: Even in the most dangerous situations, you can always rely on your intelligence and cleverness to save you.

2.     2. The Story of the Blue Jackal:-

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Once upon a time, in a jungle, lived a jackal. One day, the jackal became hungry and wandered into the town in search of food. There, he met a pack of dogs who chased him, snapping and barking. The jackal ran for his life! He finally reached a dyer’s home and jumped into a tub filled with blue dye. When he came out, however, the dogs saw him and ran away in fear. The surprised jackal discovered that they ran because he was now blue, and the dogs mistook him for a strange unknown animal. The jackal went back to the jungle where the other animals, too, ran away from him, including the mighty lion. The jackal took this as an opportunity and cried out that he was sent from Heaven to be a good king to the animals. The animals believed him and from then on, all the animals served the blue jackal. But this peace didn’t last long. One day the blue jackal heard a pack of jackals howling in the distance. Unable to resist the temptation, the blue jackal threw his head back and howled. The animals immediately realized that their king was actually a jackal and, overcome with anger, killed him.

Moral: Anything gained by dishonesty is always temporary.

3.     3. The Turtle that Fell Off the Stick:-

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Once upon a time, there lived a turtle. Her best friends were two swans. They used to talk all day long and exchange stories of their lives. One year, the rain was scarce and the lake in which the turtle lived was drying up. The swans found another lake filled with water for the turtle to live in. They decided to carry a stick in between them. The turtle would bite down on the stick and the swans would carry her to the other lake. On the day of this important event, the swans advised their friend to keep quiet or she would fall when she opened her mouth. The turtle agreed and they set off. It was quite a sight. Everyone on the ground oohed and aahed as the odd group flew past. The turtle, however, could not see what the matter was. She foolishly opened her mouth to ask her friends what the commotion was about and plummeted to her death before the swans could do anything.

Moral: It is important to think before you speak. Sometimes it could mean the difference between life and death.

4    4. Tale of the Three Fish:-

Once upon a time, there lived three fish, along with many others, in a pond. One day, the three fish overheard two fishermen talking about their plans to come to that pond the next day to catch all the fish. The first fish immediately went below the surface and told the fishermen’s plans to all the other water creatures. He decided to leave the pond with his family and advised the others to do the same. The second fish readily agreed, as did many others. The third fish, however, refused, claiming that he would not leave the pond he was born in and that he would rather die a brave death than flee like a coward. He announced that he will not go to some unknown place and that just because the fishermen talked about their plans didn’t mean that they would go through with it. And so, half the fish left the pond, while the other half stayed. The next day, the two fishermen returned to the pond and caught all the fish in it using a large fishing net.`

Moral: Refusing to act, or not taking precautions, when you know for sure that danger is coming is not bravery. It’s foolishness.

BOOK 2

5. Elephants and King of Mice:-

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Once upon a time, there was a village. One day, a huge earthquake struck the village and the villagers left it, as all their houses were destroyed. When the villagers left, a lot of mice came and lived in the village. They found the village very comfortable. But there was one problem. Near the village, there was a lake, in which a herd of elephants bathed and drank from every day. When the herd of elephants returned, they would go through the village, trampling plenty of mice on the way. One day, the king of mice decided to put an end to it. He went to the king of elephants and explained the problem to him. He told him that the mice would repay this debt if only the elephants would choose a different route to the lake. The king of elephants scoffed at the idea that tiny mice can help giant elephants, but decided to change their route all the same. The king  of mice thanked him and left. A few days later, the king of elephants, along with many of his subjects fell into hunters’ traps. They were all caught with tight, strong nets. One of the elephants who wasn’t caught ran to the king of mice and told him what happened. The king of mice decided it was time to repay the elephants and gathered all the mice. The mice went to the trapped elephants and chewed on the nets, freeing the elephants.

Moral: Never judge a book by its cover. Looks can be deceiving

6. The Story of the Merchant’s Son:-

Once upon a time, there lived a merchant who had a young, handsome son. One day, the merchant’s son bought an expensive book, but the book had only one verse: ‘You get what is destined for you’. The merchant was furious that his son wasted so much money on a book with only one verse and kicked him out. The son was sad at being turned out by his father. He travelled for a long time with only his book. He kept repeating the verse in the book until he could say nothing else. He finally came to a village. Whenever someone asked his name, he would say the verse. And so, he became known as You-get-what-is-destined-for-you. One day, in a ball, the princess of the kingdom saw a handsome prince and immediately fell in love. She sent a maid with her message, but the maid accidentally gave the message to the merchant’s son. The message said to go to the princess’ room through a rope outside her window at night. The son did as the message said and the princess gave him food and drink. She then asked his name, to which he replied, ‘You get what is destined for you’. The princess was surprised and lit a candle. She saw that her visitor was not the prince and made the son get out. The son was sad that he was blamed for something that wasn’t his fault. A night watchman saw him and took him in for the night, but the son went to the wrong room, where the watchman’s daughter was waiting for her lover. The daughter mistook him for her lover and married him right there. But then, realizing who he was, turned him out as well. The son became sad again. The next day he saw a marriage procession and joined it. One of the elephants became mad and everyone, but the bride-to-be ran and took cover. The elephant charged at the bride. The son grabbed a nail and jammed it into the elephant’s side, frightening it. The elephant ran away. The bride was overjoyed and decided to marry the son instead. The groom became angry and they argued for a long time. The king himself had to step in. He asked the son to explain what happened. The son repeated the verse to the king. Hearing this, the princess and the watchman’s daughter blushed, embarrassed. The king asked them what the matter was and they confessed, but said that they did not regret it. The king made the son marry all three women and made him the heir to the throne. He was gifted with lots of treasure. The son built a palace and invited his parents and relatives to live in it.

Moral: Destiny always arrives, and when it does, you get what it gives you.

7.  The Hermit and the Mouse:-

Once upon a time, there lived a hermit who lived in a temple. He used to collect alms all day long and eat in the evening. He kept the excess food in a bowl and gave it to the helpers who cleaned the temple. But soon, the hermit realized that a mouse was stealing food from the bowl. The hermit tried many different ways to keep the mouse away, but none of them worked. One day, the hermit’s friend visited the temple and advised him to track the mouse back to its hole and take its stash of food. That way, the mouse will lose its confidence. The hermit did just that. The mouse became depressed and did not act quickly enough when the hermit brought down his stick. Wounded, the mouse left the temple, never to return.

Moral: Use your enemy’s tricks against him and turn his strengths into weaknesses

8.     Shandili and the Sesame Seed

Once upon a time, there lived a poor Brahmin who had a wife called Shandili.One day, there was a big festival in their village and the Brahmin decided to go out and collect a lot of alms. He told Shandili to invite another poor Brahmin and feed him as it was a good deed. At first, Shandili disagreed, but after a lot of persuasion, she agreed. The Brahmin went out and Shandili cleaned and removed the husks of a lot of sesame seeds. She laid them out to dry and made other preparations for the guest. During this time, a dog came and dirtied the seeds. When Shandili saw this, she panicked and decided to trick her neighbour into exchanging husked seeds with her own seeds, some of which were dirty and others, clean. They won’t know the difference. She went to her neighbour and offered the seeds to her. The neighbour happily agreed as it was hard to unhusk and clean sesame seeds. In the middle of the exchange, however, the neighbour’s son discreetly told her that the offer was too good to be true and that there must be an ulterior motive. And so, the neighbour politely refused Shandili’s offer. Realising that she cannot trick her neighbour, Shandili went home.

Moral: Do not jump up at an offer that’s too good to be true. It could be a scam.

BOOK 3

9. The Hunter and the Doves:-

Once upon a time, there lived a wicked hunter whose heartless and cruel ways caused his friends and family to leave him. One day, while hunting in the forest, he came across a tree where a happy dove couple lived together. He captured the female dove and put her in a cage. Just then it started raining and there was high winds. The male dove returned to his nest only to find his wife missing. He started calling out to her. Below him, the hunter with his cage sat down to take shelter there for the night. He prayed to god for warmth and food and safety for the night. Hearing her husband’s cries, the female dove called out to him and told him what happened. She also told him not to hate the hunter and that one must always be willing to do anything for a guest, including giving your own life. Inspired, the male dove greeted the hunter who was happy to have a friend. He flew and brought back, a burning piece of coal and used it to light a fire on a few dry leaves. Unfortunately, he had no food to offer the hunter, and so, he offered himself and flew into the fire, which killed him instantly. Though the hunter was hungry, he was extremely touched by the dove’s sacrifice. He decided to redeem himself. So he threw away the cage, which broke. The female dove was free, but seeing that her husband was dead, decided to end her own life as well. She flew into the fire and died. The doves met again in heaven where they were transformed into divine forms. They lived happily ever after, and the hunter redeemed himself and became a sage.

Moral: The highest kind of sacrifice is self sacrifice.

10.   The Brahmin and the Cobra:-

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Once upon a time, there lived a poor, hard-working farmer with his son. One day, when he was sitting under a tree in his farm, he saw an anthill. As he watched, a cobra slithered out of the anthill. Deciding that the snake was the protector of his land and would bring him prosperity, the farmer quickly brought some food in a tray and put it in front of the snake. The farmer went back home. The next day, the farmer returned to the anthill to retrieve the tray and found a gold coin in it. This continued for many days, and the farmer got a gold coin every single day. One day, the farmer had to go to another village. He asked his son to feed the snake while he was gone. The son agreed and the farmer left. The son did as he was told and got the coin the next day. Shocked, he thought that the anthill was filled with gold and that if he killed the snake, he would get it. He got a stick and tried beating the snake and the snake retaliated. It bit him, and the son died quickly from the poison. The farmer returned from his journey and found out what happened. His relatives wanted to kill the snake. The farmer, while sad about his son’s death, did not want to kill the snake as it was the son who attacked first. Like all the other days, he put the tray in front of the anthill. The snake came out and admonished the farmer. It told the farmer that he was greedy and that he fed the snake for gold rather than grieving for his son. It told him that the only reason the snake killed the son was that he was greedy and that the farmer was also greedy. Lastly, he gave the farmer a small diamond and left, never to return.

Moral: Greed, in the end, fails even the greedy.

11.     The Tale of Two Snakes:-

Once upon a time, there lived a prince who was very weak and unhealthy. His father was sad and tried to get many doctors to cure him, but none of them could. This was because there was a snake living in the stomach of the prince. The prince didn’t want to upset his father any further. So, he snuck out of his palace and left the kingdom. He went to another kingdom and lived in one of the temples there. He begged for alms. In that kingdom, there lived a king with two daughters. The first daughter always thanked her father for his gifts, while, the second daughter always said that it was the fruit of her destiny. The king became angry at the second daughter and told his ministers to find any man in the kingdom as her husband. The ministers found the prince and they were wed. The wife was happy and content. They decided to leave the kingdom as they could not live in the temple. But the prince was weak and could not walk for long distances. He sat down under a tree, exhausted. The wife went to buy some food. When she returned, she saw a snake slithering over to her husband. She was about to run over to him when she noticed a snake coming out of her husband’s mouth. It slithered out and the first snake called out to it and yelled about how he was risking his own life and about how he would die if the prince at some cumin seeds and mustard soup. The snake yelled back that the first snake was risking his own life by guarding two pots of gold and that if someone put some hot water and oil in the anthill, he would die. They argued for quite some time before returning to their homes, but the cat was out of the bag. The wife quickly fed the husband some cumin seeds and mustard soup and put hot water and oil down the anthill, killing both snakes. The prince got better and they took the two pots of gold. They lived happily ever after.

Moral: United we stand; Divided we fall. But when it’s your enemies that fall, it’s you who stand.

12. The Wedding of the Mouse:-

Once upon a time, on the banks of the River Ganga, there was a hermitage. The hermits were all a guru’s disciples. The guru was incredibly learned and self-disciplined. One day, the guru went to the river to bathe. While he bathed, a hawk flew overhead with a mouse in his claws. The mouse fell from his grip and landed in the guru’s hands. Knowing that the hawk will surely take the mouse back if he left, the guru hid the mouse beneath a leaf and took a second bath to cleanse himself. Then he turned the female mouse into a little baby girl using his powers, as he didn’t have any children. The special girl grew up to be a learned and clever young woman. She reached the marriageable age. The guru asked her if she wanted to marry the sun god, but she refused. The sun was too fiery. The girl also refused to marry the god of clouds. He was too cold. She refused to marry the god of wind as he was too fast. She refused to marry the god of mountains as he was too rough. Finally, they approached the king of mice, whom the girl agreed to marry. The guru turned the girl back to a beautiful young mouse and the two mice got married.

Moral: Do not try to change who you are or try to be something you’re not.

BOOK 4

1.      13. The Monkey and the Crocodile:-

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Once upon a time, there lived a clever monkey. He lived in the branches of a jamun tree which was on the bank of a river. The monkey used to stay on the tree and eat the sweet fruits. The monkey was happy with his home, but he was lonely. One day, a crocodile came out of the river to rest under the tree. The monkey was happy to have a companion and gave him lots of fruits. The crocodile was very happy by the end of the day and thanked the monkey. He started coming every day and soon the two of them became very good friends. One day, the crocodile asked the monkey for some fruits for his wife. The monkey agreed. When the wife ate the fruits, however, she decided that the monkey’s heart would be tastier and made her husband get it for her. The crocodile was reluctant as the monkey was his friend. But he finally complied to his wife. The crocodile told the monkey that his wife wanted to meet him. The monkey agreed and sat on the crocodile’s back as he could not swim. The crocodile took him to the deepest part of the river and confessed as he thought the monkey could not escape. The monkey quickly thought of a plan. He told the crocodile that he had accidentally left his heart in the jamun tree. The crocodile believed him and they went back to the tree. The monkey quickly climbed the tree and didn’t come back down. Realising his mistake, the crocodile left quietly and didn’t come back.

Moral: Your wit can defeat even the strongest of foes.

2.     14. The Greedy Cobra and the King of Frogs:-

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom of frogs in a well. The kingdom had a king. The king’s relatives always irritated him about the smallest of things, until one day, the king of frogs left his kingdom. He decided to take revenge on his relatives for driving him out of his own home. He came across the hole of a cobra. He got a plan to kill the annoying frogs using the cobra. He called out to him, but the old cobra was cautious as the frogs were his natural enemy. But the frog persuaded him to come out. The frog told the cobra that he could eat all the annoying relatives, leaving only friends. The frog took him to an enclosed but comfortable hole in the well that was dry, so that the snake won’t drown. However the cobra got greedy and ate both the friends and the irritating relatives. The cobra then asked for more. The frog was shocked. He told the cobra that he would go to another well to look for frogs. The frog left and didn’t return, but he sent a message saying that he would never come back. And so, the frog lived on in another well and the greedy snake eventually died in that hole.

Moral: Fight your own battles, or you will later regret it. Also, revenge is not the answer and greed does not pay.

3.     15. The Lion and the Foolish Donkey:-

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Once upon a time, there lived a lion and a jackal, who followed the lion around as an attendant. One day, the lion got into a fierce fight with an elephant and got wounded. He could not hunt anymore, and thus, both he and the jackal starved. For several days, they had nothing to eat. Then one day, the lion asked the jackal to bring a prey that he could kill even in his weakened state. The jackal went out and saw a donkey on the outskirts of the jungle. He coerced the donkey into coming with him to the lion’s den. But as they reached the den, the lion got restless and pounced. He missed and the donkey ran away. The jackal once again went to it and persuaded it to join him again, lying that it was actually a female donkey. The donkey agreed and they went again. This time the lion didn’t miss. He killed the donkey. He then went to bathe before he ate. However, the jackal couldn’t bear it anymore and ate the brain of the donkey. When the lion returned, he became angry, but the jackal told him that the donkey had no brains. The lion believed him and both of their hunger disappeared after they ate.

Moral: Lies, when told with sweet words, can succeed more than other things.

4.     16. The Lioness and the Young Jackal:-

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Once upon a time, there lived a lion and lioness who recently had two male cubs. They were really happy. One day, the lion went out to hunt, but didn’t find anything. On his way back, however, he found a baby jackal, but didn’t have the heart to kill it. So, he took it home. The lioness didn’t want to kill him, either. The lion and lioness raised the jackal like their own son, showing no partiality. But as they grew up, the lion cubs and the jackal used to fight a lot. The lion and lioness dismissed it thinking they would grow out of it, but they didn’t. One day, the cubs ridiculed the jackal for his cowardice. The jackal became very angry and told their mother that he would kill the cubs as revenge. The lioness roared and told him that they had taken the baby jackal out of pity and that if he tried to hurt the cubs, the lioness would kill him herself. She told him to get out and go live with his clan where he belongs. The jackal fled!

Moral: Always know your place and position,  and act accordingly.

BOOK 5

17. The Lion that Sprang to Life:-

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Once upon a time, there lived 3 brahmins who were very knowledgeable. They had another friend who was also a Brahmin but he didn’t have as much knowledge. One day, when they were travelling through a forest, they came across a lion’s carcass. They decided to bring the lion back to life using their skills, but the 4th friend told them it was a bad idea. They ignored him. Scared, he quickly climbed up a tree. The 3 brahmins used their knowledge to bring the lion back to life. The lion immediately killed and ate the 3 brahmins, while the 4th one on top of the tree was safe and sound.

Moral: Common sense is the best kind of sense.

18. The Musical Donkey:-

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Once upon a time, there lived a donkey who was friends with a jackal. At night, the used to go to farms together and the donkey would eat the vegetables while the jackal would eat the meat and chicken. One night, however, when they were in the middle of the heist, the donkey felt very happy. He told the jackal he wanted to sing. The jackal begged him not to as it would wake the farmers up. The donkey ignored him and started braying at the top of his voice. The jackal ran away in fear. The braying woke the farmers and they rushed out with sticks. They beat the donkey to death.

Moral: There is a time and place for everything.

19.    The Four Treasure-Seekers:-

Once upon a time, there lived four poor Brahmins. They travelled to another village to escape poverty. They met a yogi who gave each of the a cotton wick. They were to take the path to Himalaya until one of their wicks accidentally fell down. They had to dig that place and they would get treasure. They agreed and set off. After a while, the 1st brahmin’s wick fell down and he dug that place. He discovered a lot of copper, enough for all of them. But the other 3 decided to go on and find better riches. Then, the 2nd brahmin’s wick fell down. He discovered enough silver for all of them, but the other 2 refused. They went on. Then, the 3rd brahmin’s wick fell down. He discovered enough gold for the both of them, but the 4th Brahmin refused. He thought he would get diamonds and pearls. He went on for many days, he seemed to be going in circles. Then, he saw a man with a wheel on his head and blood on his body. Instead of trying to help the man, he asked the way to a lake or pond so he could drink water. Immediately, the wheel rose from the man’s head and fell on the brahmin’s head. The pain was unbearable. The man explained that the Brahmin would be saved only when another greedy man with a wick came along. The wheel caused pain, but it stopped aging, death, hunger, and thirst. The man left and the Brahmin was left alone.

 Moral: Be happy with what you have

20. The Brahmani and the Mongoose:-

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Once upon a time, there lived a Brahmin and his wife. They had a son and a pet mongoose. The Brahmin loved the mongoose dearly, but the wife was uncertain. But after a few months, she started to trust the mongoose. One day, when the Brahmin had gone out, the wife went out to get some groceries, leaving the mongoose to take care of the sleeping baby. While the wife was out, however, a snake slithered into the house and tried to attack the son. The mongoose saw this and killed the snake. When the wife returned, she saw the blood on her son and assumed that he was killed by the mongoose. She brought down the groceries on the mongoose’s head, killing him instantly. Crying, she ran in, only to see her living son, and the dead snake. She understood what happened and repented her actions.

Moral: Think before you leap

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