The Mice and the Elephants ~ Panchatantra Stories
Listen to the story while you read along!
Long ago in India there was an old deserted village. Empty were the old houses, streets and shops. The windows were open, the stairs broken. Making it one very fine place for mice to run around, you can be sure!
In fact, the mice had been happily living in this area for hundreds of years, even before the people had come in the first placeto build a village and then left. But now was the best time yet for the mice. They made tunnels all through those fine old homes and buildings, forming great mazes. What good times they had, with their many dinner parties and festivals, weddings and feasts.
And so time passed.
One day, a herd of elephants, numbering in the thousands, stamped through the village on their way to a big lake in the west. All the elephants were thinking about as they marched was how good it would be to jump in that lake for a cool swim. They did not know (and how could they?) that as they marched through the village, those big elephant feet were stamping down on the web of mazes and tunnels the mice had made. What a mess the elephants left behind!
The mice quickly held a meeting.
“If the herd comes back this way again, our community is doomed!” cried one mouse.
“We won’t stand a chance!” cried another.
There was only one thing to do. A group of brave mice followed those elephant footprints all the way to the lake. There they found the King of the Elephants. Bowing before the King, one mouse spoke for the others and said, “O King, not far from here is our mice community. It’s in that old deserted village you passes through. You may remember it?”
“Of course I remember it,” said the Elephant King. “We are elephants. But we did not know a mice community was there.”
“How could you?” said this mouse. “But your herd stamped out many of the homes where we have lived for hundreds of years. If you were to return the same way, that would surely be the end of us! We are small and you are big. We must ask you, please. Won’t you find another way to go home? Who knows, maybe someday we mice can help you, too.”
The Elephant King smiled. Imagine – how could tiny mice ever help an elephant?! But he felt sorry his herd had crushed the village of the mice, without even knowing it. He said, “There is no need for you to worry. I will lead the herd home in another way.”
It so happens that nearby lived a certain king who ordered his hunters to trap as many elephants as they could. Knowing that the elephants came from far and wide to jump in the big lake to swim, the king's hunters made a water trap there. As soon as the Elephant King and his herd jumped into that lake they were caught in the trap, one and all.
Two days later the hunters dragged the Elephant King and his herd out of the lake with large ropes and tied the elephants to big trees in the forest.
When the hunters had gone, the Elephant King tried to think. What could they do? They were all tied to the trees but one elephant. She was free because she did not jump in the lake.
The Elephant King called to her. He told her that she must go back to the old deserted village and bring back the mice who lived there.
When the mice found out the trouble that the Elephant King and his herd were in, they raced over to the lake. Seeing the King and his herd tied up, they quickly ran over to the ropes and began chewing. They chewed and chewed as quickly as they could. Soon, the ropes were chewed all the way through and the mice set their large friends free.
The elephant herd found a new way home and the mice community lived on for many years to come.
From the story “The Mice that Set the Elephants Free” from The Panchatantra translated from the Sanskrit by Arhur W. Ryder (The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1956), pp.274-276. Adapted by Elaine Lindy, c.2019.