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THE GRATEFUL SPARROW
Once upon a time, there lived an old woman who had a very bad temper. One day, she was so angry with a sparrow which chirped in her courtyard that she hit it with a bamboo pole. She broke the sparrow’s wing. The unfortunate bird then escaped to the house next door.
In this house lived a very poor but kind grandmother. She mended the broken wing for the sparrow. She took great care of him and feed him rice and gave him fresh water. Soon the sparrow was strong enough to fly away. As he flew up into the air, the grandmother called out to him, “Look after yourself.”
A few days later, the sparrow flew into the grandmother’s garden again. He carried a tiny gourd in his beak. He dropped this gourd in front of the kind woman. The grandmother picked it up and looked at it. When she opened it, rice began to pour on the ground. The more she shook the gourd, the more rice flowed out of it. Since then, she never needed to go hungry again.
(Favourite stories from Japan, LL se Pordes)
THE FORTUNE TELLER
One morning Mrs. Chong asked her husband to accompany her to the fortune teller.
“You go alone,” Mr. Chong said. “I don’t believe in fortune tellers. They’re a waste of time and money.”
“Oh, but this new man is very good. Please come with me,” his wife pleaded. “Just this once.”
“Very well, then. But just this once,” Mr. Chong said. “I’m not going to make a habit of it.”
When they arrived at the fortune teller’s, Mrs. Chong went in first while her husband waited outside. After the fortune teller had told her fortune, Mrs. Chong said, “My husband will come in to see you now. Please be careful what you say to him. He doesn’t believe in fortune tellers.”
“I will soon make him change his mind,” the fortune teller said.
“Ah, but he is a very stubborn man. And he gets angry very easily,” Mrs. Chong said.
“So much the better,” the fortune teller replied. “Leave everything to me. There is only one thing. You must not tell your husband the fortune I have given you today.”
Mrs. Chong was surprised. “Why not?” she asked. “There is nothing bad in it.”
“I cannot explain,” the fortune teller said, “but it is in your stars. Whatever your husband says or does, you must not tell him your fortune. There will be disaster for you if you do.”
“Very well,” Mrs. Chong said, and went out.
Her husband went in immediately, and said, “Now be quick. I haven’t all day to listen to your nonsense. I’ve only come here to please my wife.”
“In that case, I will not tell you your full fortune,” the fortune teller said. “Instead I will give you only a serious warning. Do not ask your wife about her fortune. If you do you will have great unhappiness.”
Mr. Chong laughed at this, and walked out.
That evening as he was sitting at home with his wife, Mrs. Chong said to her, “What did the fortune teller say to you?”
“Oh, nothing much,” his wife said quickly.
“I am sure it wasn’t,” Mr. Chong said, “but tell me anyway.”
“Really, it was nothing,” his wife said, and tried to change the subject.
“I demand to know!” Mr. Chong exclaimed, getting angry.
But Mrs. Chong remembering the fortune teller’s words, refused to tell her husband. Within minutes, they were quarraelling fiercely.
‘If you don’t tell me,” Mr. Chong shouted, “ I shall leave this house and never return.”
“I can’t tell you,” his wife cried. “Something terrible will happen if I do.”
“Something terrible will happen if you don’t!, he roared.
But she refused to tell him and he walked out of the house. He went straight to the fortune teller’s.
“You were right,” he said. “I asked my wife about her fortune and it has bought me great unhappiness. Now please tell me the rest of my fortune. I shall believe whatever you say.”
The fortune teller smile to himself and studied Mr. Chong fortune in his astrological charts.
(Understanding Modern English)
THE CAT AND THE RAT
Long ago, the God in Heaven spoke to all of the animals in the world. Twelve animals will be chosen to protect the world. Each one will do this for a year at a time. Come to my palace on the twelfth day of the first moon. The first twelve animals arrive will be chosen.”
All of the animals waited excitedly for the day. The Cat, however, was very forgetful and could not remember which day it was. So she asked the Rat, ‘Which day do we go to the Palace in Heaven to be chosen to protect the world?” The Rat wanted to be chosen so he said to the Cat, “On the thirteenth day of the first moon, we will all go to the palace.”
The Rat lived in the stable of the Ox. One evening, he heard the Ox getting ready to leave for the Palace. “Why are you leaving so early?” asked the Rat.
“Oh, my feet are so clumsy and slow,” answered the Ox, “I must go now or I won’t get there in time to be chosen.”
As soon as the Ox turned to go, the Rat jumped into the bag on his bag. The Ox did not know that he was carrying the Rat and walked slowly through the night until he reached the Palace. There were no other animals in front of him so he thought he must surely be the first. Just then, the Rat jumped out of the bag and ran to the gate.
“The very first is the Rat,” he called out to the Ox. The Ox was very angry but not as angry as the Cat. She went to the Palace on the thirteenth day as she had been told by the Rat. There was nobody about so she thought she must be the first. However, the guard called out to her.
“You are a day too late, Cat. The animals were chosen yesterday. First the Rat, then Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Cock, Dog and last of all, Bear. You shouldn’t be so sleepy, and look how dirty your face is! You should wash it better than you do.” With that he closed the gates.
Since then, the Cat has hated the Rat and has always tried to catch him. She also keeps washing her face with her tongue because the guard told her how dirty her face was.
(Favourite stories from Japan LL se Pordes)
THE MAGIC BOX
Once upon a time, there was a poor farmer who dug up a big box in his field. He took it home with him and showed it to his wife. His wife cleaned it and kept it in their home. One day she dropped an apple into it. Immediately the box began to fill up with apples. No matter how many were taken out, others took their place. So the farmer and his wife sold the apples and were able to live quite comfortably.
Then the farmer dropped a coin into the box. At once the apples disappeared and the box begin to fill itself with coins. Everyday, the farmer and his wife collected hundreds and hundreds of dollars from the box. Soon they became very rich.
Now the farmer’s grandfather lived with the couple. He was not very strong and he could not go out to work, so the farmer asked the old man to help him take the money out of the box. When his grandfather became tired and wanted to rest, the farmer shouted at him, “Why are you so lazy? Why can’t you work harder?”
The old man did not say anything but he continued working until he fell inside the box and die. At once, the money disappeared, and the box began to fill up with dead grandfathers.
The farmer had to pull them out and bury them. To do this he had to spend all the money he had collected. When he had used up all the money, the box broke and the farmer was just as poor as he was before.
(Favourite stories from Taiwan, Leon Comber & Charles Shuttleworth)
THE MAGIC BOX
Let me tell you a story. Well, once upon a time, there was a poor farmer who dug up a big box in his field. Then he took it home with him and showed it to his wife. His wife cleaned it and kept it in their home. You know what happened one day? She dropped an apple into it. Immediately the box began to fill up with apples. And no matter how many were taken out, others took their place. Incredible, wasn’t it? So the farmer and his wife sold the apples and were able to live quite comfortably.
Then what happened next? The farmer dropped a coin into the box. At once the apples disappeared and the box begin to fill itself with coins. Everyday, the farmer and his wife collected hundreds and hundreds of dollars from the box. Soon they became very rich.
Now ….the farmer’s grandfather lived with the couple. He was not very strong and he could not go out to work, so the farmer asked the old man to help him take the money out of the box. When his grandfather became tired and wanted to rest, the farmer shouted at him, “Why are you so lazy? Why can’t you work harder? Why?”
The old man did not say anything. He continued working until he fell inside the box and died. Just like what happened before, at once, the money disappeared, and the box began to fill up with dead grandfathers. Scary, wasn’t it?
The farmer had to pull them out and bury them. Well, to do this he had to spend all the money he had collected. When he had used up all the money, the box broke. Just guess! What happened to the farmer? He was just as poor as he was before.
(Favourite stories from Taiwan, Leon Comber & Charles Shuttleworth)
THE HERON, THE FISHES AND THE CRAB
Far away in the mountains, there was a small, quiet lake. The fish which lived in the lake were very happy until a heron came to live nearby. With his long beak, he caught some of the fish every day and ate them. As soon as a fish swam too close to the surface of the water, the heron caught it.
But time passed, and the heron became old and too slow to catch many of the fish. So he thought of a trick.
“What a pity, my beautiful fish, that you don’t know of the danger that is so near,” he said loudly.
“What danger is there – except your sharp beak?” asked the fish from a safe distance.
“That is not true.” Said the heron as he smiled to himself. “Today I heard the villagers say they were going to empty this lake and take all the fish out.”
When they heard this, the fish were very frightened. “We will all die. This is the end of the world.”
“Don’t give up hope,” said the heron, “I’ll help you. There is another lake on the other side of this mountain. It has clear water and is even bigger than this lake. If you like, I’ll carry each of you over there on my back”.
The silly fish had now forgotten the sharp beak of the heron and were glad that he could help them.
“I must do it slowly as I am old. I can only take a few of you each day,” said the heron, who was happy that his plan had worked.
Every day, he took two or three fish out of the lake and flew away with them over the mountain.
A rather clever crab also lived in the lake. He did not trust the old heron. One day, he sharpened his claws and then asked to be taken to the new lake. He crawled onto the heron’s back and up they went. When they were high above the mountain, the heron suddenly dived down and tried to throw the crab off his back. But the crab held on firmly with its legs. They passed a stone which was covered with fish bones. Immediately, the crab knew where the bones had come from.
“You dreadful creature!” he said to the heron. “You cheated the fish and you brought them here and ate them.”
Then he pinched the heron’s back with his sharp claws and pulled off the feathers from the heron’s neck. The wounded heron returned to the ground at once and the crab crawled away.
When the crab returned to the lake, he told the fish what had happened. He told them about the pile of bones he had seen on the rock. Then the fish saw how foolish they had been and they thanked the crab for saving their lives.
Once again, the lake became quiet and peaceful and the heron never came back again.
(Favourite stories from Japan)
THE BRAHMIN AND THE UNGRATEFUL TIGER
One day as a Brahmin was walking along a road he passed a large cage. Inside the cage was a big tiger which had been caught by the villagers the night before.
As soon as he saw the Brahmin the tiger called to him, “Brother Brahmin, brother Brahmin, please have pity on me and let me out. I am so thirsty. I have been locked up for many hours.”
The Brahmin stopped in front of the cage and looked at the tiger. Then he said, “I don’t think I will, because if I let you out you will certainly eat me.”
“Oh, brother Brahmin, how can you say such a thing? How can you think that I would be so ungrateful?” protested the tiger.
The Brahmin hesitated. He had a good heart and he liked to help man and beast alike. But he was afraid of the tiger. “Please, please let me out for just a minute,” the tiger begged again. “As soon as I have drunk some water from the river I’ll return to the cage.”
“Well,” said the Brahmin finally, “if you promise not to harm me I’ll open the cage door.”
“I swear not to harm you, brother Brahmin,” promised the tiger. The priest, believing the tiger’s words, unlocked the door of the cage and pushed it open. As soon as the door was open, the tiger sprang out and looked fiercely at the rescuer.
“I’m hungry as well as thirsty. I think I’ll eat you before have a drink,” he growled.
“But friend Tiger, said the Brahmin, “you swore not to harm me. How can you eat the person who set you free?”
“Does Man keep his word?” sneered the tiger. “I don’t think he does, so why should I keep mine? Is Man grateful? He is not, so why should I be?”
“Don’t act hastily, friend Tiger, “ pleaded the Brahmin. “There are many men who keep their word and area grateful. Let us ask the opinion of five witnesses. If all five agree that it is fair and just to eat me after I set you free, I’ll die willingly.”
“Very well,” growled the tiger. “Let us ask five witnesses. Let us ask them if Man keeps his word and is grateful to those who have helped him. Look, there is an ox lying by the roadside. Let him be our first witness.”
So the tiger and the Brahmin walked towards the ox, which was lying with his eyes shut, under a banyan tree.
“Friend Ox,” said the Brahmin, “please tell us whether this is just and fair. When I met friend Tiger he was locked in a cage and suffering from thirst. He begged me to let him out and swore not to harm me if I did. However, as soon as I opened the cage, he broke his promised and threatened to eat me. Tell us, friend Ox, don’t you think friend Tiger should keep his word and not be so ungrateful?”
“Ungrateful? Who is more ungrateful than Man?” said the Ox with a scornful look in his big eyes.
“Look at me. When I was young and strong. I served my master well. I pulled his plough and his cart. He praised me and promised me many rewards. Now that I am old and unable to work he has forgotten all that I did for him. He brought me to this place to die in loneliness. Eat him, brother Tiger, for Man himself is an ungrateful creature.” The ox slowly closed his eyes and went back to sleep again.
When the tiger heard these words he wanted to kill the Brahmin at once, but the priest said, “Friend Tiger, don’t be in such a hurry. Friend Ox is only our first witness. We have to ask four more.”
“Ask the nearby banyan tree and be quick,” grumbled the tiger who wanted to have his meal.
The Brahmin turned to the huge banyan tree.
“Banyan tree, Banyan tree,” said the Brahmin, “did you hear my story? Don’t you think my friend Tiger should keep his word and let me live?”
The gnarled old tree rustled his leaves and then answered, “My thick leaves give shade to men and keep them from the heat of the sun. but they don’t show any thanks towards me. After they have rested, they often break my branches and scatter my leaves. I don’t like men. They are ungrateful lot indeed.”
These words made the tiger laugh.
“It’s no use, brother Brahmin. Nobody likes your kind. Come, let me eat you now.”
“No, no,” protested the Brahmin. “We have to find three more witnesses.”
They walked along the road and soon met an old donkey.
“Friend Donkey,” said the Brahmin, “please be so kind as to listen to my story and tell us who is right.”
For the third time the Brahmin told the story of how he had rescued the tiger and how the ungrateful beast wanted to eat him.
“Is it just and fair to kill me, friend donkey, after what I did for him?” asked the Brahmin.
The donkey brayed and twitched his ears.
“It is just and fair because Man himself knows no fairness,” he answered. When I was young and strong I helped my master to carry heavy loads. In those days my master gave me food and took good care of me. But I grew old and lost my strength and my master lost all interest in me. Now he beats me every day because I do no walk fast enough and cannot carry such heavy loads. Often he forgets to feed me and I’m slowly starving to death. Is that fair and just?” asked the donkey. He shook his head and glanced angrily at the priest.
The Brahmin bowed his head and said sadly, “Friend Donkey, I’m sorry you have had the ill fortune to be owned by a cruel man. But certainly not all men are ungrateful. Friend Tiger, don’t eat me yet. Let me look for two more witnesses.”
The Tiger growled impatiently.
“Hurry then, I’m getting more and more hungry.”
They walked on again until they came to the river. On the muddy bank they saw a crocodile lying in the sun. the Brahmin went to him and repeated the story of his meeting with the tiger.
“And now, friend Crocodile, friend Tiger wants to eat me. Do you think that is fair?”
At first the crocodile did not bother to answer. But the Brahmin insisted so he said angrily to the tiger,
“Eat him, brother Tiger, eat him. Many of my brother crocodiles have been killed by men who were greedy for their beautiful skins. As long as there are men we animals will have no peace.”
The tiger roared with delight and the Brahmin bowed his head in despair.
“Come on, why don’t you give up? Nobody likes your kind. Let me eat you,” said the tiger licking his jaws.
“Let me ask just one more witness. Just one more,” said the Brahmin.
The last witness happened to be a jackal.
Again the Brahmin told his story and timidly asked, “Friend Jackal, do you think it is fair that friend Tiger should eat me?”
The Jackal scratched his head and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand your story very well. Now you, brother Brahmin, were in a cage and brother Tiger let you free.”
“No, no,” snapped the tiger. “I was in the cage.”
“Oh,” said the jackal, rubbing his nose with his paw, “now I understand. You were in the cage with brother Brahmin and …”
“No, friend Jackal, it’s like this,” said the Brahmin. “Please listen again.”
“Oh, brother Tiger and brother Brahmin,” the Jackal interrupted, “I’m terribly stupid. I just don’t understand. It would be better if you showed me the cage.”
So the three of them went back to the empty cage.
“Now, brother Brahmin, “ said the Jackal, “where were you when you met brother Tiger?”
“I was in front of the cage, here,” answered the Brahmin.
“And were you brother Tiger?” asked the Jackal.
“I was in the cage,” said the tiger, who thought the jackal very stupid indeed.
“In the cage?” asked the jackal in a puzzled manner. “What were you doing in the cage? Were you standing up or lying down? Please show me what you were doing, brother Tiger.”
The tiger jumped into the cage and showed the Jackal what he was doing when he saw the Brahmin.
“Very good,” said the jackal, “but what about the door? Was it opened?”
“No,” answered the Brahmin, “it was closed and locked.”
“Well,” said the jackal, “close and lock the door.”
Immediately, the Brahmin closed the iron door and locked it.
“That’s it,” said the jackal. “Now we are back to where we started, brother Brahmin. I advice you to think twice before you let a tiger out of a cage, no matter what he may promise you. Farewell my friend. I must be on my way.”
With this parting words the clever jackal ran away before the overjoyed Brahmin could even thank him.
And so the ungrateful tiger once more lost his freedom and this time forever.
(Favourite stories from India, Margurite Siek)
A LIGHT FOR A LAMP
A long, long time ago, a kind old woman lived next door to a young woman. The young woman had a very fierce mother-in-law. One day, the mother-in-law chased the young woman from the house. She said she had stolen some food. The young woman went to see the old woman living next door.
“Don’t be unhappy!” the old woman said. “You can stay with me. I will think of a way to make your mother-in-law ask you to return.”
A few evening afterwards, she called at the mother-in-law’s house. She carried a lamp in her hand.
“Ah!” she cried. “My dogs have stolen some food. Can you please give me a light for my lamp? I want to go and look for them. When I find them, I shall give them a good beating. They have given me a lot of trouble.”
Afterwards, the mother-in-law thought about what she had said, “Perhaps my daughter-in-law did not steal the food,” she said. “Anyway, she really does not look like a thief.” She decided to ask her to return home.
Several days later, the young woman met the old woman again. She thanked her for her help. “It is nothing,” the old woman replied. “But now you will understand that it is not always easy to make people believe the truth.
(Favourite stories from China)
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