Panchtantra Story: The Storks and the Tortoise

Photo by Clara Magalhães Dias on

In a green jungle, just beside a stream, lived a tortoise and his two stork friends. Having lived together for so many years, these three were the best of friends. They bathed in the stream together, caught and ate fish from the stream, and they were living a happy life. Everything was going along just fine, but one year the rains didn’t come. 

The sun was out throughout the day, and with no rain, the stream was drying up. The trees were dying, so were the plants, and the grass, even the fish were dying. Soon the animals started dying as well, as there was no food for anyone to eat. 

For many days the tortoise and his friends went hungry, all the fish in the dried-up stream had died. There was nothing for the three of them to eat, and they desperately needed to come up with a plan. Finally, the storks made up their minds that they should fly away somewhere far. Somewhere, where there was rain, and water, and the streams were full of fish to eat. They knew for sure that if they didn’t leave on time; they would soon be dead of hunger. 

At first, they didn’t tell the tortoise, they were sad to leave him behind, and could not bear the thought of him crying as they said goodbye. They were also afraid as to what would happen to their friend, as he was very slow on his feet, and did not have wings to fly as they did. When the day came when they couldn’t stay any longer, the storks finally said to the tortoise, “dear friend, in a day we will be flying away far off in search of water and food, there is nothing here for us to eat and drink, and if we do not leave right away we will soon be dead”. 

Hearing this, the tortoise was sad and afraid. He said, “if you are flying away to a distant place, I cannot come with you. I cannot fly like you, and I cannot walk too fast, please do not leave me behind, I will surely die here, all alone, with no friends beside me”. They were sad hearing his words, but there seemed to be no option to take him along, till one of them had a bright idea. 

So they said to him, “there is one way we can take you with us, but it is not going to be easy, and you have to be very careful”. He asked, “please tell me, how can I come with you, I am willing to do anything”. They said, “you have strong jaws and, we have mighty claws on our feet, we can hold a stick between us while flying, and you can hang on to it with the strength of your jaws. 

That way, we both can carry you along with us, wherever we go”. The tortoise was very happy with this idea, but his friends warned him that he could not open his mouth throughout the journey, or he was sure to fall to his death. He made a promise not to speak a word while on the way, and the next day, the three of them set off on their journey. 

On the way, they passed through the drylands, the places where there had been no rain. After flying for a whole day, they finally saw below, places where rain was on time. The trees were green and, the streams were flowing. They were happy; they knew that they would soon find their new home. They were in search of a place far from humans with plenty of water and plenty of fish. To get there, they had to fly over many villages. The tortoise held on to the stick tightly with his jaws. The storks were using all the strength of their claws to hold on to the stick. 

As they were passing over villages, many humans could see them flying high up in the sky. It was a strange sight, two storks carrying a tortoise. Many thought that the tortoise was dead and the birds were carrying him away to be eaten. They were pointing up in the sky and laughing. Finally, the tortoise heard the villagers say, “look at that tortoise being taken away to become dinner for those birds”. While they said this, they were laughing loudly, and the tortoise was very angry. Finally, he couldn’t control his anger anymore; he opened his mouth to say, “such stupid villagers”, but before he could complete these words, he found himself falling towards the ground. 

His friends were shocked; they knew that he would be dead for sure, and he was angry at his stupidity. He came down from the sky, he luckily landed in a large pile of hay, though shocked; he was unhurt. His friends came flying down from the sky to see what had happened to him, and they were happy to see him alive. As for the tortoise, he was very ashamed of his actions. He now knew that he should not have been angry at the words of the villagers. Most importantly, he should not have opened his mouth, and he was lucky to be alive. After seeing that all of them were fine, they started their journey again. 

This time the tortoise closed his ears to the words of everyone. He held on tightly to the stick and waited to reach his new home. After a few more hours of flying, they finally reached a forest with a large stream running through it. They then decided that this would be their new home, and they soon settled down here. There was no shortage of food or water, and the three friends soon settled down in their new home. They lived there happily for many years, and the tortoise was much wiser than he had ever been. 

Moral: Saying words of anger can cause a lot of trouble.

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