Transcriber's Note:

Varied accenting was retained. This hyphenation was so varied that images of the original "Notes" pages were included in the this version. You may see these images by clicking on the pages numbers.


The Talking Thrush

And Other Tales from India

"A Crow is a Crow for ever." "A Crow is a Crow for ever."

Title Page

The Talking Thrush

And Other Tales from India
Collected by W·CROOKE
And Retold by

Illustrated by W·H·Robinson.

New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.
London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.


Two men leaning against each other, one reading


THE stories contained in this little book are only a small part of a large collection of Indian folk-tales, made by Mr. Crooke in the course of the Ethnological Survey of the North-West Provinces and Oudh. Some were recorded by the collector from the lips of the jungle-folk of Mirzápur; others by his native assistant, Pandit Rámgharíb Chaubé. Besides these, a large number were received from all parts of the Provinces in response to a circular issued by Mr. J. C. Nesfield, the Director of Public Instruction, to all teachers of village schools.

The present selection is confined to the Beast Stories, which are particularly interesting as being mostly indigenous and little affected by so-called Aryan influence. Most of them are new, or have been published only in the North Indian Notes and Queries (referred to as N.I.N.Q.).

    In the re-telling, for which Mr. Rouse is responsible, a number of changes have been made. The text of the book is meant for children, and consequently the first aim has been to make an interesting story. Those who study folk-tales for any scientific purpose will find all such changes marked in the Notes. If the change is considerable, the original document is summarised. It should be added that these documents are merely brief Notes in themselves, without literary interest. The Notes also give
the source of each tale, and a few
obvious parallels, or references
to the literature
of the subject.

man writing in book


The Talking Thrush 1
The Rabbit and the Monkey 8
The Sparrow's Revenge 16
The Judgment of the Jackal 21
How the Mouse got into his Hole 25
King Solomon and the Owl 30
The Camel's Neck 33
The Quail and the Fowler 36
The King of the Kites 39
The Jackal and the Camel 43
The Wise Old Shepherd 47
Beware of Bad Company 53
The Foolish Wolf 55
Reflected Glory 58
The Cat and the Sparrows 61
The Foolish Fish 65
The Clever Goat 72
A Crow is a Crow for Ever 76
The Grateful Goat 81
The Cunning Jackal; or, The Biter Bit 85
The Farmer's Ass 89
The Parrot Judge 93
The Frog and the Snake 97
Little Miss Mouse and her Friends 101
The Jackal that Lost his Tail 105
The Wily Tortoise 110
The King of the Mice 112
The Valiant Blackbird 117
The Goat and the Hog 123
The Parrot and the Parson 127
The Lion and the Hare 130
The Monkey's Bargains 132
The Monkey's Rebuke 139
The Bull and the Bullfinch 145
The Swan and the Crow 150
Pride shall have a Fall 156
The Kid and the Tiger 160
The Stag, the Crow, and the Jackal 166
The Monkey and the Crows 170
The Swan and the Paddy-bird 173
What is a Man? 176
The Wound and the Scar 182
The Cat and the Parrot 186
Man reading book

List of Illustrations

"A Crow is a Crow for Ever" Frontispiece
Title-page v
Preface: Headpiece vii
Contents: Headpiece ix
"       Tailpiece xi
The Talking Thrush:
Initial 1
The Rabbit and the Monkey:
Initial 8
Man with Bamboo Pole 9
"Sit in front of that Man" 11
Tailpiece 15
The Sparrow's Revenge:
"Up jumped the Boy, and out he ran" 19
The Judgment of the Jackal:
Initial 21
"The Merchant was much dismayed" 22
"And away they went" 23
How the Mouse got into his Hole:
Initial 25
King Solomon and the Owl:
Initial 30
Tailpiece 32
The Camel's Neck:
Headpiece 33
The Quail and the Fowler:
Headpiece 36
Tailpiece 38
The King of the Kites:
Initial 39
"The Frog turned up his flat nose" 41
The Jackal and the Camel:
Tailpiece 46
The Wise Old Shepherd:
Initial 47
The Fifth Shepherd 51
Tailpiece 52
Beware of Bad Company:
Initial 53
The Cat and the Sparrows:
Initial 61
"Just at that moment up came a Cat" 63
Tailpiece 64
The Foolish Fish:
Initial 65
Tailpiece 71
The Clever Goat:
Tailpiece 75
A Crow is a Crow for Ever:
"And took him home to the Palace" 77
Tailpiece 80
The Grateful Goat:
Initial 81
Tailpiece 84
The Cunning Jackal:
Initial 85
The Farmer's Ass:
"He shaved off every scrap of hair from his head" 89
"It was not easy to get their hair back again" 92
Tailpiece 92
The Parrot Judge:
The Parrot in Court 95
Tailpiece 96
The Frog and the Snake:
Tailpiece 98
"He saw a Frog swimming on the top of the water" 99
Little Miss Mouse and her Friends:
Tailpiece 104
The Jackal that Lost his Tail:
"Suddenly cut off the Jackal's tail" 106
Tailpiece 109
The Wily Tortoise:
Initial 110
Tailpiece 111
The Valiant Blackbird:
"He sent a Fowler to catch him" 117
Tailpiece 122
The Goat and the Hog:
A Demon 123
Tailpiece 126
The Parrot and the Parson:
Initial 127
Tailpiece 129
The Lion and the Hare:
Initial 130
Tailpiece 131
The Monkey's Bargains:
Initial 132
The Monkey's Rebuke:
"Oft had this Monkey seen the Milkman pour water into the Milk-cans" 140
"Then after a while he came to a Pond" 141
Tailpiece 144
The Bull and the Bullfinch:
Initial 145
Tailpiece 149
The Swan and the Crow:
Initial 150
"Hm, hm," said the Judge, looking at the Crow 153
Tailpiece 155
Pride shall have a Fall:
Initial 156
Tailpiece 159
The Kid and the Tiger:
Initial 160
The Stag, the Crow, and the Jackal:
Initial 166
Tailpiece 169
The Monkey and the Crows:
"O Monkey, what a fool you must be!" 171
Tailpiece 172
The Swan and the Paddy-bird:
Initial 173
Tailpiece 175
What is a Man:
"He espied an Elephant" 178
"I am a Man," said the other 180
The Wound and the Scar:
Initial 182
Tailpiece 185
The Cat and the Parrot:
"The Cat said to the Parrot, Come, friend" 187
"An old woman happened to be near" 191
Finis 218

The Talking Thrush

  CERTAIN man had a garden, and in his garden he sowed cotton seeds. By-and-by the cotton seeds grew up into a cotton bush, with big brown pods upon it. These pods burst open when they are ripe; and you can see the fluffy white cotton bulging all white out of the pods. There was a Thrush in this garden, and the Thrush thought within herself how nice and soft the cotton looked. She plucked out some of it to line her nest with; and never before was her sleep so soft as it was on that bed of cotton.

Now this Thrush had a clever head; so she thought something more might be done with cotton besides lining a nest. In her flights abroad she used often to pass by the door of a Cotton-carder. The Cotton-carder had a thing like a bow, made of a piece of wood, and a thong of leather tying the ends together into a curve. He used to take the cotton, and pile it in a heap; then he took the carding-bow, and twang-twang-twanged it among the heap of cotton, so that the fibres or threads of it became disentangled. Then he rolled it up into oblong balls, and sold it to other people, who made it into thread.

The Thrush often watched the Cotton-carder at work. Every day after dinner, she went to the cotton tree, and plucked out a fluff of cotton in her beak and hid it away. She went on doing this till at last she had quite a little heap of cotton all of her own. At least, it was not really her own, because she stole it; but then you cannot get policemen to take up a Thrush for stealing, and as men catch Thrushes and put them in a cage all for nothing, it is only fair the birds should have their turn.

When the heap of cotton was big enough, our Thrush flew to the house of the Cotton-carder, and sat down in front of him.

"Good day, Man," said the Thrush.

"Good day, Birdie," said the Cotton-carder. The Thrush was not a bit afraid, because she knew he was a kind man, who never caught little birds to put them in a cage. He liked better to hear them singing free in the woods.

"Man," said the Thrush, "I have a heap of beautiful cotton, and I'll tell you what. You shall have half of it, if you will card the rest and make it up into balls for me."

"That I will," said the man; "where is it?"

"If you will come with me," said the Thrush, "I'll show you."

So the Thrush flew in front, and the man followed after, and they came to the place where the hoard of cotton was hidden away. The man took the cotton home, and carded it, and made it into balls. Half of the cotton he took for his trouble, and the rest he gave back to the Thrush. He was so honest that he did not cheat even a bird, although he could easily have done so. For birds cannot count: and if you find a nest full of eggs, and take one or two, the mother-bird will never miss them; but if you take all, the bird is unhappy.

Not far away from the Carder lived a Spinner. This man used to put a ball of cotton on a stick, and then he pulled out a bit of the cotton without breaking it, and tied it to another little stick with a weight on it. Then he twisted the weight, and set it a-spinning; and as it span, he held the cotton ball in one hand, and pulled out the cotton with the other, working it between finger and thumb to keep it fine. Thus the spindle went on spinning, and the cotton went on twisting, until it was twisted into thread. That is why the man was called a Spinner. It looks very easy to do, when you can do it; but it is really very hard to do well.

To this Spinner the Thrush came, and after bidding him good day, said she—

"Mr. Spinner, I have some balls of cotton all ready to spin into thread. Will you spin one half of them into thread for me, if I give you the other half?"

"That I will," said Mr. Spinner; and away they went to find the cotton balls, Thrush first and Spinner following.

In a very few days the Spinner had spun all the cotton into the finest thread. Then he took a pair of scales, and weighed it into two equal parts (he was an honest man, too): half he kept for himself, and the other half he gave to the Thrush.

The next thing this clever Thrush did was to fly to the house of a Weaver. The Weaver used to buy thread, and fasten a number of threads to a wooden frame, called a loom, which was made of two upright posts, with another bar fastened across the top. The threads were hung to the cross-bar, and a little stone was tied to the bottom of each, to keep it steady. Then the Weaver wound some more thread around a long stick called a shuttle; and the shuttle he pushed in front of one thread and behind the next, until it had gone right across the whole of the threads, in and out. Then he pushed it back in the same way, and after a bit, the upright threads and the cross-threads were woven together and made a piece of cloth.

The Thrush flew down to the Weaver, and they made the same bargain as before. The Weaver wove all the thread into pieces of cloth, and half he kept for himself, but the other half he returned to the Thrush.

So now the Thrush had some beautiful cloth, and I dare say you wonder what she wanted it for. As you have not been inquisitive, I will tell you: she wanted clothes to dress herself. The Thrush had noticed that men and women walking about wore clothes, and being an ambitious Thrush, and eager to rise in the world, she felt it would not be proper to go about without any clothes on. So she now went to a Tailor, and said to him—

"Good Mr. Tailor, I have some pieces of very fine cloth, and I should be much obliged if you would make a part of it into clothes for me. You shall have one half of the cloth for your trouble."

The Tailor was very glad of this job, as times were slack. So he took the cloth, and at once set to work. Half of it he made into a beautiful dress for the Thrush, with a skirt and jacket, and sleeves in the latest fashion; and as there was a little cloth left over, and he was an honest Tailor, he made her also a pretty little hat to put on her head.

Then the Thrush was indeed delighted, and felt there was little more to desire in the world. She put on her skirt, and her jacket with fashionable sleeves, and the little hat, and looked at her image in a river, and was mightily pleased with herself. Now she became so vain that nothing would do, but she must show herself to the King.

So she flew and flew, and away she flew, until she came to the King's palace. Into the King's palace she flew, and into the great hall where the King sat and the Queen and all the courtiers. There was a peg high up on the wall, and the Thrush perched on this peg, and began to sing.

"Oh, look there!" cried the Queen, who was the first to see this wonderful sight—"see, a Thrush in a jacket and skirt and a pretty hat!"

Everybody looked at the Thrush singing on her peg, and clapped their hands.

"Come here, Birdie," said the King, "and show the Queen your pretty clothes."

The Thrush felt highly flattered, and flew down upon the table, and took off her jacket to show the Queen. Then she flew back to her peg, and watched to see what would happen.

The Queen turned over the jacket in her hand, and laughed. Then she folded it up, and put it in her pocket.

"Give me my jacket!" twittered the Thrush. "I shall catch cold, and besides, it is not proper for a lady to be seen without a jacket."

Then they all laughed, and the King said, "Come here, Mistress Thrush, and you shall have your jacket."

Down flew the Thrush upon the table again; but the King caught her, and held her fast.

"Let me go!" squeaked the Thrush, struggling to get free.

But the King would not let her go. I am afraid that although he was a King, he was not so honest as the Carder or the Spinner, and cared less for his word than the Weaver and the Tailor.

"Greedy King," said the Thrush, "to covet my little jacket!"

"I covet more than your jacket," said the King; "I covet you, and I am going to chop you up into little bits."

Then he began to chop her up into bits. As she was being chopped up, the Thrush said, "The King snips and cuts like a Tailor, but he is not so honest!"

When the King had finished chopping her up, he began to wash the pieces. And each piece, as he washed it, called out, "The King scours and scrubs like a washerwoman, but he is not so honest!"

Then the King put the pieces of the Thrush into a frying-pan with oil, and began to fry them. But the pieces went on calling out, "The King is like a cook, frying and sputtering, but he is not so honest!"

When she was fried, the King ate her up. From within the body of the King still the Thrush kept calling out, "I am inside the King! It is just like the inside of any other man, only not so honest!"

The King became like a walking musical-box, and he did not like it at all, but it was his own fault. Wherever he went, everybody heard the Thrush crying out from inside the King, "Just like any other man, only not so honest!" Everybody that heard this began to despise the King.

At last the King could stand it no longer. He sent for his doctor, and said, "Doctor, you must cut this talking bird out of me."

"Your majesty will die, if I do," said the Doctor.

"I shall die if you don't," answered the King, "for I cannot endure being made a fool of."

So there was nothing for it: the Doctor took his
knives, and made a hole in the King, and pulled out the
Thrush. Strange to say, the pieces of the Thrush had all
joined together again, and away she flew; but her beautiful
clothes were all gone. However, it was a lesson she
never forgot; and after that, she slept soft in her nest
of cotton, and never again tried to ape her betters. As
for the King, he died; and a good riddance too.
His son became king in his stead; and all
life long he remembered his father's
miserable death, and kept all his
promises to men, and beasts,
and birds.

The Rabbit and the Monkey