Dan Gibson, Storyteller/Banjoplayer
Sample Stories and Verse
The Fox and the Tigers
Folk Tales
Ghost Stories
Outrageous Verse
A folk tale from Western India contributed by Dr. Ardeshir B. Damania of the University of California at Davis, who translated it entirely from memory from the Gujerati language. It is a story his mother used to tell him. He says he's never seen it in print.

There is usually a good story behind a good story, and this one is no exception. It is one-half of a classic story swap made possible by the Internet.

Dr. Damania had e-mailed me for permission to print The Wonderful Cracked Pot in a non-profit Indian agricultural journal named Honey Bee, based in Ahmedabad, India. The journal highlights Indian farmers' own innovations in crop, cattle and poultry improvements made without the use of fertilizers and expensive imported technology. Ahmedabad, you may recall, was hit hard by an earthquake in February 2001 which killed more than 30,000 people.

During our correspondence, Dr. Damania told me about this story ... and the swap was made. Here we have a story passed from one generation to the next in the oral tradition, which now finds new life in the e-tradition. Ain't storytelling fun.

In India, the fox is traditionally known for its great cunning.

The Fox and the Tigers

Two jungle cats came upon a big piece of cheese simultaneously. Each claimed ownership saying that she saw it first and therefore the cheese belonged to her.

They were about to fight and claw each other to death over the piece of cheese, when a fox happened to pass by. The two cats on seeing the fox, stopped their quarrel and decided to request the fox to decide on their disagreement.

The two cats told the fox, "Dear fellow inhabitant of the jungle, please let us have your wise counsel and we will abide by whatever judgement you may deliver regarding our fight."

So saying, they explained to the fox the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the piece of cheese.

The fox, not the one to let an opportunity pass him by, put on a sagacious air and spoke to the two cats thus:

"O, most swift of all the predators in the jungle, I admire your wisdom in entrusting your case to me for a decision. I will act most impartially, as all cats are my kin."

The fox then sat in front of the two quarrelsome cats and began his deliberations and after ascertaining the facts of the case and hearing arguments on both sides, he addressed the litigators thus:

"O, great cats, I have heard your case. And truly much can be said on both sides. However, as I see it, this piece of cheese ought to be divided equally, and half given to each of you."

The two cats looked at each other and nodded in agreement saying, "Oh wise fox, that is really a just decision and we accept your judicious counsel."

The sly fox continued, "But in order to come to a fair and equitable outcome I need to divide the cheese myself into two parts and give them to you so that you two do not start fighting again over the division. Bring to me a pair of weighing scales and a sharp knife."

The cats thought that it was a very wise idea to leave the division of the cheese in the hands of the fox, and hurriedly produced a pair of weighing scales and a sharp kitchen knife and gave both items to the fox.

The fox took the knife and sliced the cheese into two parts with one stroke. He then put each part on the opposite ends of the scales and raised the scales only to find that one pan of the scales was lower than the other. The fox immediately said, "Mmmmmmm, it seems to me that the two halves are not equal at all." So saying he took the heavier piece of cheese from the pan and sliced off a piece of it, ostensibly to make it lighter so that it matches with the other piece in weight. He then proceeded to consume the thin slice himself!

Once again he raised the scales to weigh the two pieces of cheese. But now the piece from which he had taken the slice was lighter than the other piece. The fox shook his head and said, "Nah! This won't do. The two pieces do not seem to be equal.” The cats agreed with this observation, and that in fact was the case. So saying he took the heavier piece of cheese and once again sliced of a small piece and ate it up himself!

This went on for a few more times, with the fox eating up the slices one by one. The cats looked at each other in amazement as the two pieces of cheese became smaller and smaller in the weighing pans of the scale and the midriff of the fox was ever increasing in girth! However, since the cats had given their word that they would abide by the fox's ruling in their quarrel they kept quiet.

In the end there was only one tiny piece of cheese remaining in one of the pans. The sly fox put it in his mouth, threw the scales and the knife at the cats and disappeared into the woods. The two cats then realized that they had been tricked and how foolish they were to have quarreled over a piece of cheese which they could have amicably divided and enjoyed themselves.

The moral of the story is not to fight over small things, but to share them with your fellow creatures. For, when there is any litigation between two persons, it is always the third party that gains!