Once upon a time in far-away India there lived a huge monkey. His home was in a great tree on the bank of the river Ganges.
Now in that same river there lived many crocodiles. An old crocodile had watched the huge monkey for many weeks and longed for his heart to eat. One day she said to a young crocodile, “I want to eat the heart of that King of the Monkeys. Catch him for me.”
“How can I catch a monkey?” said the young crocodile. “Crocodiles live in the water and monkeys live on dry land.”
“I do not know,” said the old crocodile, “but catch him you must.”
So the young crocodile thought and thought.
At last one day he saw the monkey on the bank of the river Ganges taking a drink of water. The crocodile swam near him and said, “Oh, King of the Monkeys, why do you live on the poor fruit which grows on this side of the river? On the other side of the Ganges there are many trees loaded with ripe fruit. Why do you not cross over and eat of the fruit on the other side of the river?”
“Ah, Clever One!” said the monkey, “deep and wide is the Ganges. How can I cross to the other side?”
“I will carry you there on my back,” said the crocodile.
The monkey wanted to cross the river to get the ripe fruit, and so he jumped upon the crocodile’s back.
The crocodile swam along with the monkey on his back. “This is a fine ride you are giving me,” said the monkey.
Just then the crocodile dived down under the water. As the monkey could not swim he did not dare to let go. When the crocodile came up the monkey choked and said, “Why did you take me under the water, crocodile?”
“Because I am going to kill you that way,” answered the crocodile. “An old crocodile wants your heart to eat, and I have promised to get it for her.”
“I wish you had told me you wanted my heart,” said the monkey. “Then I would have brought it with me.”
“How queer!” said the crocodile. “Do you mean that you haven’t your heart with you?”
“That is what I mean,” said the monkey. “If we kept our hearts inside us when we go jumping from one tree to another, they would be all knocked to pieces.”
“Well, where do you keep your heart?” said the crocodile.
The monkey pointed to a fig tree loaded with fruit. “See,” said he, “there are our hearts hanging on that fig tree. If you want my heart we must go back to the tree and get it. But we are so near the other bank where the ripe fruit is, please take me there first.”
“No, monkey,” said the crocodile, “I’ll take you straight back to your tree. Get your heart and bring it to me at once. Then we shall see about getting the ripe fruit.”
“Very well,” said the monkey.
But no sooner had the crocodile reached the bank than the monkey jumped off his back and – whisk! up he ran into the tree. Then he called down to the crocodile below, “Oh, Clever One! my heart is away up here. If you want it, come and get it.”
A Tale from India