Folk tale for kids - The Noble Elephant

The Noble Elephant 

Long long ago, there was a forest a little away from the city of Varanasi. A community of carpenters lived in the forest. They cut down trees and made furniture and other things out of wood. One day an elephant trod on a sharp wood splinter. It got stuck to his foot. The elephant was in pain. Limping, he approached the carpenters and lay down, showing his swollen foot. With great care, the carpenters removed the splinter from the elephant's foot. Then they washed the wound in warm water and bandaged it. They also brought food and drink to the elephant. In a few days, the elephant's wound was healed. But he did not go away. He served the carpenters by uprooting trees for them or carrying logs to the place where they chiseled them. The carpenters fed the elephant with great affection. Years passed. The elephant grew old. He had a young son, a white baby elephant. One day he brought the baby elephant before the carpenters. Then, with tears in his eyes, he left for a deeper part of the forest. He knew that it was time for him to lie down in solitude, waiting for death. The carpenters poured their love on the baby elephant. He served them as efficiently as his father used to do. 

The children of the carpenters played with him on land as well as in the river, while bathing. One day the King of Varanasi heard about the white elephant. He rode into the forest in the company of his ministers and bodyguards. The carpenters gathered to greet him. "O noble lord, why did you come all the way here? You could have summoned us if any service was required of us," said the carpenters, bowing to the king. "My friends, I have come to beg you your elephant," said the king, pointing to the white elephant that stood nearby. "You can have him, O King," said the carpenters. The king himself went to the elephant and patted him. But when the king's bodyguards tried to lead him away, he refused to budge. Those among the carpenters who had developed a deep knowledge of the elephant's mind explained to the king that he would not leave them unless the king had paid them some compensation. The king happily paid each carpenter a thousand coins and distributed clothes among their women. The white elephant then cast a sad kind look at the carpenters and followed the king's party. The king was much enamored of his white elephant. He treated the charming animal like his dearest friend and looked to his comfort himself. Everybody in the palace showed respect to the elephant. The elephant was no longer a baby. He grew into an impressive size, without ceasing to look lovely. All was well until the king fell ill and suddenly died. The ministers ordered those who attended on the elephant not to show any sign of grief before him.

They knew too well that if the elephant sensed that the king was no more, he would break his heart. The queen was about to give birth to her first child. It was then that the neighboring king marched upon Varanasi. He thought it a great opportunity to add Varanasi to his kingdom. The queen ordered the gates of the fort to be shut. The ministers, from the wall top, told the invading king, "Our queen is about to give birth to a child. If she gives birth to a child, fight we must. Are you willing to wait?" The King agreed to wait. In a week's time, the queen delivered a son. The soldiers of Varanasi then began fighting the invaders but the enemy's army was very large. The fort of Varanasi was on the verge of falling. The queen, in sudden inspiration, went on the white elephant, carrying the infant prince in her arms. She laid the child before the elephant and prostrated herself to him and said, "O noble elephant, O dearest friend of my husband, you were not told that your friend, the king, is no more. Here is his son. The enemy is about to pounce upon us. Protect your friend's son, if you can."

The elephant at first gave out a wail. Then he took the infant prince in his trunk and raising him high, placed him again on the queen's arms. The next moment, trumpeting loudly, the elephant ran towards the gate. The queen asked her guards to open the gate. Taking their victory to be certain, the army of the enemy was in a relaxed mood. The elephant rushed into their camp. He looked awful. The king was not prepared for such a situation. Before anybody could do anything the elephant caught hold of the king in his trunk and carried him into the fort. The invaders were dumbfounded. They were afraid of attacking the elephant lest he should crush their king to death. As soon as the enemy king was captured, the soldiers of Varanasi attacked the enemy army with redoubled vigor. The invaders, demoralized at their king's fate, took to their heels. The elephant laid the captive king at the feet of the infant prince. The queen pardoned the prisoner and sent him back to his land after he apologized. The elephant lived for many more years and saw the prince growing up into a brave young man. In course of time, he became a great king.

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