Indian Fairy Tales
By Joseph Jacobs

Presented by

Public Domain Books

The Ass in the Lion’s Skin

At the same time, when Brahma-datta was reigning in Benares, the future Buddha was born one of a peasant family; and when he grew up, he gained his living by tilling the ground.

At that time a hawker used to go from place to place, trafficking in goods carried by an ass. Now at each place he came to, when he took the pack down from the ass’s back, he used to clothe him in a lion’s skin, and turn him loose in the rice and barley fields. And when the watchmen in the fields saw the ass, they dared not go near him, taking him for a lion.

So one day the hawker stopped in a village; and whilst he was getting his own breakfast cooked, he dressed the ass in a lion’s skin, and turned him loose in a barley-field. The watchmen in the field dared not go up to him; but going home, they published the news. Then all the villagers came out with weapons in their hands; and blowing chanks, and beating drums, they went near the field and shouted. Terrified with the fear of death, the ass uttered a cry–the bray of an ass!

And when he knew him then to be an ass, the future Buddha pronounced the First Verse:

  “This is not a lion’s roaring,
  Nor a tiger’s, nor a panther’s;
  Dressed in a lion’s skin,
  ’Tis a wretched ass that roars!”

But when the villagers knew the creature to be an ass, they beat him till his bones broke; and, carrying off the lion’s skin, went away. Then the hawker came; and seeing the ass fallen into so bad a plight, pronounced the Second Verse:

  “Long might the ass,
  Clad in a lion’s skin,
  Have fed on the barley green.
  But he brayed!
  And that moment he came to ruin.”

And even whilst he was yet speaking the ass died on the spot!


Preface  •  The Lion and the Crane  •  How the Raja’s Son Won the Princess Labam  •  The Lambikin  •  Punchkin  •  The Broken Pot  •  The Magic Fiddle  •  The Cruel Crane Outwitted  •  Loving Laili  •  The Tiger, the Brahman, and the Jackal  •  The Soothsayer’s Son  •  Harisaman  •  The Charmed Ring  •  The Talkative Tortoise  •  A Lac of Rupees For a Bit of Advice  •  The Gold-Giving Serpent  •  The Son of Seven Queens  •  A Lesson For Kings  •  Pride Goeth Before a Fall  •  Raja Rasalu  •  The Ass in the Lion’s Skin  •  The Farmer and the Money-Lender  •  The Boy Who Had a Moon On His Forehead and a Star On His Chin  •  The Prince and the Fakir  •  Why the Fish Laughed  •  The Demon With the Matted Hair  •  The Ivory City and Its Fairy Princess  •  How Sun, Moon, and Wind Went Out to Dinner  •  How the Wicked Sons Were Duped  •  The Pigeon and the Crow  •  Notes and References