Whose Was the Fault

The Otter and the Mouse-Deer were friends. One day the Otter said to the Mouse-deer, “Friend, I’m going out to catch some fish. You shall have some of them. So, while I am away, please keep watch over my children.”

Sometime after the Otter’s departure, the Mouse-deer heard the Woodpecker sound the war gong and began to do the war dance. In ecstasy, the Mouse-deer forgot about his friend’s children and trod upon them, killing all of them.

On returning home, the Otter found all his children crushed to death by the Mouse-deer and brought a charge of breach of trust and wilful murder against him before the Assembly of Animals.

The Mouse-deer did not deny the act; only, he said, “I’m not to blame. I heard the Woodpecker sound the war gong and, as duty bound, did the war dance and trod on the children of my friend the Otter.”

The Woodpecker was asked why she sounded the war gong. She replied, “I did so because I saw the Lizard wearing his sword.” It was no fault of the Woodpecker to sound the war gong when she saw the Lizard wearing the sword. But why did the Lizard wear the sword?

“Because,” said the Lizard, “I saw the Tortoise in full armour.” When asked why he was in full armour, the Tortoise replied, “I saw the King-crab trailing his three-edged pike.”

“I did so,” said the King-crab, “because the Crayfish was shouldering his lance.”

“I did shoulder my lance,” said the Crayfish vehemently, “when I saw the Otter coming to devour my young.”

Now it was pretty clear to the Assembly of Animals that the Otter himself started the entire thing.

“You Otter,” said the Wise Ones of the Assembly, “we have concluded that you were unconsciously and indirectly the cause of the death of your young ones. Neither the Crayfish, the King-Crab, the Tortoise, the Lizard, the Woodpecker, or the Mouse-deer was responsible for the tragedy.”

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