The Greedy Crane

There was once a crane living near a pond, and when the dry season set in he said to the fishes with a bland voice:

“Care you not for your future welfare? There is at present very little water and still less food in this pond. What will you do should the whole pond become dry, in this drought?”

“Yes, indeed”, said the fishes, “what should we do?”

The crane replied: “I know a fine, large lake, which never becomes dry. Would you not like me to carry you there in my beak?”

When the fishes began to distrust the honesty of the crane, he proposed to have one of them sent over to the lake to see it; and a big carp at last decided to take the risk for the sake of the others, and the crane carried him to a beautiful lake and brought him back in safety. Then all doubt vanished, and the fishes gained confidence in the crane.

The crane took them one by one out of the pond and devoured them on a big varana tree.

There was also a lobster in the pond, and when the crane wanted to eat him too. The crane said: “Hey Lobster, I’ve taken all the fishes away and put them in a fine, large lake. Come along. I shall take you too!”

“But how will you hold me to carry me along?”, asked the lobster.

“I’ll take hold of you with my beak,” said the crane.

“No, you’ll let me fall if you carry me like that. I will not go with you.” replied the lobster.

“You need not fear,” tried the crane, “I shall hold you quite tight all the way.”

Then said the lobster to himself: If this crane once gets hold of a fish, he will certainly never let him go in a lake! Now if he should really put me into the lake it would be splendid; but if he does not, then I will cut his throat and kill him!

So he said to the crane: “Look here, friend, you will not be able to hold me tight enough; but we lobsters have a famous grip. If you will let me catch hold of you round the neck with my claws, I shall be glad to go with you.”

The crane did not see that the lobster was trying to outwit him, and agreed. So the lobster caught hold of his neck with his claws as securely as with a pair of blacksmiths pincers, and called out:

“Ready, ready, go!”

The crane took him and showed him the lake, and then turned off toward the varana tree.

“Wait friend!” cried the lobster, “The lake lies that way, but you’re taking me this other way.”

The crane answered: “Think so? Am I your friend? You want me to understand, I suppose, that I am your slave, who has to lift you up and carry you about with him where ever you please! Now cast your eye upon that heap of fish bones at the root of yonder varana tree. Just as I have eaten those fish, every one of them, just so will I devour you also!”

“Ah! those fishes got eaten through their own stupidity,” answered the lobster, “but I am not going to let you kill me. On the contrary, it is you that I am going to destroy. For you, in your folly, have not seen that I have outwitted you. If we die, we both die together; for I will cut off this head of yours and cast it to the ground!”

So saying, he gave the cranes neck a pinch with his claws as with a vise.

Then gasping, and with tears trickling from his eyes, and trembling with the fear of death, the crane besought the lobster, saying:

“O, my Lord! Indeed I did not intend to eat you. Grant me my life!”

“Very well! Fly down and put me into the lake,” replied the lobster.

The crane turned round and stepped down into the lake, to place the lobster on the mud at its edge. Then the lobster cut the cranes neck through as clean as one would cut a lotus stalk with a hunting knife, and then entered the water!

– Unknown origin.

Author: Bite-Size Dhamma

I'm a Buddhist layperson, trying to live well and skilfully with compassion, generosity, and discernment. I work in the field of housing law and homelessness. I have a beautiful kind wife and a very cute dog.

5 thoughts on “The Greedy Crane”

    1. The story is attributed to the Buddha, and was supposedly told when his followers had seen a tailor who was known for being greedy and sly, cheating his customers.

      The story was told as a example of a past life of the tailor where he was also greedy, and came to ruin as a result.

      So I think this is intended as a cautionary tale. It’s a story about right and wrong action, about actions that seem to lead to prosperity but actually lead to suffering. The crane created the conditions for his suffering and demise.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The crane thought he was getting a great meal but because his actions were greedy and dishonest he roused the anger of another – the lobster – and paid dearly. His eagerness, arrogance, and greed blinded hi to the fact that the lobster had actually manoeuvred to the dominant position in that situation.

      As far as I understand it, the tale is cautionary. It highlights the fact that, through delusion and greed, we sometimes think our actions are leading to prosperity but they are actually leading to ruin. We’re often blinded to the likely long term results, because we are so fixated on the short term gain.

      Liked by 1 person

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