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Once upon a time! not your time, nor my time, but one time.


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            The Elephant and The Travellers


​There was once a sage in India who

saw a party of friends.

They had travelled far and were

hungry and tired. He said to them

that he knew how tired they were,

but had some advice for them.

He knew that on their path they

were going to encounter young

elephants who were weak and

tender and deliciously plump, whose mother was lying hidden,

overcome with grief. She had been searching in vain for her children and was moaning and making lament. So the sage said to the party of friends, “Beware of hurting her cherished children! Be content with the herbage and leaves you have and do not hunt down the young elephants. I tell you this to save you from fruitless repentance. Beware, and don’t be overtaken by greed! So saying, he parted.

The travellers went on their way, growing ever hungrier. Suddenly, in the direction of the highway, they saw a young elephant, newly born. They fell upon it like hungry wolves and ate it up, and then cleaned their hands. One of the travellers did not eat it, reminding the others of the warning of the sage. The other travellers did not heed him, and ate the roasted flesh. Having satisfied their hunger, they all fell asleep, all save the one who had not eaten, and he was awake in the night.

Since he was awake, he saw a frightful elephant approaching. She came to him, who was keeping guard, and smelt his mouth three times, and no disagreeable smell came from it. She circled him several times, but did not harm him. She smelt the lips of every sleeper, and the smell of her young one’s flesh came to her from each of those sleeping men. Each man had eaten the roasted flesh of the young elephant. With no compunction, she tossed each one of them into the air, so that their bones were broken as they fell back to earth.


Readers are referred to Reynold A. Nicholson, The Mathnawi of Jalaluddin Rumi for the English translation of Rumi’s original stories

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