The Monkey who could not be Taught

This story is part of TIMELESS TALES OF WISE SAGE by U. Mahesh Prabhu. Illustrations by Shantheri Bhat.

No knife prevails against a stone;
Nor bends the unbending tree;
No good advice from sage
Helped indocility.”

In a part of a forest was a troop of monkeys who found a firefly one winter evening when they were dreadfully depressed. On examining the insect, they believed it to be fire, so lifted it with care, covered it with dry grass and leaves, thrust forward their arms, sides, stomachs and chests, scratched themselves, and enjoyed imagining that they were warm. One of the arboreal creatures, being especially chilly, blew repeatedly and with concentrated attention on the firefly.

Thereupon a bird, driven by hostile fate to her own destruction, flew down from her tree and said to the monkey “My dear sir, do not put yourself to unnecessary trouble. This is not fire. This is a firefly.” He, however, did not heed her warning but blew again, nor did he stop when she tried more than once to check him. To cut a long story short, when she vexed him by coming close and shouting in his ear, he seized her and banged her on a rock, crushing her face, eyes, head and neck so that she died.

“And that is why I say:

 No knife prevails against a stone…

And the rest of it. For, after all,

Educating minds unfit
Cannot rescue sluggish wit,
Just as house-lamps wasted are,
Set within a covered jar,

“Plainly, you are what is known as worse-born. The technical explanation runs:

Sons of four divergent kinds
Are discerned by well-trained minds:
‘Born’, are ‘like-born,’ ‘better-born’’;
Lastly, ‘worse-born’ has their scorn.
‘Born’ the mother’s image gives;
‘Like-born’ like father lives;
‘Better-born’ more nobly acts;
‘Worse-born’ morally subtracts.

“Ah, there is wisdom in the saying:

By whom far-piercing wisdom or
Great wealth or power is won
To life the family, in him
A mother has a son.


A merely striking beauty
Is not so hard to find;
A rarer gem is wisdom,
Far-reaching power of mind.

“Yes, there is sense in the story:

Right-mind was one, and Wrong-mind two;
I know the tale by heart:
The son in smoke made father choke
By being super smart.”

“How was that?” asked Damanak. And Karkat told the story of Two Friends.

November 3, 2017

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