77. The Brave Mongoose
A brahmin and his wife had a pet mongoose.
One day the woman went out.
"Watch the baby!" she told her husband.
Then the man went out.
"Watch the baby!' he told the mongoose.
Then... a snake came!
The brave mongoose killed the snake, overturning the baby's cradle in their struggle.
When the woman returned, she saw the overturned cradle and the mongoose covered in blood. Thinking it had killed her baby, she killed the mongoose.
Then she heard her baby crying and found the remains of the snake, and so she wept for the terrible mistake she had made.
Inspired by: The Panchatantra, translated by Arthur Ryder.
Notes: It is in Book 5, Story 2. The long history of this story is the subject of Jean-Claude Schmitt's book The Holy Greyhound: Guinefort, Healer of Children since the Thirteenth Century. It is often referred to as the story of Beth-Gellert, from its most well-known European version, although the story begins here with the Panchatantra's mongoose: Llewellyn and His Dog Gellert.