4.  Tale of Crocodile and the Oxcart Driver

There was once a crocodile whose home was in a large pond. When the dry season arrived, however, the water of that pond completely dried up. The crocodile could no longer live there, so he rose onto dry land in search of water.
      As the crocodile was crossing the road, an old man driving an oxcart came by and encountered him. Crocodile asked if he could ride on the old man's cart. The oxcart driver asked, "Where are you going, sir?" Crocodile told him, "I have no home because the pond where I use to live is now completely dry. I can no longer live there. Therefore, I am desperately seeking any pond, lake, or river with water in order to make a new home. Have pity for me, Grandfather, please take me to a place that has water and drop me off there."
      Grandfather agreed and proceeded to unhitch his oxen from their yoke and lifted Crocodile stretched out onto the cart. Fearing he might fall off, however, Crocodile asked the oxcart driver to tie him to the cart with some rope. Grandfather honored the request and afterward harnessed his oxen and continued on his way. When they arrived at a pond that had water, Grandfather stopped the oxcart, unhitched his oxen, and untied Crocodile. "This pond has plenty of water," said Grandfather. "Go sir, make your new home in this pond."
      A crocodile by nature is an ungrateful beast that does not appreciate the generosity of others. Add to this Crocodile's hunger from not having eaten for many days, he therefore spoke saying, "Grandfather, you tied me onto the cart causing me much suffering and misery. You must therefore give me an ox to eat, and only then will you be free of your guilt. If you do not give me an ox, I will have to eat you instead."
     Grandfather, hearing Crocodile speak thusly, became very frightened and responded, "Neh Crocodile! I have done you a favor, having taken you to this place. Now you want to eat me, even though I have done you no wrong worthy of such a consequence. Since I do not agree to your terms, wait while I fetch a judge to have him help decide our current dispute, and then we can act on his decision." Crocodile agreed saying, "Sure, Grandfather, go quickly and find a judge while I wait right here."
     Grandfather took with him one ripe banana as he set off to find a judge. Along the way he encountered a rabbit standing on a mound. Rabbit, glimpsing Grandfather walking across the forest toward him with a banana in his hand, went ahead and asked, "Grandfather, oh Grandfather, you have tearful eyes that express great regret. What kind of guilt or suffering do you have, come and tell me?"
     Grandfather spoke of his conflict with Crocodile, telling Rabbit all the details of their interaction.
     After listening to the story, Rabbit said, "Yes, that crocodile is an animal that did not appreciate your generosity. If I should agree to act as judge in deciding your case, you will not have to worry Grandfather. Let me first eat that banana, then we shall be on our way."
     Grandfather gave Rabbit his banana. After Rabbit finished eating it, they both walked to the place where Crocodile was waiting. Upon arriving Rabbit spoke out saying, "Well, Mr. Crocodile, you had lost your way when Grandfather took pity on you and gave you a ride in his cart. Now that you have arrived at a very suitable home, what makes you think you have been harmed and should retaliate by eating him? How is he to blame for your suffering, sir?"
     Crocodile responded, "Yes, oh wise one, it is true this old man gave me a ride to this place; however, he has inflicted much pain upon me by tying me too tightly to the oxcart where I could not even move or breath. In this way, he has caused me great suffering. That is why I am angry with him and demand he give me one of his oxen to eat, and if he does not agree to that, then I must eat him instead."
     Rabbit replied authoritatively, "Oh Grandfather! You have tie him tightly beyond reason, that is why he is angry. Why did you tie him so tightly that he could not even move?"
     Grandfather said, "No! I did not tie him too tightly, your honor. I tied him only just tightly enough that he would not fall off the cart."
     Rabbit said, "Uh! The accuser says that he was tied too tightly. The accused says that he tied him just tightly enough. Both of these statements cannot be corroborated by any kind of evidence. Therefore, Mr. Crocodile, you must crawl back onto the oxcart so that Grandfather may tie you once again. In this way, we will be able to see whether you were tied tightly or loosely. Only in this way may we arrive at justice."
     Crocodile, being an ignorant creature, agreed to climb onto the oxcart and let Grandfather tie him down. As before, Grandfather tied him to the oxcart with a rope. Rabbit asked, "Well, sir, did Grandfather tie you down this tightly?" Crocodile answered, "No, sir! When he tied me before, it was much tighter than this. If he only tied me this much, I would have no reason to be angry with him." Rabbit said, "Okay, tighten it some more Grandfather until he is satisfied." So Grandfather tightened it some more. Rabbit asked, "Well, sir! Now is it tight like before?" Crocodile said, "Not yet! It is not as tight as before yet." Rabbit instructed, "Grandfather, go chop some wood so that you may use it as a twisting device to help you tighten the ropes even further." Grandfather did as Rabbit instructed and tightened the ropes with all his might. Crocodile endured the tightening to the point where he could barely breath then stated, "I beg of you, when he tied me before, he tied me this tightly. Oh lord, no one could tolerate this. Please, sir, witness this and decide who is right and who is in the wrong." 
     Rabbit, seeing that Crocodile could not move, instructed the oxcart driver saying, "Grandfather, what are you waiting for? Take that large axe in your cart and split his head with it. Why allow such a creature to live? Do not have pity for an animal that does not feel gratitude for the generosity others have done it." Grandfather followed Rabbit's suggestion, grabbed his axe and chopped Crocodile to pieces. He ended the life of that crocodile who lived by treachery.
     Wise Rabbit advised, "You should smoke his tail and use it to make soup or simply eat it plain. His stomach and other innards taste very good when eaten right away, Grandfather." The oxcart driver acted as Rabbit suggested in every detail, and gave Rabbit some bananas and cucumbers for helping him avoid a tragic ending. Then he hitched his ox to the cart, bid farewell to Judge Rabbit, and started off for home.

©2010 Khmer Buddhist Relief