One day a jackal in search of food entered a town. From one direction he heard the cluck-cluck of chicken. He headed toward the sound under the cover of night, taking care not to attract the notice of dogs. Along the way there was a dyer’s pool full of indigo. Occupied with the thought of the hens, the jackal did not notice it and fell headlong into it. Hearing the splash, the dogs raised their ears. But before they could get there, the jackal jumped out of the dye bath, and sped away making excellent use of his legs, stopping only when he had reached the forest. Then he looked around in all directions and made sure that there was no sign of the dogs. His mind at peace, he looked at his body, and noticed that it had been dyed blue. With a little reflection he hit upon an idea, and continued into the forest.
Meandering along, he chanced upon a lion’s den and sat outside it. Seeing the lioness sitting inside by herself, he fluffed up his fur as in rage, and demanded in a booming voice: “Who are you?” The lioness answered: “We are the lions, the kings of the jungle. Who are you, the one who has come strutting along to sit outside our house? If you put any value on your life, get lost or my husband will make a morsel of you upon his arrival.” The jackal replied sternly: “I am the Great Lord Pabori, who eats the roast of seven lions! Let your husband come; I’ll teach him a nice lesson!”
Upon hearing this reply the lioness’s heart skipped a beat. She came out of her den in a fright, with her neck lowered, and sat a respectful distance away from the jackal. Meanwhile, the lion arrived at the den. He cracked his tail like a whip, and let out a thunderous roar. Upon the sight of the ferocious lion the jackal lost all courage and ran away.
Witnessing the jackal scampering away, the lioness called out: “O Great Lord Pabori, where are you off to in such a hurry? Wait a while to taste of our hospitality.”
Seeing the jackal running, the lion gave chase. The two ran and ran, with the jackal in the front, and the lion after him. As the lion began to close the gap, the jackal left the path and dashed into the thickets in his terror. He jumped onto the morpankhi tree and bounced off the saltwort bushes like a chipmunk. But the lion remained relentless in his pursuit. Finally, such terror came upon the jackal from the lion closing in on him that he climbed up a dried tree and jumped over one of its branches, with the lion still following. But while the jackal safely cleared it, the lion did not on account of his size. The sharp point of the dried branch pierced and ripped the lion’s belly, and he died impaled on the tree branch. The jackal was very well pleased to see the lion die. He went to the lioness and called out to her, “O widow, go and see what became of your male. You used to mock me and say, ‘Lord Pabori, do partake of our hospitality!’ From today, I am your husband and you my wife, and if you make the least objection, I will make short work of you too.” Upon hearing the news of her husband the lioness rushed, and witnessed the lion impaled on the tree branch and saw that his blood had dyed the whole tree red. Terribly saddened at the sight, the lioness returned, and in obedience to the jackal’s command, said, “Sir, you are now my male, and I your female. Now I shall follow you wherever it might be your pleasure to lead me.” The jackal said, “The two of us shall neither cohabit, nor live in one place. For one because I am Lord Pabori, the lord of all wild beasts; and for another because I’m very fond of hunting lions: wherever I find a pride of lions I do kill and make a morsel of them.”
The lioness said, “O Lord Pabori, I shall do as you direct me, but it would be preferable by far to cohabit and spend our lives together.” In short, after much argument back and forth the jackal consented to the lioness’s wishes and the two went and found a cave in the dense forest to make their home. Thereafter whenever the jackal went out he took the lioness along, and the two of them hunted together, with the lioness always making the kill.
One day the lioness said to the jackal, “Today I am not feeling too well. You should go hunting by yourself.” The jackal replied, “So be it!” and headed out into the forest. But his heart was full of anxiety as to how to hunt something by himself. A pack of she-camels came into his view while he was occupied by these thoughts. The sight of them presented him with an idea and he was delighted. The jackal now urinated on the edge of a nearby stream and rubbed it well with his tail to make it slippery. Then he rushed into the group of the she-camels and gave them a good fright so they ran in a panic in the direction of the stream. All of them crossed it, except one old she-camel who slipped on the edge of the stream and fell into it. The jackal immediately set to work with his sharp teeth and ripped open her belly. The she-camel thrashed about and died. Wondering how to drag away the whole camel, the jackal sat down to think.
Meanwhile, the lioness waiting in the cave said to herself, “What could have kept the jackal so long that the dastard has not yet returned?” She set out in search of him, and arriving at the stream saw the jackal sitting beside the dead camel. At that sight the lioness became certain that the jackal was indeed a great monster to have killed such a huge animal all by himself.
She said to the jackal, “Now we should take the prey home.” The jackal said, “Very well! Now that you have arrived, let us pick up the prey and return home.” The lioness dragged away the animal, and left behind the innards for the jackal to carry. After the lioness was gone, the jackal tried his best, but he could not even move them, let alone drag them. While he was tugging and pulling at the innards they collapsed over him, burying him underneath.
When much time had passed and the jackal had not yet returned, the lioness returned to the same spot. She looked all around but could not find the jackal. She prodded the entrails, and the jackal was freed. He jumped out from underneath and angrily said, “O idiot woman, did you not realize that I was hiding there to hunt the crows? I had decided on making a meal of birds today. Now you have frightened them. As a penalty you must carry these entrails home too. I will arrive there in my own good time.” The lioness was forced to drag the entrails home too, and the guileful jackal walked at a leisurely pace and took his own sweet time getting there.
One day, according to their custom, the jackal and the lioness were walking in the jungle when they heard the roar of lions. The lioness said, “The lions are celebrating by dancing and jumping.”
When he heard that the jackal began trembling with fear. The lioness asked him, “Lord Pabori, what is the matter? Why do you tremble?” The jackal said, “Listen well! Whenever I hear the lions roar, or when some lion falls into my clutches, I become astir from the desire to eat him that very instant. If you know what is good for you, you will walk a little ahead of me and keep calling out,
“Dance at a safe distance, you who dance,
Lest the champion should crush you under his paw.”
As per the instructions, the lioness walked some eight or ten feet ahead of the jackal, calling out the words. She came across one of the lions dancing there and called out,
“Dance at a safe distance, you who dance,
Lest the champion should crush you under his paw.”
The lions said to her, “Who are you, O dastard, to thus interfere with our celebrations?”
The lioness pointed toward the jackal, who was sitting full of deception on a mound at a safe distance, and said, “Hold your tongue! See that creature over there?”
“Who might that be?” the lions asked.
The lioness replied, “There sits the great Lord Pabori, who makes the roast of seven lions. I would advise you to run for your life. The great lord has killed countless lions, leaving them impaled on trees. If you do not believe me, come along and I will show you the sight.” The lioness then took the lions to show them the dead lion. All the lions became terribly afraid at the sight, and the fear of the Great Lord Pabori was impressed upon their hearts.
They sat at a safe distance from the jackal and submitted with bowed heads, “O Great Lord, kindly show us favor. We are as your children, and we are celebrating a wedding. We request you to come and join us in the celebrations, and hope that you will show us favor by accepting the invitation from your children. Thereafter you may continue on your way.”
The jackal, who had sat motionless, took some heart upon hearing that, and granting their request went running and sat in the middle of the lions. All the lions were frightened of him and kept their distance lest he should come into a rage and kill them.
The lions now asked, “O Great Lord, we ask your permission to resume our singing and dancing.”
The jackal said, “Very well, but dance away from me lest you should get crushed under my paw.”
The lions then began the hambhochi dance while the jackal sat in their midst with the lioness.
The jackal could hardly breathe with fear, and constantly looked around fitfully lest he should be clawed during the lions’ dance.
One by one the lions began falling down from exhaustion, and they began singing. After they finished their singing, the lions approached the jackal and said, “It is our custom to ask our guests to join us in our wedding celebrations, and sing and dance for us as well. Therefore, kindly oblige us as you may wish by singing and dancing for us a little.”
The jackal said to himself, “Now I am done for, because when I sing the other jackals in the vicinity will answer with their cries and come running, and I will be ruined for good.” With that in mind, he said to the lions, “I will certainly oblige you by singing, but my voice has such booming power and force that all the trees and the bushes on the highlands and lowlands will shake and tremble to their roots. Therefore I suggest that we go to a high hill so that I may perform in accordance with your custom.”
The jackal led all of them to the foot of a high hill, and climbed atop it. Once he was seated at the summit, he called out to them, “I am about to begin my song. You should all close your eyes and hold on to the tree trunks.”
As the lions stood with their eyes closed, holding the trees to keep themselves from being blown away, they heard the cry of a jackal. They opened their eyes and saw the marvel that indeed it was a jackal that was singing atop the hill. They were enraged at the trick played on them but the jackal proved too quick for them. He raced and jumped into a lake where he splashed around to wash and clean himself of the dye, and vowed never again to play such a trick.
Note: This Sindhi folktale is attributed to Fazil Qaimi, Nabi Bakhsh, and Ghulam Nabi. Translation © 2014 by Musharraf Ali Farooqi. All rights reserved.