[The Power of Friendship]
Before the time of this story, people in Asia used to say that there would never be a time when an elephant and a dog would be friends. Elephants simply did not like dogs, and dogs were afraid of elephants.
When dogs are frightened by those who are bigger than they are, they often bark very loudly, to cover up their fear. When dogs used to do this when they saw elephants, the elephants would get annoyed and chase them. Elephants had no patience at all when it came to dogs. Even if a dog were quiet and still, any nearby elephant would automatically attack him. This is why everybody agreed that elephants and dogs were ‘natural enemies’, just like lions and tigers, or cats and mice.
Once upon a time, there was a royal bull elephant, who was very well fed and cared for. In the neighbourhood of the elephant shed, there was a scrawny, poorly fed, stray dog. He was attracted by the smell of the rich sweet rice being fed to the royal elephant. So he began sneaking into the shed and eating the wonderful rice that fell from the elephant’s mouth. He liked it so much, that soon he would eat nowhere else. While enjoying his food, the big mighty elephant did not notice the tiny shy stray dog.
By eating such rich food, the once underfed dog gradually got bigger and stronger, and became very handsome looking. The good-natured elephant began to notice him. Since the dog had gotten used to being around the elephant, he had lost his fear. So he did not bark at him. Because he was not annoyed by the friendly dog, the elephant gradually got used to him.
Slowly they became friendlier and friendlier with each other. Before long, neither would eat without the other, and they enjoyed spending their time together. When they played, the dog would grab the elephant’s heavy trunk, and the elephant would swing him forward and backward, from side to side, up and down, and even in circles! So it was that they became ‘best friends’, and wanted never to be separated.
Then one day a man from a remote village, who was visiting the city, passed by the elephant shed. He saw the frisky dog, who had become strong and beautiful. He bought him from the mahout, even though he didn’t really own him. He took him back to his home village, without anyone knowing where that was.
Of course, the royal bull elephant became very sad, since he missed his best friend the dog. He became so sad that he didn’t want to do anything, not even eat or drink or bathe. So the mahout had to report this to the king, although he said nothing about selling the friendly dog.
It just so happened that the king had an intelligent minister who was known for his understanding of animals. So he told him to go and find out the reason for the elephant’s condition.
The wise minister went to the elephant shed. He saw at once that the royal bull elephant was very sad. He thought, “This once happy elephant does not appear to be sick in any way. But I have seen this condition before, in men and animals alike. This elephant is grief-stricken, probably due to the loss of a very dear friend.”
Then he said to the guards and attendants, “I find no sickness. He seems to be grief-stricken due to the loss of a friend. Do you know if this elephant had a very close friendship with anyone?”
They told him how the royal elephant and the stray dog were best friends. “What happened to this stray dog?” asked the minister. He was taken by an unknown man,” they replied, “and we do not know where he is now.”
The minister returned to the king and said, “Your majesty, I am happy to say your elephant is not sick. As strange as it may sound, he became best friends with a stray dog! Since the dog has been taken away, the elephant is grief-stricken and does not feel like eating or drinking or bathing. This is my opinion.”
The king said, “Friendship is one of life’s most wonderful things. My minister, how can we bring back my elephant’s friend and make him happy again?”
“My lord,” replied the minister, “I suggest you make an official announcement, that whoever has the dog who used to live at the royal elephant shed, will be fined.”
This was done, and when the villager heard of it, he released the dog from his house. He was filled with great happiness and ran as fast as he could, straight back to his best friend, the royal bull elephant.
The elephant was so overjoyed, that he picked up his friend with his trunk and sat him on top of his head. The happy dog wagged his tail, while the elephant’s eyes sparkled with delight. They both lived happily ever after.
Meanwhile, the king was very pleased by his elephant’s full recovery. He was amazed that his minister seemed to be able to read the mind of an elephant. So he rewarded him appropriately.
The moral is: Even ‘natural enemies’ can become ‘best friends.’