Best Friends – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[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
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 pa-
tience 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 ene-
mies’, 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 be-
came 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 friend-
lier 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 cir-
cles! 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 ma-
hout, even though he didn’t really own him. He
took him back to his home village, without any-
one 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 any-
thing, not even eat or drink or bathe. So the ma-
hout 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 in-
telligent minister who was known for his under-
standing 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 ele-
phant does not appear to be sick in any way. But I
have seen this condition before, in men and ani-
mals alike. This elephant is grief-stricken, proba-
bly 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 any-
They told him how the royal elephant and
the stray dog were best friends. “What happened
to this stray dog?” asked the minister. Me 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.’