Once upon a time, a carpenter lived in a village with his wife. He had heard bad stories about her and wanted to know the truth about those rumors.
Next day, pretending he was going to the village nearby, he told his wife, “I have to leave the place early morning tomorrow for a village not far away from here. I may have to stay there for a few days. Please get things ready for my travel.”
The wife’s joy knew no bounds. She cooked his favorite dishes and packed some of it for his travel.
Next morning the carpenter left. His wife put on her best clothes, daubed perfume on her body and thrust flowers in her hair and spent the rest of the day with great difficulty.
When it was dusk, she went to her lover’s house and told him, “My wicked husband has left for some place and will not come back for a few days. So, come to my place after every one has gone to sleep and we will have a happy time.”
After this invitation, she returned home.
Meanwhile, the carpenter spent the day in a nearby forest and came back before his wife had returned from her lover’s place. He hid himself under a cot. Soon, his wife’s lover came and joined her. As the wife was talking to her lover on the bed, her dangling legs hit something hard. She at once thought it could be her husband hiding under the bed to test her.
“I will show my husband how clever I am,” she thought.
When her lover moved close to her, she told him through signs that her husband was under the bed and said, “Sir, you should not touch me. I am a very faithful wife. If you touch me I will turn you into ash.”
“In that case, why did you invite me,” he asked her angrily.
“Please listen, this morning, I went to the temple of the goddess where I heard a divine voice saying, “O woman, I know you are my devotee. But you will become a widow in six months.”
Then I prayed her to tell me a way by which I could save my husband and make him live for hundred years.
“There is a way which is in your hands,” the goddess told me.
“If that is so, I would give my life to save my husband”, I told the goddess.
She told me, “If you go to bed with a stranger, the danger to your husband’s life will shift to the stranger who will die soon.”
The foolish carpenter believed every word of his wife and happy that he had such a faithful wife, he came out of his hiding and told her, “O sacred woman, I paid heed to rumors about you and doubted your character. I wanted to test you and put you on the wrong track making you believe I had left the village. Now I have seen what you are. Come, let us enjoy,” he said and embraced her. In that happiness he carried his wife and the carpenter on his shoulders and paraded the streets of the village.
At this stage Raktamukha, the monkey, told Karalamukha, the croc, “O wicked croc, I now know your evil thoughts. How can I come to your place? It is your nature to be wicked. Friendship with good men will not change your nature. You are too attached to your woman. You are her slave. Such people never hesitate to lose their wealth and friends for her sake.”
As the monkey was telling this story of the carpenter to the croc, someone from the sea came and told the croc that his wife who was fasting had died. The croc felt that living in a house without a wife was like living in a jungle.
He told the monkey, “Friend, pardon me. I have done you harm. So, I have lost my wife. I deserve to die.”
The monkey said, “I know you are a hen-pecked husband. But this is no time for grief because you are rid of a greedy wife. You must celebrate.” The elders have said:
“Consider that evil woman Who has no character and Who always quarrels with you As a curse in the form of a wife. That man who wants to be happy Should not even take her name. He who loves a woman of vice Perishes like a moth kissing fire.”
The croc said in grief, “My friend, I have lost your friendship and also my wife. All this is the result of betraying a friend like you. I think I am wise. But it is like the wisdom of the foolish woman who lost her lover and her husband also.”
“How is it?” asked the monkey.
The croc began telling him the story.
There was an old farmer who had a young wife, who always had other men on her mind. She never attended to household jobs. She was always looking for younger men to spend time. One day, a trickster saw her and seeing that she was alone went to her and prayed, “O beauty, I am a widower. The minute I saw you I lost my heart to you. Please give me the pleasure of your company.”
Delighted, the woman told him, “O handsome, my husband has a lot of wealth. He is old and of no use to me. I will bring all the money and jewellery at home to you. Let us run away to a far off place and live there happily ever after.”
The trickster was very happy and asked her to bring all that money and gold to a place where he would be waiting for her. “We will then leave the place quietly,” he told her.
The farmer’s wife waited till it was dark and when her husband fell asleep stole all the money and gold, packed it in a bag and left the house at dawn to meet the trickster at a place he had indicated. The trickster took the bag full of money and gold from her on the pretext that he would carry it and began their journey.
After two miles, they stopped because there was a river to cross.
The trickster thought, “What do I do with a woman? If someone else were to set eyes on her, I have to protect her. It is better I give her up but take the money with me.”
With these thoughts in mind he told the woman, “Look, my dear, it is very difficult to cross the river. I will first ferry the money bag to the other side of the river and keeping it there I will come back and carry you on my back.”
She said, “Okay” and gave the bag to the trickster. He asked her to give her clothes also because he said clothes would hinder swimming. She gave away her clothes also. The trickster left with the bag and her clothes.
Covering her naked body with her hands, the woman began waiting restlessly for the trickster to return. Just then a jackal with a piece of meat in his mouth happened to pass by. The jackal saw a fish that had come out of water and in trying to get at it he dropped the meat piece and ran towards it. But the fish, seeing the rushing jackal, jumped back into water. Disappointed, the jackal went back to pick up the piece of meat. But a kite dived down fast and took it away before the jackal could reach it.
The woman laughed at the jackal that had lost the fish and also the piece of meat. Hurt by the woman’s behavior, the jackal said, “You may be twice as intelligent as I am. But what is the use? You have lost your husband, your lover and your wealth also.”
In the middle of the story, some one from the sea came and disturbed Karalamukha and told him that another big croc had occupied his house. The croc did not know what to do. He had lost a friend (Raktamukha), his wife and the house. He began to wonder how he could throw out the big croc from his house. He went to the monkey who had already climbed back to the top of the tree and asked him for his advice.
Raktamukha told the croc, “You fool, why do you still bother me? You have tried to kill me to make your wife happy. Now, you have come for advice. I cannot give it to such fools like you who ask for advice but do not follow it. He who does not heed the advice of wise men will perish like the camel at the hands of the lion.”
Without any shame, the croc asked the monkey to tell him that story. The monkey told him the following story.
The Carpenter’s Wife – Panchatantra Stories by vishnu sharma