The Dancing Peacock – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[Pride and Modesty]
Once upon a time, a very long time ago, the
four-footed animals made the lion their king.
There was a gigantic fish that roamed the oceans,
and the fish made him their king. The birds were
attracted to beauty, so they chose the Golden
Swan as their king.
King Golden Swan had a beautiful golden
daughter. While she was still young, he granted
her one wish. She wished that, when she was old
enough, she could pick her own husband.
When his daughter was old enough, King
Golden Swan called all the birds living in the vast
Himalayan Mountains of central Asia to a gather-
ing. The purpose was to find a worthy husband for
his golden daughter. Birds came from far away,
even from high Tibet. There were geese, swans,
eagles, sparrows, humming birds, cuckoos, owls
and many other kinds of birds.
The gathering was held on a high rock slab,
in the beautiful green land of Nepal. King Golden
Swan told his lovely daughter to select whichever
husband she wished.
She looked over the many birds. Her eye
was attracted by a shining emerald-green long-
necked peacock, with gorgeous flowing tail feath-
ers. She told her father, “This bird, the peacock,
will be my husband.”
Hearing that he was the lucky one, all the
other birds crowded around the peacock to
congratulate him. They said, “Even among so
many beautiful birds, the golden swan princess
has chosen you. We congratulate you on your
good fortune.”
The peacock became so puffed up with
pride, that he began to show off his colourful
feathers in a fantastic strutting dance. He fanned
out his spectacular tail feathers and danced in a
circle to show off his beautiful tail. Being so con-
ceited, he pointed his head at the sky and forgot
all modesty, so that he also, showed his most pri-
vate parts for all to see!
The other birds, especially the young ones,
giggled. But King Golden Swan was not amused.
He was embarrassed to see his daughter’s choice
behave in this way. He thought, “This peacock has
no inner shame to give him proper modesty. Nor
does he have the outer fear to prevent indecent
behaviour. So why should my daughter be shamed
by such a mindless mate?”
Standing in the midst of the great assembly
of birds, the king said, “Sir peacock, your voice is
sweet, your feathers are beautiful, your neck
shines like an emerald, and your tail is like a
splendid fan. But you have danced here like one
who has no proper shame or fear. I will not permit
my innocent daughter to marry such an ignorant
Then King Golden Swan married his
golden daughter to a royal nephew. The silly strut-
ting peacock flew away, having lost a beautiful
The moral is: If you let pride go to your head,
you’ll wind up acting like a