The Mouse Merchant – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[Diligence and Gratitude]
Once upon a time, an important adviser to a
certain king was on his way to a meeting with the
king and other advisers. Out of the corner of his
eye, he saw a dead mouse by the roadside. He said
to those who were with him. “Even from such
small beginnings as this dead mouse, an energetic
young fellow could build a fortune. If he worked
hard and used his intelligence, he could start a
business and support a wife and family.”
A passer-by heard the remark. He knew this
was a famous adviser to the king, so he decided to
follow his words. He picked up the dead mouse by
the tail and went off with it. As luck would have
it, before he had gone even a block, a shopkeeper
stopped him. He said, “My cat has been pestering
me all morning. I’ll give you two copper coins for
that mouse.” So it was done.
With the two copper coins, he bought sweet
cakes, and waited by the side of the road with
them and some water. As he expected, some peo-
ple who picked flowers for making garlands were
returning from work. Since they were all hungry
and thirsty, they agreed to buy sweet cakes and
water for the price of a bunch of flowers from
each of them. In the evening, the man sold the
flowers in the city. With some of the money he
bought more sweet cakes and returned the next
day to sell to the flower pickers.
This went on for a while, until one day
there was a terrible storm, with heavy rains and
high winds. While walking by the king’s pleasure
garden, he saw that many branches had been
blown off the trees and were lying all around. So
he offered to the king’s gardener that he would
clear it all away for him, if he could keep the
branches. The lazy gardener quickly agreed.
The man found some children playing in a
park across the street. They were glad to collect
all the branches and brush at the entrance to the
pleasure garden, for the price of just one sweet
cake for each child.
Along came the king’s potter, who was al-
ways on the lookout for firewood for his glazing
oven. When he saw the piles of wood the children
had just collected, he paid the man a handsome
price for it. He even threw into the bargain some
of his pots.
With his profits from selling the flowers
and the firewood, the man opened up a refresh-
ment shop. One day all the local grass mowers,
who were on their way into town, stopped in his
shop. He gave them free sweet cakes and drinks.
They were surprised at his generosity and asked,
“What can we do for you?” He said there was
nothing for them to do now, but he would let them
know in the future.
A week later, he heard that a horse dealer
was coming to the city with 500 horses to sell. So
he got in touch with the grass mowers and told
each of them to give him a bundle of grass. He
told them not to sell any grass to the horse dealer
until he had sold his. In this way he got a very
good price.
Time passed until one day, in his refresh-
ment shop, some customers told him that a new
ship from a foreign country had just anchored in
the port. He saw this to be the opportunity he had
been waiting for. He thought and thought until he
came up with a good business plan.
First, he went to a jeweler friend of his and
paid a low price for a very valuable gold ring,
with a beautiful red ruby in it. He knew that the
foreign ship was from a country that had no rubies
of its own, where gold too was expensive. So he
gave the wonderful ring to the captain of the ship
as an advance on his commission. To earn this
commission, the captain agreed to send all his
passengers to him as a broker. He would then lead
them to the best shops in the city. In turn, the man
got the merchants to pay him a commission for
sending customers to them.
Acting as a middle man in this way, after
several ships came into port, the man became very
rich. Being pleased with his success, he also re-
membered that it had all started with the words of
the king’s wise adviser. So he decided to give him
a gift of 100,000 gold coins. This was half his en-
tire wealth. After making the proper arrange-
ments, he met with the king’s adviser and gave
him the gift, along with his humble thanks.
The adviser was amazed, and he asked,
“How did you earn so much wealth to afford such
a generous gift?” The man told him it had all
started with the adviser’s own words not so long
ago. They had led him to a dead mouse, a hungry
cat, sweet cakes, bunches of flowers, storm dam-
aged tree branches, children in the park, the king’s
potter, a refreshment shop, grass for 500 horses, a
golden ruby ring, good business contacts, and fi-
nally a large fortune.
Hearing all this, the royal adviser thought
to himself, “It would not be good to lose the tal-
ents of such an energetic man. I too have much
wealth, as well as my beloved only daughter. As
this man is single, he deserves to marry her. Then
he can inherit my wealth in addition to his own,
and my daughter will be well cared for.”
This all came to pass, and after the wise
adviser died, the one who had followed his advice
became the richest man in the city. The king ap-
pointed him to the adviser’s position. Throughout
his remaining life, he generously gave his money
for the happiness and well being of many people.
The moral is: With energy and ability, great
wealth comes even from small beginnings.