Nepali Folk Tales – Four Fools

Vanity, Stupidity, Greed and Cunnigness: The FOUR Deadly Poisons.


Once a poisonous snake intentionally rested in the middle of a forest road blocking the path to its only river. The animals heading to the river saw her and retreated. Although that meant they had to walk all the way around the forest to quench their thirst, they didn’t dare lock horns with her. Such was her reputation! She enjoyed every moment of all this.

When it was the turn of a thirsty elephant, he was in such haste that he didn’t notice the snake until his feet almost stepped on her. She reacted with a terrifying hiss. The sight of a vicious snake in front of him frightened the elephant off his feet. A few seconds later, he felt humiliated. He fumed –

‘Hey, what the hell do you think you are doing in the middle of the road? Get out. Can’t you see that you are on my way!’

‘I won’t. Get lost,’ the snake replied and looked away.

‘I will stamp on you,’ the elephant threatened.

‘I will bite you to death if you dare come near me,’ the snake said.

The elephant thought the snake would be intimidated by his size. But that obviously wasn’t the case! While it may have been wise of him to either move on or at least try to lure the dangerous snake in some way, he decided to brawl. He lifted that giant heavy leg of his and threatened to stamp her without realizing that one bite of hers would be enough to send him to permanent sleep. His actions angered the snake. She turned around and ferociously hissed. This yet again scared the elephant off his feet. He was so embarrassed that without thinking, he harshly stamped the snake to pieces. The snake died, but not before injecting her lethal poison inside the elephant’s body. The elephant was badly hurt. He couldn’t stand on his feet any longer. He collapsed to the ground. After a while, he died.

A hunter was walking around the forest when he noticed a dead elephant with a shiny tusk. He got excited at the sight of a free tusk. But he was so blinded that he didn’t even bother to be careful. He placed his quiver on the body of the elephant and used a knife to make an incision. After a while, he pulled the tusk with his bare hands. He pulled it with all his might. The tusk came off but such great force was applied that it pierced into his head. He died on the spot.

A few hours passed. A jackal sniffed his way to the three carcasses. He was over the moon at the sight of months worth of free meals. He didn’t want to share these with anyone else. He came up with a plan to erect the man vertically to make it seem like he was alive. Anyone who came sniffing would run off scared at the sight of a hunter. He would then get to enjoy all three for months!

To erect the man’s body, he decided to use the elephant for support. He held the man’s hair with his teeth and climbed up the elephant. He did that until he needed further elevation to make the man stand on his feet.  He could then push the man in a way that he would be balanced in between the elephant’s legs. So he stepped on the quiver placed on the elephant’s body. But… he slipped and fell inside – and the arrows pierced him mercilessly. He bled and died within a few minutes.

All four: dead!

After a few days, When local villagers saw this sight, they were stunned. How could this have even happened, they wondered and discussed among themselves.

They couldn’t find an explanation. If anyone else had killed them all, why didn’t that anyone take anything at all! This became a huge riddle for the villagers.

Everyone, every single moment tried to find an explanation. But one thing or the other always didn’t connect. Finally, it reached the king. It was a huge deal after all!

The king too couldn’t think of any explanation so he asked a wise minister of his to figure out how all this may have happened. The minister went to the site and observed all the carcasses closely. He had solved it. He came back and said to the king –

The snake died of vanity

The elephant of stupidity

The man was blinded by his greed

The jackal by his cunningness.

All four were equal fools. No more no less!

It wasn’t difficult for people to guess what may have happened after this brilliant explanation!