By Rohini Chowdhury
Once, on a dark, cold winter's night, a jackal wandered into a village looking for food. The jackal was very hungry. The winter had been long and hard, and there was no food left in the forest. 'Perhaps', said the jackal to himself, 'I will find something to eat in the village.'
The jackal soon found a rubbish heap in the village. He began sniffing and scratching and rummaging about in the rubbish, looking for scraps to eat. Soon he was making such a noise that the village dogs heard him.
Now, these dogs did not like jackals. They began barking and growling, and attacked the jackals from all sides.
They scratched and bit the jackal with their sharp claws and big teeth. Terrified, the poor jackal ran from the dogs as fast as he could, through the dark deserted streets of the village. But the dogs did not give up - they ran after him, growling and snarling and barking even more loudly.
The jackal did not know what to do. He did not dare to stop, and he knew he could not run for much longer. Suddenly he saw the wall of a courtyard before him. Without waiting to think he jumped over the wall, and straight into a large pot of indigo dye! The dye had been left there by a dyer, all ready to be used in the morning. The jackal was now dyed a rich indigo colour!
Meanwhile the dogs had stopped barking. They couldn't see or smell the jackal any more. They decided to wait near the courtyard wall, just in case he appeared again. But instead of the jackal, a strange blue creature came creeping out of the dyer's house! The dogs were terrified - they had never seen such an animal before. Much to the jackal's surprise, instead of attacking him, the dogs ran way yelping in fright.
A bit puzzled, but also very pleased with the dogs' fright, the jackal returned to the forest. Every forest creature that saw him also ran away, squealing in terror. The jackal soon realised it was his strange new colour that was scaring all the animals away. They did not recognise him as a jackal any more.
The cunning jackal now hatched a plan. He called all the animals to him. When they had gathered, trembling, before him, he said, 'Dear animals, do not be afraid. I will not harm you. I have been sent by the gods themselves to look after you, to make sure you come to no harm. In return, you will have to make me your king, and do as I say. Otherwise the gods will be angry with you.'
The frightened animals agreed. They made him the king of the forest, and did all that he asked. The jackal now had plenty to eat. He was never cold or hungry any more.
Many months passed this way. One day, a pack of jackals came to live in the forest. Whenever the indigo jackal would see them, he would feel a strange desire to be with them, to be a jackal once again. One night, when the moon was full, the entire jackal pack lifted up their heads and howled. The indigo jackal could not stop himself. Forgetting his lies, he too lifted up his head and howled with the other jackals.
When the animals saw this, they realised they had been tricked. Their king was nothing but a common jackal! They were angry with themselves for having been fooled, and furious with the jackal. When the jackal saw that the animals knew the truth, he tried to run away. But the furious animals chased him and caught and tore him to bits.
In the end, it wasn't a very good idea of the jackal to pretend to be someone he was not, was it?