the two otters and the jackal

Time for another fable. One of the things I like about these micro-stories is how they’re often in pictures as well as, or even instead of words. Going way back in history. Like this one, carved on a Buddhist stupa around 100 BC.

You can see the two otters (not very otterish I know) – they’ve just been fishing in the river and got out a great big fish. However they can’t agree on who should have it, or how it should be divided. One of them grabbed the fish first, the other one hauled it out. Finally they decide on even shares, but how to make sure they get exactly the same amount.

A jackal comes by and offers to arbitrate for them. They accept, and he makes his division: the tail for one otter, the head for the other. For his payment he takes off the body of the fish.

You can see the jackal in the picture twice: once advising, and the other making off with his part. He has given them fair shares. I’m not sure who the figure in the foreground is. Any ideas?



  1. That’s a motherly lady sitting in front of something that looks like a ceramic pot for stew. She is pointing at the river. She is telling the story. It’s a “peace and justice at dinner time or else someone bigger than you is going to get it all” story. 🙂
    I opened it large. The pointing finger is very funny! “See what happens when —- blahblahblah”

  2. simonsterg said

    I like that. And you’ve made me look at the pointing finger. It’s pointing at exactly the right angle for “See what happens…” Amazing that a gesture can seem so just right after all those centuries!

  3. […] or in Latin Dialogus Creaturarum. It’s very like the story told here before of the Two Otters and Jackal. Even though it makes hard reading – can you read it? – I’ve left the English as […]

  4. Julia said

    The woman everyone is trying to explain is the Bodhisatta in the form of a tree spirit. She watches the events with the otters and jackal unfold.

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