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Tibetan Folk Tales, by A.L. Shelton, [1925], at

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The Story of the Tree of Life

If you do not quarrel you are safe--if you have no debts you will be rich.
                                   Tibetan Proverb.

ONCE upon a time there was an old beggar dressed in rags and tatters, with wisps of gray hair about his face. He was so very old that it seemed he could have never been young, and never in all his life had he had a bath. This old beggar traveled everywhere asking for rice and tsamba and receiving more rice than he could eat he spread it out in the sun to dry and went on begging.

One day as his rice was drying a hundred parrots came along and ate it all up. When he came home he was angry and said, "Here I work every day, begging for a little food, and these old parrots come along and eat it all up." So he planned to be revenged and made one hundred snares of bamboo, put them all around in the reeds and went off to beg again. When he returned, sure enough, he had caught the whole hundred in his snares. Among them happened to be the king of the parrots, who, before the old man came home, spoke to his companions, saying: "We are

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in a bad fix. He has caught us all and he'll kill us every one. When we see him coming let us all hang down as though we are dead, then he will take us out of the snares and pitch us away. But the first one thrown must keep count, and as soon as one hundred are thrown he shall call out and we will all fly away. We must all lie perfectly still until the last one is thrown."

Finally the old man came home with some rocks in the front of his gown to throw at the parrots, for he didn't think they would all be dead, but when he saw them all hanging perfectly still he climbed up and began to throw them down. He had pitched down ninety-nine and was untying the string off the king's leg when the rocks in his gown got in his way and he threw one of them down. As soon as it lit, away flew the ninety-nine.

"Huh, they were all fooling me, but I have one left and I'll take a rock and kill him." The parrot suddenly came to life and sticking up his thumb said, "Please don't kill me, it is true we were very bad and did eat up your rice, but you are a good man, so don't kill me, take me and sell me and you can get more than your price of the rice."

So he tied a string around the parrot's leg, took him to town and tried to sell him to a merchant. The beggar said he was a fine parrot and could talk, but he didn't know what he was worth, so the merchant had better ask the parrot himself. The parrot answered that he was worth a lot of money and the merchant must pay the old man fifty taels of silver for him. The merchant gave the money

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to the old man, who almost died of joy to have so much money.

After the parrot had been with the merchant for two or three years he asked permission to visit his home and parents, as they were getting old. He said, "You treat me very nicely here and I love you, and I will soon come back again and bring you some nice fruit."

The merchant took the chain off the parrot's leg and let him go. He was gone two or three months, when one day he came, carrying some seeds in his mouth, and said, "Plant these seeds, and when you are old and eat of the fruit of this tree you will be young again. Plant the seed care-fully, and in three years you will have plenty of fruit." The merchant planted the seeds and at the end of three years, sure enough, there was much fruit. One day he was in his garden and one of the fruits had fallen to the ground, but he was afraid to eat it lest the parrot had thought of this as a scheme to kill him. That night a poisonous snake coiled around the fruit and slept. The next morning the merchant called his dog and showed him the fruit, which he ate, and which killed him immediately. The merchant knew now that the parrot had schemed to kill him, and poured hot water on him and scalded him to death.

Now in this country were two old people, very frail and too feeble to go out and beg, so they were about to starve to death. So the old man said one day, "Let's eat some of this fruit; if it makes us young it's all right, if it poisons and kills us, it

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doesn't matter, as we are about to die anyway." So they got their walking sticks and went slowly to the merchant and asked him for some of the fruit. He said, "You can't eat that, for it will kill you at once." They told him it didn't matter, for they were about to starve to death anyway, and it was easier to take poison and die quickly. He finally gave them one each, they ate it and grew young at once. They were much pleased and almost worshiped the man. Then the merchant knew that something must have poisoned the fruit as it lay on the ground and he was grieved to think that he had killed his parrot.

Next: Forty-One: The Story of the Man with the Goitre