JATAKA TALES

The Power of A Rumour

A hare resting under a banyan tree had a premonition of doom.
"What would happen to me if the earth were to break up?" he wondered. Suddenly, there was a 'thud' followed by a rumbling sound.
"It's happened," thought the hare, "the earth's breaking up!"
He jumped up and ran.
"Why are you running?" asked a hare who crossed his path.
"The earth's breaking up!" shouted the hare. "You'd better run too."
The second hare ran so fast he overtook the first.
"The earth's breaking up, the earth's breaking up!" he shouted to other hares he passed. Soon thousands of hares were scampering through the forest.
Other animals got caught up in the panic. The word spread from mouth to mouth, and soon everyone knew: the earth was breaking up.
It was not long before the whole jungle was on the move. Reptiles, insects, birds and four-footed animals fled in wild disorder, and their cries of terror filled the air.
A lion standing on a hillock, saw the animals coming and wondered what was going on. He hastened down and positioning himself in front of the horde called for it to stop.
His commanding presence stemmed the rising tide of panic among the animals.
"The earth is breaking up!" shrieked a parrot, alighting on a rock near him.
"Who says so?"
"I heard it from the monkeys."
The monkeys said they had heard it from the tigers, who said their informants were the elephants, who gave the buffaloes as their source.When the hares were finally implicated they pointed one to another until the one who had started it all was identified.
"What makes you think the earth is breaking up?" the lion asked him.
"I heard it cracking with my own ears, sire," squeaked the hare, trembling in fear.
The lion investigated the sound the hare had heard and found that it had been caused by a large coconut falling from a tree. It had landed on a pile of rocks, causing a minor landslide.
"Go back to your homes," said the lion to the animals who had been running away, and who were now looking very foolish. "The earth's safe. Next time, check a rumour before acting on it."

—Adapted from the Jatakas

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