A painting of a crab.

The Crane & the Crab (Buddhist Fable)

The Crane and the Crab (Baka Jataka) is an old Buddhist fable that has been told for thousands of years to warn about the dangers of deceit. It serves as a warning both ways, with the deceived and deceiver both suffering a grim fate.

Slashes made by an enraged barbarian fabulist.

A long time ago, in a desolate wasteland, a crane could find no food to eat. He took flight, journeying over the barren land, until he came upon the Old Jungle. There, nestled between the palms, he found a shimmering pond teeming with fish.

It was the peak of summer, and the pond was low on water, revealing the fish swimming just below the glassy surface. Unaware of the crane’s predatory nature, the fish took shelter under his shadow, blissfully ignorant of his hunger. They must not have known what he was.

The crane, readying himself to spear a fish with his beak, paused. A thought had struck him. If he feasted upon one fish, the rest would scatter in fear, and it would be much harder to catch the others.

Noticing that the crane had become lost in thought, one of the larger fish asked, “Why are you so troubled, noble lord?”

“I am thinking about you,” the crane replied, scheming up a cunning plan. “The water in this pool is low, the food is growing scarcer by the day, and from my higher vantage point, I can see the water evaporating in the summer heat. I was wondering to myself, how will you survive?”

“And what are we to do, my lord?” said the fish.

The crane, with his plan now fully formed, proposed, “I could transport you all to a larger pool, flourishing with all five kinds of lotuses. A sanctuary where you could thrive. However, the journey is long, and I can only carry one of you at a time. It will take many day bring you all.”

The large fish shared the crane’s story with the others, and they all grew eager to journey to the promised land. Every morning, a fish would swim into the crane’s beak, and the crane would take it to a deserted area and gobble it up. He did this for many moons until the day arrived when there were no fish left, only an irascible hermit crab.

Approaching the crab, the crane suggested, “Honorable crab, I have relocated all the fish to a vast pool, covered all over with lotuses. Come along. I will take you, too.”

The crab asked, “How do you plan to carry me?”

“In my beak,” the crane replied.

“Ah, but my shell is hard and slippery.

The crab, cautious by nature, proposed an alternative, “My shell is tough and slippery. If you carry me in your beak, I could fall. I had better hold onto your neck instead. I have an astonishingly strong grip.”

“Very well,” said the crane, bending over to let the crab grab on. But as the crane flew over the deserted area, the crab saw the skeletons of all the fish the crane had eaten.

The crab had prepared for this. “If I die, you will die with me,” he said. “I will sever you head from your body.” And with that, he tightened his grip on the crane’s neck.

Terrified, the crane had no choice but to continue onwards, a very long way, until he finally found a deep pool of fish shaded by every type of lotus. The crane set the crab down hurriedly in the water, eager to be rid of him. But instead of releasing the crane from his grip, the crab nipped his head clean off.

You know, there is another Eastern fable you might enjoy about a Mongoose and a Farmer’s Wife.

Juan Artola Miranda

I am Juan Artola Miranda, a fabulist living in the Mexican Caribbean. My friends know me by the name of my father's father, but that name grew into something bigger, my writing reaching tens of millions of readers. It was too strong for me to control. Artola Miranda is the name of my mother's mother. It's a better name for a fabulist.


  1. Noam on January 26, 2024 at 8:47 pm

    Hello I loved this fable and have been completely binging on your website since, reading all sorts of stories.
    I noticed on the last line of the fable I think you might’ve missed a word.

    “You know, there is another Eastern fable you might *like/enjoy*, about a Mongoose and a Farmer’s Wife.”
    Of course, I read “The Mongoose and the Farmer’s Wife” too.

    • Juan Artola Miranda on March 4, 2024 at 10:05 pm

      Thank you, Noam! I’m so glad you like the stories.

      Oh, no. You’re right. I’ve fixed it.

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