A painting of the frog king from the Indian fable in the Panchatantra.

The Frog-King & the Handsome Snake (An Old Indian Fable)

The Frog-King and the Handsome Snake is a famous fable from the Panchatantra, a collection of Indian fables from the 3rd century BCE. This is a re-telling by Juan Artola Miranda. Some believe it to be a cautionary tale about losing control, biting off more than you can chew.

Slashes made by an enraged barbarian fabulist.

There was once a frog king who lived in a well. Day after day, his relatives tormented him, robbing him of every single moment of happiness. Soon, it was more than he could bear, so he jumped from bucket to bucket up the water wheel until he emerged into a beautiful and perilous jungle.

He had escaped his tormentors, but that was not enough. He wanted revenge. And, as luck would have it, at that very moment, he saw a handsome black snake slithering into a hole.

The frog king knew himself to be a tasty snack for a snake, but he was unafraid, for he had a much more appetizing offer to make. He went to the mouth of the hole and called, “Come out! Come out, handsome snake! Come out!”

When the snake heard this, he was suspicious, for it was not the voice of a serpent that called to him, but a pleasantly regal voice. So he asked, “Who are you?”

“I am a frog king, and I have an offer to make you.” The snake slithered back out of his hole, intrigued.

The frog king took Handsome to the well, settled him in a comfortable crevice, and showed him the relatives. The snake ate them all, one after another, as the frog king watched in delight. After finishing the relatives, the snake was still hungry, so he ate a few of the frog king’s friends.

The handsome snake told the frog king he needed more food. Otherwise, he would be forced to eat the remaining frogs. The frog king was sickened by the thought of his friends being eaten, but he had no way to get rid of the snake.

The frog king tried to minimize the harm, allowing the snake to eat just one frog each day. But sometimes the snake ate more, and there was nothing the frog king could do to stop him.

One day, the snake ate the frog prince, and the frog king wailed at the loss of his only son. The frog queen was overcome by grief, and now it was her turn to yearn for revenge. She begged the king to scheme up a way to kill the snake.

The snake continued eating frogs, one by one, until none were left. None except for the frog king. So the handsome snake asked the king for more food, and the king promised to bring frogs from other wells. He could trick them into coming, he said.

The king jumped from bucket to bucket until he emerged from the well once more. This time, he decided not to return.

This reminds me of another dark fable from this same jungle. This one is about a Tortoise who couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

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.

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