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The Heron and the Crab: A Panchatantra Tale

A South Asian tale about a deceitful heron and a wise crab.


Published: 8 Mar 2024

Time taken : ~10mins

The illustrations in this story were produced in partnership with student artists from Crest Secondary School

Originating from India, the Panchatantra is a compilation of short stories in prose and poetry, comprising mostly of animal fables.  

A long time ago, there lived a heron by a lake that brimmed with fresh fish and other water creatures.

The heron had grown old and lazy and wanted to find a way to catch all the fish without any effort. Unable to bear the hunger anymore, an idea came to him.  

The heron perched by the side of the lake where everyone could see him. With a gloomy expression on his face, he began to cry out loud!

Upon seeing this, his friend, the crab grew worried. He swam up to the heron and asked, "Oh my dear friend, why are you crying? What is bothering you?”  

The heron answered in between sobs, “I have been in this lake since birth. I have grown up here and I am very sad because I hear that this lake will dry up soon." 

The crab was surprised to hear this news!

"Is this true? Please tell me where you have heard this news," said the crab. 

The heron replied, "I was flying by a village nearby and overheard a wise man say that there will be no rain for the next twelve years! You see, there is already very little water in the lake. And very soon, the lake will dry up completely due to the lack of rain." 

The crab was taken aback by the news and hurried off to share the news with the other creatures in the lake. Upon hearing this, the inhabitants of the lake were devastated and began to panic. They gathered around the heron to seek advice. 

"Please save us from this disaster," cried one of the fishes. 

The heron responded, “Do not worry! Luckily, I know of a large pond not far from here. Its waters run deep, and it is covered with beautiful lotus flowers. There is so much water in the pond that it will never dry up even if it did not rain for twenty-four years. I can take you there!"  

All the fishes agreed with the heron's plan. They trusted the heron as it had not been catching any fish lately.  

And thus, every day, one fish would volunteer to be carried in the heron's beak to the safe pond.  

The heron would set off with a fish in its beak but little did the other fish know, upon reaching a large rock, the heron would stop and eat the fish, leaving nothing but their bones behind. For many days, the heron had a continuous supply of fish. His cunning scheme had worked! 

Each day after his meal, he would return to the lake and relay false messages about how happy the fishes were in the new pond. 

The wise crab became suspicious of the heron's motives and one day volunteered to go with the heron to the pond. The heron was happy to hear this. He thought to himself, "Having a fish everyday has become boring. How delightful would it be to eat a crab today for a change!” 

The heron and crab prepared to set off on their flight, but instead of getting into the beak of the heron, the crab said, "Heron my friend, I would like to see the view as we fly. Can I ride on your back instead?” 

The heron agreed as he saw no way that the crab could escape.  

As they were flying, the crab looked down from above and to his horror, he saw skeletons and bones strewn around a rock.  

At once, the crab understood what the heron was up to and tightened its pincers around the heron's neck and threatened to choke him. The heron cried out in pain.  

"Please spare me,” cried the heron. He realised that the crab had found out what he had been up to. 

"I am sorry! I promise I will never lie again," the heron begged.  

Seeing the heron's remorse, the merciful crab let go of his neck. The crab returned to the lake and revealed the heron's deceitful plan to the other fishes. He added, "There is no need to worry for we are safe in this lake. It is not going to dry up at all." 

Upon hearing this, all the creatures in the lake rejoiced for the wise crab had saved them all.

Did you know?

The Heron and the Crab is just one of the many tales from the Panchatantra! Take the quiz below to find out more about Panchatantra.


Student artists from Crest Secondary School

Visual arts club, 2023

Josephine Heng Shi Ling
Rini 'Izzati Binte Mohamed Nasir
Lai Jia Xi, Jessie
Tan Jia Xin
Johanna Binte Zulkifli
Yong Jun Hui
Eva Natasha Binte Muhammad Zulhelmi
Jovan Leow Wen Kai
Muhammad Arsyad Bin Muhammad Fadhil

With support from the teachers of Crest Secondary School.