Indian Folktale

As part of my job as a children’s librarian I am trying to improve my storytelling skills.  This has resulted in reading lots of folktales.  Here is a strange one I found in Judy Sierra’s The Flannelboard Storytelling book published in 1987. 


There once was a parrot and a cat who were friends.  One day they decided to go to each other’s homes to share a meal together.  First it was the cat’s turn.  The cat gave the parrot a salty fish to eat.  Next, it was parrot’s turn.  The parrot cooked 500 small, spicy cakes and gave the cat 498 cakes and kept two for himself. 


“I’m still hungry,” said the cat. 


“Here, eat my 2 cakes,” said the parrot.  And the cat ate the two cakes.


“I’m still hungry,” said the cat. 


“Well, I have no more food.  You ate it all.  If you’d like, you can eat me.” Said the parrot. 


And the cat ate the parrot.


A woman was standing in the parrot’s doorway as the cat ate the parrot.  She said to the cat, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” 


“I was hungry.” Said the cat.  “In fact, I’m still hungry so I’ll eat you too.”  And the cat ate the old woman.


The story continues like this, and the cat goes on to eat a man and his donkey, a king and his elephant, and two crabs for dessert. 


Everyone is miserable and complaining in the cat’s stomach until the crabs decide to snip open the cat’s stomach.  Everyone is freed.  The elephant carries the fainted king away with his trunk.


The parrot gets back his two small, spicy cakes. 


The cat spends the rest of the day sewing up her stomach.


(Judy Sierra is a much better writer than me.  If you are looking for some fun folktales to tell or looking for flannelboard patterns, her book is absolutely wonderful and I highly recommend it!)


Can anyone find a moral to the story?  My interpretation is that if you are a bird, it is pointless trying to be friends with a cat.  Also, being greedy will leave you friendless and alone sewing your stomach.


Has anyone heard of this folktale before?  Where did it come from? 


Like the folktale?  Hated it?  I told it to my mom in abbreviated form and she hated the story because she said there isn’t anything kids can learn from the story.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. DewdropDream
    Mar 16, 2009 @ 11:23:38

    Haven’t come across this one before but it sounds entertaining. I rather liked Amy Tan’s children’s stories… ‘Sagwa the Chinese Siamese Cat’ is a favourite of mine.

    I’ll have to look those up. I really liked some of Amy Tan’s adult novels-especially “100 Secret Senses”.


  2. DewdropDream
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 12:55:52

    Funnily, I just finished reading that very book two days back, for the nth time! 😀 I rather liked The Joy Luck Club better… it’s truer to China than the rest of her work, I thought.

    Weird coincidence! You’re right- the Joy Luck Club is a much more realistic book than “100 Secret Senses”.


  3. Christina
    Apr 03, 2009 @ 20:46:12

    This is an Indian folktale, and it’s also retold by Meilo So as “Gobble, Gobble, Slip, Slop: a tale of a very greedy cat.” It’s a little gruesome, but I really like it!

    I’ll have to track that one down. Thanks for the recommendation!


  4. dbals
    May 29, 2009 @ 20:39:11

    Just came across you blog. Interesting.
    Have you heard of “amar chitra katha”/”Chanda mama” books. They are a collection of folktales some bordering on hindu philosophy but mostly good fables. You’ll find them in temples or on the web. Stories like “Vikramathithan”/”Thenali rama” are quite fun.
    The best short story writer of India is RK Narayan with his most popular book “Malgudi days”.


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