Dandy the crane had travelled to places far and wide. But it was a small lake, deep inside a great forest, that he called home. The fishes of this lake were plump and juicy. They were the most delicious fishes in the world, according to Dandy.
Unfortunately, the fishes were difficult to catch. With Dandy around all the time, the fishes had learnt to swim very quickly. Dandy had enjoyed the challenge. But now, he was growing old. He could feel his bones creaking like a rusted hinge. There came a time when he could no longer catch any fish.
Dandy stood on the edge of the lake with his head bowed down. He stood for days and for weeks. Even the fishes were curious. One of the younger ones swam close to Dandy. The fish kept its distance so that Dandy could not pounce on him. “What happened, Uncle? You haven’t moved from that position in so many days. Is everything okay?” squeaked the fish.
Dandy slowly opened his eyes and raised his head, “Ah, friend fish. I am sad ever since I heard the bad news.”
“What bad news, Uncle?”
“Oh, I don’t want you to worry, dear fish.”
Now the fish was curious. Since when did Dandy start caring about fishes? “I am old enough to hear any bad news, Uncle. Tell me.”
With a sigh, Dandy said, “A few weeks ago, I flew to the nearby villages. As I sat resting, I heard two men speaking about our beloved lake. They knew about the clear water and plump fishes. They were going to stitch a large net to catch all of you.”
The fish’s tail started twitching nervously. His mouth opened into a big ‘O.’
“Where will I get my next meal if all of you get caught? So, I hang my head in sadness,” said Dandy.
By now the fish had grown very excited. He dove into the water and swam deep into the lake. In his hurry, he did not see Dandy with a sly smile.
In no time, all the fishes were in a panic. Some swam left, others swam right. Some blew bubbles out of fright. But there was no way to escape from the lake. Suddenly, Blu, the leader of the fishes, had an idea. He asked everyone to calm down and follow him. Together, the fishes swam up to Dandy.
“Hi Dandy,” called out the leader, “How are you?”
“Is that you Blu? Old friend, it’s been such a long time since we saw each other,” said Dandy.
“I am disturbed by this news you bring about humans coming to this lake.”
“Oh yes. I think they will finish stitching their nets any day now,” said Dandy.
“Dandy, old friend, can’t you help us out in any way?” asked Blu.
“Wish I could. But I don’t know. I don’t know,” said Dandy as he bent his head in dejection yet again.
The fishes were once again worried. Suddenly, Dandy turned up, “Unless!”
“Unless what Dandy?” asked Blu.
“There is another lake across the mountain. It is even bigger than this lake. And it is hidden. No human can ever find it. But how will you guys go there? You can’t walk on the ground. Oh, this was a stupid idea!” wailed Dandy.
“Old friend Dandy, you can help us. You can fill some water in your large mouth and one of us can hop in. You can then fly us to this new lake!” said Blu in excitement.
“Oh yes! How did I not think of it? Of course, I will help you, old friend.”
So, the fishes began shifting to their new home. Every day Dandy would take one fish in his mouth to the new lake. He would return the next day for the next one. The fishes would jump into his mouth happily, saying goodbye to their friends, hoping to see them soon.
One day a crab came up to Dandy. “Uncle you take only fishes to this new lake. Please take me along too.”
“Of course, of course. How could I have made such a mistake. You fly with me today,” said Dandy.
The crab climbed onto Dandy’s neck, and away they flew. Hours passed by, but Dandy never landed. The crab could see lakes passing by, and wondered why Dandy hadn’t taken them there. Finally, they approached a mountain.
There were large boulders on the mountain slope. Dandy moved closer and closer to the rocks. Suddenly, the crab saw many fish bones. In an instant, he realised what Dandy was up to. He was eating all the fishes instead of shifting them to their new home!
Using both his claws, the crab grabbed Dandy’s neck. “What are you doing, friend crab? I am trying to help you.”
“I know what you are up to, Dandy Uncle. You ate all those fishes!”
“I am sorry, friend crab. Let go. I just got a little hungry.”
“Little hungry? Then, you should have hunted for food, not tricked us,” screamed the crab.
Dandy felt dizzy. He headed straight for the rocks. His head hit them with a huge thud, and he fell unconscious. The crab quickly jumped off Dandy’s neck and hurried back to the lake. He told everyone about what Dandy had done. The fishes were shocked and thanked the crab for saving their lives.
Dandy eventually did come back to the lake. But the fishes never made the mistake of going near him again.
Adapted from The Panchatantra.