The tortoise and the geese

Once upon a time there lived a pair of geese and a tortoise, all three of whom were great friends.

One day they faced a huge drought; the lake in which they lived was drying up. They decided to leave the lake and look for a new lake.

But the tortoise could not fly. So the geese thought of a plan, whereby the tortoise would hold a piece of stick by its mouth which would be carried by the two geese. The only condition was that the tortoise should not speak or it will fall from the stick to death. The tortoise agreed to be silent.

On seeing this strange arrangement flying in the sky, people on the way started laughing and shouting at the tortoise.

Unable to control his curiosity, the tortoise spoke out, “What are they laughing about?”, and so fell to his death.

If only he had kept quiet, he could have saved his own life.

More such stories at

This children’s story is from the Panchatantra (meaning “Five Treatises” in Sanskrit);
it is a collection of five volumes of moral stories written by a teacher Vishnu Sarma to help instruct the princes on different facets of kinghood.

The five volumes together serve as a manual for a prospective king, to help him in deciding how to rule, how to choose his friends and ministers, how to conduct himself in daily life, etc.

These stories, dated to about 200 BCE, are among the most widely known in the world, going by many names in many cultures. There is a version of Panchatantra in nearly every major language of India, and in addition there are 200 versions of the text in more than 50 languages around the world.