Vikram and Betaal- Betaal was hanging from a bough when Vikramaditya reached him the next day and dragged him down from the tree. Placing Betaal on his shoulders, he continued his journey. The thin clouds silently parted in the sky, and the stars twinkled from between them. Betaal sighed. He asked, “You don’t give up easily. Do you?” The king smiled. Betaal began to tell another story.
Once upon a time, a scholarly Brahmin lived in the city of Pataliputra. He was a gentle and very pious man. God had blessed him with two sons. Both of them were as gentle and kind as their father. These two sons were extraordinarily talented. The elder son was gifted with the ability to judge people’s character, and by so doing, he could warn others of their intentions. The younger brother had the ability to judge the nature of things by smelling them.
The talents of the two brothers began to be much talked about in the kingdom. The king heard of this, and one day they were called to the court. The king wished to employ them as his special advisors. The brothers agreed.
They began to assist the king in all his decisions. They would often travel with the king on his diplomatic visits to other kingdoms. One day, while on one such visit, the king and his party were given a warm welcome by the kingdom. A festival and several programmes were organised in their nor. The king and his men feasted on food and wine all night, and after that, the king wished to take a rest.
The large royal guest room was richly equipped for him. The king, after having a heavy meal, wanted nothing but to lay his head on the pillow and close his eyes for a bit. He entered the room with the brothers behind him. The elder brother said, “Your majesty, I do not trust the king of this kingdom. He is jealous of you and plots to kill you.” The king said, “Nonsense! He has arranged so much to make us comfortable. I don’t see how he may be plotting to harm me. I think too much food is making you mad.”
Then he sat on his bed and leaned to grab the pillow when the elder brother caught his wrist. ”Pardon me, Your Majesty, but I think something is wrong. We must have that pillow checked before you lay your head on it.” The king was confused and irritated. But he could not ignore the elder brother’s warning.
He asked the younger brother to check the pillow. The younger brother, who was standing at the door, came closer and sniffed the pillow. The younger brother said, “The pillow is laced with animal hair, Your Majesty. Some of those are pretty sharp and will cut through your skin if you lie on them. The tips are laced with poison that can kill you.” The king did not touch the pillow.
He decided to spend the rest of the night without a pillow, and the next morning he secretly carried the pillow with him and returned to his own kingdom. When he had it checked by experts, they told him that the brothers had been correct. He rewarded the brothers handsomely for their service.
Betaal continued, “Tell me, great king, which of the two brothers was wiser and had the greater talent?” The king smiled. He knew the answer this time too. He said, “The elder one. He was the one who sensed the wrong intentions of their host. He was the one who suspected the pillow first. The younger brother only used his talents to confirm his brother’s suspicion.” Betaal was shaking with laughter. He had begun to enjoy the game. He said, “Your judgment is lawless.” And he rose and flew back to his tree. An owl hooted, and it echoed through the forest.