The Jewel of Friendship: A Jataka Tale
Two sons of a Benares professor are suddenly left orphans. They travel to the Ganges and build two huts, the older son's at a greater distance from the riverbank, the younger's right on the bank. A naga, king of serpents, happens to have a palace deep in the river at this point. One day he passes near the younger son's hut and conceives the idea of becoming his friend. He transforms himself into a young man of his age. He asks the younger son Why do you choose to live so isolated? They converse for some time. In the course of days, they become good friends. Hoping that familiarity will have taken away any fear, the naga decides at last to reveal himself in his true form. The boy tries to hide his fear, but it still keeps him from either sleeping or eating. He goes to his older brother and tells him everything. The older brother learns that his brother wants to be rid of the frightening friend, and he advises him to ask for the jewel on his forehead and to keep asking for three days. The jewel after all is the source of his beauty, power, and magic. When the request is repeated for three days, the naga says to himself that the boy is interested not in him but in his jewel, and so he returns to his palace. He no longer visits the boy. The boy becomes lonely and emaciated, and his brother now counsels him to learn to love the naga for himself and not for his jewel. Only then will he part with the jewel. The boy calls the naga and sees pure love in his eyes. The naga drops the jewel at the boy's feet. At the end of the day, the boy gives it back to him. Their love has its own magical power. The art is characterized here, as in another of Duran's Jataka contributions, The King Who Understood Animals: A Jataka Tale, by the almond-shaped eyes of human beings.