One time in a corner of the world, a goose and a mongoose walked along the bank of a raging river.
“Only a goose can swim in such turbulent waters” said the goose.
“I am a mongoose, and so, being more than a goose, I too can swim in such waters” said the mongoose.
And so the mongoose dove in, and, being more or less a sort of carnivorous rodent, drowned.
So much for the sin of delusion.
One time in a corner of the world, there was a foolish but kind king who delegated much of the work of ruling to his ministers. His ministers, however, were cruel, and passed many villainous acts on his behalf. Each day the ministers would bring their decrees to the absentminded king, who would stamp each in turn with his signet ring.
One day the cruelest of the ministers decided to remove the middleman and steal the signet ring for himself. He planned with great care and eventually found himself before the signet ring, unguarded, in the king’s private chambers. Upon taking it into his hand, a hole opened in the ceiling and deposited a quite enormous cucumber onto him, crushing him.
So much for the sin of theft.
One time in a corner of the world, two old men, one kindhearted and one covetous, lived as neighbors. One day, the kindhearted man found an injured bird in his garden, and nursed it back to health. Later, the bird brought him a special seed that in time grew into an enormous squash, which the kind old man found to be made of solid gold.
The covetous neighbor, jealous of this fortune, asked how it was acquired and schemed to replicate the process: he shot down a bird into his garden, nursed it back to health, and did, eventually, receive a seed.
In time, the seed grew, as before, into an enormous squash. But when the greedy old man went to cut open the squash it parted, and, from its insides sprang a fierce old man.
The fierce old man produced a large measuring scale and preceded to violently measure the greedy man, finally proclaiming that he was of no use at all. He then cut off the greedy old man’s head.
So much for the sin of covetousness.
Story Source: “The Golden Squash,” from Albert Shelton’s book of Tibetan folk tales, via the course UnTextbook.
Author’s Note: This story was inspired by the rather strange (to my mind) about-face turn in tone in the translation of one of the Tibetan folk tales. (Which inspired the third segment of this story.) The random and bizarre form of the punishment metered out on the tale’s antagonist — a greedy old man who tries to scheme his way into supernatural rewards — inspired me to make some gentle fun of the often ridiculous, random, and even silly ways the punishment is delivered in many moral tales. (While at the same time emphasizing the age-old tropes and forms that often set up those same stories.)
The bookend phrases: “One time in a corner of the world” and “So much for the sin of ____” are both taken directly from the source story. And the “fierce old man” is straight from the source as well.