Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Four Friends - A Bhutan Folktale

The Four Harmonious Friends
by Ella Brewer
Last week my niece Hayley called to read me a story she wrote. She initially read this story in a folktale book and loved it so much she wrote her own adaptation, just like storytellers do with the tales they love.

Hayley will be entering the second grade in September. She has been exposed to storytelling since she was in kindergarten as she attends the same school where I have directed a storytelling troupe for ten years. Her older brother Brad was part of the troupe for two years so she is very excited about becoming a storyteller herself.

I promised Hayley I would post her version on my blog so my colleagues could delight in her work. I have also added a link to a longer version of the story and some additional websites to whet your storytelling appetites. If you have a moment, please leave a note for Hayley in the comment section at the bottom of the blog. I know she will be delighted to hear your words of encouragement.

The Four Friends
by Hayley

One day a peacock planted a little seed. Along came a rabbit. She asked, “Can I help?”
“Yes”, said the peacock. So the rabbit and watered the seed.
Along came a monkey. He asked, “Can I help?”
“Yes,” said the rabbit. “Please feed the seed.”

 Along came an elephant. She asked, “Can I help?”
“Yes,” said the monkey. “Please watch the seed.”

So the elephant watched the seed. A little plant grew into a big tree. Big red apples grew on the tree. “I cannot reach the apples ,” cried the elephant.

“I can help,” said the monkey. He jumped onto the elephants back. “I cannot reach the apples,” cried the monkey.
“I can help,” said the rabbit. She jumped on monkeys back. “I cannot reach the apples.”

“I can help,” said the peacock. He jumped onto the rabbits back.” Now we can all have apples!”

You may read a much longer version of the story, The Four Hamonious Friends, from the Jataka Tales at this link:,1531,0,0,1,0

It is said that wherever a picture of the Four Harmonious Friends is displayed, the ten virtues will increase, the minds of all will become harmonious, and many auspicious events will occur.

The animals are representations of Lord Buddha himself and his close advocates: the bird is Buddha himself, the rabbit is Sheribu (Shari Putra), the monkey Mou-Gelgi-Bu (Mugyalyana), and the elephant Kingau (Ananda). The painting teaches most of the Bhutanese values of etiquette like respect for elders, cooperation, and generosity.


Jataka Tales -  Collected by Ellen C. Babbitt, 1912.

More Jataka Tales Collected by Ellen C. Babbitt, 1922.

The Jataka Tales – Twelve Tales Collected by D. L. Ashliman

* The artwork at the top left of the blog is the original work of Ella Brewer of New Zealand. She graciously granted me permission to use it in this post. Please take a moment to visit her site and view her other beautiful pieces of art.

Karen Chace 2012 ©
This blog post was researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at Of course, if you wish to link to my blog via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.


Eileen DeLorenzo said...

Thank you for your wisdom story, Haley. Maybe someday I can hear you tell this or another story.

Karen Chace said...

Thank you for your lovely note Eileen, I will pass it on to Haley.


Muriel storyteller said...

Haley- I love the way you captured the main point of the story. I also love stories of cooperation. I bet your teacher could use this early in the school year as a way to help kids learn to cooperate. I can tell you will be a wonderful storyteller- so glad you will have the chance to be in a story troupe this year.

Joanna Demarest said...

I love your version of this wonderful tale! Keep up the good work Haley!

Joanna Demarest

Joanna Demarest said...

I love your version of this wonderful tale. Keep up the good work Haley!

Joanna Demarest

Harvey Heilbrun said...

Your story is wonderful. It shares with us a world as it should be, where we all work together to support one another. I wish your story could be heard and understood by more people. The world would be a much happier place.

Well done!

Megan Hicks said...

Haley--Thanks for your retelling of this story. It reminds me how important it is to accept help. By co-operating they all got what they wanted. Everybody got to participate. That's a really wise story!

Sue Black said...

Hi Haley
This is a wonderful retelling of the tale. Now all I need to do is hear you tell it to make the circle complete. Here's hoping you get lots of chances to write and tell and laugh and share as the new school year begins.
And here's hoping you find friends -- old and new -- who have the same spirit of generosity as those in your story. But of course you will -- I can sense your own spirit of generosity in your selection and telling of the tale.

noa Baum said...

hi Haley,
thank you for telling the story in such a fine way! and what an important message to see how cooperation is possible and how easy it is to actually get things done when we work together!
I look forward to seeing the seed of your storytelling grow.

Nicolette said...

Hi Haley -- I love stories about monkeys. And, I love stories about elephants. Your story, The Four Friends, had both animals in it which made me very excited!! I can picture the elephant trying to reach the apples.
Please write more stories and tell them to your Aunt!

Nicolette said...

Hi Haley -- I love monkeys and I love elephants. Your story, The Four Friends, had both animals in it which made me very excited! I can picture the elephant reaching for the apples.
Please write more stories and tell them to you Aunt.

Barra the Bard said...

Hi, Haley!

Like all the other storytellers who commented, I loved your version of this wonderful Jakarta wisdom tale, and I hope you will give me permission to tell it next month at the Pittsburgh Dragon Boat Festival, an Asian festival held at Riverview Park between tall trees (no apples, though) and the Monongehela River! I especially liked the bird being a peacock, because so often in stories, they are proud and conceited about their beautiful feathers. This is the 1st positive reference to one I've ever seen. I hope this next school year, your experience in the storytelling troupe, and your telling are as varied and beautiful as those feathers! Thank you!--Barra the Bard

Karen Chace said...

Hello everyone, this is Hayley. I am so happy that you enjoyed my story.Thank you for all of your wonderful comments, they made me feel very happy. I will write more and share them with you. Thank you again.


Karen Chace said...

Hello my friends,

I am so thankful that you took the time to respond to Hayley's story; you made her very happy. One correction, Hayley is so smart I thought she was going into the third grade, but she is going into the second grade this year, which makes her story even more amazing!

You are appreciated,

Karen Chace said...

Dear Barra,

I am very excited that you want to tell my story. You have my permission. Please let me know if the audience liked it. Thank you.


Carolyn Stearns said...

Haley, My friend raises Peacocks, he even has some exotic white ones. I know when I see them next week that they will love knowing there is a story with a Peacock. Kepp up the good work on your stories, each is a special gift.

Unknown said...

Haley, good story telling. Congrats.