There lived an old crane on the rim of a large lake in the middle of a jungle. Because of old age, it was not able to prey on fish and other insects. Out of hunger, the crane began crying pitiably. Moved at the sight, a crab passing by asked the crane, “Friend, what is the matter? Why are you not hunting for food today?”
“Son, you have correctly guessed. I am feeling guilty because I have swallowed too many fish. I have decided to fast unto death and am not harming even the fish that are within my reach,” said the crane.
“But why are you so philosophical today,” asked the crab.
“What shall I tell you? I have heard that there will be no rains for the coming 12 years. All these years we have all played and lived together. I am now worried about the fate waiting for these poor fish and other creatures in the lake. They will die and I will be alone and without them.”
The crab carried this information to all the fish and other water creatures in the lake. Alarmed by the news, all of them came to the crane and pleaded with him to show them the way to overcome this danger.
The crane told, “There is a big lake not far from here that has plenty of water throughout the year and lotuses always in bloom. That lake does not go dry even if there are no rains for 24 years. I can ferry all of you one by one to that lake.”
The poor fish and other water creatures at once put all the trust in the crane and agreed to be ferried. Every day, the crane would take one of them at a time to a lonely place, smash them against a stone and eat them. He would return to the lake and repeat the trick every day.
One day the crab asked the crane, “Uncle, you are taking everyone to the faraway lake and not me. Why don’t you take me there today and save my life?”
Tired with eating fish every day, the crane too was happy to carry the crab to the lake that did not exist. The crab was happy and mounted on the back of the crane. As the crane was flying close to the spot where he ate all the fish, the crab saw a heap of fish bones and asked the crane, “Uncle, we have come a long distance and I see no lake anywhere. Tell me, where is the lake?”
“You are a fool to trust me. There is no lake. Say your prayers now; I am going to kill you.” The crafty crab at once caught the neck of the crane in his claws and tore through it to death.