The Sagacious Minister

Sultan Mahmud used to wage war on foreign countries and to oppress his people at home. His whole dominions lay consequently desolate. Upon this his minister thought that it was imperative to contrive some stratagem by which the king would turn out a good ruler. Accordingly, whenever he spoke to the king he used to relate how he had once been a pupil of a certain sannyasin and had learnt the language of birds.

One day, as the king and the minister were returning from the hunt, two owls were sitting screaming upon a tree by the road-side. The king, hearing the noises, called upon his minister to tell him what the birds were conversing about. The premier listened for a short time, as though he really understood the conversation, and then told the king that they were not words fit for him to hear. The king, however, insisted upon hearing the words.

The vizier, therefore, represented the conversation to be as follows,”One of the owls had a son and the other a daughter, and the two parent-birds are negotiating a marriage between their children. The former parent said to the latter, ‘Then, you will give your daughter to my son, but will you give him fifty ruined villages’? To which the latter parent replied, ‘While our Sultan Mahmud by the grace of the Almighty rules so happily, can there be a dearth of ruined villages? You only asked me for a paltry fifty, I will give you five hundred.”

When the Sultan heard this, he was very much grieved at heart. So he at once ordered the rebuilding of all the ruined villages in the realm, and made his subjects happy and prosperous.

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, shows a tawny fish owl (Ketupa flavipes) in Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand. It was uploaded by K Koshy.


  • Folk-lore of the Telugus by GR Subramiah Pantulu (1919)