I realized this summer that I have several kindergarten stories on the blog but not much for the early grades! This is a traditional Jataka story from India, retold by Kelly Ehrman. It’s a sweet story for the early grades, but fits especially well with the themes of second grade. I hope you enjoy it!
There once was a monkey who ruled over all the other monkeys in the jungle. He was the largest monkey by far, and he was also the kindest monkey and purest of heart.
These monkeys lived in the wilds of the jungle, far away from any people. They loved to gather all together in trees filled with fruit and chatter while they ate. Their favorite spot was a spectacular fruit tree with the largest and sweetest fruits in the jungle. Its great branches spread wide and could hold many monkeys. Many of the tree’s limbs hung out over the sparkling waters of a winding river.
This river ran down through the jungle and out past a palace. The king of the monkeys warned them that if any of the wonderful fruit fell into the river, it would drift on the water past the palace and people would be sure to notice it. Then the people would wonder where such a marvelous fruit had come from. They would journey up the river looking for the tree, and the monkeys would lose their favorite spot.
So the monkeys took care to pick all the fruit which hung from the branches over the river, and for many years they enjoyed their spectacular tree.
Then one year none of the monkeys noticed one of the fruits growing out over the river. It ripened and one day it fell and was swept away downstream. The fruit bobbed along in the river all the way down to the palace. The King was out bathing in the river that day and one of his servants grabbed the fruit as it floated by. Everyone gathered around to taste it. The King declared it was the most delicious fruit he had ever eaten!
For many days afterward the King could not forget the taste of that fruit. So he ordered a boat to be prepared to take him and his servants up the river in search of the tree.
It was well after nightfall by the time the King and his servants found the wonderful tree. The King ordered his men to camp all around it.
The moon shone on the tree and lit up all the huge fruit. By the light of the moon, the men could also see a large troop of monkeys sleeping in the tree! The King looked at all that fruit. He looked at all those monkeys. And he grew jealous and wanted the tree all to himself. He ordered the men to shoot all the monkeys at first light.
By the time the monkeys realized that men had arrived and camped around the tree, it was too late to climb down and escape! The king of the monkeys climbed to the very top of the tree and looked all around. He saw that the nearest reeds across the river were too far away for the little monkeys to jump across safely, but he himself was much larger than the rest. With a little bit of luck he might be able to leap over and grab hold of a tall reed.
So the king of the monkeys gathered his subjects and told them about his plan. They all watched as he went to the very end of the longest branch and wound a vine around to tie his feet to the tree. Then he leaped and grabbed hold of the tallest, closest reed and held on tight. The monkeys quietly and patiently ran across the bridge their dear king made, one after another, until they all reached safety.
By first light, all the monkeys but one had reached the other side of the river. The king of the monkeys was by this time exhausted, bleeding, and sore, and was not able to untie his own feet from the tree.
As the sun rose, the King and his people saw how the monkeys had escaped, and saw how the king of the monkeys had made a bridge for them. It brought tears to their eyes and grew the love in their hearts. The King ordered that the monkey king be brought safely down from the tree. The King took the great monkey into the boat, dressed his wounds, and gave him food and drink. Then the people delivered the monkey king to his subjects. The monkeys cried for joy and gratitude!
And the King and his people gathered a few baskets of fruit and left the rest on the tree. They wished the monkeys well and set off again downstream to the palace. And they returned to their kingdom wiser and warmer of heart.