8. Chain Tale
A man gave up the world and became a sanyasi. All he had was a thin loincloth to hide his shame and to control his sexual desire.
But every night his sleep was disturbed by a mouse who gnawed at his loincloth. So he acquired a cat and brought it up. The cat needed milk. So he found a generous man who gave him a cow. After all, someone had to milk the cow and take care of it. So he needed a woman. Once he found the woman, he felt like marrying her, and did.
So he didn't need the loincloth anymore.
Types and Motifs
Type AT 2045A. See the note on the next chain tale, which is a full-blown example.
Our first chain tale is an ancient one, first recorded in the Kathāsaritsāgara (eleventh century). It is a satire on world-renouncers, who begin by trying to reject sex, property, and desire in order to get out of the wheel of ordinary human life (samsara). But they get caught up by one tiny desire, which leads to another, which leads to still another desire, starting an endless series. They are caught in the wheel, and they are householders again. It all hangs by a G-string, a loincloth, one repression. One isn't sure whether it's a real mouse outside or the mouse within the loincloth that gnaws at it.
[For another published version of this tale, see Narayan 1989:114–115.]