There was a time when Madri, the cat, and Ketki, the mouse, were friends. They were such good friends that they lived in the same house. They played together, and went on hunts together too.

Between the two, Ketki was the one with foresight. “Can you feel the chill in the air?” she asked her friend. “Winter is coming. And we haven’t saved any food! Let’s do it now or we will have to go hungry when winter sets in”.

Madri had not thought of winter. That was the way she was – she never thought much. But, Ketki’s comment got her worried. “Yes, yes,” she said. “Let us go out to see what we can find.”

The two set out on a hunt and came across a jar of sweet, yellow butter.

“How lovely this butter looks,” cried Madri. “Think how marvelous it will taste when the days grow cold.”

Once they were Friends [Illustrations by Sudheer Nath]
Once they were Friends [Illustrations by Sudheer Nath]

“Yes, indeed,” squeaked Ketki. “But where will we keep it?”

“How about the hollow of the tree near our house?” suggested Madri. “No one would think of searching in the hollow of a tree.”

Ketki agreed. And that’s where the jar went.

Then the two friends went home. But, Madri could not stop thinking about the jar of butter. “How good it will taste! I wish I had some now,” she thought. After sometime, she could bear it no longer. She had to do something about it. So she went to Ketki and said, “I’m so excited. My sister is getting married today and I can’t wait to go. Will you keep the house while I’m gone?”

Ketki agreed and off Madri went, heading straight for the hollow of the tree where the jar of sweet butter was hidden. She dug into the butter and licked and licked till she had polished the top off.

Then she put the jar back into the hollow and went home.

Ketki was surprised to see her friend back so soon. “That was the shortest wedding ever. Did you enjoy yourself?”

“Oh yes,” sighed Madri. “And how I ate!”

Life continued as usual. The two friends would play together and plan for hunts. But, all this while, Madri could not stop pining for the butter. Whenever she thought of it, she drooled. At last, she could stand it no longer.

She went to Ketki and told her she had a second sister who was getting married. “I have to go”, she said. “Will you keep house for me again?”

“Sure,” said Ketki, though she did wonder how many sisters her friend had.

This time, too, Madri went straight for the butter jar. And began to hog. She licked and licked until half of it was gone.

When she returned, Ketki asked how the wedding had been. “Much better,” she murmured. “What food there was!”

After this, Madri admonished herself to stay away from the thought of butter. But, greed is greed. And Madri could not stop herself for long. Once again, she told Ketki about a third sister’s wedding and went to the tree’s hollow. This time, she polished off the whole jar.

“So how was it?” asked the trusting Ketki when Madri returned. “The best of all three,” replied Madri.

Then, life went on as usual, until winter arrived. With winter, came a scarcity of food, since it was very cold outside and the friends could not go out to hunt. There was nothing in the house to eat. Ketki thought of the jar of butter. “Come Madri, let’s get our jar,” she said.

“Yes, yes let’s. I just hope nobody has eaten it,” said Madri.

They came to the hollow of the tree and took out the jar. There was nothing in it, of course. Madri tried to act surprised. “Oh how terrible. Someone has eaten our butter. What will we do?”

But, Ketki was not one to be fooled. She thought hard about all the times Madri went out to attend weddings of sisters she never said she had before.

“You false friend. I see it all now. You were the one who ate the butter,” she said.

“Shut up or I’ll eat you too,” growled Madri and sprang at her.

Ketki jumped into the hollow and although Madri tried to follow her, she could not. The hole was too small. She went home.

And that was the end of their relationship. Cats and mice have never been friends again.

748 words | 7 minutes
Readability: Grade 3 (8-9 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

Filed under: folktales
Tags: #winter, #wedding, #greed

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