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The Golden Deer by Margaret Hodges
A retelling of #12 in the Jataka, Stories of Buddha’s Former Births, Book I
A narration by Sarah Ward (age 9) March 8, 2004


The God Buddha came in many different forms, and one of them was as a golden deer. As a deer, he was born in the woods of the holy city of Behares, in India. In the kingdom of Behares, the king happened to love to hunt and he ate meat three times a day. He commanded his people to help him hunt, but by doing that, he wasted their time. Finally, they had some nice spring water in the park near the kingdom and when the deer came, with spears and clubs and sticks, they drove them into the park. Then they told the king: “Now you don’t have to call us to hunt anymore. We have attracted the deer into the park.”

The king sent his cook to help him hunt and every day they hunted down a deer in the park. When they did, many deer were wounded. The leaders of the two groups of deer were goldenish. One was called the Branch deer and one called the Banyon. The Banyon deer was really the Buddha. One day, the Banyan deer called all the deer together to have a meeting. He told them that too many were being wounded by the hunting and instead that they should pick lots, that one of them should just put its head on a stone near the kingdom and wait to be killed. The other deer agreed, and that was how it was for a while.

One day, a young doe was picked, and she told the Branch Deer, “Please spare me. I’m pregnant and have a fawn coming on the way.” The Branch Deer refused, so she asked the Banyon Deer. He agreed, and told her he would take her place. He put his head on the stone. When the king saw him, he wouldn’t kill him because he believed that the golden deer were too beautiful. When the golden deer, who was really the Buddha, told him about the lot, and how he had taken the doe’s place, the king knew he was really a god, and asked of him: “I’ll do whatever you want.” The golden deer told him not to eat any more meat and told him to protect every creature. The king agreed. One day a villager told him, “A deer has been eating out of my fields and we have to protect them.” The king refused to let him kill the deer, and when the golden deer heard this he told the deer not to eat out of the men’s fields anymore. Then he told the men that they wouldn’t have to build the sturdy fences anymore, just fences made out of leaves. Eventually, the time came that the golden deer died and went back as a god, and came in many other forms.

The End



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