The Mad Mule


Penance and Retribution for Wrong Doing

In my town there was a family which never seemed to be acceptable to the rest of society. The various members were always in trouble. One would steal a horse; another would do a bad deal with some grain and then later sell some sick animals to an unsuspecting buyer. The local people got to know their unsavory ways, but visitors and travellers were easy prey for them.

On one occasion a party of travellers was passing through and they required a mule to replace theirs, which had become lame during their journey. They had the misfortune to approach a member of this family, Kumar by name, to ask about obtaining a replacement mule. The first person they had spoken to was, unfortunately for them, ‘Big Kumar’, as he was known. He had several mules that he was trying to sell. One in particular looked like a very healthy beast, as indeed he was, but he had a terrible temper. He was almost a legend in his own lifetime. He had kicked his owner on numerous occasions; he had broken carts by running off with them. He had even killed a child who ran into his path one day as he was galloping wildly down the road having broken free from his tether.

Now Big Kumar wondered how he could persuade the travelling family to pay a good price and take this ‘Devil mule’ off his hands. After much thought he came up with a plan. He would drug the animal with soporific herbs that were given to people who were over-agitated. This, he thought, would be a good way of solving his problem.

The unsuspecting visitors were duly taken to view the beast the day before they planned to continue their journey. The ‘Devil’ had been well fed with the special herbs that calm and steady. He looked good, he was quiet and he even let the buyer ride him down the road and back. The man was delighted. He paid over his money and led the beast away. Now Big Kumar knew that the effect of the herbs would wear off by the next day so he followed the visitor to discover where the mule was to be stabled. He returned in the night to dose the ‘Devil’ with more herbs and thinking that the visitors would be parting the next day, he forgot all about them.

Two days later a deputation arrived at his stall in the market. It was the new owner of the ‘Devil’ walking with a crutch, his wife with a broken arm and his daughter with her fingers bandaged up. With them were a priest and the local magistrate. It turned out that the travellers had put off their departure to attend a local feast and, while they were away celebrating, the mule had broken loose. He had charged down the road sending people and animals flying in all directions until he had come to an open area of grazing land. The visitors had been injured while trying to capture him. They had come to demand their money back from Big Kumar. The priest and the magistrate were there to back them up. The magistrate spoke sternly:

“Not only will you return all the money you have received in payment for this terrible animal, but you will have to pay a penance for trying to convince these good people that this was a usable mule. You are required to spend the whole of next month cleaning the latrines* at the temple and in addition this mule must be slaughtered.”

No matter how much Big Kumar protested, he was obliged to pay for his misdeeds. He would always think twice before cheating the visitors after his embarrassment over the mad mule.



Some questions to ask yourself.

  • Imagine that you have been thoughtless and inconsiderate, we all are sometimes. You have upset people. What would be the best way to make everyone including yourself feel better about it?
  • What does ‘make the punishment fit the crime’ mean?
  • A young criminal may have to do community service rather than go to prison to pay for his crimes. Why is that a better option?

Guidance penance