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Archetype → Humorist

Rasa → Kāruṇyam (कारुण्यं): Compassion, mercy. Presiding deity: Yama. Colour: grey



A jackal sets on his usual trot along the village sniffing out unattended farm eggs. He sees a man with a troubled face, sitting outside the village court house as if the world weighed on his shoulders.

Jackal slides up next to the man and asks, “Aiyo, why hang your head like this on a nice day?”

The man hesitates to tell the jackal.

The jackal says, “Friend, there’s a remedy to every illness. Tell me, I might be of help.” 

Reluctantly, the man tells his story to the jackal.

“I got very late on my journey last night; so, I decided to rest under a thick grove of mango trees. I tied my horse to a tree and went to sleep. When I woke up in the morning, my horse was missing. I looked around and found it tied next to someone’s house. Thinking my horse had broken loose and that they had found it, I went over and untied the animal. But then, someone came out running, grabbed the reins and said ‘Oh no, no! I’m the landowner of this property, and I believe my mango tree gave birth to this horse last night; what’s from my property belongs to me!’ 

The jackal squints one eye, asking “The mango tree gave birth to the horse, eh? So, what did you do?”

“I went to meet the judge to call for a trial against the landowner. After hearing my story, the judge says, ‘Unless you have evidence that the mango tree did not, in fact, give birth to the horse, I’m afraid the law favours the landowner; whatever comes from the property belongs to the landowner.’ I’ve lost my horse and have no way to get back home. ” laments the man.

So, the jackal says, “I’ll put that right for you. And remember, when the time comes, you must help me in return.”

“Of course, but how will you put this right? It’s the law!” exclaims the man.

“Leave that to me, friend… Now go back to the judge, bow, and tell him that your solicitor wants to present evidence that the mango tree did not give birth to the horse” says the jackal to the man, grinning with eyes and canines twinkling.

A hearing was scheduled for Monday. At the hearing, all were present except the jackal, so they postponed it to the next day. On Tuesday, again, the jackal did not appear. On Wednesday, the jackal finally appears in court, seemingly sleepy.

The judge looks him up and down and asks, “Did you know about the hearing?” 

The jackal replies “Yes, your honour”.

“Then, why didn’t you come ?” the judge asks.

“Your honour, Monday I saw the sky. The sky couldn’t be trusted. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it shines. So, I didn’t come,” says the jackal, and lets out a loud yawn.

Irritated, the judge asks, “And why didn’t you come on Tuesday?”

“On that day I saw the earth,” the jackal says. “That also cannot be trusted. In some places there are mounds, in some places it’s flat; in some places there’s water, in some places it’s dry,” he says while stretching his limbs, with an even louder yawn. 


The judge becomes angry;  “Why are you yawning?” he asks.

“Oh, your honour, I am very tired indeed,” the jackal complains, rubbing his eyes.

“Why?” snaps the judge.

“I was up all night watching the fish swim on land” replies the jackal.

“In which country, Mr. Jackal, do fish swim on land?” the judge demands, trying to keep hold of his temper.

The jackal bows low with a grin revealing a glimmer of sharp canines, saying “In this country where mango trees give birth to horses, your honour.”

The embarrassed judge immediately retreats behind his mountain of paperwork, muttering under his breath, and sends orders to the landlord to return the man’s horse.


This story is an adaptation of a folk tale from the Bintænna Vanniyela Aetto community in Sri Lanka. It features the humorist archetype symbol seen across stories in South Asia—the jackal.

Read the previous story

Go to Reading List for this story.


The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.

Welcome back to another designer's soup. We recorded this edition at the PW studio in Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka. Below I'll be discussing the GIF. Particularly three attributes: its potential to evoke strong emotions, opportunities to strengthen common ties within a group, and add meaning to a message.

Welcome to another designer's soup; on this episode, we are talking about GIFs.

I'm going to refer to it as a GIF ( opposed to a JIF).

They take an emotion that you're trying to communicate and it can stretch it, exaggerate it, and make it more complex. It allows for more sophisticated forms of communication with just one image; if you're like me, and think in imagery, you might find (writing) time-consuming or even difficult to articulate in words.

An image like this (GIF example) allows us to communicate strong feelings without having to use any words. When you consider visuals or messaging in terms of evocative emotion, (GIFs) can add a layer, and sophistication (like the gift does in this case) by contextualizing and reinforcing the meaning of the message.

GIFs also reference other stories. They are in fact a citation or simply a clip from an existing story. They are a form of meme; by definition an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by internet users. Because of its viral quality, it can also illustrate popular ideas and trends. (for example...) When you open up WhatsApp or any messaging application with built-in GIFs; look at what GIFs are trending. Usually, these are the GIFs that appear first when the tool is selected. These trending GIFs illustrate the general emotional state or the ideas that are most popular at that time. So if you use a popular GIF, you are referencing a popular thought. And I think that connects you with others. When shared, they can demonstrate similar views, shared perceptions, and common interests. They become symbols of a stronger connection within a group. If your objective is to grow loyalty within a group, for example, if a business is attempting to connect with a customer segment, an appropriate GIF can tap into a general idea of a group of people.

A third attribute of the GIF is its scope for meaning. I've used GIFs to inform a client that we (PW Studio) haven't received their payment. As a text-based message, there are often misinterpretations and in my case, it can be difficult to draft a syntax in a way that is appropriate. Finding the right words and tone of voice that is on brand with my business's way of articulating, while also being sensitive to the client or customer is time-consuming for me.

A lot of how we communicate involves body language, eye contact, or other facial features; we pick up on these signals when we're talking face-to-face with someone either subconsciously or consciously. If someone is sitting a certain way or leaning forward, we have a tendency to lean back or we might lean forward in order to create more intimacy. These are helpful signs are not present in a conversation that entirely text-based; GIFs supplement this dialogue through these three attributes: emotional tone, commonality, and contextual meaning.

Food thought…

Alain Parizeau

Director, Public Works


Want to know more about our storytelling process?

Updated: Aug 30

The murder of Richard de Zoysa was a turning point in the gruesome story of how the Sri Lankan government handled nationwide civil disobedience which grew into dangerous armed rebellion in the 1980s and early 1990s. Marking a dark period in the history of the sunny island, the official figures of the dead and the disappeared from this era cross 75,000 while it’s widely speculated to cross well into six figures. In this terrifying picture, Richard is one of the most visible figures. 

Belonging to a family of influential artists, educated at one of the most prestigious private schools in Colombo and a gifted poet, playwright and journalist, Richard had all the right networks and access. Like most people from his background, Richard could have remained above and beyond the chaos that ravaged the lives of rural and lower middle class youth in the island. Like many with connections abroad, he could’ve left as soon as possible. But, he didn’t. Well aware of his privilege, Richard de Zoysa used his education, talent and connections to speak about the injustices that gripped the lives of young Sri Lankans, the ugliness of strategically propagated racial tensions and the growing anger towards oppressive governance. His poetry, plays and writing resonated the significant mind shifts of the time, questioning the machinery at work to maintain the class and race gaps. He did this in a way that broke linguistic and ethnic barriers to extents that even more directly political figures could not. Of course, this charismatic, creative, and eloquent man with leftist leanings meant danger to many powers. 

Richard’s body was found on a beach, not too far from where he went to school as a child. It was discovered by a fisherman who recognised the face of this well-known actor. The records mention that it was beaten, broken, mutilated and shot at point blank. His mother and other eyewitnesses identified the abductors as high ranking police officers reporting directly to the President, making it one of the most strongly evidenced and widely publicised cases of rumoured government death squads. But, all identified suspects were never sentenced; instead, the leads were ignored by the police and the two main officers identified by eyewitnesses were allowed to walk free while two only got interdicted as punishment after the trial. None were even imprisoned. The two high ranking officers involved in Richard’s murder ended up dying in a bomb attack, along with the President, in an incident that many deemed karmic. Sri Lanka’s current President Ranil Wickremasinghe was one of the youngest ministers of the government at the time of Richard de Zoysa’s murder, and is said to have brushed off the death as ‘suicide or something else.’ 

Not failing to leave a mark even in his death, Richard triggered many significant milestones in the common citizen’s fight against a corrupt regime. Local and international media flooded with tributes, excerpts of his work and most importantly, questions that demanded answers. Time magazine published a piece on his death—that particular issue is still banned in Sri Lanka. The BBC did a tribute play for him many years later. Richard’s incredibly courageous mother—Dr. Manorani Sarvanamuttu— started the Mothers Front amidst death threats. It remains an active voice for families of the forcibly disappeared in the North and the South.

Richard's work—articles, plays, acting and writing remain, changing minds and telling the story of how people get played by governments to stay divided and fighting, for the benefit of a few. His poetry is particularly powerful; some pierce, shake, mock, and prophesy powers and their players as much as the played; others give views into his loves, encounters and lend us glimpses into intricacies of being a queer human in a conservative society. 

This book is a small volume of poems by Richard de Zoysa. It’s a treasured part of our library, reminding how even the most difficult questions can be asked with beauty, grace and wit. It’s an essential collection that carries the very essence of Richard; his daring to ask the hard questions, the strength to remain someone that isn’t the expectation, and most importantly, the beauty of being a human who loves the world and embraces all its experiences—the terrible and the blessed. 


Every month, we bring a new book access. Newsletter subscribers get to access a chosen publication from our archive of vintage books. We share the cover, a few selected spreads and the content page of interesting books. Subscribers can request for sectional scans for personal reading and research purposes.

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