The "Jataka Tales" are some of the earliest examples of Buddhist literature, dating from around the fourth century B.C.E. They are believed to be precursors to the famous biographies of Buddha, which were composed later.
Some of the "Jataka Tales" are contained in the Pali canon of Buddhist literature. There are 35 tales which were collected for the purpose of teaching and they make up the "Carriya Pitaka," or “Basket of Conduct.” The "Theravada Jatakas" are made up of 547 poems which have commentaries to give context to the verses.
There are many variations of the "Jatakas," which all have their own emphasis. In the Sanskrit and Tibetan "Jatakas," for instance, the stories maintain their teachings of Buddhist morality, whereas the Persian retellings often contain more cultural amendments.