Turkish Literature, Comprising Fables, Belles-Lettres and Sacred Traditions, translated by Epiphanius Wilson, A. M.; The Colonial Press; London, New York; pp. 3-23.
A CERTAIN Gardener had a young and pretty woman for his Wife. One day, when, according to her habit, she had gone to wash her linen in the river, the Gardener, entering his house, said to himself:
“I do not know, really, whether my Wife loves me. I must put it to the test.”
On saying this, he stretched himself full length upon the ground, in the middle of the room, as if dead. Soon, his Wife returned, carrying her linen, and perceived her husband’s condition.
“Tired and hungry as I am,” she said to herself, “is it necessary that I should begin at once to mourn and lament? Would it not be better to begin by eating a morsel of something?”
She accordingly cut off a piece of pasterma (dried smoked meat), and set it to roast on the coals; then she hurriedly went upstairs to the garret, took a pot of milk, drank some of it, and put the rest on the fire. At this moment, an old woman, her neighbor, entered, with an earthen vessel in her hand, and asked for some burning coals.
“Keep your eye on this pot,” she said to the old woman, rising to her feet. Then she burst into sobs and lamentations.
“Alas!” she cried, “my poor husband is dead!”
The neighbors, who heard her voice, rushed in, and the deceitful hussy kept on repeating:
“Alas! What a wretched fate has my husband met with!” and tears flowed afresh.
At that instant the man opened his eyes.
“What are you doing?” he said to her. “Finish first the 4 roasting of the pasterma, quenching your throat in milk, and boiling the remainder of it; afterward you will find time to weep for me.”
First myself, and then those I love, says a proverb.
A Fly who had carelessly fallen into a pot full of food was at the point of death.
“What does it matter?” she said, “so long as hereafter I shall feel no more hunger, and for the present have eaten and drunk my fill, and have received a good bath.”
Patiently to accept the misfortunes which can neither be hindered nor avoided is a proof of wisdom.
A Widow, tired of single blessedness, was desirous of marrying again, but feared to draw down upon herself the remarks of the public.
A friend of hers, to show her how the tongues of neighbors discussed everything, took in hand to paint the Widow’s ass green; then leading the beast, she traversed all the streets of the town.
At first not only the children, but also their elders, who had never seen anything like it before, came to see the sight, and followed behind the ass.
At the end of a few days, when the Widow’s ass went forth people simply remarked: “What a very singular animal!”
Soon, however, the people ceased to pay any more attention to the spectacle.
The Friend of the Widow who wished to marry again returned to her and said:
“You have seen what has just happened. It will be the same in your case. For some days you will be on the tongues of the people, and have to endure the gossip and remarks; but at last they will leave off talking about you.”
There is nothing so extraordinary in the world as not to become familiar in time.5
Two Young Men entered a cook-shop for the purpose of buying some meat.
While the Cook was engaged in serving one of them the other seized a huge piece of meat and popped it into his companion’s pocket.
The Cook began looking about for his meat, but in vain. Then he addressed the two friends.
“I have not seen it,” said one.
“As for me,” added the other, “I am sure I have not taken it.”
Then each one confirmed his statement with an oath.
“Really, gentlemen,” said the owner of the shop, who well understood their rascality, “although I do not know who has robbed me, the God by whom you have sworn does.”
Although a man may conceal things from men like himself, God is not deceived.
A pair of Buffaloes were harnessed to a heavy piece of elm wood, and were dragging it along.
“You are stupid,” said the Log, reproachfully, “for when you are hitched to a light burden like me, why do you not gallop?”
“Poor wretch!” they replied, “we should doubtlessly move more quickly if we were not fastened to you. But if we moved quickly now, another log would be placed on top of you, to make up the load, and we do not wish to see you broken down by exhaustion.”
This answer plunged the Log into profound thought.
The proverbial expression — “the Buffaloes’ answer” — a pretext for laziness — is founded on this fable.
A feeble Old Man had given his home to his Son; soon the hapless father found himself driven from his home and forced to take refuge in a hospital.6
Some time afterward, he saw his Son one day passing by, and called out to him.
“For the love of God, my Son,” he said in a supplicating tone, “send me out of all that I have gained with the sweat of my brow a simple pair of sheets.”
The Son promised his unfortunate father to do so.
“I will send them at once,” he answered him.
When he arrived at home he said to his own son: “Take this pair of sheets, and carry them to your grandfather at the hospital.”
The young man left one of the sheets at home and carried the other to his grandfather. Some time afterward his father happened to count his sheets.
“Why didn’t you do as I told you, and carry the two sheets to your grandfather?” he asked of his son.
“When my father becomes old and goes to the hospital, I said to myself, I shall need this sheet to send to him.”
Your child will behave toward you as you behaved toward your parents.
A Bird-catcher was setting his snares; a Blackbird, as he flew by, caught sight of him.
“For the love of God,” he said to him, “do tell me what you are building there?”
“I am founding a complete city.”
The Blackbird believed this deceitful answer, and alighted on the net. Scarcely had he touched it, before he found himself caught.
When the Bird-catcher came up the Blackbird said to him: “If this is the way you build your city, you won’t attract many inhabitants.”
All men shun tyrannical magistrates and oppressors, who, by their violence, scatter ruin around them.
The Hens were at war with the Eagles.
When the day of battle came near, the Hens went and asked the foxes to help them.7
“We would willingly help you,” replied the foxes, “if we could forget what you are, and what Eagles are.”
He who enters upon a quarrel with one more powerful than himself runs a great risk, and is certain to meet with disaster.
A Pigeon in its simplicity took for real water the stream represented in a Painting.
He flew down toward it with a sudden swoop, fell to the ground, and was quickly caught.
How many stupid and ignorant people ignore the real condition of things, follow entirely their own silly notions, and at last find themselves in serious trouble.
A Lion and a Man were journeying together as friends; they took turns in boasting each of his own merits. As they advanced on their way, they saw a mausoleum on which was carved in marble a man trampling a lion under his feet.
The Man called the attention of the Lion to this sculpture.
“I need say no more,” he remarked, “this is sufficient to show that man surpasses the Lion in strength and vigor.”
“The chisel is in the hands of men,” replied the beast, “so they represent in sculpture whatever they like. If we could handle it as you do, you see what would be the subjects of our works.”
Artists do not base their creations upon the realities of life, but follow the ideas which pass through their heads.
A Vezir had just received his appointment; those who had supported him came to compliment him on his promotion to a post of honor.
He was so inflated by the homage he received, that he came at last to pass by his former friends without noticing them.
“Who are you?” he asked one of them.
“My God,” exclaimed the other, who was a wit: “I feel sorry for you indeed, for your Excellency, like most of those who 8 have reached an eminent position, has suddenly lost sight, hearing, and memory, so that you no longer know your former friends.”
It generally happens that those who attain to high station feel contempt for their friends.
An Ass was walking along loaded with wood; as he journeyed he fell into a pond, and lamented because he could not get out.
The Frogs, dwellers in the pond, heard his cries and came up to him.
“Pray tell us,” they said to him, “how is it that you, who have been but a moment in this pond, cry out so vehemently. What would you do, if like us, you had been here for an infinite time?”
Such were the sarcastic consolations they addressed to him.
Young people full of vigor, and capable of enduring all sorts of hardship, too often deride the feebleness of the old.
The quadrupeds and birds assembled one day at an entertainment given by the King of Beasts. Both those who go on foot and those who fly were there.
The Tortoise arrived late because of his slow motion, and asked pardon for his want of punctuality.
“I have such a pleasant home,” said he, “that I never leave it without regret.”
“At some future time,” cried the Lion in a rage, “you will have a house of stone, which you can never leave.”
This fable is addressed to those who, instead of keeping to their own vocation, are anxious to attend the entertainments of the great.
A Fox who had never seen a lion in his life, met one of the greatest size. In his terror and surprise, he thought that his last hour had come. At the second meeting, he was still somewhat alarmed, but less so than at first. At the third sight of the Lion, 9 he felt no fear at all, but walked up to the Lion and began to converse with him.
By force of habit we become enabled to confront, unmoved, things the most terrible and dangerous.
A Farmer who lived remote from the city, was kept at home by the severity of the winter. Soon, his provisions were exhausted, and finally, he was compelled to kill his great black oxen.
On seeing this, his Hounds gathered together.
“If this man,” said they, “butchers such strong oxen as these, the mainstay of his house, do you think he will spare us? Let us make our escape!”
Keep away from the man who without hesitation does injury to everyone else. To avoid him is a matter of haste and necessity.
A Bear, in struggling with his Mate, used his claws with such violence that he tore her eyes out. He was immediately seized with such sorrow that he bit off his own claws.
A short time afterward, he conversed with her in a friendly manner in his cave.
“My dear,” he remarked to her, “for your sake, I have sacrificed my weapons of war.”
“What good,” said she, “is that to me, now that I am blind, and deprived by you of my precious eyes?”
The Eel and the Serpent were talking together.
“Why is it,” said the Eel, “that I, although I undoubtedly resemble you, in every point, am hunted by men, while they leave you in peace?”
“Because, if they caught me, they would do it to their cost.”
No one attacks the person who always repays an injury.10
A ship at sea was caught in a violent tempest. The crew, seeing her on the point of foundering, began to address their prayers, some to one saint, some to another, imploring them to intercede with the Almighty, that the suppliants might be delivered in their extremity.
While they thus poured out their prayers the Captain remained unmoved. “Fools!” he said at length, “before your patron saints have time to carry their prayers to God, and he has given them a hearing, all of those on board this ship will be drowned. Let us address our prayers directly to the Most High, and implore his help!”
In obedience to the suggestion of their Captain, the Sailors cried out aloud to God himself, and were saved.
When a man of brains and intelligence wishes to ask a favor of the great, he avoids addressing subordinates.
A certain Father had a Son of extremely bad habits.
“He who abandons himself to vicious irregularities, and wanders from the straight path,” he said to him, “gains nothing but shame and disgrace.”
It was thus he used to speak to him plainly, and give him good counsel and advice.
“These,” answered the Son, “are words empty and irrational!”
“Alas,” cried the Father, “can I listen to such words!”
“When you consider,” went on the Son, “that I have continued deaf to the admonitions of the most famous preachers, who are always talking of virtue to me, do you think I could listen to you?”
He whose natural disposition is coarse and vicious, would not give up his criminal and debauched way of life, even if Plato, or the very angels of paradise, appealed to him.
A certain countryman, who was engaged in sowing his field, saw a man of letters, who was also a Poet, approaching:11
“Sir,” said the Clown to him, “how can you study, as you do, in solitude?”
“I am a Poet,” replied the other; “at first I studied in company with others, but now I go on in my education alone.”
The uneducated man who begins by seeking the society of the learned, in this way becomes educated. In time he grows capable of finishing his education, unaided by others.
A Shark, taking up his station at the mouth of a river, ruled over all the inhabitants of the waters. As he conducted himself with extreme violence toward them, they showed every sign of submissiveness. He had, in fact, become their King, and they treated him as such.
The Shark was unduly elated by his situation. “Wherefore,” said he to himself, “should I not extend my dominion still farther?”
Taking advantage of a favorable opportunity, he left the river and went out to sea, with a view of expanding his domain. “I must now subjugate the fishes who dwell here,” he remarked.
He was thus dreaming of ocean conquest, when he met the whale. Seized with alarm, and frozen with terror, the would-be conqueror fled, and regained the mouth of the river, feeling quite dejected. Henceforth he was very careful not to leave his lurking-place.
Let us beware of giving up a satisfactory position, in pursuit of vainglory, and for the sake of increasing power; in all cases let us limit our desires.
A certain Wolf was wandering round in search of prey. He entered a village and heard a Child crying.
“What are you crying for?” asked the Child’s old Nurse. “Unless you stop I will give you to the Wolf.”
Some time afterward, when the Child had stopped crying, the old woman began to flatter and humor him. “If the Wolf comes,” said she, “we will tie him fast, then we will give him 12 a beating, and hit him so hard that it will kill him, and after that we will give him to the cat.”
“Lord deliver us from the people of this house!” cried the Wolf, on hearing these words. “Nothing is less to be relied upon than their words; one moment they speak in one way, and the next in another!”
Saying this, he took himself off, and hurriedly retired.
Do not trust the promises of people whose word is as changeable as the color of the chameleon.
A Candle, made of soft and pliant wax, lamented over the fact that the slightest touch injured it. It did nothing but sigh, and burst out into bitter complaints against its dismal lot, especially dwelling upon the fact that bricks, although at first tender and pasty, grow hard from heat and thus acquire an age-long durability. In order to acquire the same hardness, and to reap the same advantages, it leaped into the fire, melted, and was consumed.
It is useless to rise up in irritation and revolt against the disadvantages which are inherent in our nature, our constitution, or our position.
A certain Clown, occupied in cultivating his field, guided the plough now this way, now that, and in the midst of his task felt sorry that he had not been more favored by fortune.
A number of volunteers, who formed part of a brigade, which had just come back victorious from war, happened at this moment to pass by, loaded with rich and abundant booty, and plentifully supplied with provisions. Moved by the sight of them, the laborer set to work to sell his sheep, goats, and oxen; with the price received for these he collected horses, weapons, and ammunition, with a view of joining the army on campaign. Just on his arrival, this army was beaten by the enemy, and utterly routed; the baggage of the new-comer was seized, and he himself returned home, crippled with wounds.
“I am disgusted with this military profession,” he said, “and 13 I am going to be a business man. In spite of my slender income I shall be able to realize great profits in trade.”
He accordingly sold his remaining arms and ammunition, and employed the proceeds in the purchase of goods which he put on board a ship and embarked himself as passenger. As soon as they had put to sea, a tempest fell upon the ship, which went down with the Merchant on board.
He who seeks for a better position in life, finds a worse one and falls at last into misery. Do not try to learn by experience the disadvantages of each of several conditions.
A King, the hero of his age, had declared war upon on of his neighbors. The enemy for want of resources, had not been able to make sufficient preparations, an did not know how to meet the emergency. He sent out a spy to meet the foe.
The fellow, gazing from a distance, saw advancing a countless multitude of soldiers, armed with lances.
He immediately turned and galloped back to his sovereign.
“My Lord,” he said, “you are about to be attacked by an army as numerous as current coin, for I saw advancing such a crowd of lances that they hide the sun from us.”
“Take this robe of honor,” said the monarch “please God we shall fight to-day in the shadow of the enemy.”
By this warlike answer, he was able to inspire his troops with a daring and courage which were invincible.
He who suffers himself neither to be cast down by alarm nor dismayed by danger can surmount every obstacle.
A River one day said to its Source: “how idle and good-for-nothing you are! In spite of your incessant movement you do not contain the slightest quantity of fish! In me, on the contrary, are seen more choice fishes swimming than in any other watercourse; thus I produce joy and happiness in all the plains and their inhabitants, through which I pass! You seem to me to be a corpse, from which life has completely vanished.”
The Source, indignant at these insulting words, made no reply, but began to diminish the quantity of water which she 14 furnished to the River; soon she entirely ceased to feed it. By this means the height of the flood sank gradually, until at last water failed entirely, and River and fish disappeared together.
This fable is addressed to those who treat their friends in a similar manner and imagine that their prosperity is specially and directly due to the munificence of God.
A certain Hunter, who was seized with an ardent desire to make his prey a superb anqua, (1) spent large sums of money in the keeping of Hounds. By accident, one of his bitches bit his son, and the child died of the wound.
“Since the Hounds have caused his death,” said the master to the servants, “let us kill them all.”
“Alas!” cried one of the poor creatures, “all of us must die for the fault committed by a single one of us!”
A single scoundrel is sufficient to bring ruin on a whole ward.
1 A fabulous bird, a species of vulture or gigantic condor.
A certain Fool kept constantly passing through the streets of a town.
“Who will buy Wisdom?” he cried in a loud voice. A passer-by met him on his way, accosted him, and presented him with some small pieces of money.
“Sell me a little Wisdom,” he said.
“Here it is,” replied the other, cuffing him heartily. Immediately afterward he put into his hands a long thread.
“If you wish in future to be wise and prudent,” said the Fool to him, “always keep as far away from fools as the length of this thread.”
We should avoid all connection and communication with fools and cranks.15
A Dicer one day lost at play all that he possessed, even to his clothes. Sitting at the door of a wine shop he burst into tears.
One of his friends happened to pass, and noticed the state he was in.
“Have you anything the matter with you that you are so mournful, my friend?” he inquired.
“I have nothing,” replied the other.
“Nothing?” went on the other. “Then there is no reason for weeping.”
“It is really because I have nothing that I weep,” replied he.
Numerous are the applications of this profound fable.
A tender lamb was in the fold, when suddenly a Wolf entered for the purpose of devouring her. Throwing herself at the feet of the Wolf, she said, weeping: “God has put me in your power; sound therefore your horn in order to grant me one moment’s delight; my desires will then be perfectly satisfied, for my parents have told me that the race of wolves are the best players on the horn.” The wolf heard this silly proposal and set himself to cry out with all his might and main; when lo and behold, the dogs were waked up and attacked him. He took to flight, and did not stop until he reached a hill, where he said, lamenting: “I certainly deserve this mishap, for who has made me a musician, when I have never been anything but a butcher?”
This fable proves that many good people are deceived by attending to silly proposals, and afterward, like the Wolf, are sorry for it; and that many others undertake, either in word or deed, things for which they are not adapted, and consequently fall into misfortune.
The Insects betook themselves one winter to the dwellings of the Bee and the Ant.
“Give us some food,” they said, “for we are dying of hunger.”16
The others answered: “What do you do in summer time?”
“We rest on the spreading trees,” they replied, “and we cheer the traveller with our pleasant songs.”
“If that be so,” was the reply, “it is no wonder that you are dying of hunger; you are therefore no proper objects of charity.”
This fable shows that the foolish virgins ask charity, and those who are wise refuse to give, because there comes a time when not charity but justice is to be rendered.
During the time of this life, which is our summer, we must gather, by wisdom and industry, the spiritual food, without which, we shall be made, at the day of judgment, to die of hunger in hell.
Two Cocks were fighting in the middle of a street; he who defeated his comrade and flung him to the ground was inflated with pride at his victory.
He flew off, and taking his station on a high place, began to swagger up and down and to crow, elated with victory. While he thus exhibited his vanity an eagle unexpectedly swooped down upon him and carried him off.
This fable shows that he who rejoices over the defeat of his adversary, or plumes himself upon victory over a foe, brings upon his own head, without knowing it, torments and sufferings which will compel him to deplore his own lot.
The Birds gathered together and elected the Peacock and crowned him King, on account of his great beauty.
Then the Dove came to him and said: “O excellent King, if the Eagles harass us, how will you be able to bring help?”
This fable shows that beauty is not the sole attribute to be sought for in a king, but that he is required to show on every occasion, courage, military valor, and ripe wisdom.
The Fox and the Crab lived together like brothers; together they sowed their land, reaped the harvest, thrashed the grain and garnered it.17
The Fox said one day: “Let us go to the hill-top, and whoever reaches it first shall carry off the grain for his own.”
While they were mounting the steep the Crab said:
“Do me a favor; before you set off running, touch me with your tail, so that I shall know it and be able to follow you.”
The Crab opened his claws, and when the Fox touched him with his tail, he leaped forward and seized it, so that when the Fox reached the goal and turned round to see where the Crab was, the latter fell upon the heap of grain and said: “These three bushels and a half are all mine.” The Fox was thunderstruck and exclaimed:
“How did you get here, you rascal?”
This fable shows that deceitful men devise many methods and actions for getting things their own way, but that they are often defeated by the feeble.
All the Goats gathered together and sent a message to the nation of the Wolves. “Wherefore,” said they, “do you make upon us this ceaseless war? We beseech you, make peace with us, as the kings of nations are wont to do.”
The Wolves assembled in great joy, and sent a long letter and many presents to the nation of the Goats. And they said to them:
“We have learned your excellent resolution and we have rendered thanks to God for it. The news of this peace will occasion great joy in the world. But we beg to inform your wisdom that the shepherd and his dog are the causes of all our differences and quarrels; if you make an end of them, tranquillity will soon return.”
On learning this, the Goats drove away the shepherds and their dogs, and ratified a treaty of peace and friendship with the Wolves.
The Goats then went out and scattered themselves without fear among the hills and valleys, and began to feed and render thanks to God. The Wolves waited for ten days, then they gathered themselves together against the Goats, and strangled them every one.
This fable shows that hatred and aversion between nations 18 and families, or between individuals, is deeply rooted in the heart of man, and that peace and friendship are not established among them, excepting with the greatest difficulty.
The Lion, the Wolf, and the Fox, having made an alliance, went forth to hunt, and captured a ram, a sheep, and a lamb.
When dinner time came the Lion said to the Wolf, “Divide the prey among us.”
The Wolf replied: “O King, God apportions them thus: the ram is for you, the sheep for me, and the lamb for the Fox.”
The Lion flew into a violent rage at this and gave the Wolf a blow upon the cheek that made his eyes bulge out. He retired in bitter tears.
Then the Lion addressed the Fox, bidding him apportion the prey.
“O King,” he answered, “God has already apportioned it. The ram is for your dinner, we will join you in eating the sheep, and you shall sup upon the lamb.”
“Little rogue of a Fox,” said the Lion, “who taught you to apportion things with such equity?”
“The starting eyes of the Wolf taught me that,” replied the Fox.
This fable shows that many wicked men see the error of their ways, and amend, so soon as kings and princes cause robbers and malefactors to be hanged.
The Wolf having come upon an Ass who was in prime condition wished to eat him.
The the Ass said: “I beseech you, Mr. Wolf, cure me of a wound which I have in the foot; an abominable nail has pierced it, and produces intense suffering. Afterward, you can eat me, for God has destined me to be your food.”
The Wolf accordingly went behind the Ass for the purpose of extracting the nail; but at that moment the Ass flung out a kick with all his strength, which struck the Wolf and smashed his teeth. The Wolf, weeping bitterly, reflected:19
“It is right that I suffer this disaster, for being by nature a butcher, no one can make a blacksmith of me.”
This fable shows many people are filled with sorrow and regret, from attempting to practise arts and accomplishments which they have never learned, and which are unsuited to their life.
The Fox having caught a Partridge was preparing to eat it. But the latter said:
“Blessed be God, who calls me to his kingdom, and delivers me from the evils of this world. But do you, Mr. Fox, render thanks to God for this feast upon me, which will be your great reward.”
The Fox sat down, looked up to heaven, and opened his mouth, saying:
“I thank thee, gracious God, for the excellent feast thou hast prepared for me.”
As he spoke, the Partridge slipped from his jaws, and flew away. Then the Fox said: “Fool and dotard that I am! I should have eaten first, and thanked God afterward!”
This fable warns us not to count on things that are promised, and not to thank anyone until we have actually received a favor.
The Fox held a Sparrow in his mouth and was on the point of eating it, when the latter said:
“You ought first to give thanks to God, and then you can eat me, for at this moment I am on the point of laying an egg, big as that of an ostrich. It is a priceless egg, but let me go, that I may lay it, and afterward you may eat me. I swear that I will put myself at your disposal.”
As soon as the Fox dropped him, he flew off and lighted on the branch of a very high tree. Then the Fox said to him:
“Come, now, do as you have decided, and return when I ask you.”
“Do you thing I am as senseless as you are?” asked the Sparrow,” that I should return at your pleasure? How could you possibly believe me, or imagine that such a little body could lay such a disproportionately large egg? Listen to the advice 20 I give you: Don’t you credit extravagant statements, or go to sleep under a tottering wall.”
The Fox answered: “God will judge you for the trick you have played me.”
“Some falsehoods,” answered the Sparrow, “are praiseworthy; God highly rewards the lie that delivers one from death or danger, and which saves another’s life.”
The Fox then concealed himself near by, and began to plot and peer for the capture of the Sparrow; but the latter dropped dung into his eyes, saying: “O fool, listen to another piece of advice: Do not strive after that which you cannot attain, and in the quarrels of husband and wife, or of brothers, say not a single indiscreet word of which you may afterward repent.”
A Syrian Priest, good and wise, and an Armenian were engaged in a dispute. The Young Man, at last enraged, said to the Priest:
“I will drive this stone down your throat, in order that your thirty-two teeth may choke you.”
The Priest returned hastily to his house, lost in astonishment, and said to his wife:
“In the name of God, wife, light a candle, and count how many teeth I have.”
She counted them and said:
“They are just thirty-two in number.”
The Priest at once returned to the Young Man and said:
“How did you learn the number of my teeth? And who told you?”
“Sir,” replied the other, “I learned the number of your teeth from the number of my own.”
This fable shows that from my own bad qualities I am able to guess yours, for all faults are common.
The Cat, having put on the cowl and become a monk, sent word to the mice and said:
“It is an abominable thing to shed blood. As for me, I will shed no more, for I am become religious.”21
Then the mice replied: “Although we saw in you the whole order of St. Anthony, or of our holy Father St. Mark, we could have no confidence in your hypocrisy.”
The Cat covered herself with a dust rag, and smeared herself with flour. The mice approached her, saying:
“Wretch, we see through your dust rag!”
Then she pretended to be dead, and lay in the path of the mice, who approached her and said:
“Miserable cheat, although your skin be made into a purse, we could not believe that you had given up your habitual knavery.”
This fable shows that when you have once found out a person of dishonest, treacherous, and evil character, you should not trust him, even if he tries to do right, for he cannot change his nature.
The Fox deceived the Wolf, telling him that if he delivered a letter to the heads of the village, they would give him food to bring back. When the Wolf reached the village the dogs fell upon him, biting and wounding him. When he returned in a sad plight the Fox said to him: “Why did you not show your letter?”
“I did show it,” was the reply, “but there were a thousand dogs, who did not know the handwriting.”
This fable show that there are many people ignorant, though brave, with whom it is best not to dispute or to mix, but prudently to keep away from them.
The Horse complained to his Rider, saying that it was unjust that a fair and powerful creature, such as he was, should be a slave and carry so weak a thing as man.
His Rider replied: “I feed you, I shelter you with a roof, and I show you where water and grass are to be found.”
“But you take away my liberty, and put a hard bit in my mouth. You weary me with long journeys, and sometimes expose me to the dangers of battle,” answered the Horse.
“Take, then, your liberty,” said his master, removing the bridle from his head and the saddle from his back.22
The Horse bounded off into the mountains, where grass and water abounded. For many weeks he enjoyed ease and plenty. But a pack of wolves, seeing him in good condition, pursued him. At first he easily outstripped them, but he was now heavy with much nourishment, and his breath began to fail. The wolves overtook and threw him to the ground.
When he found his last hour was come he exclaimed mournfully. “How happy and safe I was with my master, and how much lighter and easier were his bridle and spur than the fangs of these blood-thirsty enemies!”
This fable show that many people do not estimate duly the blessings of their condition, and complain about those duties, the performance of which is the sole condition of their life and safety.
A Rose growing in a garden of Tiflis saw in summer time a Butterfly of many colors fluttering in a neighboring flower-bed.
“Poor creature,” said the flower, “how short your life is! You are here to-day and gone to-morrow. But I remain on my stalk, spread my leaves in the sun, and scatter scent on the air without change.
“I have the power of going into many gardens.” replied the Butterfly. “You are only a prisoner; I can get under shelter when it rains, seek the shade when the sun is hot, and if my life is short, it is a merry one. Besides, your life is short also, and a storm at any moment may throw you to the ground, and scatter your red petals in the dust.”
The Rose tossed her head in a burst of rage. “I am at least beautiful and fragrant while my life lasts; but you are no more than a worm with a pair of wings.”
There would have been more angry words between these two had not the lady of the house come that moment and plucked the Rose, while a bird from the bough of an oak-tree swooped down and carried off the Butterfly.
This fable shows that pride and vanity make people very often fancy themselves superior to others, while all are really of no importance, being subject to the same condition of decay and death.23
The Archer and the Trumpeter were travelling together in a lonely place. The Archer boasted of his skill as a warrior, and asked the Trumpeter if he bore arms.
“No,” replied the Trumpeter,” I cannot fight. I can only blow my horn, and make music for those who are at war.
“But I can hit a mark at a hundred paces,” said the Archer. as he spoke an eagle appeared, hovering over the tree tops. He drew out an arrow, fitted it on the string, shot at the bird, which straightway fell to the ground, transfixed to the heart.”
“I am not afraid of any foe, for that bird might just as well have been a man,” said the Archer proudly. “But you would be quite helpless if anyone attacked you.”
They saw at that moment a band of robbers approaching them with drawn swords. The Archer immediately discharged a sharp arrow, which laid low the foremost of the wicked men. But the rest soon overpowered and bound his hands.
“As for this Trumpeter, he can do us no harm, for he has neither sword nor bow.” they said, and did not bind him, but took away his purse and wallet.
Then the Trumpeter said: “You are welcome, friends, but let me play you a tune on my horn.”
With their consent he blew loud and long on his trumpet, and in a short space of time the guards of the King came running up at the sound, and surrounded the robbers and carried them off to prison.
When they unbound the hands of the Archer he said to the Trumpeter: “Friend, I have learned to-day that a trumpet is better than a bow; for you have saved our lives without doing harm to anyone.”
This fable shows that one man ought not to despise the trade of another. It also shows that it is better to be able to gain the help of others than to trust to our own strength.
A Fox was once carrying home to his young a leveret which he had caught by stealth. On his way he met a Wolf, who said to him, “I am very hungry, and I hope you will not refuse me a taste of your prey.”24
“In the name of God,” cried the Fox, “eat your fill; but leave me a fragment for the supper of my little ones.”
The Wolf, however, swallowed the dainty morsel at a mouthful Although the Fox was very angry he said in a humble voice: ‘I am glad that your appetite is so good. Farewell, some day I will gain for you another meal of equal sweetness.”
When they parted the Fox began to plot how he might revenge himself upon his enemy the Wolf. Now it happened that a Shepherd’s Dog came to the Fox for advice. He asked him how he should destroy the Wolf, who every night kept robbing his master’s folds.
“That is an easy matter,” replied the Fox. “You must put on a wolf’s skin, so that when the Wolf sees you he will make up to you without fear, and then you can seize him by the throat and strangle him.”
The Wolf also came to the Fox for counsel.
“The Shepherd’s Dog,” he complained, barks when I approach the fold, and the sticks and stones of the shepherds often give me a severe mauling. How shall I be able to kill him?”
“That is easy,” said the Fox; “put on a sheep’s skin, enter the fold with the flock, and lie down with them. At midnight you can strangle the Dog unawares, afterward feast as much as you like.”
Then the Fox went back to the Dog and told him to look out for the Wolf disguised as a Sheep.
When night came the Wolf entered the fold dressed like a sheep, and had no fear, for he saw no dog, but only a wolf at the door. But the Dog saw the fierce eyes of the Wolf and flew at his throat. Meanwhile the shepherds heard the noise, and as they saw a wolf mangling a sheep, they laid on the Dog’s back with their heavy staves until he died, but not before he had strangled the Wolf.
This fable shows how unwise it is to seek help from people without principle.