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The Laughable Stories of Bar-Hebraeus, by Bar-Hebraeus, tr. E.A.W. Budge, [1897], at

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The Tenth Chapter


CCCLXIX. A fox was making sport of a lioness and mocking her because she only gave birth to one whelp a year. "Very true", replied the lioness, "but he is a lion."

CCCLXX. A gazelle or a fox said, "I am able easily to run faster than any hound of the chase, for if I can not how, when I am pursued, can I turn round and see the beards of the huntsmen who are galloping and shouting and abusing each other? and I make a laughing-stock of their stupidity because no hound of the turf hath ever been able to overtake me."

CCCLXXI. A wolf, and a fox, and a lion having banded themselves together snared a goat, and a stag, and a hare. And the lion said to the wolf, "Divide these amongst us." The wolf said, "The goat is for thee, the stag is for me, and the hare is for the fox;" and when the lion heard these words he became wroth and leaped upon the wolf and choked him. Then he said to the fox, "Do thou divide [the spoil]." And the fox said to him, "The goat is for thy breakfast, the hare for thy lunch, and the stag for thy supper;" and the lion said to him, "Whence hast thou learned to make such an equitable division?" The fox replied, "From this wolf which lieth before thee, O my lord the king."

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CCCXXII. A wolf, and a fox, and a hare found a lamb, and they said to each other, "He that is the oldest amongst us shall eat him." The hare said, "I was born before God created the heavens and the earth;" and the fox said, "Thou art right indeed, for I was present when thou wert born;" and the wolf at the same time seizing the lamb, said, "My stature and capacity are witnesses that I am older than you both," so he ate the lamb.

CCCLXXIII. It was said to a fox, "Wilt thou accept one hundred dinârs 1 and take [this] letter addressed to a dog?" He replied, "The remuneration would be far too much, but I cannot travel along a road which droppeth with blood".

CCCLXXIV. Two foxes having been snared together, one of them said to his neighbour, "Where shall we meet together again?" He replied, "In the dead meat market three days hence."

CCCLXXV. A certain dog in passing by a mosque defiled it, and when an ape who was squatting there saw him and said to him, "Dost thou not tremble before God that thou darest to defile the mosque?" the dog said to him, "Yea, thou hast been created in such a beautiful form by Him, that thine heart would [naturally] be grieved for His house and thou wouldst, of course, spare it thyself."

CCCLXXVI. A goat was standing on a roof and abusing a wolf, when the wolf replied, "It is not thou that art abusing me but it is the place whereon thou standest."

CCCLXXVII. A certain man having taken hold upon a thorn bush to mount a wall was caught thereby,

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and he began to abuse it; and the thorn bush said to him, "Abuse thyself because thou didst wish to take hold upon that which layeth hold upon everything."

CCCLXXVIII. A certain king was in company with one of his philosophers, and as they passed through a ruined village they saw there two owls; and he said to the philosopher, "What are these birds saying to each other?" And the philosopher said, "I understand something of what they are saying, and if thou wilt swear unto me that thou wilt do me no harm, I will shew thee." And when the king had sworn to him, the philosopher said, "One of the owls hath a son and the other a daughter, and they wish to arrange a marriage between them. The owl with the daughter is willing to give her one hundred ruined [villages] as a dowry, but the other one will not accept them and demandeth more. The father of the daughter having no more to give promiseth his fellow, saying, 'If this king ruleth his kingdom in the way in which he is now ruling it for one year more, I will give thee a thousand ruined [villages].'" When the king heard this he was rebuked, and he began to work righteousness.

CCCLXXIX. While a certain dog was pursuing a gazelle, the gazelle said unto him, "Thou art not able to catch me", and the dog said, "Why not?" The gazelle said to him, "Because I run for my life, but thou for thy master."

CCCLXXX. A scarabaeus said to its mother, "Whithersoever I go men spit upon me." Its mother replied, "It is because thy beauty and smell are pleasant."

CCCLXXXI. When a fox was being hotly pursued by a dog he said to him, "Thou art not acting thus

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towards me because of thy strength but because of my feebleness; if this be not so, go and try [to catch] a wolf."

CCCLXXXII. A house-sparrow having been caught by a man said to him, "What wouldst thou do with me?" and he replied, "I am going to kill and eat thee." The sparrow said to him, "How can the little flesh which is on my body satisfy thee? Only promise that thou wilt let me go and I will teach thee three things which will be much better for thee than eating me. The first thing I will teach thee whilst I am still in thine hands; the second when I am on a tree; and the third when I am on a rock." The birdcatcher said, "Teach me [the first] now." And the bird said, "Take heed that thou dost not repent of a thing which is past," whereupon the birdcatcher let the sparrow go free. And when the sparrow was sitting on a tree, he said, "Take heed that thou dost not believe in that which cannot happen." And then he began to fly away, saying, "O fool, if thou hadst killed me thou wouldst have found in my stomach two precious stones which are beyond price." And the birdcatcher began to bite his fingers and said, "Teach me the third thing before thou fliest away." Then the bird said to him, "Since thou hast forgotten the two things which I have taught thee what will it profit thee if I teach thee the third? Did I not say, 'Thou shalt not repent over 'that which is past,' and, 'Thou shalt not believe in 'that which cannot be?' whenever was a precious stone seen in the stomach of a sparrow?"

CCCLXXXIII. A certain hawk was vexing a cock with abuse and saying, "Thou hast no love for man at all. For behold men with their own hands cause thee

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to be begotten, and they feed thee, and they prepare hens to be thy wives, and they do all manner of good unto thee. Yet when they leave thee by thyself a little time thou takest to flight, and thou flauntest about, and thou goest up upon the walls, and thou crowest loudly, and thou wilt not return to the house wherein thou hast been reared. But as for me, having taken me from my native rock they starve me, and when they have trained me for a short time, they turn me loose and I must go off by myself, and get quarry, and bring it to them, although if I wished I need not come back." The cock said unto him, "Thou dost not understand the matter clearly. If thou didst see as many hawks spitted on short skewers roasting before the fire as I see chickens, thou wouldst never come back when once thou hadst escaped."

CCCLXXXIV. Another fox taught its young, saying, "When ye see the vines loaded with grapes, and the keeper asleep, and the river full of water with waves thereon, and the moon shining, rejoice and be glad, for your luck hath arisen, and ye may feed yourselves."

CCCLXXXV. Another fox said, "If the fox-grapes were sweet they would not be left out in the open, without keepers, by mankind."


91:1 I.e., about fifty shillings of our money.

Next: The Eleventh Chapter: Stories of Those Whose Dreams and Divinations Have Come True