Sacred Texts  Asia  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

Folk-lore of the Holy Land, Moslem, Christian and Jewish, by J. E. Hanauer [1907], at

p. 139



p. 140 p. 141




AHMAD Al-muttafakhir, ibn Al-muttashakhim, sheykh of the Fasharìn Arabs, 1 was unduly proud of his noble ancestry and constantly boasting of it. One day, when with a caravan on its way from Tadmor to Akka, he was speaking on his favourite theme when he saw a derwìsh sitting by the roadside staring intently at a white object which he had in his hands. Being of an inquisitive turn of mind, Ahmad galloped up to him in order to see what it might be. It turned out to be a human skull. The sheykh asked the derwìsh why he was examining it so closely. "Ah!" said the holy man, who evidently knew his man, "I found this skull lying at the door of a cave which I passed this morning, and am trying to discover whether it belonged, when alive, to some great man, or whether it was only the brainpan of some ordinary mortal like yourself or me." Ahmad galloped off, offended, and for that day said no more about his noble forefathers.

p. 142

[paragraph continues] Subsequently, however, as the caravan was passing a village cemetery, he noticed that the roof of a burial-vault 1 had fallen in, and that the bones of the dead were exposed. Of the skulls some were black and brown, others white. "See!" he cried, "even after death there is a difference between persons of good stock and those of meaner birth, the skulls of the former are all white, and those of the latter of a darker colour." Some days after he had made this remark, the travellers approached their destination. Fixed over the city gate were the heads of men who had been put to death for hideous crimes. Birds of prey, insects, and the action of sun and rain combined, had completely bleached the skulls. "Look up, O Emìr," shouted one of the company, "those skulls up there must each of them have belonged to a person, like yourself, of noble family."


"A certain sultan had two wazìrs, a Jew and a Christian, who were jealous of one another. The sultan one day questioned whether it were better to be humbly born, but well-educated, or to belong to some good family, however poor. The Jew stood up for race while the Christian took the side of education, saying that he himself had trained a cat to do the work of a good servant. "If your Majesty will let him show his cat," said the Jew, "I shall demonstrate, in my turn, that good birth is above training."

p. 143

The trial took place next day, when, at a signal from the Christian wazìr, a beautiful cat came on its hind legs into the Imperial presence, bearing a small, gold tray of refreshments. But the Jew had got a mouse in a little box up his sleeve and, just as the cat was offering the tray to the sultan, he released that mouse. The cat, at once becoming conscious of the presence of its natural prey, hesitated for a moment, then let go the tray, and dashed off in pursuit.

The Jew then asked that a well-educated gipsy from the Sultan's harìm might be called into the presence. The girl was brought, and he put a question to her: "Suppose that, after midnight but before daybreak, you awoke from sleep, how would you be able to tell when the dawn drew near?" She said, "I should listen for a donkey's braying, because at the approach of dawn they bray like this"; and she gave an imitation of the sound.

"Your Majesty will please observe," said the Jew, when she was gone, "that she answered from her ancestry and not her education. Now let us ask some girl of good descent, but poor and uneducated, the same question." A girl answering these requirements was brought into the presence. She had but newly joined the harìm, and her manner was of graceful shyness. When the Sultan asked how she would perceive the approach of dawn, she faltered: "May it please your Majesty, my mother has told me that the light of a diamond grows dull when dawn approaches." The sultan and all present

p. 144

applauded her answer and gave to good birth the palm over education.


A certain Emperor of China, a land of idolaters and infidels, was once visited by a famous traveller who related the marvels which he had witnessed in different countries, and, among other things, informed his Majesty that the Shah of Persia had a lion so tame that it would follow its master about everywhere like a well-trained hound; that the Emìr of Cabûl had a tiger; the ruler of Cashmere a leopard; and, in short, every potentate he had ever visited or heard of, possessed some wild beast which had learnt to be companionable. It made the ruler of the Chinese feel small to think that he alone, among the sovereigns of the earth, had no strange pet. As wisest of men and chief of monarchs, he scorned to ape such inferior mortals as either the Shah of Persia or the Czar of Muscovy, and determined to adopt some creature that no human being had ever dreamt of taming.

Having, after much deliberation, made his choice, he summoned his councillors and laid upon them his commands to devise some means to tame that foul and fierce animal, the pig, so completely that it should become as clean, gentle, and well-disposed as a lamb.

The assembled sages and courtiers told their master that what he asked of them was feasible, and in fact, so easy that they would set about it at once. "All that has to be done," said they, "is to give orders

p. 145

that a sow in pig be closely watched, and, as soon as she litters, one of her young ones be snatched away before it has had time either to smell her or to taste her milk. It must then be suckled by a ewe, carefully washed every day, and trained in cleanly habits. If this course be adopted the vilest of beasts is sure to grow up as mild and unobjectionable as a lamb."

The monarch ordered all this to be done. An official of high rank was appointed guardian of the Emperor's sucking-pig. He had under him a special staff of washers and feeders, and the ruler of China awaited, with Imperial patience, the result of his servants’ labours. The sucking-pig was duly obtained; washed in frequent baths of rose-water and other perfumes; and brought up in the manner directed by the learned. In time the officials in charge had the honour to present to their lord a pigling elegant and lamb-like.

The monarch liberally rewarded all concerned, and made the tame pig his constant companion. It followed him about everywhere to his great delight.

One day, however, the Emperor took it into his head to extend his walk beyond the palace grounds. His pig, wearing a gold collar set with jewels, followed at his heels. All of a sudden, the animal forgot its manners. It began to sniff the air and grunt in most unlamblike fashion, and, before anything could be done to prevent it, left its master and, scampering across fields and scrambling through hedges, rushed headlong into a morass in which a number of swine

p. 146

were wallowing. The courtiers in attendance were horrified and ran as fast as they could, forgetting all dignity, zealous to save their lives. But in vain every effort. When they reached the edge of the slough, no one could tell which of the unclean beasts rolling about in it had been the royal pet. They suspected indeed that one particularly filthy creature might be he, but could not be sure seeing that there was no trace of any collar; so they returned in fear and trembling to their sovereign, who threatened to do terrible things. Orders were given that all the absent members of the Council and all the wise men in the capital should immediately appear before him. When everyone of the frightened grey, black, and brown beards had come into the presence they were told that their master felt sorely tempted to have their heads chopped off that very instant, but since it pleased him to remember that he was the fount of mercy as well as of retribution, he would give them grace of three days, in which to find some infallible means of turning a pig into a permanent lamb.

Grateful for the respite, the wazìrs, the old men, and the learned discussed the momentous question in all its aspects. At the close of the last hour of the third day, they returned to the hall of audience and prostrated themselves before the throne. "O mighty monarch of this golden age," said their spokesman, "your humble and obedient servants and slaves have very carefully considered and discussed the matter graciously entrusted to them, and have found a solution of the difficulty. The achievement is, indeed, a hard one, but just for that cause

p. 147

worthy of so great a ruler. Therefore, if it please your Majesty, let orders be sent to all your ambassadors and representatives in foreign parts to promise great rewards to that skilful surgeon who shall undertake the operation of cutting both a live pig and a live lamb open at the same time, and, extracting the heart of the former, of inserting the lamb's heart in its place. When the wound is sewn up and the swine has recovered, it will be found a perfect lamb, and the achievement will be one to add lustre to the wonderful annals of your Majesty's most glorious reign." So pleased was the Emperor of China with this suggestion that he at once issued an Iradé commanding that orders should be immediately forwarded to his envoys abroad. However, though advertisements may have appeared in all the leading gazettes of Belâd el Afranj, I have not heard that any surgeon applied in response to the invitation.


141:1 i.e. Ahmad the Conceited, son of the Vainglorious, sheykh of the Boaster Arabs.--ED.

142:1 fûstikìyeh.

Next: II. The Secret of Success