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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 Eleventh Chapter


CCCLXXXVI. A certain king saw in his dream that another king who was his enemy had thrown him upon the ground, and he went up and gathered together his wise men and repeated to them what he had seen. And one of the wise men who was more skilful than all the rest said to him, "The dream and the interpretation thereof are as follows. Thou shalt indeed fight with that king and thou shalt overcome him, for thou wert upon the earth, and it was supporting thee and was nigh unto thee, while he was above thee, and his back was towards the sky which was very far away from thee."

CCCLXXXVII. A certain king sent an ambassador to another king who was his enemy, and when he returned the king said to him, "How didst thou find him?" The ambassador said, "I found him sitting on a step with his feet in water." And the king said, "In very truth he shall have dominion over me, and he will make spoil of my wives and daughters, for a step indicateth dominion, and the feet being in the water indicate commerce with women."

CCCLXXXVIII. Another king sent a painter secretly unto another king who was his enemy to paint his portrait and to bring it to him. And when he had painted

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it and brought it to him, he took the picture and placed it on the cushion (or pillow) and said to the philosophers who were able to read characters in faces, "What say ye of the man who hath such features as these?" And they said to him, "There is no need for us to tell thee anything about his features, for inasmuch as thou hast placed him on thy pillow, he will in very truth reign in thy room." And thus it happened.

CCCLXXXIX. Another king gathered together his troops and went forth to make war against his adversary, and as they were passing by a certain village they saw two rams fighting and their owners came and each took his own ram, and they went away. And a wise man said to the king, "Thou wilt neither conquer nor be conquered, but even as thou art, so wilt thou return." And it came to pass that when they had marched for a few days, a certain report came to the king, and he went back to his own country.

CCCXC. A certain man asked a fortune-teller about a relative of his who had gone to a far country, and of whom for a long time he had heard no news. And it came to pass that whilst they were in the midst of the narrative behold a dead man passed by, being carried on his way to be buried; and his hand was upon his breast. And the fortune-teller said, "He about whom thou askest is dead," whereupon his disciple said to him, "He is not dead, for the dead man who hath his hand on his breast indicateth that it is the dead man himself who is dead and not any one else." And after some time he that had gone away returned.

CCCXCI. They say that in a certain village a troop of devils appeared in the form of men, and they said

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to the villagers, "Behold, a camel hath strayed away from us give us a man that he may search for him." And when they brought out a man to them to look for the camel, he saw ravens flying about, and he made his escape, and went into the village and said, "In very truth, these are devils and not men; furthermore they have lost no camel." And it came to pass at these words that these men vanished, and they never appeared again.

CCCXCII. A certain ruler had a diviner whose words he wished to prove false. And it came to pass on a certain day that the sheep which he possessed strayed into the wilderness; and he told his diviner to make divination concerning them; and he also commanded his servant, saying, "Whilst I am speaking with the diviner, do thou emit a croak like that of a raven on the roof." Now when the diviner heard the croak, he said, "In very truth highway robbers have stolen the sheep." Thereupon the governor laughed and said, "Thou hast made a mistake, for it was not a raven which croaked, but my servant." The diviner answered, "Now therefore, if it was thy servant who croaked and not a raven, in very truth the shepherd is slain and the flocks are carried off." And when they went to enquire they found that the matter was thus.

CCCXCIII. A certain king said unto a man who used divination on the Sabbath day, "Look [and tell me] if my kingdom shall endure for my son after me, or not;" and he took him by his hand and squeezed it. And the diviner made answer to him, saying, "Thy son will demand overmuch from the people, and his kingdom shall come to an end, for the pressure of my hand by thee indicateth the oppressive demand for money

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from the people [by thy son], and, moreover, the Sabbath day whereon thou hast asked the question is a day of cessation from labour according to the old Law."

CCCXCIV. A certain Arab related that once when he was mounted on a camel and was travelling in the desert, he became thirsty, and he took out a water-skin wherefrom to drink; and as he did so a raven croaked in his face, and the water was scattered about in the dust. And being very angry he drew his sword and slit up the skin bottle, and behold, there fell from it a large viper which had made its way therein for the sake of the water, and which had escaped the notice of him that filled the skin. And it came to pass that when the man had travelled a little further he saw the raven alight in the middle of the way, and when he cried out to him he stood up upon a rock, and swooped down upon a large purse full of gold that had been dropped by some merchants.

CCCXCV. Another magician went to a certain king, and said to him, "I saw in my dream a man who said to me, Go and announce to the king that he shall live another eighty years, and behold this shall be a sign unto him:—Behold, he shall see in a dream as if eighty rings [set with] hyacinthine stones were given to him." And when the king heard these words he marvelled and said, "Verily I have seen even as thou hast said;" and he gave him a thousand dînârs 1.

CCCXCVI. Another magician who had at home a wife whose name was Zahrâh was once travelling alone in the desert. And having gotten concerning her a suspicion of wrong he began to mutter to himself—

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just as a man hummeth a tune to himself in the night—several times, "Hath Zahrâh any who committeth adultery with her?" And when by these means his mind had become wholly occupied with the matter, he heard a voice from the desert, saying, "Yes, Nathrêh sleepeth with her." And it came to pass that when he returned to his house, his neighbours . came and went into the house to see him. And when they had all departed there remained with him one who prolonged, his converse, and when he also had gone out the magician said to his wife, "Who is this man and what is his name?" His wife replied, "This is Nathrêh who of all the neighbours is most beloved by our children, and he is exceedingly affectionate to them." Her husband said unto her, "Yea, O woman, out of the desert we have received an account of this man and of his name."

CCCXCVII. A certain man dreamed in his dream that he was frying dung, and he came to an interpreter of dreams that he might explain it for him. And the interpreter said to him, "Give me a zûzâ, and I will interpret it for thee;" and the man replied, "If I had a zûzâ I would buy fish with it and fry them, and I would not fry dung."

CCCXCVIII. Another interpreter of dreams having gone from Taghrîth (Tekrît) 1 to Bâbêl (Babylon) it was said to him, "In Tekrît there are many interpreters of dreams, but here we have none; why hast thou left thy native place?" And he replied, "The people of Tekrît will not allow even the gnats to sleep, therefore

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they do not have many dreams; consequently there is no work for us."

CCCXCIX. Another magician saw a certain dead 1 thief in a dream, and he said to him, "What hath God done to thee?" He replied, "For every man whom I have killed He hath slain me ten times." But when on another night the magician saw the same dream again, and asked him the same question again, the thief replied to him, "How often wilt thou weary me, O son of a whore? I know that I answered thy question once."

CCCC. Another magician said, "It is absolutely necessary for a man to resemble his father, either in his head, or in his voice, or in his gait."

CCCCI. Another magician saw a certain comic actor, who had been long dead 2, in a dream, and he said, "What hath God done to thee?" The actor replied to him, saying, "O fool, what dost thou imagine hath done to me? Thinkest thou that He hath a daughter to whom He hath married me? He hath done unto me that which He doeth unto all men who die."

CCCCII. The wife of a certain man saw in her dream as if a man was saying to her, "Wouldst thou rather "have ten ordinary children, or three which should be as ten?" And having made no answer to him she awoke and related the dream to her husband, who said unto her, "If thou seest again him that spake unto "thee, thou shalt say unto him, Nay, but I would rather "have three children who should be as ten." And it came to pass on the following night, when the woman

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was asleep, that she saw again him that had asked her the question, and she said that which her husband had instructed her to say. And after some time she gave birth to three sons, one after the other, and the three of them became captains of thousands and men famous in the world.

CCCCIII. A certain man had a virgin daughter who was skilled in divination, and a man who had lost a horse went to her that she might divine for him [where he was]; and when she had divined, she looked in the face of the man, and blushed, and became shamefaced, and covered her face, and she was unable to speak to the man. And when her father saw her, he said to the man, "My daughter hath divined, and she hath shewn that thou wilt find thy horse; let her then become thy wife and take her to thy house, because she is so shamefaced in thy presence." And it came to pass that when the man had gone forth and searched for his horse he found it, and he was hot with love for the young woman, and he sent for her, and married her.

CCCCIV. As two merchants were going about in a certain city to amuse themselves they saw a certain woman sitting in the market with her hair dishevelled, and many people were gathered together about her. And one of the two merchants began to laugh and to make a mock of the woman, whereupon she lifted up her head and said, "Mark, now, O thou man, who laughest, and believe [what I say]; thou shalt not go forth from this city until thou art dead; and this man, thy friend who is with thee, shall take to wife the handmaiden that thou lovest as thine own soul." And it came to pass that after a few days he in truth

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sickened and died, and the other man took the handmaiden.

CCCCV. A certain man came to an interpreter of dreams, carrying a sack on his shoulder, and he said, "I saw in my dream as if I were tying up with cords the necks of skin-bags with great violence." And the interpreter of dreams said to him, "Hast thou in very truth seen this dream?" And the man said, "Yea, indeed, I have seen it." Then the interpreter of dreams said to the people who were round about him, "This is the man who stealeth children and strangleth them, and strippeth their clothes from off them; and if ye search his sack ye will find the cords for strangling [them]." And when they had searched it, they found that the matter was so, and they took the man and they delivered him to the judge, and they crucified him.

CCCCVI. Another man drew nigh to an interpreter of dreams and said, "I saw in my dream as if I had upon my knees a child, and he was uttering cries. The interpreter of dreams saith to him, Dost thou play upon the harp? [for if thou dost], do not occupy thyself therewith again."

CCCCVII. Dixit alius quidam somniorum interpreti, "Dormienti mihi duo panes in manibus visi sunt quorum de utroque sumebam." Responsum est "Tu quidem cum duabus unâ matre natis coire soles."

CCCCVIII. Dixit mercator quidam somniorum interpreti, "Dormienti mihi canis rufus commensalis epulari visus est." Responsum est, "Scythicum servum habes qui uxori tuae haud secus quam tu, inire solet." Quod, rem percontatus, verum esse intellexit.

CCCCIX. Dixit alius quidam somniorum interpreti,

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[paragraph continues] "Dormiens favum edere ad focum visus sum et postea mel quod e favo effluxerat." Cui responsum est, "Deorum igitur iram pertimesce et coire desine cum istâ quae te lactavit."

CCCCX. A certain woman said to one of the wise men, "I saw in my dream that a black cat went into my husband's belly, and that it brought forth something therefrom which it ate." He said to her, "If thy dream be really thus, in the coming night a certain black thief will break into thy husband's shop and will steal therefrom a hundred and fifteen zûzê 1." And when that day was passed and the night had come, the man's shop was broken into, and that exact sum of money was found to have been stolen. And when the man who heated the bath had captured the black man and beaten him, he confessed that it was he who had broken into the shop. And when the people asked the interpreter of dreams, saying, "How couldst thou [find] out these things by divination?" he said, "The interpretation of cat is a thief, and the blackness thereof was an indication of the colour of the thief; the belly indicated a storehouse, and the number of the zûzê was indicated by the numerical values of the letters which form the word 'cat' 2."

CCCCXI. Dixit alius quidam somniorum interpreti, "Dormienti mihi vestes sanguine perfundi visi sunt quem cum in puteal expresseram, iterum perfundebantur." Cui responsum est, "Nefasto cum quadam coitu diu fruitus es at nondum tui poenituit."

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CCCCXII. A certain man's wife saw in a dream a dead woman, and she asked her, saying, "My daughter, what deed is most beloved by God?" And she replied, "He that distributeth nuts to the poor." Now when she repeated this to the interpreter he said to her, "Thou hast hidden treasure laid up under the ground, go and distribute it among the poor and needy, for nuts are symbolic of treasure, both by the similarity of their name 1 and also by the similarity of action, for when a man draweth nigh to a nut it is noised abroad and cannot be hidden; even so also is it with treasure."


98:1 I.e., about twenty-five pounds sterling.

99:1 A city on the west bank of the Tigris about two days’ journey below Môṣul (Nineveh).

100:1 Read ###.

100:2 Read ###.

103:1 I.e., about £2.17.6 of our money.

103:2 The Syriac word is ###, i.e., ### = 100, ### = 9, and ### = 6: total 115.

104:1 Gaiwzâ = "nut", and gazzâ "treasure".

Next: The Twelfth Chapter: Stories About Wealthy and Liberal and Generous Men