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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 Sixteenth Chapter


DXXXIII. It is said that a silly fellow heard that a certain man was dead, and that when he saw his brother, he asked him, "Is it thou that art dead, or thy brother?"

DXXXIV. Another silly fellow whose son was dead was much grieved, and he wished to kill himself, but having taken counsel with one of his friends, he said, "Perhaps if I kill myself the prince will suffer sorrow on my account."

DXXXV. The wife of another simpleton said to him, "Thy beard has grown long by reason of thy stupidity," and he said to her, "Reproach me not, otherwise that for which thou reproachest me may happen unto thee," that is to say "thy beard may grow long."

DXXXVI. To another man a son was born, and when his neighbours came to congratulate him he thanked them, and said, "He cometh from God and from you."

DXXXVII. Stultus alius quidam qui cum matre suâ pisces conditos edebat, "Epulare" ait, "mî mater: Cibum enim habemus ad coeundum praestantissimum."

DXXXVIII. Another simpleton went to visit his neighbour's son who was sick, and he said to his neighbour, "When he dieth, do not do as thou didst

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when thy other son died, for I do not remember that I was invited to his funeral."

DXXXIX. Another fool had two hunting dogs, one black and the other white. And the governor said to him, "Give me one of them." The man said to him, "Which of them dost thou want?" and the governor said, "The black one." The man said, "The black one I love more than the white," and the governor replied, "Then give me the white one." And the foolish man said to him, "The white one I love more than both put together."

DXL. A certain rich man who was a clown never gave anything to a poor man, and he used to say, "That which God hath not given him, how can I give him?"

DXLI. Another simpleton said to his wife, "After thou art dead I shall not stay with my children." And she replied, "Thus thou sayest, but thou wilt not do [what thou sayest];" and he made answer to her saying, "After my death thou wilt see the truth of my words."

DXLII. Another man had a pain in his stomach, and being asked the cause thereof, he said, "I have eaten largely of a little milk and it hath done me harm."

DXLIII. Another simpleton seeing a fat ox said, "He would become a fine buffalo if his hoofs had not been cloven."

DXLIV. Unto another silly man it was told concerning the Magians that they were in the habit of knowing their mothers carnally, and he said, "The wrath of God be upon them. Believe [me], if thou wert to give me a hundred pieces of silver I would not do this thing."

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DXLV. Stultus alius quidam quum cum virgine quam duxerat concubuisset virginis patrem mane salutatum ivit dixitque, "Filia tua me noctu sanguine perfudit—quod credo te fraude finxisse ne quid de istius castitate dubitarem."

DXLVI. Another fool, who was a Jew, when his son was being circumcised said to him that was making the cutting, "Cut him little by little, for he hath never before been circumcised."

DXLVII. A son having been born to another simpleton, he brought an astrologer to cast his nativity, that is, to declare the sign of the Zodiac under which he was born; and he said to him, "I entreat thee to make Hermes his sign of the Zodiac, for I have heard that he who is born under such circumstances becometh a scribe."

DXLVIII. The neighbour of another silly fellow said to him, "I see that thy wife is with child," and he replied, "[Yes], in a slight way and not very much."

DXLIX. A certain simpleton looked at the moon when it was fourteen days old, and said, "Blessed month." And when it was said to him, "How is it thou didst not see the moon before?" he answered, "I was not in the city having only just come."

DL. Another silly man said, "I was wishing that God had never created me at all, or that I had been now blind, or that my hands and my feet were cut off."

DLI. When another fool was passing by some fishermen, he said to them, "Are those fish which ye are catching fresh or salted?"

DLII. Another simpleton asked his disciple, "On what day did we celebrate the fifth day of the week of the Mysteries a year ago?" And the disciple who was

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more simple than he, replied, "I do not know of a certainty, but a year ago I think we celebrated the fifth day of the week of the Mysteries on the third day."

DLIII. The friend of another fool had promised to send him some grapes from his vineyard, and when he delayed in doing so, the fool put some of his urine into a glass and sent it to a physician, and said, "See if this sheweth any sign of grapes being sent to me during the next few days."

DLIV. Another simpleton said, "I understand every-thing, I know even how mustard may be obtained from figs, and how a bottle in the shape of an acorn 1 may be made out of wood, but I have never yet known him that made holes collectively."

DLV. A certain governor set out to go and worship in Jerusalem, and he was hastening on with all speed that he might arrive there while the festival was being celebrated. And a silly man said to him, "Why dost thou kill the horses and the people who are with thee? Send on [in advance] and let them know of thy coming in Jerusalem, so that they may delay the festival and may not hurry on too fast."

DLVI. The daughter of another simpleton died, and when he was asked how old she was, he replied, "I do not know exactly, but she was born at the time when oranges were plentiful."

DLVII. Another fool being mounted on an ass that would not travel under him swore that he would give him no barley that night. Nevertheless having come to his house and the evening having fallen, he said to

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his disciple, "Give the ass a sack of barley, but do not let him know that I told thee to do so, otherwise he will not be afraid of me in the future."

DLVIII. Another simpleton said, "I was present this day at the burial of such and such a man." And when he was asked, "Which of his sons is dead," he said, "There were two of them, and the middle one is dead."

DLIX. Another fool said to his neighbour, "Last night I saw a dream, and I thought that the governor of our city was talking with thee, and that he was looking at me: what did he say about me?"

DLX. Another silly man whilst praying in Jerusalem said, "O My Lord, forgive me, that it may be forgiven to Thee, give unto me, that it may be given unto Thee thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold, even as Thou hast promised 1."

DLXI. Another simpleton visited a certain man, and he went to kiss his head; but the man said to him, "Do not kiss my head because I have put some grease on it." The foolish man said to him, "I would kiss it even if there were pounds and pounds of dung upon it."

DLXII. Another fool said, "When my brother died, my father was very penitent," and his companion said, "Did he kill him, or did thy brother fall sick and die?" The fool said, "I do not know, only thus did such and such a servant of ours relate."

DLXIII. Stultus alius quidam interrogatus, "Cur nondum uxorem duxisti?" respondit, "Frater meus uxorem duxit quae, en! ambobus et illi et mihi sufficit." Conclamabant omnes, "Vae misero tibi! quo modo una duum uxor fieri potest?" Respondit autem, "Abram respice

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qui pater erat gentium: quomodo evenit ut duas uxores duxisset, ipse tamen unus ambabus suffecit."

DLXIV. Another fool said, "My father went twice to Jerusalem, and there did he die and was buried, but I do not know which time he died, whether it was during the first visit or the last."

DLXV. Another silly man having gone to the bath found that frankincense was being burnt therein, and thinking that the smoke thereof was dust he became very angry, and said to the man in charge of the bath, "I tell thee that when I wish to enter the bath thou must neither sweep the room with a brush nor make a dust."

DLXVI. When another fool was told, "Thy ass is stolen, he said, Blessed be God that I was not upon him."

DLXVII. Another fool looked up into the heavens and said, "How beautiful are Thy heavens, O Lord, but Thou art worthy of something which is more beautiful than they."

DLXVIII. Another stupid man became a judge, and it was said to him, "Forgive such and such a man his offence." And he said, "I will not forgive him until I hear that he hath fallen at my feet and kissed them."

DLXIX. Another simpleton, who was a servant, had ten asses which he hired to certain people, and when they came back to their places he took his asses and counted them, [and found them to be] ten. Then he mounted one of them and rode some distance and came back, and as he was going away he counted those that were before him, and found them [to be] nine; and he was angry, and alighted and counted them

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over again, and found them [to be] ten. And he mounted an ass again, and counted the others and found them [to be] nine; thereupon he dismounted and counted [them], and found them [to be] ten. Then he said, "Verily there is a devil with me, for whenever I mount an ass I lose one of them; therefore I must not ride lest I lose one altogether." Thus he travelled over the whole country on foot, for he dared not mount one of them.

DLXX. Stultus quidam qui catharticum sibi adhibuerat in aedificium dirutum se contulit ventrem evacuatum; cum autem subligacula solvere voluit, tunicae ligamina recinxit ut ubi consederat ventrem in chlamydem exoneraret.

DLXXI. Now the son of a certain silly man died, and as they were letting him down into the grave, the father said to the men, "Let him rest on his right side, for [to lie] this way is much better and more convenient for the digestion of the food."

DLXXII. A foolish old woman having gone to visit a sick man said unto his masters, "Believe me, I have become very old and infirm, and I am not always able to go in and come out. Therefore when this man dieth—may God preserve your lives!—do not blame me if I am unable to come to his burial."

DLXXIII. Another fool whose hawk had escaped asked the governor to shut the gates of the city until he had caught him.

DLXXIV. Stultus alius quidam interrogatus, "Quot annos natam filiam in matrimonium tradidisti? Nescio hercle respondit, hoc tamen scio me istam spopondisse verendis cum maxime istius lanugine tectis. Computate ergo quot annos natae verenda lanugo tegat."

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DLXXV. A certain simple judge was asked, "What ought to be done unto the man who committeth an offence with a she-ass?" and he replied, "They should both be put to death." And the people said, "Wherein hath the she-ass offended, for it is an irrational animal, and hath no understanding?" He replied, "If my mother or my sister happened to be the she-ass I would put her to death without mercy."

DLXX VI. The son of a certain silly old woman died—now his name was Lazarus—and the priest was burying him. And when he began to read the [section of the] Gospel which begins, "Now Lazarus was dead 1," he said, "Lazarus is dead, and I rejoice." And the old woman said to him, "And why shouldst thou not rejoice? For behold, his clothing, and his bed, and everything which he possessed have been carried to thy house."

DLXXVII. A certain poet made some verses in praise of a certain weak-minded man who said to him, "I cannot reward thee with anything which I possess, but if thou hast committed any offence I will forgive it thee."

DLXXVIII. When another foolish man was praying in a church, he said, "O my Lord, have pity upon me, and pardon me the offences which I have committed by Thy will and against Thy will, with Thy knowledge and without Thy knowledge."

DLXXIX. And another said, "Forgive me all my sins which are known unto Thee, and those which are not."

DLXXX. Another simpleton said when the rain fell

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upon his grain crop, "O Lord, dost Thou know how much wages are due unto Thee that Thou waterest this my crop?"

DLXXXI. Stulto cuidam meienti, stultus alius, "Quam ingentem penem habes!" ait, "quo modo, quaeso, istum portare vales?" Regisset alter, "I istud domi meae dictum: ibi enim assidue maledicor quia tam parvus sit."

DLXXXII. Another silly man buried some zûzê coins in the plain, and made a fragment of a cloud a mark of the place where it was. And some days after he came to carry away the money, but could not find the place to do so, and he said, "Consider now; the zûzê were in the ground, and they must have been carried away by some people. For who can steal the cloud which is in the sky? And what arm could reach thereunto? This matter is one worthy to be wondered at."

DLXXXIII. Another simpleton looked into a vessel of water, and he went and said to his mother, "There is a thief in the vessel." And when his mother came and had looked in also she saw her own face in the water by the side of that of her son. And she said to her son, "Verily it is a thief, and there is, besides, a whore with this cursed fellow; stand thou here that they may not come out and escape until I can call the neighbours."

DLXXXIV. Another silly man remarked concerning a certain lascivious man who was a Sodomite, that even more than Lot he was the prince of Sodomites.

DLXXXV. Another simpleton was asked, "How many days’ journey is it between Aleppo and Damascus?" and he replied, "Twelve; six to go and six to come back."

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DLXXXVI. Another silly man looked at the chickens which were in his house and said, "O chickens, when will [any] man become sick that he may eat you and [thus] will ye be saved from the knock on the head which ye will receive?"

DLXXXVII. Another simpleton was running along on the heath and crying out certain words with a loud voice, and when he was asked why he did thus, he said, "I wish to know how far my voice will reach."

DLXXXVIII. Another silly man, when asked by his friends to lend them a saddle, said, "Believe me, I have only just now alighted from it, perhaps ye will wait for an hour in order that it may have some rest."

DLXXXIX. When the wife of another silly man was about to bring forth a child, he said to the midwife, "Get me a son, and I will give thee a dînâr."

DXC. Another fool when about to buy some snow took a piece of it and tasted it, and he said to the seller, "If ye have any that is colder than this shew it to me," and when the seller had shewn him another piece, he asked, "How dost thou sell this?" and the seller said, "This latter kind I sell by the carat; but the former kind I sell either in the lump or by the piece." Then the fool said, "In that case I will take a little of the latter kind for my own use, and some of the former kind for the people in my house."

DXCI. Another silly man when told by the physician, "Squeeze the juice of two pomegranates [into a vessel] with the pulpy parts of them and drink [it]," said, "How much pulp am I to put with them?"

DXCII. Another fool having bought a handmaiden [found that] his wife was enraged, and he said to her, "If thou dost continue to annoy me in this way I swear

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by God that for a whole year from now I will have nothing more to do with thee."

DXCIII. Another simpleton, having looked at a mirror and seen his face therein, laughed, and being asked [why he did so] said, "I am astonished at my face, for it is beautiful [when seen] afar off, but when near it is not."

DXCIV. Another silly man was asked, "How many years old art thou?" He replied, "I know not, but I have heard my mother say that I was born before the grapes were ripe, 'and', said she, thy brother is older than thou by two months and half a year."

DXCV. Another fool owned a house together with some other folk, and he said one day, "I want to sell the half of it which is my share and buy the other half, so that the whole building may be mine."

DXCVI. Another silly man bought a piece of meat and gave it to his servant, saying, "Take this home and tell them to boil it for me with some rice." The servant said, "They have no wood there," and the man said, "Very well, then, let them boil for me pearl-barley and rice in equal parts."

DXCVII. Another simpleton, whose daughter had fallen into a well, said to her, "Do not move from where thou art until I bring some one to draw thee up."

DXCVIII. Another silly man having been asked about his birthday, said, "I was born on Hosanna Sunday, two weeks after the Feast of the Resurrection."

DXCIX. Another stupid man said during his prayers, "O Lord, my God, pardon my mother, my sister, and my wife." And when he was asked, "Why dost thou not mention thy father?" he replied, "Because I was a child when he died, and I did not know him."

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DC. Another simpleton when praying said, "O my "Lord, give me five thousand pieces of silver, so that I may give one thousand of them to the poor; and if it be that Thou art not certain [about me] give me four thousand and do Thou Thyself give the other thousand with Thine Own hands into theirs."

DCI. Another silly man having gone on a journey to carry on his trade wrote to his father, saying, "I have been ill with a very grievous sickness, and if any one else had been in my place he would not have been able to live." And his father made him answer, saying, "Believe me, my son, if thou hadst died thou wouldst have grieved me sadly, and I would never have spoken to thee again in the whole course of my life."

DCII. Another simpleton on being asked what he had learned at school replied, "Arithmetic;" whereupon some people said to him, "If four pieces of silver be divided equally among three men, how much will each receive?" And he said, "Two of them will receive two pieces of silver each, so that there will be twice two pieces of silver for the three of them."

DCIII. Another silly man was carrying on his shoulder a little boy dressed in a red gown, and forgetting all about his being there, he began to ask the folk, saying, "Who hath seen a boy dressed in a red gown?" And when it was said to him, "Peradventure it is this boy, who is on thy shoulder," and he had lifted up his head and seen him, he struck him, saying, "O son of adultery, how many times have I told thee that when I am carrying thee thou art not to go away from me?"

DCIV. Another simpleton was sitting in a boat on

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the sea, and he had a few zûzê in his hand. And as he looked, he saw on the garment of one of those who were with him an orange, and he stretched out his hand and laid hold of it with his two fingers, but wishing to throw the orange into the sea he threw the zûzê instead, and kept fast hold on the orange. And when he was rebuked for doing this, he said, "I was afraid that it might run away and stick in our garments again."

DCV. Another fool seeing an Arab minaret from which men were calling [the people] to prayer, said to his companion, "How very tall the men who built this minaret must have been!" His friend replied, "O silly man, how could any man be as tall as this? They built it first of all on the ground, and then set it up [on its end]."

DCVI. Certain stupid husbandmen came to the governor and began to complain, saying, "The taxes laid upon us are too heavy, and if thou canst not diminish them we must leave [our lands] and go away." The governor said to them, "What now do ye wish me to do for you?" and they replied, "We wish that thou wouldst tax us one fifth and that thou shouldst not take tithe from us, for we cannot pay tithe." The governor said to them, "Your wishes shall be carried out," and so this custom came upon them even to this day.

DCVII. Another fool said, "I saw a man with a long beard who was riding upon an ass which he was beating, and he said to him, "O cursed one, if thou didst not wish to be ridden why didst thou become an ass? 1

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DCVIII. Another simple man, when he saw his crop lying flat before the violent wind and hail, looked up to heaven and said, "O Lord, Thou commandest the children of men neither to do evil nor to do harm to each other, but what sayest Thou to this work of Thine? But who can judge Thee because Thy deeds do not correspond to Thy words?"

DCIX. Another fool had a son who had put his head outside the window and a hailstone fell upon it, whereupon he cursed him that had struck him. Then his father struck him and putting his own head out of the window looked up to heaven and said, "O my Lord, blame him not, for as yet he knoweth Thee not."

DCX. Another simpleton, whilst washing his hands, said, "I have tried my hands, and if I were to wash them a thousand times they would not be clean, unless I washed them twice."

DCXI. Another silly man went to visit a man whose son was dead, and he began to say, "Blessed be God; I thank God for His goodness." And the people who were there present began to rebuke him, saying, "Why speakest thou in this manner?" He replied, "Because I heard that some one belonging to him was dead, and since it is his son there is no [cause for] trouble, for so long as he liveth he will be able to beget one son after the other."

DCXII. Another fool went to a grammarian that he might teach him to speak correctly, and when he had read with him for nigh upon a year, he asked the grammarian, "Do I pronounce sûsyâ with a tsâdhê or with a semkath1"

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DCXIII. Another nobleman was a silly man, and once when he was travelling along the road in company with some other folk, he said to them, "Leave me for a short time, for I want to say a few words to myself."

DCXIV. Whilst another simpleton was saying his prayers in the church he heard the priests saying in their prayers, "Adam sinned, but Christ was crucified to redeem him;" and he said, "This is not justice, for he that committed the sin should be the one to be crucified."

DCXV. When another silly man was cracking an almond the kernel slipped away out of his hands, and he said, "Glory be to Thee, O God, for even the kernel of the almond trieth to escape death."

DCXVI. Another fool stood on the sea-shore and said, "Glory be to Him that created the sea out of dry wood."

DCXVII. The son of another simpleton shewed him a young dove, and said, "Look, father, which doth it resemble, its father or its mother?" His father said to him, "Which is its father or mother? This male or this female? "

DCXVIII. Another simpleton said, "I love the discourses of Mâr Jacob 1 very much indeed, so much so that I am blessed by him every day." His companion said to him, "But why art thou not blessed by the Holy Gospel?" and he replied, "The Gospel is good, but I have found by experience that Mâr Jacob helpeth me."

DCXIX. Another fool went into a new house and

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was walking round about in it when the owner thereof said, "What sayest thou; have I built well [or not]?" He said, "Everything is beautiful in it except the latrine, which hath one fault: its door is so narrow that a table will not go through it."

DCXX. A certain nobleman who was a fool had got possession of a village, and he sent to those who were over it, saying, "Do not let the husbandmen sow their fields any more with seed of the downy thorn or with the pips and stones of fruit, because not a quarter of it cometh up; but let them sow it with pure seed, and let the poor sow grass seed likewise without the pips and stones of fruit."


143:1 I.e., ###, a rare word; see my Thomas of Margâ, Vol. i. p. 353, 1. 17.

144:1 Compare St. Matthew xiii. 8.

147:1 See St. John xi. 14.

152:1 Var. "was asking in the market, 'Has there not passed before you a red old man with a red helmet on his head?'"

153:1 I.e.; the fool could not distinguish between the sounds of s and ts after nearly a year's study.

154:1 I.e., Jacob of Edessa; he was born about A.D. 640 and died 5th of June A.D. 708.

Next: The Seventeenth Chapter: Stories of Lunatics and of Men Possessed of Devils