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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 Seventeenth Chapter


DCXXI. They say that a certain demoniac saw a fay nobleman and he said to him, "O thou who art as fat as a pig, if the devil which is in me had been alive in the time of Christ, he would never have left thee and entered into me."

DCXXII. When it was said to another demoniac by a certain nobleman, "Knowest thou me?" he said, "Yes, I know thee, and I know thy brother." The nobleman said to him, "Who is my brother?" And he replied to him, "Thou, even as one who is like him, hast neither root nor stem," that is to say, "Thou art not of noble descent."

DCXXIII. When another demoniac went to the house of a certain nobleman he offered him some bread only, and the demoniac went out refusing this and saying, "I will come to thee on the day of the feast when some meat may be found with thee."

DCXXIV. Another demoniac said, "I went into a hospital and saw a demoniac who was in fetters, and I thrust out my tongue at him and rolled mine eyes. And when he saw me do this he looked up to heaven and said, 'Glory be to Thee, O God, for one whom the physicians have left free, and for one whom they have bound.'"

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DCXXV. Another demoniac went round about the market, saying, "He that would be an excellent man, let him learn that which I know not. For when he saith, 'I know not,' men will teach him to know; and when he saith, 'I know,' those who ask questions will prove to him that he is ignorant by means of hard questions."

DCXXVI. Another demoniac, having laid hold upon a man, threw him down under him and was choking him, when certain folk came and rescued the man from him. And when they were beating him they asked him why he did this, and he said, "If he did not wish to be choked why did he fall under me? And he did not suffer for a moment in my hands."

DCXXVII. Another madman said, "I wish to eat sweetmeats and, dung," whereupon certain folk who heard him, said, "Let us bring both to him, and we shall see how he will eat them." And when they had brought them to him he began to eat the sweetmeat and left the dung where it was, saying, "I suspect that there is poison in this dung, but if ye wish me to eat it without a doubt, do ye also eat a portion thereof and I will eat the remainder."

DCXXVIII. Another madman went up to a polished pillar and said, "Who will give me a zûzâ for going up to the top?" And when certain folk had given him the zûzâ, he took it and said, "Bring me now a ladder," and the people said, "Did we agree with thee [to climb it] with a ladder?" The madman said, "Ye certainly did not agree with me to do it without one, ye only stipulated that I should go up."

DCXXIX. Another madman said to a certain teacher, "What manner of words are these which are uttered

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in the Gospel, 'If they persecute you in one city, flee to another?' and, besides, if they shut up a man how can he escape? It would have been right for our Lord to give the command, 'They shall bind in chains no man, neither shall they shut him up."

DCXXX. It was said unto a certain lunatic by the demoniacs, "Number for us the demoniacs that are in Emesa." And he replied, "I cannot count the demoniacs because they are so many, but I can count the men of understanding who are therein because they are so few."

DCXXXI. A certain lunatic put on a skin cloak with the hairy side outwards, and when people asked him why he did so, he replied, "If God had known that it was better to have the hairy side of the skin cloak inwards, He would not have created the wool on the outside of the sheep."

DCXXXII. Another lunatic when asked "Where is thy native land?" replied, "The place where I was born was Sinjâr 1, and I was reared in the Monastery of Mâr Behnâm 2," because in the majority of cases demoniacs were accustomed to be carried there bound in fetters, so that they might be benefited by the power of the saint.

DCXXXIII. Another demoniac being very mad used to strike people, and a certain man rose up and took a stick and beat him severely. Then the people began to say to him, "Let him alone, for he is a demoniac and doth not know what he doeth," and when the demoniac heard this he said to them, "Make him to understand about God, for he knoweth Him not."

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DCXXXIV. A certain man said unto a demoniac, "Take four pieces of silver, and go and reap in my place in the royal crops." And he replied, "There are two things which I cannot do by myself, that is, to take money and to reap; but let me take the money and do thou go and reap, so that the labour may be easy both for thee and for me."

DCXXXV. Dixit alius quidam a daemone obsessus, "Proximâ nocte somnium mihi obvenit partim verum, partim falsum." Quaestum est de eo, "Quid vis dicere?" et regessit, "Dormiens cum pulcherrimâ puellâ coire visus sum: experrectus autem intellexi me coiisse non tamen cum puellâ."

DCXXXVI. Another demoniac lifted his eyes to heaven and said, "Should the understanding One do thus? Was this the work of a wise being? Thou, [O God] hast created a multitude of men, but, behold, Thou killest half of them by hunger. How much better would it have been if instead of every hundred souls Thou hadst made one, for then all men could have lived happily and in abundance. It is meet that a man should multiply those who are supported by him in proportion to the food which he hath."

DCXXXVII. Another demoniac was very skilful in interpreting dreams in his madness, and one day a certain nobleman said to him, "I saw in my dream as if a great number of sparrows were fastened up the skirts of my garments, and I made them to fly off one after the other, but when the last one came to escape I caught hold of it." And the demoniac interpreted the dream thus:—"If thou didst in truth see what thou sayest thou must have made thy supper upon lentiles.—Cum autem dormitares pedere coepisti:

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ventrem postremus exonerare expetentem to ipsum cohibuisti." Cui nobilis subridens, "Di te accusent! Mihi enim evenit quemadmodum narras."

DCXXXVIII. Whilst another lunatic was sitting down and weeping it was said to him, "Why weepest thou? And why art thou sad?" He replied, "How can I help weeping? for behold the winter hath come and I have no tunic." And they said to him, "Be not in tribulation, God will not leave thee without a tunic," and he replied, "True, but last year He not only left me without a tunic, but also without a cloak and without a loin cloth."

DCXXXIX. Another lunatic was sitting in the market and eating baked meat, and a certain man said to him, "Give me some of that which thou art eating, so that I also may eat like thee." He replied, "This doth not belong to me, but a certain nobleman commanded me to eat it all for his sake, and I am afraid to transgress his commandment."

DCXL. To another lunatic, round about whom a large number of boys were gathered together, it was said, "Go and lie down in a certain place so that these boys may go away from thee;" and he replied, "When they are hungry they will depart."

DCXLI. Another lunatic was a Jacobite, and a certain Greek said to him, "Wilt thou take a zûzâ and curse Jacob Bûrde‘âyâ?" 1 And he replied, "No, but give me the half of one and I will curse thee and Leo 2, who is much more honourable than Jacob, and to

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these I will also add for the Marcianus who was an emperor 1."

DCXLII. Another lunatic was boasting that he was a king in the time of Hercules, and when a certain nobleman said to him, "Thou art the king of podical sternutations", he replied, "If I were what thy words say I am, my kingdom would be greater and much more vast than that of Hercules, because podical sternutations are much more numerous than Greeks."

DCXLIII. When another lunatic was fettered in the hospital, he that filled the drinking-cup came to him and said, "Take, drink, and if thou dost not do so I will beat thee with this whip." And the lunatic replied, "Give it to me and I will drink, although I know well that thou thyself needest to drink it more than I do."

DCXLIV. Another lunatic was passing through the cloth-workers’ bazaar when he saw a large number of men gathered together about a shop which had been broken into during the night, and he also drew nigh and looked at the place where the thieves broke through. Then he said, "Do not all of you know who did this?" and they said, "No." And the lunatic said to them, "I know, but I shall not tell you until you bring me three loaves of bread, and two roasted heads to eat, for I am famished; and when I have satisfied my hunger I will tell you." And the people said to each other, "It is not to be wondered at if he should know [who did it], for he is wandering about the whole night through, and thieves never hide from him, because they know that he hath no intelligence and that he could

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not identify them." And when they had brought the food to him and he had eaten and was satisfied, he stood up in the breach and said, "So ye do not know whose deed this is? Then ye have all become little children. This is, indeed, the work of thieves and of no one else." So he left [them] and went away.

DCXLV. Another lunatic, when the boys were throwing stones at him, ran away from them, and there met him a woman who was carrying a little child, and he went and smote the little child so that he nearly died. And the woman said to him, "The wrath of God be upon thee! In what way did the child offend thee?" The lunatic said, "O harlot, to-morrow when he hath grown a little more he will be worse than these."

DCXLVI. Two lunatics were engaged in a severe fight with each other when the guards captured them and hauled them before the governor. The governor said to one of them, "Why didst thou strike this man?" and he replied, "Manu testes meas exporrectâ captabat ut prehensum alterutrum resecaret." Judex ergo quaesivit, "Quare manu testes illius captabas?" Respondit, "Crede mihi tot habet uxores et pellices ut tale facinus patrare nunquam ausus essem."

DCXLVII. Another lunatic was eating dates together with their stones, and when he was asked why he did so, he said, "The shopman weighed them out to me thus."

DCXLVIII. Whenever an ordinary man died people were in the habit of giving a zûzâ to a certain lunatic, and once when a rich man died, his relatives gave him two. And having taken the zûzê and gone out the lunatic said to the relatives of the dead man, "Do

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not forget that ye have given alms to me for the next among you who shall die."

DCXLIX. Another lunatic asked a certain nobleman to give him a pair of shoes, "For", he said, "I am barefooted." And when the governor had given him the shoes, he said to him, "Have a care so that my head also may pray for thee as well as my feet, otherwise the prayer of my feet will not be more availing than the curses of my head." And the nobleman commanded and gave him a cloak also.

DCL. The wife of another lunatic came to the judge and made a complaint against her husband, saying, "He beateth me and he starveth me." And when the judge had rebuked him for such conduct the lunatic said, "As regards the beatings which I give her she speaketh the truth, but in the matter of the starving she lieth." Then he fell at the feet of the judge, and entreated him to come in person with him to the door of his house that he might see for himself and judge rightly in the matter. Now when the judge heard [these words] he imagined that the lunatic wished to shew [him] the quantity of bread and meal which were in his house, so he rose up and went with him. Quum tamen ad aedium fores ventum est ingentem merdam illi monstravit quaesivitque, "Hanc per deos rem cognoscite, num istam merdam edere famelica valuisset?" And when the judge looked he was very angry and reproached himself because he had been persuaded to come with the lunatic.

DCLI. Unto another lunatic a certain man said, "Why standest thou idle? Behold, the prince distributeth two zûzê to every man." The lunatic said, "Shew me, now,

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the two zûzê which he hath given thee if thou art telling the truth."

DCLII. A certain lawgiver became possessed of a devil, and a man said to him, "What saith the law concerning a man who hath died and left a widow, and a son, and a daughter, when it is found that he hath also left behind him a thousand dînârs?" The lunatic replied, To the widow shall come widowhood, to the son shall come the orphan's estate, and the daughter hath that whereon she can live by whoring; but the money shall be divided among the poor and the lunatics who are not able to work."


158:1 A city in the mountains about four days’ journey east of Môsul.

158:2 See Hoffmann, Auszüge, p. 17 ff.

160:1 Born at Edessa A.D. 154, died A.D. 222.

160:2 I.e., Leo the Pope; he was born about A.D. 400, and died about A.D. 461.

161:1 Emperor of the East A.D. 450–457.

Next: The Eighteenth Chapter: Stories of Thieves and of Robbers