Kathasaritsagara (the Ocean of Story)

by Somadeva | 1924 | 1,023,469 words | ISBN-13: 9789350501351

This is the English translation of the Kathasaritsagara written by Somadeva around 1070. The principle story line revolves around prince Naravāhanadatta and his quest to become the emperor of the Vidhyādharas (‘celestial beings’). The work is one of the adoptations of the now lost Bṛhatkathā, a great Indian epic tale said to have been composed by ...

[M] (Main story line continued) THEN[1] the minister Gomukha again said to Naravāhanadatta, in order to solace him while pining for Śaktiyaśas:

“Prince, you have heard a tale of a wise person; now hear a tale about a fool.


85. Story of the Foolish Merchant who made Aloes-Wood into Charcoal [2]

A certain rich merchant had a blockhead of a son. He, once on a time, went to the island of Kaṭāha to trade, and among his wares there was a great quantity of fragrant aloes-wood. And after he had sold the rest of his wares, he could not find anyone to take the aloes-wood off his hands, for the people who live there are not acquainted with that article of commerce. Then, seeing people buying charcoal from the woodman, the fool burnt his stock of aloes-wood and reduced it to charcoal. Then he sold it for the price which charcoal usually fetched, and returning home, boasted of his cleverness, and became a laughing-stock to everybody.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“I have told you of the man who burnt aloes-wood; now hear the tale of the cultivator of sesame.


86. Story of the Man who sowed Roasted Seed [3]

There was a certain villager who was a cultivator, and very nearly an idiot. He one day roasted some sesame seeds, and finding them nice to eat, he sowed a large number of roasted seeds, hoping that similar ones would come up. When they did not come up, on account of their having been roasted, he found that he had lost his substance, and people laughed at him.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“I have spoken of the sesame-cultivator; now hear about the man who threw fire into water.


87. Story of the Fool who mixed Fire and Water [4]

There was a silly man, who, one night, having to perform a sacrifice next day, thus reflected:

“I require water and fire, for bathing, burning incense, and other purposes; so I will put them together, that I may quickly obtain them when I want them.”

Thus reflecting, he threw fire into the pitcher of water, and then went to bed. And in the morning, when he came to look, the fire was extinct, and the water was spoiled. And when he saw the water blackened with charcoal, his face was blackened also, and the faces of the amused people were wreathed in smiles.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“You have heard the story of the man who was famous on account of the pitcher of fire; now hear the story of the nose-engrafter.


88. Story of the Man who tried to improve his Wife’s Nose

There lived in some place or other a foolish man of bewildered intellect. He, seeing that his wife was flat-nosed, and that his spiritual instructor was high-nosed,[5] cut off the nose of the latter when he was asleep; and then he went and cut off his wife’s nose, and stuck the nose of his spiritual instructor on her face, but it would not grow there. Thus he deprived both his wife and his spiritual guide of their noses.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Now hear the story of the herdsman who lived in a forest.”


89. Story of the Foolish Herdsman

There lived in a forest a rich but silly herdsman. Many rogues conspired together and made friends with him.

They said to him:

“We have asked the daughter of a rich inhabitant of the town in marriage for you, and her father has promised to give her.”

When he heard that, he was pleased, and gave them wealth, and after a few days they came again and said:

“Your marriage has taken place.”

He was very much pleased at that, and gave them abundance of wealth.

And after some more days they said to him:

“A son has been born to you.”

He was in ecstasies at that, and he gave them all his wealth, like the fool that he was, and the next day he began to lament, saying:

“I am longing to see my son.”

And when the herdsman began to cry, he incurred the ridicule of the people on account of his having been cheated by the rogues, as if he had acquired the stupidity of cattle from having so much to do with them.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“You have heard of the herdsman; now hear the story of the omament-hanger.


90. Story of the Fool and the Ornaments [6]

A certain villager, while digging up the ground, found a splendid set of ornaments, which thieves had taken from the palace and placed there. He immediately took them and decorated his wife with them: he put the girdle on her head, and the necklace round her waist, and the anklets on her wrists, and the bracelets on her ears.

When the people heard of it, they laughed, and bruited it about. So the king came to hear of it, and took away from the villager the ornaments, which belonged to himself, but let the villager go unharmed, because he was as stupid as an animal.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“I have told you, Prince, of the ornament-finder; now hear the story of the cotton-grower.


91. Story of the Fool and the Cotton [7]

A certain blockhead went to the market to sell cotton, but no one would buy it from him on the ground that it was not properly cleaned. In the meanwhile he saw in the bazaar a goldsmith selling gold, which he had purified by heating it, and he saw it taken by a customer. When the stupid creature saw that, he threw the cotton into the fire in order to purify it, and when it was burnt up, the people laughed at him.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“You have heard, Prince, this story of the cotton-grower; now hear the story of the men who cut down the palm-trees.


92. Story of the Foolish Villagers who cut down the Palm-Trees

Some foolish villagers were summoned by the king’s officers, and set to work to gather some dates in accordance with an order from the king’s court.[8] They, perceiving that it was very easy to gather the dates of one date-palm that had tumbled down of itself, cut down all the date-palms in their village. And after they had laid them low, they gathered from them their whole crop of dates, and then they raised them up and planted them again, but they did not succeed in making them grow. And then, when they brought the dates, they were not rewarded, but on the contrary punished with a fine by the king, who had heard of the cutting down of the trees.[9]


[M] (Main story line continued)

“I have told you this joke about the dates; now I am going to tell you about the looking for treasure.


93. Story of the Treasure-Finder who was blinded

A certain king took to himself a treasure-finder. And the wicked minister of that king had both eyes of the man, who was able to find the places where treasure was deposited, torn out, in order that he might not run away anywhere. The consequence was that, being blind, he was incapacitated from seeing the indications of treasure in the earth, whether he ran away or remained; and people, seeing that,[10] laughed at the silly minister.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“You have heard of the searching for treasure; now hear about the eating of salt.


94. Story of the Fool and the Salt

There was, once on a time, an impenetrably stupid man living in a village.[11] He was once taken home by a friend who lived in the city, and was regaled on curry and other food, made savoury by salt.

And that blockhead asked:

“What makes this food so savoury?”

His friend told him that its relish was principally due to salt. He came to the conclusion that salt was the proper thing to eat, so he took a handful of crushed salt and threw it into his mouth, and ate it; the powdered salt whitened the lips and beard of the foolish fellow, and so the people laughed at him till his face became white also.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“You have heard, Prince, the story of the devourer of salt; now hear the story of the man who had a milch-cow.


95. Story of the Fool and his Milch-Cow [12]

There was once on a time a certain foolish villager, and he had one cow. And that cow gave him every day a hundred palas of milk. And once on a time it happened that a feast was approaching.

So he thought:

“I will take all the cow’s milk at once on the feast-day, and so get very much.”

Accordingly the fool did not milk his cow for a whole month. And when the feast came, and he did begin to milk it, he found its milk had failed, but to the people this was an unfailing source of amusement.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“You have heard of the fool who had a milch-cow; now hear the story of these other two fools.


96. Story of the Foolish Bald Man and the Fool who pelted him

There was a certain bald man with a head like a copper pot. Once on a time a young man, who, being hungry, had gathered wood-apples, as he was coming along his path, saw him sitting at the foot of a tree. In fun he hit him on the head with a wood-apple; the bald man took it patiently and said nothing to him. Then he hit his head with all the rest of the wood-apples that he had, throwing them at him one after another, and the bald man remained silent, even though the blood flowed. So the foolish young fellow had to go home hungry without his wood-apples, which he had broken to pieces in his useless and childish pastime of pelting the bald man; and the foolish bald man went home with his head streaming with blood, saying to himself:

“Why should I not submit to being pelted with such delicious wood-apples?”

And everybody there laughed when they saw him with his head covered with blood, looking like the diadem with which he had been crowned king of fools.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Thus you see, Prince, that foolish persons become the objects of ridicule in the world, and do not succeed in their objects; but wise persons are honoured.”

When Naravāhanadatta had heard from Gomukha these elegant and amusing anecdotes, he rose up and performed his day’s duties. And when night came on, the prince was anxious to hear some more stories, and at his request Gomukha told this story about wise creatures:


97. Story of the Crow and the King of the Pigeons, the Tortoise and the Deer [13]

There was in a certain forest region a great Śalmali tree, and in it there lived a crow, named Laghupātin, who had made his dwelling there. One day, as he was in his nest, he saw below the tree a terrible-looking man arrive with a stick, net in hand. And while the crow looked down from the tree, he saw that the man spread out the net on the ground, and strewed there some rice, and then hid himself.

In the meanwhile the king of the pigeons, named Citragrīva, as he was roaming through the air, attended by hundreds of pigeons, came there, and seeing the grains of rice scattered on the ground, he alighted on the net out of desire for food, and got caught in the meshes with all his attendants.

When Citragrīva saw that, he said to all his followers:

“Take the net in your beaks, and fly up into the air as fast as you can.”

All the terrified pigeons said: “So be it.”

And taking the net, they flew up swiftly and began to travel through the air. The fowler too rose up, and with eye fixed upwards, returned despondent.

Then Citragrīva, being relieved from his fear, said to his followers:

“Let us quickly go to my friend the mouse Hiraṇya; he will gnaw these meshes asunder and set us at liberty.”

With these words he went on with those pigeons, who were dragging the net along with them, and descended from the air at the entrance of a mouse’s hole. And there the king of the pigeons called the mouse, saying:

“Hiraṇya, come out; I, Citragrīva, have arrived.”

And when the mouse heard through the entrance, and saw that his friend had come, he came out from that hole with a hundred openings. The mouse went up to him, and when he had heard what had taken place, proceeded with the utmost eagerness to gnaw asunder the meshes that kept the pigeon king and his retinue prisoners. And when he had gnawed the meshes asunder, Citragrīva took leave of him with kind words, and flew up into the air with his companions.

And when the crow, who had followed the pigeons, saw that, he came to the entrance of the hole, and said to the mouse, who had re-entered it:

“I am Laghupātin, a crow; seeing that you tender your friends dearly, I choose you for my friend, as you are a creature capable of delivering from such calamities.”

When the mouse saw that crow from the inside of his hole, he said:

“Depart! What friendship can there be between the eater and his prey?”

Then the crow said:

“God forbid! If I were to eat you, my hunger might be satisfied for a moment, but if I make you my friend my life will be always preserved by you.”

When the crow had said this, and more, and had taken an oath, and so inspired confidence in the mouse, the mouse came out, and the crow made friends with him. The mouse brought out pieces of flesh, and grains of rice, and there they both remained eating together in great happiness.

And one day the crow said to his friend the mouse:

“At a considerable distance from this place there is a river in the middle of a forest, and in it there lives a tortoise named Mantharaka, who is a friend of mine; for his sake I will go to that place where flesh and other food is easily obtained; it is difficult for me to obtain sustenance here, and I am in continual dread of the fowler.”

When the crow said this to him, the mouse answered:

“Then we will live together; take me there also, for I too have an annoyance here, and when we get there I will explain the whole matter to you.”

When Hiraṇya said this, Laghupātin took him in his beak, and flew to the bank of that forest stream. And there he found his friend, the tortoise Mantharaka, who welcomed him, and he and the mouse sat with him. And after they had conversed a little, that crow told the tortoise the cause of his coming, together with the circumstances of his having made friends with Hiraṇya. Then the tortoise adopted the mouse as his friend on an equal footing with the crow, and asked the cause of the annoyance which drove him from his native place. Then Hiraṇya gave this account of his experiences in the hearing of the crow and the tortoise:


97a. The Mouse and the Hermit [14]

I lived in a great hole near the city, and one night I stole a necklace from the palace, and laid it up in my hole. And by looking at that necklace I acquired strength,[15] and a number of mice attached themselves to me, as being able to steal food for them. In the meanwhile a hermit had made a cell near my hole, and he lived on a large stock of food, which he had obtained by begging. Every evening he used to put the food which remained over, after he had eaten, in his beggar’s porringer on an inaccessible peg, meaning to eat it next day.[16] And, every night, when he was asleep, I entered by a hole, and jumping up, carried it off.

Once on a time another hermit, a friend of his, came there, and after eating, conversed with him during the night. And I was at that time attempting to carry off the food, so the first hermit, who was listening, made the pot resound frequently by striking it with a piece of split cane.

And the hermit who was his guest said:

“Why do you interrupt our conversation to do this?”

Whereupon the hermit to whom the cell belonged answered him:

“I have got an enemy here in the form of this mouse, who is always jumping up and carrying off this food of mine, though it is high up. I am trying to frighten him by moving the pot of food with a piece of cane.”

When he said this, the other hermit said to him:

“In truth this covetousness is the bane of creatures. Hear a story illustrative of this.


97aa. The Brahman's Wife and the Sesame-Seeds [17]

Once on a time, as I was wandering from one sacred bathing-place to another, I reached a town, and there I entered the house of a certain Brāhman to stay.

And while I was there the Brāhman said to his wife:

“Cook to-day, as it is the change of the moon, a dish composed of milk, sesame and rice, for the Brāhmans.”

She answered him:

“How can a pauper like you afford this?”

Then the Brāhman said to her:

“My dear, though we should hoard, we should not direct our thoughts to excessive hoarding. Hear this tale.


97aaa. The Greedy Jackal [18]

In a certain forest a hunter, after he had been hunting, fixed an arrow in a self-acting bow,[19] and after placing flesh on it, pursued a wild boar. He pierced the wild boar with a dart, but was mortally wounded by his tusks, and died; and a jackal beheld all this from a distance. So he came, but though he was hungry he would not eat any of the abundant flesh of the hunter and the boar, wishing to hoard it up. But he went first to eat what had been placed on the bow, and that moment the arrow fixed in it flew up, and pierced him so that he died.


97aa. The Brahman’s Wife and the Sesame-Seeds

“So you must not indulge in excessive hoarding.”

When the Brāhman said this, his wife consented, and placed some sesame-seeds in the sun. And while she went into the house, a dog tasted them and defiled them, so nobody would buy that dish of sesame-seeds and rice.[20]


97a. The Mouse and the Hermit

“So, you see, covetousness does not give pleasure; it only causes annoyance to those who cherish it.”

When the hermit, who was a visitor, had said this, he went on to say:

“If you have a spade, give it me, in order that I may take steps to put a stop to this annoyance caused by the mouse.”

Thereupon the hermit to whom the cell belonged gave the visitor a spade, and I, who saw it all from my place of concealment, entered my hole. Then the cunning hermit, who had come to visit the other, discovering the hole by which I entered, began to dig. And while I retired further and further in, he went on digging, until at last he reached the necklace and the rest of my stores.

And he said to the hermit who resided there, in my hearing:

“It was by the power of this necklace that the mouse had such strength.”

So they took away all my wealth and placed the necklace on their necks, and then the master of the cell and the visitor went to sleep with light hearts. But when they were asleep I came again to steal, and the resident hermit woke up and hit me with a stick on the head. That wounded me, but, as it chanced, did not kill me, and I returned to my hole. But after that I had never strength to make the bound necessary for stealing the food. For wealth is youth to creatures, and the want of it produces old age; owing to the want of it, spirit, might, beauty and enterprise fail. So all my retinue of mice, seeing that I had become intent on feeding myself only, left me. Servants leave a master who does not support them, bees a tree without flowers, swans a tank without water, in spite of long association.


97. Story of the Crow and the King of the Pigeons, the Tortoise and the Deer

“So I have long been in a state of despondency, but now, having obtained this Laghupātin for a friend, I have come here to visit you, noble tortoise.”

When Hiraṇya had said this, the tortoise Mantharaka answered:

“This is a home to you; so do not be despondent, my friend. To a virtuous man no country is foreign; a man who is content cannot be unhappy; for the man of endurance calamity does not exist; there is nothing impossible to the enterprising.”

While the tortoise was saying this, a deer, named Citrāṅga, came to that wood from a great distance, having been terrified by the hunters. When they saw him, and observed that no hunter was pursuing him, the tortoise and his companions made friends with him, and he recovered his strength and spirits. And those four, the crow, the tortoise, the mouse and the deer, long lived there happily as friends, engaged in reciprocal courtesies.

One day Citrāṅga was behind time, and Laghupātin flew to the top of a tree to look for him, and surveyed the whole wood. And he saw Citrāṅga on the bank of the river, entangled in the fatal noose,[21] and then he came down and told this to the mouse and the tortoise. Then they deliberated together, and Laghupātin took up the mouse in his beak, and carried him to Citrāṅga. And the mouse Hiraṇya comforted the deer, who was distressed at being caught, and in a moment set him at liberty by gnawing his bonds asunder.[22]

In the meanwhile the tortoise Mantharaka, who was devoted to his friends, came up the bank near them, having travelled along the bed of the river. At that very moment the hunter who had set the noose arrived from somewhere or other, and when the deer and others escaped, caught and made prize of the tortoise. And he put it in a net, and went off, grieved at having lost the deer. In the meanwhile the friends saw what had taken place, and by the advice of the far-seeing mouse the deer went a considerable distance off, and fell down as if he were dead.[23] And the crow stood upon his head, and pretended to peck his eyes. When the hunter saw that, he imagined that he had captured the deer, as it was dead, and he began to make for it, after putting down the tortoise on the bank of the river. When the mouse saw him making towards the deer, he came up, and gnawed a hole in the net which held the tortoise, so the tortoise was set at liberty, and he plunged into the river. And when the deer saw the hunter coming near, without the tortoise, he got up and ran off, and the crow, for his part, flew up a tree. Then the hunter came back, and finding that the tortoise had escaped by the net’s having been gnawed asunder, he returned home, lamenting that the tortoise had fled and could not be recovered.

Then the four friends came together again in high spirits, and the gratified deer addressed the three others as follows:

“I am fortunate in having obtained you for friends, for you have to-day delivered me from death at the risk of your lives.”

In such words the deer praised the crow and the tortoise and the mouse, and they all lived together delighting in their mutual friendship.[24]


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Thus, you see, even animals attain their ends by wisdom, and they risk their lives sooner than abandon their friends in calamity. So full of love is the attachment that subsists among friends; but attachment to women is not approved, because it is open to jealousy. Hear a story in proof of this.


98. Story of the Wife who falsely accused her Husband of murdering a Bhilla [25]

There lived once on a time in a certain town a jealous husband, who had for wife a beautiful woman, whom he loved exceedingly. But, being suspicious, he never left her alone, for he feared that she might be seduced even by men in pictures. However, one day he had to go to another country on unavoidable business, and he took his wife with him. And seeing that a forest inhabited by Bhillas lay in his way, he left his wife in the house of an old Brāhman villager, and proceeded on his journey. But, while she was there, she saw some Bhillas, who had come that way, and she eloped with a young Bhilla whom she saw. And she went with him to his village,[26] following her inclinations, having escaped from her jealous husband, as a river that has broken a dam.

In the meanwhile her husband finished his business, and returned, and asked the Brāhman villager for his wife, and the Brāhman answered him:

“I do not know where she has gone; so much only I know, that some Bhillas came here: she must have been carried off by them. And their village is near here; go there quickly, you will find your wife there, without doubt.”

When the Brāhman told him this, he wept, and blamed his own folly, and went to that village of Bhillas, and there he saw his wife.

When the wicked woman saw him, she approached him in fear, and said:

“It is not my fault; the Bhilla brought me here by force.”

Her husband, blind with love, said:

“Come along, let us return home, before anyone discovers us.”

But she said to him:

“Now is the time when the Bhilla returns from hunting; when he returns he will certainly pursue you and me, and kill us both. So enter this cavern at present, and remain concealed. But at night we will kill him when he is asleep, and leave this place in perfect safety.”

When the wicked woman said this to him, he entered the cave. What room is there for discernment in the heart of one blinded with love?

The Bhilla returned at the close of the day, and that wicked woman showed him her husband in the cave, whom his passion had enabled her to decoy there. And the Bhilla, who was a strong man, and cruel, dragged out the husband, and tied him firmly to a tree, in order that he might next day offer him to Bhavānī.

And he ate his dinner, and at night lay down to sleep by the side of the faithless wife, before the eyes of the husband. Then that jealous husband, who was tied to the tree, seeing him asleep, implored Bhavānī to help him in his need, praising her with hymns. She appeared and granted him a boon, so that he escaped from his bonds, and cut off the head of the Bhilla with his own sword.

Then he woke up his wife, and said to her,

“Come, I have killed this villain,”

and she rose up much grieved. And the faithless woman set out at night with her husband, but she secretly took with her the head of the Bhilla.

And the next morning, when they reached a town, she showed the head, and laying hands upon her husband, cried out:

“This man has killed my husband.”

Then the city police took her with her husband before the king. And the jealous husband, being questioned, told the whole story. Then the king inquired into it, and finding that it was true, he ordered the ears and nose of that faithless wife to be cut off,[27] and set her husband at liberty. And he went home freed from the demon of love for a wicked woman.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“This, Prince, is how a woman behaves when over-jealously watched, for the jealousy of the husband teaches the wife to run after other men. So a wise man should guard his wife without showing jealousy. And a man must by no means reveal a secret to a woman if he desires prosperity. Hear a story showing this.


99. Story of the Snake who told his Secret to a Woman

A certain snake,[28] out of fear of Garuḍa,[29] fled to earth, and taking the form of a man, concealed himself in the house of a courtesan. And that courtesan used to take as payment five hundred elephants,[30] and the snake by his power gave her five hundred every day. And the lady importuned him to tell her how he acquired so many elephants every day, and who he was. And he, blinded with love, replied:

“I am a snake hiding here from fear of Garuḍa; do not tell anyone.”

But the courtesan privately told all this to the bawd.

Now Garuḍa, searching through the world for the snake, came there in the form of a man, and he came to the bawd and said:

“I wish to remain to-day in your daughter’s house; take my payment.”

And the bawd said to him:

“There is a snake living here, who gives us five hundred elephants every day. What do we care about one day’s pay?”

Then Garuḍa, finding out that the snake was living there, entered as a guest that courtesan’s house. And there he saw the snake on the flat roof, and revealing himself in his real form, he swooped down and killed him, and ate him.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So a wise man should not recklessly tell secrets to women.”

Having said this, Gomukha told him another story of a simpleton.


100. Story of the Bald Man and the Hair-Restorer

There was a bald man, with a head like a copper pot. And he, being a fool, was ashamed because, though a rich man in the world, he had no hair on his head.

Then a rogue, who lived upon others, came to him and said:

“There is a physician who knows a drug that will produce hair.”

When he heard it, he said:

“If you bring him to me, I will give wealth to you and to that physician also.”

When he said this, the rogue for a long time devoured his substance, and brought to that simpleton a doctor who was a rogue also. And after the doctor, too, had long lived at his expense, he one day removed his head-dress designedly, and showed him liis bald head. In spite of that, the blockhead, without considering, asked him for a drug which would produce hair.

Then the physician said to him:

“Since I am bald myself, how can I produce hair in others? It was in order to explain this to you that I showed you my bald head. But out on you! You do not understand even now.”

With these words the physician went away.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So you see, Prince, rogues perpetually make sport of fools. You have heard the story of the simpleton and his hair; now hear that of the simpleton and the oil.


101. Story of a Foolish Servant

A certain gentleman had a simpleton for a servant. His master sent him once to fetch oil from a merchant, and he received from him the oil in a vessel.

And as he was returning with the vessel in his hand, a friend of his said to him:

“Take care of this oil-vessel, it leaks at the bottom.”

When the blockhead heard this, he turned the vessel upside down to look at the bottom of it, and that made all the oil fall on the ground. When his master heard that, he turned out of his house that fool, who was the laughing-stock of the place.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So it is better for a simpleton to rely upon his own sense, and not to take advice. You have heard about the simpleton and the oil; now hear the story of the simpleton and the bones.”


102. Story of the Faithless Wife who was present at her own Śrāddha [31]

There was once a foolish man, and he had an unchaste wife. Once on a time, when her husband had gone away for some business to another country, she placed in charge of the house a confidential servant of hers, a truly unique maid, after giving her instructions as to what she was to do, and went away alone to the house of her paramour, intent on enjoying herself without being interfered with.

When the lady’s husband returned, the maid, who had been well schooled beforehand, said with a voice choked with tears:

“Your wife is dead and burnt.”

She then took him to the burning-gto[?], and showed him the bones belonging to the pyre of some other person; the fool brought them home with tears, and after bathing at the sacred bathing-place, and strewing her bones there, he proceeded to perform her śrāddha. And he made his wife’s paramour the officiating Brāhman at the ceremony, as the maid brought him, saying that he was an excellent Brāhman. And every month his wife came with that Brāhman, splendidly dressed, and ate the sweetmeats.

And then the maid said to him:

“See, master, by virtue of her chastity your wife is enabled to return from the other world and eat with the Brāhmans.”

And the matchless fool believed most implicitly what she said.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“In this way people of simple dispositions are easily imposed upon by wicked women. You have heard about the simpleton and the bones; now hear the story of the Caṇḍāla maiden.


103. Story of the Ambitious Caṇḍāla Maiden

There was once a simple but good-looking Caṇḍāla maiden, and she formed in her heart the determination to win for her bridegroom a universal monarch. Once on a time she saw the supreme sovereign go out to make a progress round his city, and she proceeded to follow him, with the intention of making him her husband. At that moment a hermit came that way, and the king, though mounted on an elephant, bowed at his feet, and returned to his own palace. When she saw that, she thought that the hermit was a greater man even than the king, and abandoning him, she proceeded to follow the hermit. The hermit, as he was going along, beheld in front of him an empty temple of Śiva, and kneeling on the ground, he worshipped Śiva, and then departed. Then the Caṇḍāla maiden thought that Śiva was greater even than the hermit, and she left the hermit and attached herself to the god, with the intention of marrying him. Immediately a dog entered, and going up on to the pedestal of the idol, lifted up his leg, and behaved after the manner of the dog tribe. Then the Caṇḍāla maiden thought that the dog was superior even to Śiva, and leaving the god, followed the departing dog, desiring to marry him. And the dog entered the house of a Caṇḍāla, and out of affection rolled at the feet of a young Caṇḍāla whom it knew. When she saw that, she concluded that the young Caṇḍāla was superior to the dog, and satisfied with her own caste, she chose him as her husband.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So fools, after aspiring high, fall into their proper place. And now hear in a few words the tale of the foolish king.


104. Story of the Miserly King

There was a certain foolish king, who was niggardly, though he possessed an abundant treasure.

And once on a time his ministers, who desired his prosperity, said to him:

“King, charity here averts misery in the next life. So bestow wealth in charity; life and riches are perishable.”

When the king heard this, he said:

“Then I will bestow wealth, when I am dead, and see myself reduced to a state of misery here.”

Then the ministers remained silent, laughing in their sleeves.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So, you see, a fool never takes leave of his wealth until his wealth takes leave of him. You have heard, Prince, of the foolish king; now hear the story of the two friends, by way of an episode in these tales of fools.


105. Story of Dhavalamukha, his Trading Friend and his Fighting Friend [32]

There was a king in Kanyākubja, named Candrāpīḍa. And he had a servant named Dhavalamukha. And he, whenever he came to his house, had eaten and drunk abroad.

And one day his wife asked him:

“Where do you always eat and drink before you come home?”

And Dhavalamukha answered her:

“I always eat and drink with my friends before I come home, for I have two friends in the world. The one is called Kalyāṇavarman, who obliges me with food and other gifts, and the other is Vīrabāhu, who would oblige me with the gift of his life.”

When his wife heard this, she said to Dhavalamukha:

“Then show me your two friends.”

Then he went with her to the house of Kalyāṇavarman, and Kalyāṇavarman honoured him with a splendid entertainment. The next day he went with his wife to Vīrabāhu, and he was gambling at the time, so he welcomed him and dismissed him.

Then Dhavalamukha’s wife, being full of curiosity, said to him:

“Kalyāṇavarman entertained you splendidly, but Vīrabāhu only gave you a welcome. So why do you think more highly of Vīrabāhu than of the other?”

When he heard that, he said:

“Go and tell them both in succession this fabrication, that the king has suddenly become displeased with us, and you will find out for yourself.”

She agreed, and went to Kalyāṇavarman and told him that falsehood, and he answered:

“Lady, I am a merchant’s son, what can I do against the king?”

When he gave her this answer, she went to Vīrabāhu, and told him also that the king was angry with her husband; and the moment he heard it, he came running with his shield and his sword. But Dhavalamukha induced him to return home, saying that the king’s ministers had pacified his resentment.

And he said to his wife:

“This, my dear, is the difference between those two friends of mine.”

And she was quite satisfied.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So you see that a friend that shows his friendship by ceremonious entertainment only, is a different thing from a real friend; though oil and ghee both possess the property of oiliness,[33] oil is oil, and ghee is ghee.”

When Gomukha had told this story, he continued his tales of fools for the benefit of Naravāhanadatta.


106. Story of the Thirsty Fool that did not Drink

A certain foolish traveller, tormented by thirst, having with difficulty got through a wood, reached a river; however, he did not drink of it, but kept looking at the water.

Someone said to him:

“Why do you not drink water though you are thirsty?”

But the blockhead answered:

“How could I drink so much water as this?”

The other person ridiculed him, saying:

“What! will the king punish you if you drink it all up?”

But still the foolish man did not drink the water.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So you see that in this world fools will not even do a part of a task to the best of their power if they are not able to complete it altogether. Now you have heard about the fool and the water, hear the story of the son-slayer.


107. Story of the Fool who killed his Son

There was once a foolish man, who was poor and had many sons. When one of his sons died, he killed another, saying:

“How could this child go such a long journey alone?”

So he was banished by the people, as being a fool and a criminal.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Thus a fool is as void of sense and discernment as an animal. You have heard of the son-killer; now hear the story of the fool and his brother.


108. Story of the Fool and his Brother

A certain stupid fellow was talking in a crowd of men. Seeing a respectable man some way off, he said:

“That man there is brother to me, so I shall inherit his property, but I am no relation to him, so I am not liable for his debts.”

When the fool said this, even the stones laughed at him.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Thus fools show folly, and people blinded by the thought of their own advantage behave in a very wonderful way. So you have heard the story of the fool and his brother; now hear the story of the man whose father followed a strict vow of chastity.


109. Story of the Brahmachārin's Son

A certain fool was engaged in. relating his father’s good qualities in the midst of his friends. And describing his father’s superior excellence, he said:

“My father has followed a strict vow of chastity from his youth; there is no man who can be compared with him.”

When his friends heard that, they said:

“How did you come into the world?”

He answered:

“Oh! I am a mind-born son of his.”

Whereupon the matchless fool was well laughed at by the people.[34]


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Thus foolish people make self-contradictory statements with regard to others. You have heard the story of the son of the man who observed a strict vow of chastity; hear now the story of the astrologer.


110. Story of the Astrologer who killed his Son

There was a certain astrologer wanting in discernment. He left his own country with his wife and son, because he could not earn a subsistence, and went to another country. There he made a deceitful display of his skill, in order to gain complimentary presents by a factitious reputation for ability. He embraced his son before the public and shed tears.

When the people asked him why he did this, the wicked man said:

“I know the past, the present and the future, and that enables me to foresee that this child of mine will die in seven days from this time: this is why I am weeping.”

By these words he excited the wonder of the people, and when the seventh day arrived, he killed his son in the morning, as he lay asleep. When the people saw that his son was dead, they felt confidence in his skill, and honoured him with presents, and so he acquired wealth and returned leisurely to his own country.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Thus foolish men, through desire of wealth, go so far as to kill their sons, in order to make a false display of prescience; the wise should not make friends with such. Now hear the story of the foolish man who was addicted to anger.


111. Story of the Violent Man who justified his Character

One day a man was relating to his friends, inside a house, the good qualities of a man who was listening outside. Then a person present said:

“It is true, my friend, that he possesses many good qualities, but he has two faults: he is violent and irascible.”

While he was saying this, the man who was outside, overhearing him, entered hastily, and twisted his garment round his throat, and said:

“You fool, what violence have I done, what anger have I been guilty of?”

This he said in an abusive way, inflamed with the fire of anger. Then the others who were there laughed, and said to him:

“Why should he speak? You have been good enough to give us ocular demonstration of your anger and your violence.”


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So you see that fools do not know their own faults, though they are patent to all men. Now hear about the foolish king who made his daughter grow.


112. Story of the Foolish King who made his Daughter grow [35]

A certain king had a handsome daughter born to him. On account of his great affection for her, he wished to make her grow, so he quickly summoned physicians, and said politely to them:

“Make some preparation of salutary drugs, in order that my daughter may grow up quickly, and be married to a good husband.”

When the physicians heard this, they said, in order to get a living out of the silly king:

“There is a medicine which will do this, but it can only be procured in a distant country, and while we are sending for it, we must shut up your daughter in concealment, for this is the treatment laid down for such cases.”

When they had said this, they placed his daughter in concealment there for many years, saying that they were engaged in bringing that medicine. And when she grew up to be a young woman, they showed her to that king, telling him that she had been made to grow by the medicine; and he was pleased, and loaded them with heaps of wealth.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“In this way rogues, by means of imposture, live on foolish sovereigns. Now hear the story of a man who showed his cleverness by recovering half a paṇa.”


113. Story of the Man who recovered half a Paṇa from his Servant [36]

There was once on a time a man living in a town, who was vain of his wisdom. And a certain villager, who had served him for a year, being dissatisfied with his salary, left him and went home.

And when he had gone, the town-bred gentleman said to his wife:

“My dear, I hope you did not give him anything before he went?”

She answered: “Half a paṇa.”

Then he spent ten paṇas in provisions for the journey, and overtook that servant on the bank of a river, and recovered from him that half paṇa. And when he related it as a proof of his skill in saving money, he became a public laughing-stock.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Thus men whose minds arc blinded with wealth fling away much to gain little. Now hear the story of the man who took notes of the spot.


114. Story of the Fool who took Notes of a certain Spot in the Sea [37]

A certain foolish person, while travelling by sea, let a silver vessel fall from his hand into the water. The fool took notes of the spot, observing the eddies and other signs in the water, and said to himself:

“I will bring it up from the bottom when I return.”

He reached the other side of the sea, and as he was recrossing he saw the eddies and other signs, and thinking he recognised the spot, plunged into the water again and again to recover his silver vessel. When the others asked him what his object was, he told them, and got well laughed at and abused for his pains.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Now hear the story of the king who wished to substitute other flesh for what he had taken away.


115. Story of the King who replaced the Flesh [38]

A foolish king saw from his palace two men below. And seeing that one of them had taken flesh from the kitchen, he had five palas of flesh cut from his body. When the flesh had been cut away, the man groaned and fell on the earth, and the king, seeing him, was moved with compassion, and said to the warder:

“His grief cannot be assuaged because five palas of flesh were cut from him, so give him more than five palas of flesh by way of compensation.”

The warder said:

“When a man’s head is cut off, does he live even if you give him a hundred heads?”

Then he went outside and had his laugh out, and comforted the man from whom the flesh had been cut, and handed him over to the physicians.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So you see, a silly king knows how to punish, but not how to show favour. Hear this story of the silly woman who wanted another son.


116. Story of the Woman who wanted another Son [39]

One day a woman with only one son, desiring another, applied to a wicked female ascetic belonging to an heretical sect. The ascetic told her that, if she killed her young son, and offered him to the divinity, another son would certainly be born to her.

When she was preparing to carry out this advice, another and a good old woman said to her in private:

“Wicked woman, you are going to kill the son you have already, and wish to get another. Supposing a second is not born to you, what will you do?”

So the good old woman dissuaded her from crime.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So women who associate with witches fall into evil courses, but they are restrained and saved by the advice of the old. Now, Prince, hear the story of the man who brought the āmalaka fruit.


117. Story of the Servant who tasted the Fruit [40]

A certain householder had a stupid servant. As the householder was fond of āmalakas, he said to his servant:

“Go, and bring me some perfectly sweet āmalakas from the garden.”

The foolish fellow bit every one, to taste if it was sweet, and then brought them, and said:

“Look, master, I tasted these and found them sweet, before bringing them.”

And his master, seeing that they were half eaten, sent them away in disgust and his stupid servant too.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Thus a foolish person ruins his master’s interests and then his own; and here by way of episode hear the story of the two brothers.


118. Story of the Two Brothers Yajñasoma and Kīrtisoma

There were two Brāhmans, brothers, in the city of Pāṭaliputra; the elder was called Yajñasoma and the younger Kīrtisoma. And those two young Brāhmans had much wealth derived from their father. Kīrtisoma increased his share by business, but Yajñasoma exhausted his by enjoying and giving.

Then, being reduced to poverty, he said to his wife:

“My dear, how can I, who am reduced from riches to poverty, live among my relations? Let us go to some foreign country.”

She said:

“How can we go without money for the journey?”

Still her husband insisted, so she said to him:

“If you really must go, then first go and ask your younger brother Kīrtisoma for some money for the journey.”

So he went and asked his younger brother for his travelling expenses, but his younger brother’s wife said to him:

“How can we give even the smallest sum to this man who has wasted his substance? For every one who falls into poverty will sponge on us.”

When Kīrtisoma heard this, he no longer felt inclined to give anything to his elder brother, though he loved him. Subjection to bad women is pernicious!

Then Yajñasoma went away silent, and told that to his wife, and set out with her, relying upon the help of Heaven only. When they reached the wood, it happened that, as he was going along, he was swallowed by a monstrous serpent. And when his wife saw it, she fell on the ground and lamented.

And the serpent said with a human voice to the lady:

“Why do you lament, my good woman?”

The Brāhman lady answered the snake:

“How can I help lamenting, mighty sir, when you have deprived me in this remote spot of my only means of obtaining alms?”

When the serpent heard that, he brought out of his mouth a great vessel of gold and gave it her, saying:

“Take this as a vessel in which to receive alms.”[41]

The good Brāhman lady said:

“Who will give me alms in this vessel, for I am a woman?”

The serpent said:

“If anyone refuses to give you alms in it, his head shall that moment burst into a hundred pieces. What I say is true.”

When the virtuous Brāhman lady heard that, she said to the serpent:

“If this is so, then give me my husband in it by way of alms.”

The moment the good lady said this, the serpent brought her husband out of his mouth alive and unharmed. As soon as the serpent had done this, he became a man of heavenly appearance, and being pleased, he said to the joyful couple:

“I am a king of the Vidyādharas, named Kāñcanavega, and by the curse of Gautama I was reduced to the condition of a serpent. And it was appointed that my curse should end when I conversed with a good woman.”

When that king of the Vidyādharas had said this, he immediately filled the vessel with jewels, and delighted flew up into the sky. And the couple returned home with abundance of jewels. And there Yajñasoma lived in happiness, having obtained inexhaustible wealth.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Providence gives to every one in accordance with his or her character. Hear the story of the foolish man who asked for the barber.


119. Story of the Fool who wanted a Barber

A certain inhabitant of Karṇāṭa pleased his king by his daring behaviour in battle. His sovereign was pleased, and promised to give him whatever he asked for, but the spiritless warrior chose the king’s barber.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Every man chooses what is good or bad according to the measure of his own intellect: now hear the story of the foolish man who asked for nothing at all.


120. Story of the Man who asked for Nothing at all

A certain foolish man, as he was going along the road, was asked by a carter to do something to make his cart balance evenly. He said:

“If I make it right, what will you give me?”

The carter answered:

“I will give you nothing at all.”

Then the fool put the cart even, and said:

“Give me the nothing-at-all you promised.”

But the carter laughed at him.[42]


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So you see, King, fools are for ever becoming the object of the scorn and contempt and reproach of men, and fall into misfortune, while the good on the other hand are thought worthy of honour.”

When the prince, surrounded by his ministers, had heard at night these amusing stories from Gomukha, he was enabled to enjoy sleep, which refreshes the whole of the three worlds.

Footnotes and references:


Here Somadeva inserts twelve “noodle” stories. We do not begin Book II of the Pañcatantra till page 73.—n.m.p.


This is No. 84 in Stanislas Julien’s translation of the Avadānas.


This is No. 67 in Stanislas Julien’s translation of the Avadānas. It is found in Coelho’s Contos Populares Portuguezes, p. 112. So Ino persuaded the women of the country to roast the wheat before it was sown (Preller, Griechische Mythologie, vol. ii, p. 312). To this Ovid refers, Fasti, ii, 628, and iii, 853-854.-See also Clouston, Book of Noodles, p. 120.—n.m.p.


This is No. 70 in Stanislas Julien’s translation of the Avadānas.


Cf. Shakespeare and Fletcher’s The Two Noble Kinsmen, Act IV, sc. 2, line 110: “His nose stands high, a character of honour.”


This is No. 57 in Stanislas Julien’s translation of the Avadānas.


This is No. 71 in the Avadānas.


The MS. in the Sanskrit College reads rājakulādiṣṭakharjūrānayanam. This is No. 45 in the Avadānas.


The reading of the Sanskrit College MS. is ādṛtānoparenate [D. ādṛtāropaṇena te], but probably the reading is ādṛtā no, paneṇa te: “they were not honoured, but on the contrary punished with a fine.”


I think tad should be tam. The story is No. 58 in the Avadānas.


The Sanskrit College MS. reads gahvaragrāmavāsī, but below sa gahvaraḥ. This story is No. 38 in the Avadānas.


This story is No. 98 in the Avadānas.


Benfey shows that this introduction is probably of Buddhistic origin. He quotes from Upham’s Sacred and Historical Books of Ceylon a story about some snipe, which escape in the same way, but owing to disunion are afterwards caught again. Cf. also Mahābhārata, V (ii, 180), verse 2455 et seq.; also Baldo, Fab. x, in Edéléstand du Méril, Poésies Inédites, pp. 229, 230; La Fontaine, xii, 15. (Benfey, vol. i, p. 304 et seq.)——Cf. Hertel, op. cit., pt. i, p. 135; pt. ii, p. 59 et seq. This frame-story and its three sub-stories correspond to Book II of the Pañcatantra. Though considerably abbreviated, with the exception of the “Deer’s Captivity,” no important parts of the stories are omitted, as Somadeva excludes only features which are not essential to the plot, and which in many cases prove rather tedious—such as the verses on moralising and proverbial stanzas, etc.—n.m.p.


See Benfey, op. cit., vol. i, p. 316; and Hertel, op. cit., pt. i, p. 135; pt. ii, pp. 70, 71. —n.m.p.


For jata we must read jāta [as in D.]. Cf. for the power given by a treasure the eighteenth chapter of this work; see also Benfey, vol. i, p. 320.


The Sanskrit College MS. has ullambya: "having hung it upon a peg.”


See Benfey, op. cit., vol. i, p. 318; and Hertel, op. cit., pt. i, p. 135; pt. ii, pp. 71, 72.—n.m.p.


See Benfey, op. cit., vol. i, pp. 319, 320; and Hertel, op. cit., pt. i, p. 135; pt. i, p. 72 et seq. Cf. also Sagas from the Far East, p. 189.—n.m.p.


Perhaps we should read sāyake.——But the D. text reads sāyakaḥ.—n.m.p.


The point of the story is lost. See Edgerton, op. cit., vol. ii, p. 341.—N.M.P.


The D. text reads kīlapāça instead of kālapāśa, which is expressive of the kind of trap used, some pin or wedge being employed. See Speyer, op. cit., p. 126.— N.M.P.


As he does the lion in Babrius, 107.——At this point several of the Pañcatantra versions insert the “Story of the Deer’s Former Captivity.” I have given it in full in Appendix I, p. 227 et seq. — n.m.p.


Benfey compares J. Grimm, Reinhart Fuchs, cclxxxiv; Renart, br. 25; Grimm, Kinder- und Hausmärchen, 58 (iii, 100); Keller, Romans des Sept Sages, clii; ditto, Dyocletianus, Einleitung, p. 48; Conde Lucanor, xliii. (Benfey, vol. i, p. 332 et seq.) See also La Fontaine’s Fables, xii, 15. This is, perhaps, the story which General Cunningham found represented on a bas-relief of the Bharhut Stūpa. (See General Cunningham’s Stūpa of Bharhut, p. 67.) The origin of the story is no doubt the Birth-story of “The Cunning Deer,” Rhys Davids’ translation of the Jātakas, pp. 221-223. The Kuruṅga-Miga Jātaka (No. 206 in Cambridge, vol. ii, p. 106) is a still better parallel. In this the tortoise gnaws through the bonds, the crane (satapatto) smites the hunter on the mouth as he is leaving his house; he twice returns to it on account of the evil omen; and when the tortoise is put in a bag, the deer leads the hunter far into the forest, returns with the speed of the wind, upsets the bag, and tears it open.——For analogues of the tale in Grimm, see Bolte, op. cit., vol. i, p. 515 et seq.—n.m.p.


This brings us to the end of Book II of the Pañcatantra. Book III begins on p. 98. The rest of this chapter is devoted to various short stories, chiefly of the “noodle” variety.—n.m.p.


For parallel stories see Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde, p. 39 et seq., where he is treating of a tale in the De Nugis Curialium of Gualterus Mapes. The woman behaves like Erippe in a story related by Parthenius (VIII). In the heading of the tale we are told that Aristodemus of Nysa tells the same tale with different names.


The Sanskrit College MS. reads pallīm for patnīm.——This agrees with the D. text.—n.m.p.


See Sir George Grierson’s Foreword to Vol. II, p. xi, and p. 88n1 of the same volume.—n.m.p.


Nāga in the original—a fabulous serpent with a human face. Cf. Ralston’s Russian Folk-Tales, p. 65:

“He flies as a fiery snake into his mistress’s bower, stamps with his foot on the ground and becomes a youthful gallant.”


See Vol. I, pp. 103-105 and p. 203.—n.m.p.


Cf. Arrian’s Indika, chap. xvii, McCrindle’s translation.


This story corresponds to No. 43 in the Avadānas.


This to a certain extent resembles the 129 th story in the Gesta Romanorum, “Of Real Friendship.” Douce says that the story is in Alphonsus [see Hulme’s English trans., Cleveland, Ohio, 1919]- A story more closely resembling that in the Gesta is current in Bengal, with this difference, that a goat does duty for the pig of the Gesta. A son tells his father he has three friends, the father says that he has only half a friend. Of course, the half friend turns out worth all the three put together. The Bengali story was told me by Paṇḍit Śyāmā Charaṇ Mukhopādhyāya. See also Liebrecht’s Dunlop, p. 291, and note 371; and Herrtage’s English Gesta, p. 127, tale 33 [and pp. 469, 470].——See also E. Cosquin, Contes Populaires de Lorraine, vol. ii, p. 321, and Chauvin, op. cit., ix, pp. 15, 16.—n.m.p.


A perpetually recurring pun! The word can either mean “oiliness” or “affection.”


Cf. what Sganarelle says in Le Mariage Forcé:

La raison? C’est que je ne me sens point propre pour le mariage, et que je veux imiter mon père et tous ceux de ma race, qui ne se sont jamais voulu marier.”

——See Œuvres de Molière, Paris, 1873-1900, vol. iv, p. 61n1.—n.m.p.


This story bears a certain resemblance to the European stories of grammarians who undertake to educate asses or monkeys. (See Lévêque, Les Mythes et Légendes de l’Inde et la Perse, p. S20.) La Fontaine’s Charlatan is perhaps the best known. This story is found in Prym and Socin’s Syrische Märchen, p. 292, where a man undertakes to teach a camel to read


This story is No. 51 in the Avadānas.


See Felix Liebrecht, Orient und Occident, vol. i, p. 135, on the Avadānas translated from the Chinese by Stanislas Julien, Paris, where this story is found (No. 69). He compares a story of an Iṛṣman who was hired by a Yarmouth maltster to assist in loading his ship.

As the vessel was about to set sail, the Iṛṣman cried out from the quay:

“Captain, I lost your shovel overboard, but I cut a big notch on the rail-fence, round stem, just where it went down, so you will find it when you come back”

(vol. ii, p. 544, note). Liebrecht thinks he has read something similar in the “Αστεῖα” of Hierokles. See also Bartsch, Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche nus Meklenburg, vol. i, p. 349.—— Tawney wrote a note on this subject to the Ind. Ant., vol. ix, 1880, pp. 51,52. Sir George Grierson tells me the story about the Iṛṣman is well known in Kashmir, where the term nāvi-rakh, "  “the mark on the ship,” is used to mean “stupidity.”—n.m.p.


See Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde, pp. 119, 120; also Benfey, op. cit., vol. i, p. 391 —Nachträge, ii, 543. This is No. 103 in the Avadānas.


This is No. 4-9 in the Avadānas.


This is No. 37 in the Avadānas.——See Chauvin, op. cit., vii, p. 115.—n.m.p.


In the original the husband is called a “vessel of alms”—i.e. “receiver of alms”—but the pun cannot be retained in the translation without producing obscurity.


This story is found in the Nights (Burton, Supp., vol. v, pp. 210-212), but with an amusing sequel. A merchant of Bassorah bargains with a Persian about the price he wants for his stock-in-trade. The haggling continues, and finally the Persian exclaims: “I will give nothing more than ‘Anaught.’” The bargain is closed. All is paid except the “Anaught.” On the merchant’s demanding it the Persian laughs, but the Bassorite fails to see the joke and refers the matter to the Sultan. The Sultan, however, cannot decide and offers a reward to anyone who can. One, Abu Ḳāsim, says he will settle the matter. He accordingly fills a basin with water and bids the claimant dip his clenched hand into it. He then tells him to withdraw it and open his hand and asks what he found in the basin. “Anaught,” answers the claimant. “Take thine ‘Anaught,’ then, and wend thy ways,” says the other. The Bassorite can do nothing but comply. —n.m.p.

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