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 ...

Note on the story of King Prasenajit

Note: this text is extracted from Book VI, chapter 33 (Story of King Prasenajit and the Brāhman who lost his Treasure):

“There is a city named Śrāvastī, and in it there lived in old time a king of the name of Prasenajit, and one day a strange Brāhman arrived in that city. A merchant, thinking he was virtuous because he lived on rice in the husk, provided him a lodging there in the house of a Brāhman...”.

This story found its way into a Persian work, Maḥbūb ul-Qulūb. It was translated by Edward Rehatsek, and appears in his Amusing Stories, Bombay, 1871. It was reprinted as “The Hidden Treasure,” by Clouston, in A Group of Eastern Romances and Stories, 1889, p. 442 et seq., who gives some analogues (including the original story from our text) on pp. 558-561.

There is also a similar tale in the Nights, “The Melancholist and the Sharper” (Burton, Supp., vol. i, pp. 264-266), in which the loser, suspecting a certain man of the theft, arranges to mutter to himself within his hearing: “In the pot are sixty ducats, and I have with me other twenty in such a place, and to-day I will unite the whole in the pot.” The other returns what he has taken, thinking to get more in the end—and so the lost property is recovered.

In Burton’s next volume (Supp., vol. ii, pp. 333-340) Clouston adds several analogues besides those already mentioned. There is one from Gladwin’s Persian Moonsliee, and a good Italian version from Sacchetti’s Novelle (No. 198). His tales are not very well known in England, but are especially interesting as they are largely based on real incidents in domestic and public life in Florence in the fourteenth century. The tale in question, however, was taken from the Cento Novelle Antiche (No. 74).

The motif is well represented in Jewish literature, as has recently been shown by Gaster, The Exempla of the Rabbis, 1924. In story No. 324 (p. 117) of this collection a man hides his money in a garden. It is stolen by a neighbour. He pretends not to know of the theft and asks the neighbour whether it would be wise to hide the other money in the same secret spot. The stolen money is then replaced by the neighbour so as not to arouse suspicion, and thus the owner recovers it. Numerous analogues are given on pp. 220 and 240.

Similar stories also occur in the Disciplina Clericalis of Alphonsus, chap. xvi; the Gesta Romanorum (chap. cxviii — i.e. tale 38, “Of Deceit,” in vol. ii of Thomas Wright’s edition of Swan’s translation); and in the Decameron, day 8, nov. 10. Numerous analogues to this latter are given by Lee, The Decameron, its Sources and Atialogues, pp. 266-270. On p. 268 he mentions the tale of Ali Cogia in the Mille et une Nuits, but did not know it appeared in Burton’s Nights, Supp., vol. iii, p. 405 et seq., as “Ali Khwajah and the Merchant of Baghdad.” Although it contains the incident of recovering stolen gold by a clever trick, the leading motif is that of “precocious children.” Clouston gives several analogues on pp. 596-600 of the same volume of the Nights.

These references should be added to those I have already given on “precocious children” in Vol. I, p. 186n1.—n.m.p.

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