Folk-lore of the Holy Land, Moslem, Christian and Jewish, by J. E. Hanauer , at sacred-texts.com
THE most conspicuous object in this cemetery is a small domed building marking the grave of the Amìr Ala ed din ’Aidi Ghadi ibn ’Abdallah el Kebkebi, who died A.H. 688 (= A.D. 1289), according to the inscription over the doorway. Inside the edifice is a remarkable cenotaph, the ornamentation of which leads one to suspect that it probably at one time stood over the tomb of some distinguished Crusader, a conjecture which seems to be strengthened by two traditions which contradict the statements of the above-mentioned inscription.
One affirms that the Amìr here buried was a black man of gigantic strength, who, on one occasion, when fighting the Christians, cleft his opponent in twain, with a single blow, from the crest of his helmet downwards. 2 The other declares the mausoleum to be that of the person in whose charge Saladin left Jerusalem after wresting it from the Crusaders in 1187 A.D. The date of the inscription suggests the time of Beybars.
A third story is that the edifice covers the grave
of Johha, a famous jester, who is by the peasantry generally confounded with the equally celebrated Abu Nowâs, and occupies in Eastern folk-lore a position analogous to that of Eulenspiegel or Dr Howleglas in European. Here are a few of the stories told of Johha. The majority are unfit for reproduction.
When he was quite young, his mother one day sent him to the market to fetch some salt and also some semneh or clarified butter. She provided him with a dish for the latter, and took it for granted that the grocer would put the salt into a piece of paper. On reaching the shop, the boy handed the vessel he had brought to the shopkeeper, in order that the latter might place the butter in it. He then turned it upside down, and directed the grocer to place the salt on the bottom of the dish. Going home, he said, "Here is the salt, mother." "But, my son," said she, "where is the semneh?" "Here," replied Johha, turning the dish right side up. Of course, the salt was lost in the same way that the butter had been.
When Johha grew old enough to work for his living, he became a donkey-driver. One day, being in charge of twelve donkeys employed to carry earth to the city, it occurred to him, before starting with the laden animals, to count them. Finding the tale complete, he took them to their destination and unloaded them. He then mounted one of them, and was going to return when he found one donkey missing. At once dismounting, he put them all in a row, and was astonished and greatly relieved to
find the twelve there. He thereupon remounted, and set off again, wondering as he rode along how it was that he had missed one donkey. Suddenly the suspicion flashed upon him that possibly the second count had been faulty, so he counted again, to find once more that only eleven were racing along in front of him. Terribly disconcerted, he again got down off the creature he was riding, and, stopping the others, once more counted them. He was puzzled to find there were again twelve. So absorbed was he by this mystery, that he went on counting and recounting the donkeys, till his master, surprised at his long absence, came and solved his difficulty by obliging him to follow his asses on foot.
On his father's death, Johha inherited the family property, a small house. Being in need of money, he managed to raise it by selling the building all but one kirât, 1 which he refused to part with; and, in order to mark that portion of the property which he was resolved to retain, he drove a tent-peg into the wall, having stipulated with the purchasers that that part of the edifice was to be set apart for his own unquestioned use. The new owners of the house were for a time allowed to live there undisturbed. One day, however, Johha appeared bearing a sack of lentils, which he hung upon the peg, no one making any objection. Some days later he removed this, and hung up a basket containing something else equally unobjectionable. He continued this procedure for some time without meeting with any
remonstrance, seeing that he was only exercising his undoubted rights. At last, however, he one day appeared with a dead cat, which he left there till the occupants of the house, finding that neither remonstrances, entreaties, nor threats could induce him to remove the nuisance, and knowing that an appeal to law would be useless, seeing that Johha had the Kadi's ear, were glad to re-sell the house to him for a nominal sum. Ever since that time, the phrase "a peg of Johha's" has been used proverbially by orientals in much the same sense in which Englishmen speak of "a white elephant."
One day Johha borrowed a large "tanjera," or copper saucepan, from a neighbour for domestic use. Next day he returned it together with a very small, but quite new one. "What is this?" asked the surprised owner. "Your tanjera gave birth to a young one during the night," replied the jester, and, in spite of the incredulity of the other man, maintained his assertion, refusing to take back the smaller tanjera, on the ground that the young belonged to the parent, and the parent's owner. Besides, it was cruel to separate so young a child from its mother. After a deal of protestation, the neighbour, believing him mad, resolved to humour him, and took the small tanjera, greatly wondering at the jester's whim. Its point was revealed to his chagrin, some days later, when Johha came and borrowed a large and valuable copper "dist," or cauldron. This he did not return, but carried it off to another town, where he sold it. When its owner sent to
[paragraph continues] Johha to reclaim it, the knave said that he regretted his inability to send it back, but the utensil had unfortunately died and been devoured by hyenas. "What!" exclaimed the owner angrily, "do you think me fool enough to believe that?" "Well, my friend," was the reply, "wonderful things sometimes happen. You allowed yourself to be persuaded that your tanjera, for instance, gave birth to a young one; why, then, should you not believe that your dist, which is simply a grown-up tanjera, should die." In the circumstances, the argument seemed unanswerable, especially when, after searching through Johha's house, the cauldron could not be found.
Johha's neighbours, incensed by such practical jokes, put their heads together. They succeeded in persuading the joker to accompany them on an expedition to a lonely part of the coast. Having got him there, they told him they were going to drown him unless he swore a solemn oath to leave off his pranks, and "eat salt" with them. "I dare not eat salt with you," replied the rascal, "because I have a covenant and have eaten salt with the Jân. I shall not break my compact with them just to please you." "Very well," said his neighbours, "you have your choice. We shall bind you to this tree, and leave you here till midnight, when, unless you change your mind, and eat salt with us, we shall drown you." "Do your worst," said Johha. Whereupon they bound him fast to the tree and went away.
Johha cudgelled his brains to devise some means of
escape. Great was his joy, when, late that afternoon, he saw, at a distance, a shepherd with a large flock of sheep. He called the shepherd and persuaded him to set him free. When asked by his deliverer why he had been thus bound, he told him: "For refusing to taste sugar." The shepherd seemed astonished at that, observing that he himself was fond of sugar. Johha then proposed that he should take his place. The simpleton, in the hope of sugar, consented, and after they had exchanged clothes, and the shepherd had taught the buffoon his special sheep-call, 1 the former let himself be bound to the tree, whilst Johha promised to take charge of the flock, lead it to a certain cave, and there await the shepherd's return. He felt sure that the man would be allowed to go his way when it was discovered that he himself had escaped. This was; however, not the case, for in their haste, and owing to the darkness of the night, the whistling of the wind, the sound of the waves, and the fact that the shepherd mimicked Johha's voice to a tone, the enemies of the latter never suspected the trick; and when the poor shepherd told them he would eat sugar, they pitched him into the sea.
Great was the surprise and terror of Johha's enemies when, three days later, he marched cheerfully into the village followed by a fine flock of sheep. They ventured to approach and ask him how he had escaped the sea, and whence he had brought the animals. "I told you," was his answer, "that I
am in league with the Jân. Had I eaten salt with you they would have treated me as a traitor, and done me some grievous ill; as it is, however, they not only spared my life, but gave me this flock as a reward for my loyalty."
Johha's neighbours were greatly impressed by this statement, and asked his forgiveness for their past ill-will. They then humbly inquired in what way they also might obtain the friendship of the Jân. Johha strongly advised them to jump into the sea at midnight on the same day of the week as that on which they had tried to drown him, and from the same rock from which he had been hurled. They disappeared from the village soon afterwards, and were never seen again.
83:1 Cemetery of the Pool of Mamilla.
83:2 A feat said to have been performed by Godfrey de Bouillon, leader of the first Crusade.
85:1 The twenty-fourth part of anything.
88:1 "A stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers" (St John x. 6).