Folk-lore of the Holy Land, Moslem, Christian and Jewish, by J. E. Hanauer , at sacred-texts.com
THE dog and the cat were not always the enemies we now see them. There was once strong friendship between them. Their hostility arose from the following incident
Ages ago when the different kinds of animals in the world had their various offices and duties assigned to them, the dog and the cat, though classed amongst domestic animals, were exempted from drudgery, the former for his fidelity, the latter for her cleanliness. At their special request they received the written document attesting and confirming this privilege. It was handed to the dog for safekeeping, and he buried it where he kept his bones. Filled with envy, the horse, ass, and ox purchased the services of the rat, who, burrowing, found and destroyed the charter. Ever since that time the dog has been liable, on account of his carelessness, to be tied or chained up by his master; and, besides that, the cat has never forgiven him. Both the cat and the dog hate rats and kill them when they can,
[paragraph continues] The horse, ass, and ox, on the other hand, permit the rats to share their provender.
There are, however, some who say that the dogs were once classed amongst wild beasts, and lived in the fields, while the jackals had the duty and privilege of being the friends and guardians of mankind. The reason why their positions are now reversed is given as follows: The dogs, being envious of the jackals, plotted to oust their rivals from the towns and villages. One day the sheykh of the dogs being ill, they asked the jackals to be so kind as to exchange duties with them for a while that their chief and other sick persons among them might have the benefit of medical treatment, and they themselves might acquire some civilisation. The jackals good-naturedly agreed, but the dogs, being the more numerous, the stronger, and much the cleverer, having once obtained the position they coveted, altogether declined to give it up again.
The cat is a clean beast, and has the blessing and seal of Solomon set upon it. Therefore, if a cat drinks out of a can containing milk or drinking-water, what remains after she has quenched her thirst is not unclean, and may be used by human beings; so, at least, I was assured by a fellâh of Bethlehem. The dog, however, is unclean, and a vessel from which he has drunk is polluted. Indeed, the dog is considered so foul an animal by the stricter Moslems, more especially members of the Shafe’i sect, that if, while they are at prayers, a dog that has got a wetting shake himself at a distance of forty steps from them, they at once arise, perform
the preliminary ablutions, and start afresh from the very beginning. On the other hand, there are always to be found people who are fond of dogs. A story is told of a Moslem who owned a handsome "Slugi" 1 to which he was very much attached. When it died he buried it in his garden reverently, with his own hands. His enemies thereupon went to the Kadi and accused him of having buried an unclean beast with the respect and ceremonies due only to a believer. The man would have been severely dealt with had he not told the judge that the animal had proved his sagacity by leaving a will, in which a large sum of money was mentioned as a legacy to his worship. On hearing this the Kadi decided that a dog of such rare wisdom and discernment had indeed earned a right to decent burial.
It is also related of Ibrahìm El Khalìl, on whom be peace, that he was kind and hospitable, not only to men, but to dogs as well. His flocks were so numerous that 4000 dogs were needed to guard them, and were fed daily by the Patriarch's bounty. It is also said that in ancient times if one killed his neighbour's dog he was liable to pay blood-money for the creature just as for a human being. The amount of compensation is said to have been calculated in the following manner. The dead creature was hung up by the tail with its nose touching the ground. A stake was then fixed in the ground, of a height the same as that of the suspended animal. Wheat--or, according to another statement,
flour--was then heaped round the stake till the top was quite hidden, and as high as the tip of the dog's tail would have been had its carcase been left hanging there. The value of the grain or meal heaped up was then estimated, and the slayer of the dog had to pay the equivalent.
Just at the point where the road from Herod's Gate in the northern wall of Jerusalem joins the great road to Nablus, and close to the Tombs of the Kings, is a cistern concerning which the old guardian of the adjacent Moslem shrine of sheykh Jerrâh told me this legend.
Many years ago a man was murdered, and his dog would not leave the place, but attacked all passers-by. The animal was therefore killed, but that was of no use, for his ghost now appeared in the company of that of his master, and frightened wayfarers. In order to lay the ghosts the brother of the murdered man had the cistern and drinking-fountain constructed on the fatal spot for the free use of men and beasts. Since then the spectres have no longer been seen, but the cistern is still called "Bìr el Kelb," the dog's well. Another version of the story is, "that the dog discovered the body of his murdered master which had been thrown into the well." 1
Here are three of the commonest proverbs concerning dogs: "It is better to feed a dog than to feed a man," meaning that the canine will not
forget the kindness, while the human animal may. "For want of horses and men, saddle dogs." "It is the sheykh's dog that is sheykh."
The cat is liked by the Moslems, it is said, for the following reason. When the Prophet was a camel-driver, he was asleep one day in the shade of some bushes in the desert. A serpent came out of a hole and would have killed him had not a cat that happened to be prowling about pounced upon and destroyed it. When the Prophet awoke he saw what had happened, and, calling the cat to him, fondled and blessed it. From thenceforth he was very fond of cats. It is said that one day he cut off the long sleeve of his robe, upon which his pet cat was asleep, rather than disturb her slumbers. But while the cat is a blessed animal, strange cats that come to houses, and especially black cats, should be avoided, as they may be demons in disguise. A great Mohammedan sheykh in Egypt had a pet black cat of which he was very fond, and which used to sleep near him at night. One night the sheykh was ill and could not sleep. As he lay awake he heard a cat mewing in the street under his window. His favourite at once arose and went to the window. The cat outside the house called her distinctly by name and asked her, in Arabic, whether there were any food in the house. She answered, also in Arabic, that there was plenty, but that neither she nor the other could get it because "the name" was always pronounced over the stores of provisions there, and
so the would-be guest must go elsewhere. The female demon "Lilith," the first wife of Adam, 1 sometimes disguises herself as an owl, but more frequently as a cat. The following story related by a Spanish Jewess illustrates this belief. "It is quite true that La-Brûsha" (that is, Lilith) "often takes the form of a cat. This is what my mother told me happened when she was born. It was told her by her mother, my grandmother. Both were very truthful women. For nine days after a child has been born the mother and baby ought never to be left alone in a room. What happened when my mother was born was this. My great-grandmother, who was nursing my grandmother, had gone out of the room, leaving the latter and the infant (who was afterwards my mother) dozing. When she came back the patient told her that she had had a strange dream during her absence. She had seen a great black cat come into the room as soon as her mother's back was turned. It walked into a corner of the chamber, and turned itself into a jar. A cat was then heard mewing in the street, and the jar thereupon became a cat again. It came up to the bed (my grandmother being paralysed with fear and helpless), took up the baby, went with it to the window and called out 'Shall I throw' 'Throw,' was the answer given by the cat outside. Thrice the cat in the sick-room asked the same question and got the same answer. She then threw the infant (my mother) out of the window. Just at that moment my great-grandmother returned
and the cat suddenly vanished. My great-grandmother, noticing that the child was neither in its cradle nor in its mother's bed, with great presence of mind hid her alarm and said to my grandmother, 'Of course you were only dreaming. It was I who came and took the little one in order to change its clothes whilst you were fast asleep, and I shall bring it back again in a moment.' So saying, she left the room quietly, but as soon as she got outside and had closed the door behind her, she rushed out of the house and beheld a huge cat crossing a field with the child in its mouth. Love lent her speed. She soon overtook the dreadful creature, and being a wise woman who knew exactly what to do in such an emergency, she uttered a form of adjuration which forced the demon not only to drop its prey, but also to swear that for eleven generations to come it would not molest her family or its descendants. My great-grandmother then brought the infant back, but it was not till long after its mother was well and strong again that she told her that her supposed dream had been a frightful reality."
To kill a cat is considered by many of the fellahìn to be a great sin which will surely bring misfortune upon the perpetrator. When a fellah of Artass lost his eyesight, he and others attributed the misfortune to divine retribution, seeing he had in his youth been a killer of cats. Though generally respected, the cat is sometimes considered as the personification of craft and hypocrisy.
A town cat, having destroyed almost all the
mice and rats in the place, found itself forced, for lack of prey, to go into the fields and hunt for birds, mice, rats and lizards. In this time of need it thought of the following ruse. It stayed away for some weeks from its usual haunts, and returning, lay down in front of a mouse and rat warren, with a rosary round its neck; then, with its eyes closed, fell to purring loudly. Soon a mouse peeped out of a hole, but, seeing the cat, hastily retired. "Why do you flee?" said pussy gently. "Instead of showing pleasure at the return of an old neighbour from the pilgrimage you run away as soon as you see him. Come and visit me, fear nothing." Surprised at hearing itself thus addressed, the mouse again ventured to the door of its hole and said, "How can you expect me to visit you? Are you not the enemy of my race? Should I accept your invitation you would surely seize and devour me as you did my parents and so many others of my kindred."
"Alas!" sighed the cat, "your reproaches are just, I have been a great sinner, and have earned abuse and enmity. But I am truly penitent. As you see from this rosary round my neck, I now devote myself to prayer, meditation, and the recital of holy books, the whole of which I have learnt by heart, and was just beginning to repeat when you happened to look out of your hole. Besides this, I have visited the holy places, so am a Hajji 1 as well as a Hâfiz. 2 Go, my injured but nevertheless generous and forgiving, friend, make my change
of life and sentiments known to the rest of your people and bid them no longer shun my society, seeing that I am become a recluse. Whilst you are absent I shall resume my recitations. Purr, Purr, Purr."
Much surprised at the news he had just heard, the mouse made it known to the rest of his tribe. They were at first incredulous; but at last, after one and another had ventured to peep from the mouth of its hole and had beheld the whiskered ascetic with the rosary round his neck apparently oblivious of earthly things, and steadily repeating his purr, purr, purr, which they supposed to be the contents of holy books, they thought that there might be some truth in the matter and they convened a meeting of mice and rats to discuss it. After much debate, it was judged right to test the reality of the cat's conversion, but to be prudent at the same time; and so a large and experienced old rat was sent out to reconnoitre. Being a wary veteran, he kept well out of the cat's reach, though he saluted him respectfully from a distance. The cat allowed the rat to prowl about unmolested for a long time in the hope that other rats and mice would come out, when his prey would be easy to catch and plentiful. But no others came, and at last the pangs of hunger made him resolve to wait no longer. The rat, however, was on the alert and darted off the instant he noticed, from a slight movement of the cat's muscles, that the pretended saint was about to kill him. "Why do you go away so abruptly?" mewed the cat; "are you tired of hearing me repeat scripture, or do you
doubt the correctness of my recitation?" "Neither," answered the rat as he peeped from the hole in which he had taken refuge. "I am convinced that you have indeed committed the holy books perfectly to memory, but at the same time, I am convinced that, however much you may have learnt by rote, you have neither unlearnt nor eschewed your habits of pouncing upon us."
The hyæna is an evil and accursed beast. Whenever an owl is heard to hoot at night, it is because she, who is herself a metamorphosed woman, or Lilith in owl-form, sees either a human thief, or a hyæna. Among the Jews there is a belief that the hyæna is formed out of a white germ, and that it has as many different colours as there are days in the solar year. When a male hyæna is seven years old, it becomes either a female of the same species or else a bat. The natives of Palestine generally believe that the hyæna, not content with digging up and devouring dead bodies, often bewitches the living and lures them to his den. He is wont to come up at night to the solitary wayfarer, rub against him endearingly and then run on ahead. The man against whom he has rubbed himself is instantly bewitched, and with the cry, "O my uncle, stop, and wait for me," he follows the hyæna as fast as he can till he gets into the beast's den and is devoured. It sometimes happens that the entrance to the den is very low, and that, when he tries to enter, the human victim hits his head against a projection of the rock. If
that happens, he at once recovers his senses and saves himself by flight, for the hyæna is a great coward, and never attacks a man unless the latter be asleep, or disabled, or has been bewitched by him. Sometimes the frightful creature hides itself behind stones or bushes near the roadside; and when, after nightfall, a single person passes without a lantern, the hyæna sets up a groaning like that of somebody in great pain. If the wayfarer turns aside to see what is the matter, the wild beast will leap upon him and so startle him, that he will be at once bewitched and follow it.
The following story is often told of a fellâh who caught a hyæna in a very clever way. The fellâh was on a journey and had with him a donkey bearing a heavy sack of grain. About sunset the man reached a wayside khan. As it was a hot night, he put up his donkey in the stable but left the sack outside, and, wrapping his ‘abba around him, lay down upon the sack and went to sleep. About midnight he was disturbed by something scratching up the ground near him. Opening his eyes, he saw a large hyæna digging a grave alongside of him, evidently intending to kill and bury him, and later on to exhume and devour him at his leisure. The fellâh let the hyæna dig on till the ridge of its back was below the level of the ground. Then, starting up, he rolled the sack of corn on to the animal, and thus kept him down in the grave till morning, when it was an easy task to secure him, for, though a lion at night, 1 the hyæna is but a cur in the day-time.
[paragraph continues] However, even at night he fears fire, and a simple way to drive him off is to burn matches or to strike sparks with flint and steel.
In spite of the evil qualities popularly ascribed to the hyæna, this animal is credited with one good trait, that of gratitude to those who treat him well.
A Bedawi having been found murdered, suspicion pointed to a young man in a certain village as the murderer, and though innocent, he had to flee from his home to escape the vengeance of the dead man's relatives. Flying northwards he encountered a sheykh of his acquaintance who asked him whither he was going, and dissuaded him from going further in that direction, because the avengers of blood lay in ambush ahead of him. The young man then turned westward, but had not gone far before he met another friend who turned him back, saying that the kinsfolk of the dead Bedawi were waiting for him a little further on. He then went eastward, only to meet a third friend, who warned him that in that direction also a party of his enemies were on the look-out for him. In this trouble he cried out "O Allah, Thou knowest that I am innocent, and yet, which ever way I turn, I shall meet with those who seek my life." He then left the beaten track and went down a hillside which was covered with thicket and brush-wood, towards a valley where he knew of some caves, one of which he entered. As soon as he got used to the gloom of his hiding-place he perceived to his horror that he was in the den of a female hyæna which, leaving a litter of cubs asleep, had
gone abroad in search of prey. He was going to fly the place when he heard human steps approaching. Fearing that his enemies had found him out, he drew back into the darkest recess of the cavern. He saw a man crawl in, take up one hyæna's cub after the other and put it into his ‘abba to carry them off for sale. The fugitive recognised the man, and coming forward, begged him to spare the cubs, saying that he himself now knew the bitterness of being hunted. Were his friend to spare the young hyænas, perhaps Allah would one day save them both from evil. The man was moved, and, putting down the cubs, left the cave, promising not to betray the fugitive, but to let him know when it was safe for him to return home. He had just gone when the hyæna returned and, seeing a man in her den, was going to attack him, when the cubs rushed up, and by their yelping attracted her attention. After much hyæna-talk between her and her children, she seemed to understand that the man had been their protector, and showed her gratitude by bringing him food; not carrion such as hyænas love, but hares, partridges, and kids, which she caught alive. Thus the youth abode as the hyæna's guest till his friend came and told him that the real murderer had been found and punished.
The fox is the most crafty and cunning of beasts. His tricks and wiles are innumerable. If there are partridges about, he notices the direction in which they will be likely to run, and then he runs ahead
of them and lies down as if dead, foaming at the mouth. When the birds come to the spot they think him dead, and peck at him. They dip their bills in the saliva running from his mouth, and then he snaps at, and catches them. He one day played a similar trick on a peasant-woman who was carrying a basketful of live fowls to market. Seeing the way she was going, he ran ahead and lay down as above described. When passing the spot she saw him, but did not think it worth her while to stop and skin him. As soon as she was out of sight, the fox jumped up and, making a détour, again ran ahead of her and lay down a second time in the road at a point she would have to pass. She was surprised to see him, and said to herself, "Has a pestilence broken out amongst the sons of Awi? Had I skinned the first I saw lying by the roadside it would have been worth my while to stop for this one, but as I did not do so then, I shall not do so now." She went on her way and her surprise was unbounded when, after a while she noticed what she believed to be a third fox dead on the roadside. "Verily I have done wrong," thought she, "to neglect the good things Allah has placed in my way. I shall leave my fowls here, and secure the pelts of the first two before others take them." No sooner said than done; but before she had time to return, wondering, but empty-handed, the cunning fox had secured his prey and departed.
The fox is fond of playing practical jokes on other animals; he sometimes, however, gets practical jokes played on him.
Meeting the eagle one day, he inquired how large
the world looked when seen from the highest point to which he had ever soared. "Why," answered the king of birds, "it is so small as to be almost invisible." The fox looked incredulous, so the eagle invited him to mount on his shoulders while he soared, so that he might judge for himself, "How big does the earth look now?" he asked, when they had risen a great way. "As large as a straw basket made at Lydda," answered Abu Hassan. 1 They still went up and up, and the eagle repeated his question. "No bigger than an onion," said the fox. Higher they went, and higher still, and at last, when questioned, the fox acknowledged that the world was out of sight. "How far off do you suppose it to be?" asked the eagle maliciously. The fox, who by this time was frightened out of his wits, replied that he did not know. "In that case you had better find out," said the great bird, turning over suddenly. Down went the fox, and would, of course, have been killed had he not had the good fortune to fall upon soft ploughed ground, and to have come down right upon the sheep-skin jacket which a ploughman, at work close by, had left lying there. Giving thanks for his narrow escape, the fox slipped under the jacket and ran off with it upon his back. He was out of sight before the ploughman realised what had happened. As he ran he came suddenly face to face with a leopard who asked from whence he had obtained his new dress. Abu Suleymân 2 promptly replied that he had become a furrier and dealt in sheep-skin jackets, and advised the leopard to order
one for himself, warning him, however, that he would have to provide six lamb-skins, two for the front, two for the back, and two for the sleeves. The leopard agreed to this, and having taken the fox's address, promised to send him six lambs, whose flesh the fox would take as payment for his work. Next day, the lambs were brought to the door of the fox's den. Abu Hassan, with his wife and seven cubs, lived in luxury, and thought no more about the jacket, till the leopard called to ask whether his garment were ready, when the fox said that he had made a mistake in his estimate, and that he had used all six lamb-skins for the body of the coat. Two and a half lamb-skins were required for the sleeves. "You shall have three," said the liberal-minded customer; and sure enough, he next day brought three lambs to the fox's door, and was promised his jacket for the following week. At the appointed time he came and asked for it, but was put off with another excuse and told to come next day. When ever he appeared the fox had some new story to account for the non-appearance of the jacket. At last, the leopard refused to wait any longer, and losing patience, struck at the fox and managed to catch hold of his tail just as he was slipping into his den. The tail gave way and the fox escaped with his life, as his hole was too small for the leopard to enter.
"The rogue has lost his tail," said the leopard to himself; so I shall know him again when we meet; but in the meanwhile I will ensure his receiving severe punishment whenever he attempts to leave his den."
He waited till nightfall when hornets are asleep, and then dug up a nest of them and placed it just above the fox's door-way. When the fox awoke next morning and wanted to leave his den he heard the humming of the hornets outside, and, thought it was the leopard purring. Instead of going out, he slunk back into the innermost recess of his dwelling. For many days he dared not venture forth, as the noise continued. He was compelled by famine to devour his own cubs, one at a time; and at last persuaded his wife to wrestle with him, on the understanding that the winner should devour the other. Though twice worsted in the trial of strength, he each time persuaded his mate to spare his life and give him one more trial; but lie beat her at the third trial, when he instantly killed and devoured her. After that he starved for several days, till at last, as the humming at his door still continued, he decided to stake his life on a bold and sudden dash for liberty. He slunk cautiously to the door of his cave, and then rushed out, only to find that the humming which had frightened him into the destruction of his family was caused by nothing worse than hornets. However, it was useless to grieve, and he had still to secure himself from the vengeance of the leopard, who would know him anywhere, tailless as he now was. He invited all the foxes to feast on grapes in a certain fruitful vineyard. When they arrived he led each guest to a different vine; and, explaining that, should they be allowed to roam at liberty and eat from any vine they chose, quarrels might arise and the noise of strife endanger all, he tied each one firmly by the
tail to his special vine. When all were there tied up and gorging silently, he slipped away, unperceived, to the top of a hillock and shouted out "Assemble yourselves, O sons of Adam, assemble and see how your vineyard is being plundered." On hearing this alarm, the foxes, in their desperate efforts to escape, tugged and pulled till they left their tails behind them. As all were tailless, the leopard, when he met our hero, was unable to prove that he was the identical fox who had cheated him over that lambskin jacket.
A poor old widow, whose relations were all dead, lived alone in a little mud-roofed hut far from any village. It was a dark and stormy night, and the water came dripping through the roof on to her wretched bed. She rose and dragged her straw mat and the old mattress that lay thereon into another corner of the hovel; but in vain, for the water came through there as well, making, as it fell, the noise "Dib, dib, dib, dib." Again she rose and dragged her bed into another corner, but here also the water dripped, dib, dib, dib, dib,--till, worn out and in despair, she moaned: "O my Lord! O Allah! save me from this dreadful dib, dib, dib, dib. See how it torments me, robbing me of my sleep, and to-morrow it will have made all my bones to ache with intolerable pain. I fear and hate nothing so much as I do this dib, dib. I fear no wild beasts, whether lion, leopard, or wolf, or bear, or hyæna, as much as I fear this horrible dib, dib, dib, that will
not let me sleep now, and will be sure to torment me to-morrow."
Now, crouching outside the door of her hut, lay a wild beast waiting for the old woman to go to sleep, that he might break in and devour her. Hearing her cry out thus, he began to wonder what sort of a creature the dib, dib, dib, dib, could be, and came to the conclusion that it would be prudent not to interfere in a case which even at that moment the dib, dib, was attending, and which it "would be sure to torment to-morrow." One thing seemed certain to the crouching wild beast, and that was that the "dib, dib," must be a very frightful monster, with whom he had better not contend. "I know what the 'dûb' 1 is," said the wild beast, "and I know what the 'dìb' 2 is, but I have never before heard of the 'dib, dib,' and as I do not care to run unnecessary risk, I think I will leave the old woman alone. She has not much flesh on her, as it is, and if the 'dib, dib,' finds her a toothsome morsel, well, let him have her, I shall sup elsewhere. But hark! What is that approaching? I should not wonder if it were the 'dib, dib,' himself come to get the old woman. I had better lie quite still till he is gone, lest he find me too, and torment me."
Now the creature approaching was a man, a water-seller, from the nearest village, whose donkey had run away that evening. It was a very tiresome donkey, that was always running away, and it had lost both its ears or the greater part of both, having been repeatedly caught trespassing in corn-fields
not belonging to its owner. It was, in short, an ass of bad character, whose owner had been out for several hours searching for it that stormy night. He was in a very bad temper, and when he came up to the spot on which the wild beast was lying trembling in every limb for fear of the "dib, dib, dib," he caught sight of an animal with short ears and about the same size as his donkey. So he swore a great oath that he would break every bone in its body, and he cursed its father and all its forefathers and the religion of its owner, and of his ancestors; and, without stopping to ascertain its identity, he began to rain heavy blows upon the panic-stricken wild beast with a great stick which he had in his hand. The wild beast, now quite sure that it had fallen into the power of the "dib, dib," was so frightened that it lay quietly crouching without making the least resistance to this furious onslaught, and when the man, still cursing furiously, made it get up, and mounted on its back, it bore the indignity with the greatest meekness, and carried him in the direction that he wanted to go. When the man had got over his passion and was fairly on his way, he began to realise that the seat on which he sat was different from that which he was used to, and also that the animal he was now riding had a noiseless tread quite different from that of any donkey; and he saw that in his haste he had put himself into the power of some wild creature. But so long as he was on its back, he considered it would not be able to kill him; and, as it seemed afraid of him, he determined to keep it in that condition till he should be able to find
out what it was and a way of escape from it. So, whenever the pace slackened, he thrashed the beast well, and kept up a storm of cursing. When daylight broke, he found himself astride of an enormous leopard, and wondered how he could ever get off its back without the certainty of being torn to death. The leopard, on the other hand, did not discover that it was man ill-treating him, but still thought it was the "dib, dib." As they were passing under some trees with low branches, the man, with quick resolve, seized hold of one of them, and loosening his legs, let the beast slip through between them while he swung himself into the branches. The leopard thus unexpectedly set free, did not stop to look at his tormentor, but rushed off as fast as his legs would carry him. He suddenly encountered a fox who, surprised to see a leopard in terror, very civilly inquired of the matter. Finding himself in safety, the leopard stopped and related all that he had suffered at the hands of the "dib, dib, dib." "Well," said the fox politely, "I am acquainted with all sorts of animals, but I never heard of such a creature as the "dib, dib, dib"; and he suggested that it might possibly have been a man. "Come back with me to the tree where you left him, and see whether I am right or not. In case I am wrong, we can run away before he gets near enough to hurt us, and if he is a man, you can easily kill him and be avenged for all. the trouble he has caused you." "How do I know you are sincere?" replied the leopard. "Everyone speaks of you as a swindler and a tricky rogue; and what proof have I that you
may not have been employed by the "dib, dib" himself, in order to lure me to my ruin?" "Tie your tail to mine," answered the fox, "and then, if I play you false, you will have me at hand and can kill me." The leopard accepted this handsome offer. Having tied his tail to that of the fox, and made an extra knot, they went towards the place where the water-seller had been left. The latter was still in the tree, for, though it was now broad daylight, he feared to descend before all the world was astir lest he should be ambushed by the leopard. So, although it was the kind of day on which the sheykh of the Haradìn 1 gives his daughter in marriage, the poor drenched fellow stayed shivering in his tree. At last he made up his mind, and was just on the point to climb down when he saw the leopard, accompanied by the fox, emerge from a thicket and come towards him. At first he could not understand why the two animals should have tied their tails together, but being a man of ready wit, the true cause flashed upon him; and while the pair were still a good way off, he cried: "O Abu Suleymân, why have you kept me so long waiting? Hurry up with the old marauder that I may break his bones." On hearing those terrible words the leopard turned fiercely on the fox, saying, "Did I not know you were a treacherous villain, and would play me false?" Then he turned tail and ran for his life, dragging after him the hapless fox, who was soon bumped to death
against the stones and tree-trunks which the leopard passed in his headlong flight. The water-seller came down from the tree and returned to his home. Thus Allah, to Whom be praise, punished the fox for his former crimes, and the leopard for his wicked intentions, whilst at the same time he protected the poor old woman, and taught the water-seller to be more careful.
As might be expected, the serpent figures largely in the animal folk-lore of Palestine. According to Jewish notions, "the spinal cord of a man who does not bend his knees at the repetition of the benediction, which commences with the word 'Modim,' after seven years becomes a serpent;" while the fellahìn believe that a serpent, when it has attained the age of one thousand years, finds its way to the sea, and becomes a whale. According to the Talmud, "Seventy years must elapse before a viper can reproduce its own species, and a similar period is required for the carub-tree, while the wicked serpent requires seven years." The following is a characteristic serpent-story.
The serpent is the most accursed of all created things, and very treacherous. It is at the root of all the evil in the world. Who does not know that when Iblìs was refused admission into Paradise he went sneaking round the hedges and trying in vain to persuade the different animals to let him in? At last, however, the serpent, bribed by a promise of the sweetest food in the world, which the evil one
told him was human flesh, introduced the devil into the garden, concealed in the hollow of his fangs. From this hiding-place Iblìs conversed with Eve, who supposed it was the serpent speaking to her. The mischief that resulted is well-known. However, the serpent did not get his reward; for when, after the fall, an angel was appointed to assign to every creature its special food and country, the serpent--who even before the devil tempted him, had felt jealous of Adam reclining in Paradise while angels served him with roast meat and wine--shamelessly demanded that he should have human flesh for his sustenance, in accordance with the promise given him. Our father Adam, however, protested, and pointed out that, as nobody had ever tasted human flesh or blood, it was impossible to maintain that it was the most luscious of food. Thus he gained a year's respite for himself and his race; and, in the interval, the mosquito was sent round the world with instructions to taste and report upon the blood of every living creature. At the end of twelve months it was to proclaim in open court the result of its researches. Now Adam had a friend in that sacred bird the swallow, which annually makes its pilgrimage to Mecca and all holy places. This bird, unseen of the mosquito, shadowed it all the twelve months till the great day of decision came. Then, as the insect was on its way to the court, the swallow met it openly and asked what flesh and blood it had found the sweetest. "Man's," replied the mosquito. "What?" said the swallow. "Please say it again distinctly, for I am rather deaf." On this the mosquito
opened its mouth wide to shout the answer; when the bird, with incredible swiftness, darted in his bill and plucked out the dangerous insect's tongue. They then proceeded on their way to the place where, by appointment, all living creatures were assembled to hear the final decision. On being asked the outcome of his investigations, the mosquito, who could now only buzz, was unable to make himself understood, and the swallow, pretending to be his spokesman, declared that the insect had told him that he had found the blood of the frog most delicious. In corroboration of this statement, he said that he had accompanied the mosquito on its travels; and many of the animals present, who had come from different remote regions, testified to having seen both the mosquito and the swallow at the same time in their special countries. Sentence was therefore given, that frogs, and not men, should be the serpent's food. In its rage and disappointment, the serpent darted forward to destroy the swallow; but the latter was too quick, and the serpent only succeeded in biting some feathers out of the middle of its tail, which is why all swallows have the tail forked. Baffled in this manner, the serpent--which was then a quadruped, and could in one hour travel as far as a man could walk in seven days--though he might neither devour men nor suck their blood, yet sought every opportunity for stinging and slaying them, and did no end of harm till the time of Solomon, the king and sage, who cursed him so effectually that his legs fell off, and he became a reptile. He indeed begged hard to be spared the punishment, but the king, who
knew what his promises were worth, remained inexorable. Once, when Solomon was at Damascus, the serpent and the mole came to him, the former asking that its legs might be restored, and the latter to be provided with eyes. The king replied that he was at Damascus on special business, and could only hear petitions at Jerusalem, where he would be in one week's time. On his return to El-Kûds, the first petitioners announced to him were the serpent and the mole. In reply to their requests he said that, "as they had both been able to travel from Damascus to the Holy City in as short a time as he had done with chariot and horses, it was clear that the serpent did not need legs nor the mole eyes."
263:1 Properly selûki (from the town of Selûk) a kind of greyhound.--ED.
264:1 See special note.
266:1 See Section I. "Our Father Adam."
268:2 One who has the whole of the Corán by heart.--ED.
271:1 Ed-dab’ bil-leyl sab’.--Arabic proverb.
275:1 = Reynard.
275:2 Another name for the fox.
282:1 Haradìn=a kind of lizards (Stellio vulgaris). The phrase is a proverbial expression for a day of heavy showers alternating with sickly gleams of sunshine.