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Georgian Folk Tales, by Marjory Wardrop [1894], at


Teeth and No-Teeth

SHAH ALI desired to see the hungriest man in his kingdom, and find out how much of the daintiest food such a man could eat at a meal. So he let it be known that on a certain day he would dine with his courtiers in the open air, in front of the palace. At the appointed hour, tables were laid and dinner was served, in the presence of a vast crowd. After the first course, the shah mounted a dais, and said: 'My loyal subjects! you see what a splendid dinner I have. I should like to share it with those among you who are really hungry, and have not eaten for a long time, so tell me truly which is the hungriest of you all, and bid him come forward.'

Two men appeared from the crowd: an old man of fifty and a young man of twenty-seven. The former was grey-haired and feeble, the latter was fresh and of athletic build.

'How is it that you are hungry?' asked the shah of the old man. 'I am old, my children are dead, toil has worn me out, and I have eaten nothing for three days.' 'And you?' said the shah, turning to the young man. 'I could not find work, and as I am a hearty young man I am ashamed to beg, so I too have not eaten for three days.'

p. 164

[paragraph continues] The shah ordered them to be given food, on one plate, and in small portions. The hungry men eagerly ate, watching each other intently. Suddenly the old man and the young one both stopped and began to weep. 'Why do you weep?' asked the shah in astonishment. 'I have no teeth,' said the old man, and while I am mumbling my food this young man eats up everything.' 'And why are you weeping?' 'He is telling lies, your majesty; while I am chewing my meat the old man gulps down everything whole. . . .'

Next: VII. The Queen's Whim