An argosy of fables/Armenian and Turkish fables

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An argosy of fables
Book 2—Oriental fables

Part 4—Armenian and Turkish fables

PART IV

ARMENIAN AND TURKISH FABLES


THE VIOLET AND THE IRIS

N the early spring, some one praised the Violet for its loveliness, telling it that it was so beautiful that it looked like an Iris. Believing this, the foolish Violet at once sent an ambassador to the Iris in order to make friends with the royal purple flower, because of this fancied resemblance.

The Iris returned this answer, "You are now beautiful with blossoms, while I—my flowers are still hidden in their tight-wrapped buds. Wait until I, too, am in blossom."

A few days later the lovely Violet faded and died; and when the Iris flowered, the Violet had completely disappeared.

Be content with your own blessings. While you are envying those of others, your own may vanish.

(Fables de Mkhithar Goch, Journal Asiatique, Ser. 9, Vol. 19.)


THE SUN'S WANING GLORY

THE Sun believed, each morning when he rose, that he was a God. But at night, when he set, he had to hide himself down beneath the Earth, and then he recognized his unimportance.

Do not feel too much exalted by the glory of victory, for the time may come when your glory will wane.

(Fables de Mkhithar Goch, Journal Asiatique, Ser. 9, Vol. 19.)

 

THE VAIN CEREALS

THE vain Cereals were disputing among themselves as to which of them should rule over the others.

"I am the best," declared the Barley, "for I have sixty grains."

"Nay, I am the most worthy," said the Millet, "for I have a hundred grains."

The Wheat alone remained silent.

Their King, seeing the humility of the Wheat, appointed him above all the others, and second only to the King himself.

(Fables de Mkhithar Goch. Journal Asiatique, Ser. 9, Vol. 19.)


THE WATERMELON

A MAN, entering a garden, cut off a Watermelon and was about to eat it, when the Watermelon cried out in alarm:

"What would you do, O man? Do you not know that I am an Elephant's egg? If you carry me away and keep me unbroken, I shall hatch out for you a little Elephant, that will be worth hundreds of dollars."

The foolish man, happy to have such a prize, carried it home with him and kept it carefully. But when the Watermelon only rotted, instead of hatching out a little Elephant, he threw it away in disgust. And thus the Watermelon escaped the knife.

If you fall into the hands of wicked men, pretend to be of great value, and perhaps you will be spared until you have a chance to escape.

(Fables de Mkhithar Goch, Journal Asiatique, Ser. 9, Vol. 19.)

 

THE HIGHWAYMAN AND THE PRIEST

A HIGHWAYMAN, having waylaid a Priest, prepared to kill him. The Priest suddenly found himself possessed of great strength, and he fought and conquered the Highwayman, and punished him as his conduct merited. The Highwayman cried for mercy and said: "How can you, who are a Priest, treat me thus, when you are all the time preaching 'Peace to all the earth,' and other similar teachings?" The Priest replied: "Oh, wicked Highwayman, it is in order to keep Peace on earth that I am maltreating you—you who do not know the beauty of Peace!"

This Fable teaches us that it is right to resist injustice, not from love of combat, but to prevent the troubling of Peace.

(Fables de Mkhithar Goch, Journal Asiatique, Ser. 9, Vol. 19.)


THE BIG FISH AND THE FROGS

THERE was once a certain Big Fish who felt a great desire to feed upon Frogs. But he could not reach them, for they were safely sheltered in their swamp. So the Big Fish tried flattering them, saying: "Oh, Frogs, what beautiful hands and feet you have! And when you croak in chorus your voices are as sweet as an organ. Why do you not come nearer so that I may enjoy the sight of you?" The Frogs, understanding his purpose, answered: "You praise our shape and you praise our voice; but we know very well that it is not for the sake of our shape or voice that you want us, but for the taste of our tender flesh."

This Fable teaches that we should weigh carefully the words of flatterers; for they often betray themselves by their own words, no matter how artfully they conceal their meaning.

(Fables de Mkhithar Goch, Journal Asiatique, Ser. 9, Vol. 19.)


THE PLUM, THE PRUNE AND THE APRICOT

THE Plum, the Prune and the Apricot were once reproached for setting on edge the teeth of those who eat them. They answered: "You do not know what you are talking about. All doctors know that we often upset the stomach. Nevertheless people insist upon eating us. Now if we make trouble in spite of our acid taste, think what endless mischief we would cause if we didn't set teeth on edge. You ought to be grateful rather than reproach us."

Forbidden pleasures leave a bitter taste.

(Fables de Mkhithar Goch, Journal Asiatique, Ser. 9, Vol. 19.)


THE PLANTER AND THE POMEGRANATE

AN inexperienced Planter once asked a Pomegranate Tree: "Why do you produce so many blossoms, and then let so large a number of them fall to the ground without producing fruit?" The Pomegranate replied: "The eye of the Planter is greedy. My branches are slender and my fruit is heavy, and if I did not bend easily I could not sustain the weight of it. That is why I let many of the blossoms fall, so as not to be broken by more fruit than I can bear."

This fable is a reproof to masters who tax the strength of their servants beyond the limits ordained by Providence.

(Fables de Mkhithar Goch, Journal Asiatique, Ser. 9, Vol. 19.)

 

THE FIG-TREE AND HIS BRANCHES

THE Fig-tree was once asked why he stretched out so many of his lower Branches so close to the ground. He replied: "Because I have many enemies, and I have learned to bow low to them so that my Branches will not be broken. Thus they easily reach my fruit, and before they have begun to climb I have won their favour and made them forget their malice."

This fable teaches that if we cannot hope to conquer an enemy, we should meet him with kindness and humility, and spread a generous table before him. In this way he will be disarmed and forget his evil purposes.

(Fables de Mkhithar Goch, Journal Asiatique, Ser. 9, Vol. 19.)


THE THORN AND THE VINE

THE Thorn, which had long borne a grudge against the Vine, one day said in quarrelsome tone: "I grow and thrive like yourself, and like you I yield my fruit, and in one way I am superior to you since I do not wither and shed my leaves during the winter." The Vine silenced him by saying: "Your glory will be complete when your fruit is gathered in the autumn for the vintage." But when autumn came, instead of being gathered, the Thorn was trodden under foot.

We learn from this Fable that foolish vanity should be silenced, and not allowed to claim a perfection which it lacks. For one defect is enough to offset many virtues.

(Fables de Mkhithar Goch, Journal Asiatique, Ser. 9, Vol. 19.)

 

THE TREES CHOOSING A KING

THE Trees once met in council to decide which one of them was best fitted to reign over the others. Some proposed the Date, because it was tall and its fruit was sweet. The Vine objected, saying: "It is I, with my wine, that give joy to the world, and for that reason I deserve to be King." In like manner each Tree was found to consider itself superior to the rest, and unwilling to accept any other for King. The Date, upon reflecting, understood that the reason why none of the Trees would agree to another reigning was because none was willing to share the honours with the rest. Accordingly, he said: "You admit that I have a better claim to be King than any of the rest of you?" They all admitted this, saying: "Yes, for you are tall, and your fruit is sweet. You lack only two things: you do not give your fruit at the same season that we give ours; and your wood is not good for building. Besides, you are so tall that there are many who cannot enjoy your fruit." The Date answered: "If you choose me for your King I will make each and all of you Princes; and in the fullness of time I will reign over your children and your children's children." Hearing this promise, the Trees all hailed the Date as their King, and he forthwith proclaimed the order of the Kingdom, appointing each Tree to its separate post of honour: The Vine, Chief Toastmaster; the Fig, Prime Minister; the Thorn, Chief Executioner; the Pomegranate, Court Physician; and so to each and every Tree and Plant its special post and task.

This fable teaches that no one can reign without the help of the humble, nor rise in the world unless aided by those below him. Also favours received give hope of greater favours to come.

(Fables de Mkhithar Goch, Journal Asiatique, Ser. 9, Vol. 19.)

"'THERE IS THE SOUND OF A BONE IN MY EARS, AND THE FEEL OF A BONE BETWEEN MY TEETH.'"

THE PRINCE AND THE FLEA

A PRINCE of Royal blood was once sadly tormented by a Flea. At last he caught the troublesome pest, and was about to kill it when the Flea said: "I beg of you, do not kill me, for the harm I have done you is small." "Yes," replied the Prince, before he crushed it, "but you did me all the harm that you could!"

This Fable teaches that even small offenders must be punished, in order that big criminals may see and tremble.

(Fables de Vartan. Paris, 1825.)


THE FOX AND THE ICICLE

A HUNGRY Fox, searching for food one winter day, came across a long, fine Icicle, shaped very much like a bone, and fell to gnawing it eagerly. "A plague upon it!" said he, "there is the sound of a bone in my ears, and the feel of a bone between my teeth, but never a scrap of it goes down into my stomach!"

This Fable teaches that we must not judge by appearances.

(Fables de Varlan. Paris, 1825.)


THE THIRTY-TWO TEETH

A SYRIAN Philosopher, both good and wise, was arguing one day with an Armenian, when the latter, who was young and quick tempered, became angry and cried:

"I have half a mind to fling this stone in your mouth and knock out every one of your thirty-two teeth!"

The astonished Philosopher left the Armenian standing there and hurried home to consult his wife. "In Heaven's name, good wife," he said, "light the lamp and count my teeth, for I am anxious to know how many I have." The Philosopher's wife counted his teeth, and then said, "Indeed, husband, I find that you have thirty-two teeth, neither more nor less."

The Philosopher hurried back to find his friend the Armenian, and asked him, "Pray tell me, how did you know how many teeth I have?"

"Good master," replied the Armenian, "I judged the number of your teeth from my own."

Just as the Armenian knew the number of the Philosopher's teeth, so may we know from our own faults the faults of others, since all men have the same faults in common.

(Fables de Vartan.)


THE TWO KINGS AT WAR

A CERTAIN King, who was the hero of his century, had declared war on one of his neighbours. The enemy, who were poor in resources, and had not been able to make the necessary preparations, were at a loss how to defend themselves. Accordingly, their King sent a spy to meet the advancing host. This spy, watching from a distance, saw advancing an innumerable host of soldiers armed with lances. Straightway he turned his horse and galloped back to his sovereign. "Lord," he said, "you are going to be attacked by an army as vast as a fortune, for I have seen so many lances advancing that they will hide the sun!" "Take this robe of honour," said the Monarch. "If it pleases God, we will fight to-day in the shadow cast by the enemies' lances." By this war-like answer he inspired his followers with unconquerable courage and valour.

(Fables Turques. Traduites par J. A. Decourdemanche. Paris, 1882.)