1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bidpai, Fables of

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BIDPAI (or Pilpay), FABLES OF, the name given in the middle ages (from Sanskrit Vidya-pati, chief scholar) to a famous collection of Hindu stories. The origin of them is undoubtedly to be found in the Pancha Tantra, or Five Sections, an extensive body of early fables or apologues. A second collection, called the Hitopadesa, has become more widely known in Europe than the first, on which it is apparently founded. In the 6th century a.d., a translation into Pahlavi of a number of these old fables was made by a physician at the court of Chosroes I. Anushirvan, king of Persia. No traces of this Persian translation can now be found, but nearly two centuries later, Abdallah-ibn-Mokaffa translated the Persian into Arabic; and his version, which is known as the “Book of Kalilah and Dimna,” from the two jackals in the first story, became the channel through which a knowledge of the fables was transmitted to Europe. It was translated into Greek by Simeon Sethus towards the close of the 11th century; his version, however, does not appear to have been retranslated into any other European language. But the Hebrew version of Rabbi Joel, made somewhat later, was translated in the 13th century into Latin by John of Capua, a converted Jew, in his Directorium vitae humanae (first published in 1480), and in that form became widely known. Since then the fables have been translated into nearly every European tongue. There are also versions of them in the modern Persian, Malay, Mongol and Afghan languages.

See Wilson’s analysis of the Pancha Tantra, in the Mem. of the Royal Asiat. Soc. i.; Silvestre de Sacy’s introduction to his edition of the Kalilah and Dimna (1816); articles by the same in Notices et Extr. des MSS. de la Bib. du Roi, vols. ix. and x.; German translation by Philipp Wolff, Bidpai’s Fabeln (2 vols., 2nd ed., Stuttgart, 1839); the Anvār-i Suheili, Persian version of the Fables, translated by E. B. Eastwick (Hertford, 1854); Benfey, Pantscha Tantra, German translation with important introduction (2 vols., Leipzig, 1859); other editions, by L. Fritze (ib. 1884) and R. Schmidt (ib. 1901); Max Müller, Essays (Leipzig, 1872), vol. iii. pp. 303, &c.; J. Jacobs’ edition of Sir T. North’s Morall Philosophie of Doni, the earliest English version of the fables (London, 1888); J. G. N. Keith-Falconer, Kalilah and Dimnah, or the Fables of Bidpai (Cambridge, 1895), their history, with a translation of the later Syriac version and notes; Léopold Hervieux, Les Fabulistes Latins, &c. v. Jean de Capoue et ses dérivés (1899); E. G. Browne, Persian Literat. (1906), ii. 350.