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Burton: The Jackals and the Wolf

[Go back to The Merchant and the Robbers]

A pack of Jackals went out one day to seek food, and as they prowled about in quest of this, behold, they happened upon a dead camel and said in themselves, "Verily we have found wherewithal we may live a great while; but we fear lest one of us oppress the other and the strong bear down the weak with his strength and so the puny of us perish. Wherefore it behoveth us seek one who shall judge between us and appoint unto each his part, so the force full may not lord it over the feeble." As they consulted together on such subject, suddenly up came a Wolf, and one of the Jackals said to the others, "Right is your rede; let us make this Wolf judge between us, for he is the strongest of beasts and his father was Sultan over us aforetime; so we hope in Allah that he will do justice between us." Accordingly they accosted the Wolf and acquainting him with what they had resolved concerning him said, "We make thee judge between us, so thou mayst allot unto each of us his day's meat, after the measure of his need, lest the strong of us bear down the weak and some of us destroy other of us." The Wolf accepted the governance of their affairs and allotted to each of them what sufficed him that day; but on the morrow he said in his mind, "An I divide this camel amongst these weaklings, no part thereof will come to me, save the pittance they will assign to me, and if I eat it alone, they can do me no harm, seeing that they are a prey to me and to the people of my house. Who, then, is the one to hinder me from taking it all for myself? Surely, 'tis Allah who hath bestowed it on me by way of provision without any obligation to any of them. It were best that I keep it for myself, and henceforth I will give them naught." Accordingly, next morning when the Jackals came to him, as was their wont, and sought of him their food, saying, "O Abu Sirhan, give us our day's provender," he answered saying, "I have nothing left to give you." Whereupon they went away in the sorriest plight, saying, "Verily, Allah hath cast us into grievous trouble with this foul traitor, who regardeth not Allah nor feareth Him; but we have neither stratagem nor strength on our side." Moreover one of them said, "Haply 'twas but stress of hunger that moved him to this, so let him eat his fill to-day, and to-morrow we will go to him again." Accordingly, on the morrow, they again betook themselves to the Wolf and said to him, "O Father of Foray, we gave thee authority over us, that thou mightest apportion unto each of us his day's meat and do the weak justice against the strong of us, and that, when this provaunt is finished, thou shouldst do thine endeavour to get us other and so we be always under thy watch and ward. Now hunger is hard upon us, for that we have not eaten these two days; so do thou give us our day's ration and thou shalt be free to dispose of all that remaineth as thou wilt." But the Wolf returned them no answer and redoubled in his hardness of heart and when they strave to turn him from his purpose he would not be turned. Then said one of the Jackals to the rest, "Nothing will serve us but that we go to the Lion and cast ourselves on his protection and assign unto him the camel. If he vouchsafe us aught thereof, 'twill be of his favour, and if not, he is worthier of it than this scurvy rascal." So they betook themselves to the Lion and acquainted him with that which had betided them from the Wolf, saying, "We are thy slaves and come to thee imploring thy protection, so thou mayst deliver us from this Wolf, and we will be thy thralls." When the Lion heard their story, he was jealous for Almighty Allah and went with them in quest of the Wolf who, seeing him approach addressed himself to flight; but the Lion ran after him and seizing him, rent him in pieces and restored their prey to the Jackals. "This showeth," added Shimas, "that it fitteth no King to neglect the affairs of his subjects; wherefore do thou hearken to my rede and give credit to the words which I say to thee." Quoth the King, "I will hearken to thee and to-morrow, Inshallah, I will go forth to them." Accordingly Shimas went from him and returning to the folk, told them that the King had accepted his advice and promised to come out unto them on the morrow. But, when the favourite heard this saying reported of Shimas and was certified that needs must the King go forth to his subjects, she betook herself to him in haste and said to him, "How great is my wonder at thy submissiveness and thine obedience to thy slaves! Knowest thou not that these Wazirs are thy thralls? Why then dost thou exalt them to this highmost pitch of importance that they imagine them it was they gave thee this kingship and advanced thee to this rank and that it is they who confer favours on thee, albeit they have no power to do thee the least damage? Indeed, 'tis not thou who owest submission to them; but on the contrary they owe it to thee, and it is their duty to carry out thine orders. How cometh it then, that thou art so mightily Frighted at them? It is said, 'Unless thy heart be like iron, thou art not fit to be a Sovran.' But thy mildness hath deluded these men, so that they presume upon thee and cast off their allegiance, although it behoveth that they be constrained unto thy obedience and enforced to thy submission. therefore an thou hasten to accept their words and leave them as they now are and vouchsafe to them the least thing against thy will, they will weigh heavily upon thee and require other concessions of thee, and this will become their habit. But, an thou hearken to me, thou wilt not advance any one of them to power neither wilt thou accept his word nor encourage him to presume upon thee, else wilt thou fare with them as did the Shepherd with the Rogue." Asked the King, "How was that?" and she answered, "They relate this adventure of...

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Burton, Richard (1821-1890). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. London. 1885-1888. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. VII. Gutenberg Vol. VIII. Gutenberg Vol. IX. Gutenberg Vol. X. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.


1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM


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