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Payne: The Foxes and the Wolf

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A troop of foxes went out one day to seek food, and as they coasted about in quest of this, they happened upon a dead camel and said to each other, "Verily we have found wherewithal we may live a great while; but we fear lest one of us oppress other and the strong overbear the weak with his strength, and so the weak of us perish; wherefore it behoveth us seek one who shall judge between us and appoint unto each his part, so the strong may not lord it over the weak." As they consulted together, up came a wolf, and some of the foxes said to the others, "Your counsel is just; let us make this wolf judge between us, for he is the strongest of beasts and his father was sultan over us aforetime; wherefore we hope in God that he will do justice between us." So they accosted the wolf and acquainting him with their determination, said to him, "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 overbear the weak and some of us destroy other some."

The wolf consented to take the governance of their affairs and allotted unto each of them what sufficed him that day; but on the morrow he said in himself, "If I divide this camel amongst these weaklings, no part thereof will come to me, save that which they assign to me, and if I eat it alone, they can do me no hurt, seeing that they are a prey to me and to the people of my house. Who shall hinder me from taking it for myself? Surely, it is God who hath bestowed it on me, by way of provision, and no thanks to them. It were best that I keep it for myself, and henceforth I will give them nought." Accordingly, when the foxes came to him, as of wont, and sought of him their food, saying, "O Abou Sirhan, give us our day's provender," he answered, "I have nothing left to give you." Whereupon they went away in the sorriest case, saying, "Verily, God hath cast us into grievous trouble with this vile traitor, that feareth not God neither respecteth Him; but we have neither power nor resource." But one of them said, "Belike it was 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."

So, on the morrow, they again betook themselves to the wolf and said to him, "O Abou Sirhan, we set thee in authority over us, that thou mightest allot unto each of us his day's meat and do the weak justice against the strong of us and that, when this is finished, thou shouldst do thine endeavour to get us other and so we be still under thy safeguard and protection. Now hunger is sore upon us, for that we have not eaten these two days; so do thou give us our day's meat and thou shalt be free to dispose of the rest as thou wilt." But the wolf returned them no answer and redoubled in his stiffneckedness. So they strove to turn him from his purpose; but he would not be turned. Then said one of the foxes to the rest, "Nothing will serve us but that we go to the lion and cast ourselves on his protection and assign the camel unto him. If he vouchsafe us aught thereof it will be of his bounty, and if not, he is worthier of it than this filthy fellow."

So they betook themselves to the lion and acquainted him with that which had betided them with the wolf, saying, "We are thy servants and come to thee, imploring thy protection, so thou mayst deliver us from this wolf, and we will be thy slaves." When the lion heard their story, he was jealous for God the Most High and went with them in quest of the wolf, who, seeing him making for him, addressed himself to flight; but the lion ran after him and seizing him, rent him in pieces and restored their prey to the foxes. This shows,' added Shimas, 'that it behoveth no king to neglect the affairs of his subjects; wherefore do thou hearken to my counsel and give credit to that which I say to thee; for thou knowest that thy father, before his decease, charged thee give ear unto loyal counsel. This is the last of my speech with thee and peace be on thee.' Quoth the king, 'I will hearken to thee and to-morrow, God willing, I will go forth to them.'

So Shimas went forth from him and returning to the Folk, told them that the king had accepted his counsel and promised to come out unto them on the morrow. But, when the favourite heard this saying reported of Shimas and knew that needs must the king go forth to his subjects, she betook herself to him and said to him, 'How great is my wonderment at thy submissiveness and obedience to thy slaves! Knowst thou not that these viziers are thy servants? Why then dost thou exalt them to such a pitch of importance that they conceit them it was they gave thee this kingship and advanced thee to this height and that it is they who confer favours on thee, albeit they have no power to do thee the least hurt? Indeed, it is they who owe thee submission, not thou who owest it unto them, and it is their duty to carry out thine orders; so how cometh it that thou art so mightily affrighted at them? It is said, "Except thy heart be like iron, thou art not fit to be a king." But thy mildness hath deluded these men, so that they presume upon thee and cast off their allegiance to thee, albeit it behoveth that they be constrained unto obedience and enforced to submissiveness unto thee. If therefore, thou hasten to accept their words and leave them in their present case and fulfil to them the least thing against thy will, they will importune thee and presume upon thee, and this will become their wont. But, if 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 robber.' 'How was that?' asked the king, and she answered, 'They say that...

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Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram 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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