fables which legend attributes to a Brahman named Bidpai were translated into
Arabian in the eighth century by Abd Allah ibn Al=Mokaffa and are frequently
given the title of Kalila and Dimna.
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, possesses two copies of these fables with remarkable
illustrations. The first (Arabian Ms. 3465) was executed about 1220, probably in
Syria. The second (Arabian Ms. 3467) is an example of the Mesopotamian style of
a few years later.
first of these manuscripts is reproduced the picture of Al=Mokaffa, who,
according to tradition, was drawn and quartered and cast into a bakeoven.
the hapless translator had a foreboding of his end when he wrote the fable, The
Ox and the Lion, or even more so in the one entitled, The Raven, the Wolf, the
Fox, the Lion and the Camel, which depict the sad death of the Ox and the Camel.
People of the Occident, and especially the French, discover with pleasure that the animals in Bidpai's fables are the same as those with which they have been familiarized by La Fontaine. These readers will immediately understand the story of the fox being put to death by two fighting rams, or the tale of the rabbits meeting in council against the elephants. The blackbird, or raven, is always given the role of the villain, contrary to that assigned the owls despite their ugliness. The two last illustrations are those of the fables: The Raven, the Rat and the Tortoise and The Heron, the Shrimp and the Fish.
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