Kelileh & Demneh     

Chapter1: The Lion & The Ox

Introduction: The Jackals

Discussion    Join    

The Maharaja, ruler of India, ordered the Brahman priest, “Tell me a tale about two friends whose friendship is ruined because of a treacherous slanderer who causes enmity between them and finally they break up.” (In ancient times the kings would ask court attendants to read them stories for entertainment and teaching. Often these stories became a part of the teaching materials for the nation.)

Brahman priest, “Anytime a friendship is mingled with someone or something very wicked any moment the two may fall apart. And what follows is an example:

An affluent merchant who owned much wealth fathered many children, but these children refused to work and manage the business instead they stretched their hands to waste his wealth. The father found it necessary to admonish and blame the children, “The folk seeking (the success of) this world have three goals and they shall not reach them unless by four characteristics. The three goals are: 1) the expansion of the wealth, 2) rising in fame and 3) reaching a good end (hereafter). And there are four instruments to reach these goals: 1) preservation of the wealth in proper manner, 2) keeping up fine appearances in public, 3) spending justifiably on the family as well as charitable causes, 4) safeguarding against the dangers and plagues as much as possible. And whomever fails in any of the four, destiny shall block what he yearns to achieve by the veil of hardship and problems. If he avoids doing business then he can not take care of himself nor any of his dependants, and if he finds wealth but neglects to flourish it then soon he may find himself poor and in need. In other words he shall spend little by little but finally all is spent and gone, especially if he does not make an effort to invest or manage the funds thus wasting away the funds and people opening the tongue of blame at him. Even if he becomes a miser and does not spend anything no matter how justified and lives like a pauper (accumulating the wealth) forbidding for himself and others the pleasures of the blessings, there shall come a fateful decree from the heavens that will waste away and scatter his wealth. Similar to a reservoir of water, if constantly water is pumped within but there is no way to drain water out, eventually a hole or a crack would appear and consequently the water would gush out through a much larger crack and all is wasted, thus nothing left.”

The merchant’s sons did take note of his advice and understood the benefit of what the father said. The eldest brother set on a far away journey to trade. He took along two ox: Shanzabeh and Nandabeh. Somewhere along the way Shanzabeh was trapped in a swamp, with much effort, he was pulled out but not much life was left within him to move, so the merchant hired a man to nurse him back to health and afterwards to track him down and to bring the ox back to him. But he did the work for hire for only one day, got disgusted with the task, let Shanzadeh loose and told the merchant that the ox had died.

For some time Shanzabeh looked around for pasture until he reached a bird sanctuary indeed a vernal meadow with terrific variety of plants and herbs that made even the custodian of the Paradise envious and the skies opened the wondering eyes of bewilderment upon this garden:

In every direction the reservoir like rosewater [1]
Black ducks buoy on every wave of that water

Like a fierce warrior laying on the bed of his armor
Like a Hindu shining light on the surface of his mirror


The pine trees swaying as if walked through [2]
Zainab amongst a crowd of very shy women

Shanzabeh appreciated the meadows (to stay) and as has been said:

And once in peace you reached to your destination, go no further!

And in Amthāl (Parables) has been mentioned, “Once you reach the pastures, dismount!”. And he stayed for sometime, regained his strength back, became fat and the wantonness of comfort and good life got into him so with much energy he let out a loud moo. In the outskirts of this bird sanctuary a lion reigned accompanied with many wild animals and predatory beasts, all obedient to his command, he was young handsome and quite arrogant dictating his own will. He had never seen any cow and never heard any such noise. And when the moo of the Shanazbeh reached his ears, not wanting the other predatory beasts to be aware of his fear, he became quite still not moving to any direction.

Amongst his followers there were two jackals: Kelileh & Demneh, both endowed with much intelligence and wit and yet Demneh was more avid and ambitious.

He said to Kelileh: What do you think about the king’s immobility and lack of activities?

Kelileh: What is your business with that why do you ask such questions? We are quite comfortable at the court of this king. We find some prey to eat and we are not of the high rank afforded the socialization with the regal nobility so their words are heard in close proximity of the king. Give these words up! Since the person who deals with affairs that cannot afford nor handle shall reach no place except where the chimpanzee reached.

Demneh: What do you mean by reaching where the chimpanzee reached?

Kelileh: Once a chimpanzee saw a carpenter sitting on two wooden planks. With two nails, he wanted to hammer a nail on each end to hold the planks together but as soon as he moved to the other end to hammer, the nail would jet out of the previous end. Finally the carpenter got off the planks to do something else, and of course the chimpanzee jumped and sat on the gap between the two planks (to help the carpenter). However unbeknownst to the chimpanzee his testicles dangled through the gap. With agility chimpanzee attempted to nail the planks together, proceeded with the nailing of both ends quickly but as soon as the second end was hammered in the gap tightly closed and the chimpanzee’s testicles slammed shut between the nailed planks and immediately he lost consciousness. The carpenter returned, with much anger start beating the chimpanzee and the animal was killed. Because of this incident the wise have said, “Carpentry is not the work of chimpanzees”.

Demneh: Ok I understand now. However seeking a closer relationship with monarchs does not necessary stem from the need for food or provisions, since the belly can be filled with almost anything and almost anywhere:

Can more than a measure of one hand fit within the ‘Amr’s stomach?

(This is a proverb so there is no person called ‘Amr)

The benefit from befriending the kings is to seek a higher rank, making more allies and subjugating more enemies, frugality in this affair is the lowliness of the personal vigor and lack of manhood:

Counting the frugality that of lowliness!
Who has called the ambition greediness?

Whoever just eats for the sake of eating reduces himself to that of animals, like a dog that is happy with even a hard bone or dried piece of bread, yet the lion in the midst of the hunt for a rabbit upon spotting a zebra shall abandon the rabbit and chase after the zebra:

Coward considers the weakness as being resolute
And this is the trick of the nature of the lowbred

When you are busied in an affair so mundane
With what is under the stars be not so content


Be lofty like the hawk and commanding like the tiger
Be beautiful while hunting and triumphant in the battle

Whoever has reached a lofty rank, though so short lived like a flower, the intellectuals consider his life very long due to what was achieved and the good name left behind. And whoever pleased with obscurity, though long lived like the leaves of the pine, amongst the people of virtue and asceticism carries no weight.

Kelileh: I hear what you say, however refer to your own mind and knowing that each nation has a place, and we are not of such status to be the candidates for attainment of such high ranks:

Squat as squatted your father in his place
He saw the fresh bones but could not attain

(Arabic word squat was used which normally used for dogs)


You shan’t be a shade setting the sky afire
You shan’t be a mud-brick baked under the sun

(You are just a mud dying drying under the sun not a precious mud-brick so much in demand)

Demneh: Whoever endears himself noble shall soar from being common to the loftiest of the ranks, and whoever is weak and simple-minded shall fall from the high ranks to obscurity. To arise to loftiness requires much effort but to fall from grace is quite easy, same as lifting a very heavy stone to the shoulder requires much effort but without any struggle can be dropped on the ground. And those who cannot offer help to an aspiring man are indeed excused:

The bigger the goal the lesser the help [3]

We deserve to seek a high rank and not satisfied with this obscurity and decline.

Kelileh: So what is it that you are thinking?

Demneh: I want to present myself to the lion in this opportune moment, this moment where he is in doubt and paralyzed by bewilderment and by means of my advice a door opens for him and this way I gain closeness and high position.

Kelileh: How do you know that the lion is bewildered?

Demneh: I observed this through my own wisdom, since the intelligent individual can discern the characteristics of what is within someone by means of the observation of what is on the surface of their behavior.

Kelileh: How do you proposed to become close to the lion? You have never served a king and you do not know the protocols.

Demneh: If a man is truly well learned and capable of socializing with the prominent men it will not difficult for him, specially if he is enlightened with a clear vision he fears not the fact he is alone and being the stranger brings him no harm:

If a man is secure within himself
Can embrace the enemies’ battle

Kelileh: The king does not favor to promote the capable people, instead offers the opportunity for those already close to him since there are inherited ranks that are respected (reserved) for those around him, similar to a branch of roses that will not seek a better tree to lean on rather it will lean on the closest, no matter what it is.

Demneh: The companions of the king and their predecessors not always elevated to their status as you mentioned, they also made effort struggled to acquire the high ranks, indeed the same for me:

I do not care after reaching a rank aloft
Whether was inherited or acquired alike

(The end justifies the means, the modern fallacy! No! Not modern just human condition)


I shall remember myself as though a garnet
Not like that worthless ash, begat the fire

Those who are the regulars in the courts of the kings, they mind not to drink the bitterness of the torments and hardships, and the sting of the anger’s flames to be put out with the waters of forbearance, the Satan of lust imprisoned in the bottle by the witchcraft of the wisdom, the deceptive greed no match for the guiding mind, foundation of all affairs upon the righteous command, patience and resilience with the events, and at any moment the desired goal enrobed with evermore beautiful gown may appear to welcome them.

Kelileh: Now lets say you are in close circles of the king what strategy you may adopt?

Demneh: If I am able to get close to the king I shall spend time to get to know his disposition and propensity while serving him with utmost of sincerity. Obey him in full compliance and make his every desire my desire yet avoid all his repugnant affairs. When he commences a new task, focusing on affairs that are fine and in favor of the kingdom rendering them favorably in his heart and exaggerate in their goodness and benefit so that he would add to his own image of self-righteousness. And yet if he is delving into an affair with outcome of evil loss & corruption i.e. general foulness for his kingdom, I let him muse upon the affair while staying by his side as a friend using the finest and softest words make him aware of the awful outcome to turn him around, and doing so in such dedicated manner that he has never seen from any of his servants. Since the skilled advisor can talk his way into enrobing a truth into the gown of falsehood and propping the falsehood in front of the truth:

If I turn the falsehood into the truth the universe is my sanctuary
Or if I turn the truth into the falsehood who can ever oppose my ruling

A skillful painter can turn three-dimensional objects into flat pictures and these flat pictures look like a three-dimensional object:

The skilled painter who fears none else
Seen no ‘Anqā yet paints the ‘Anqā’s face

(Anqā is a legendary & imaginary bird in Arabic tales very much like Simorgh the Farsi counterpart)

And once the king sees my savvy-ness he would be more & more inclined towards rewarding me and raising my rank than I am to serve him.

Kelileh: If you are firmly set on this decision and prepared to embark upon it, you should be aware of the dangers. The wise men say there are three things no one take parts in except the idiot: 1) Serving the king 2) Being a taster for poisonous food 3) Sharing secrets with women. The learned men compared a king to a mountain: In the mountain there are many riches e.g. mines and other precious things but it is also home to wild animals snakes and other annoying and dangerous creatures, therefore similar to the king, climbing this mountain difficult and residing within horrifying.

Demneh: This is sound but if one does not accept the dangers one does not become momentous:

Had there been no hardships all men would have been chieftains
The Spartan falls upon poverty and the brave steps into slaughter


From danger rises the importance and from ten comes the forty
The merchant would not pack the goods if concerned with fear

(‘importance’ means the prominence ‘from ten comes forty’ means profiting from $10 investment getting $40)

One should not dabble into three matters unless by the strongest conviction and powerful nature: 1) Working for a king 2) Trading in the seas 3) Opposing enemies. The leaned men say there are two admired men: 1) Good fortunate one in service of the king 2) Content individual amongst the ascetics

Kelileh: Although I am against this mission but may God bless and bring peace and health.

End. (To Be Continued…)

[1] ‘Rosewater’ means distilled flower perfume however in the poem it indicates the fragrance and the beauty of the water in this reservoir. The warrior making bed out of the armor means, the reservoir was so protective of its residence like the armor so comfortable for a warrior that he could even sleep in, since normally one finds it difficult to sleep with the armor on. This is the metaphor for protection while providing comfort. The Hindu lighting a mirror means the mirror-works of Indians that was so beautiful and yet resplendent as the description of the beauty of the reservoir. The Hindu mirror-work is mostly speculation as to what it means and requires more research.

[2] Here we can see the influence of an Indian tale upon the Sufi literature. Indeed the ‘pine’ is a Sufi code word, which indicates the loftiness of the Beloved. The word Zainab that is a name for a woman meaning very beautiful, also indicates the concept of a beautiful beloved.

[3] This I have seen in Sufi books I just do not remember where!? This proverb means when you are on the Divine Path the desired goal is That Beloved and that is such a large goal that no one can help you with in any fashion i.e. you are all alone on the Path even you can not help your Self.  

© 2004-2002,  Dara O. Shayda