Kalilag and Damnag

From Academic Kids

(Syriac: Kalilag and Damnag, Arabic: Kalila wa Dimna), is the name of the translation into Syriac of the Sanskrit Panchatantra literary work of fables originating in India. It was translated to Pahlavi Persian then into Syriac, then into Arabic, and from there to European languages. Thomas Irving (1980) further states that from North Africa the stories were carried south to Sub-saharan Africa, and thence to North America by African slaves.

The book is about symbolic wisdom fables put in the mouths of animals. All the tales have a moral message, and many have a political undertone.

Two main figures are the jackals Kalila and Dimna (Sanskrit: Krataka and Damanaka). The main narrator is the philosopher (Hakim) Bidpai (Arabic: Baydaba), who is asked for a fable by the king Dabshalim.

The fables originated around 200 BC in a Sanskrit collection of animal stories called the Panchatantra. In the 6th century, at the command of the Sassanian King Khosrau I of Persia, a translation was made into Pahlavi, the literary language of Persia at the time.

By the end of the 6th century, a Syriac translation from Pahlavi was made (Kalilag and Damnag), and then another one into Arabic (Kalila wa Dimna) in the 8th century by Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa in Baghdad.

Around 1080, a translation from Arabic into Greek was done, then one into Hebrew about 1240, and old Castilian (Calila e Dimna) in 1250.

From the Hebrew translation came the version into Latin (Calila et Dimna), made by John of Capua, dating from about 1270 and called Directorium Humanae Vitae, or "Directory of Human Life."

From this Latin version came the German translation, first printed about 1481 at the instance of Duke Eberhard.

From the Latin version came the English version of Sir Thomas North, 1570.

La Fontaine

La Fontaine, the great French fabulist, in the second edition of his Fables, 1678, confesses his indebtedness to 'Pilpay', the "Indian Sage":

"This is a second book of fables that I present to the public... I have to acknowledge that the greatest part is inspired from Pilpay, an Indian Sage" ("Je dirai par reconnaissance que j’en dois la plus grande partie à Pilpay sage indien") Jean de La Fontaine

In the Fable entitled "Le Milan, le Roi et le Chasseur" (XII, 12) La Fontaine explains that "Pilpay has the Adventure start near the Ganges" ("Pilpay fait près du Gange arriver l’aventure").

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