Meshal Haqadmoni: Fables from the Distant Past: A Parallel Hebrew-English Text, Volume I

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Authors
Loewe, Raphael
Sahula, Isaac ben Solomon
Issue Date
2004
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Book, Whole
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This work is bilingual by putting the English on the left-hand page and the Hebrew on the right-hand page. In Wikipedia I found the following helpful information. Meshal ha-Kadmoni was written between 1281 and 1284. This book of fables was written expressly to displace, with an original Hebrew work, such light literature as Kalila and Dimna and the Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor, which were read extensively by Jews in the Middle Ages in Hebrew translations. Hence Ibn Sahula introduced in his book a similar structure and mode of presentation, and even added illustrations to his book, as was prevalent in non-Jewish literature. Divided into five chapters, Meshal ha-Kadmoni contains a large collection of parables, stories, and tales, all written in rhymed prose with pedagogical purpose. Each of the five sections -- on wisdom, penitence, sound counsel, humility, and reverence -- starts with the words of a Cynic against one of these virtues. He is refuted by the Moralist. This volume consists of extensive introductory material and the first two parts of the work itself. I read in some detail the first book's story of Lion, Hart, and Fox. It could come, in outline, straight from Kalila and Dimna. The fox attempts to betray his fellow-counselor, the hart. When the hart proves his heredity by showing the wisdom he has from his rabbi father, the lion king turns instead against the fox and rejects him. All of this is done with so much quoting of the scriptures and so much philosophizing that it takes pages. I will look forward to reading these two volumes in more detail the next time I get to teach a fable course. The texts here are wonderfully footnoted, and there is a helpful outline in the introduction. Individual illustrations from the Venetian woodcuts of 1547 and black-and-white renditions of the colored vignettes in the Rothschild Miscellany tend to come in pairs, one from each set, every four to ten pages.
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The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization
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