Academic journal article Marvels & Tales

Crescentia's Oriental Relatives: Four Translations

Academic journal article Marvels & Tales

Crescentia's Oriental Relatives: Four Translations

Article excerpt

Translator's Introduction

The following section supplements my essay on "Crescentia's Oriental Relatives" in the present issue. It comprises translations of four of the texts relevant to the essay's argument that before now have not been translated, including what is presently considered the tale's oldest known version in a tenth-century Arabic source (Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulaini, al-Kâfî), two early versions in thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century Persian literature (Sadid al-din Mohammad a\-'Oufi, Javâme' al-hekâyât; Javâher al-asmâr) and the fifteenth-century Arabic version in 'Abd al-Rahmân al-Saffûri's Nuzhat al-majâlis. As analytical summaries of all of these versions have been given in the essay, the translations aim to convey a direct impression of the original wording. The rather baroque style of the earlier texts renders the task of presenting a readable translation difficult, as particularly the Persian texts use numerous synonymous expressions; al-Saffûrî's text, on the other hand, is so straightforward and devoid of any embellishment that it gives little more than the tale's basic structure. The translations follow the original texts as closely as possible, without any attempt at variation except in cases of direct speech. The direct speech usually employed in Arabic narrative texts is stereotypically introduced by forms of the verb "to say"; this has occasionally been replaced by other expressions such as "responded" or "shouted," or, in other cases, altered to indirect speech. The "floral" style of the early Persian texts leaves various options for the translation of specific words or composite expressions. In places where direct translations would need complicated explanations, I have instead opted for closely connected analogues that are more readily intelligible for a Western reader.

al-Kulaynî (died 940), al-Kâfî

There once was a king of the Israelites who had a qâdî. This qâdî had a brother who was a righteous man and whose wife was from the lineage of the prophets. Once the king wanted to send someone on an errand and asked the qâdî to find him a trustworthy person. The qâdî said that he did not know anybody more trustworthy than his own brother. So the king summoned the brother to send him on the errand. But the man did not want to go and told his brother that he was afraid his absence might lead his wife astray. But the qâdî insisted he had to comply, and so he finally said to his brother: "My brother, of what 1 leave behind there is nothing more important to me than my wife. So be my deputy with her and take care of her needs." His brother consented, and so the man left, even though his wife objected to his travel. From then on, the qâdî used to visit her, inquiring about her needs and taking care of them. Since he took a liking for the woman, he asked her to comply with his desire. When she refused to give in, he swore an oath that if she did not, he would tell the king that she had committed adultery. But she only responded: "Do whatever you have to do! 1 will not give in to your desire!" So the qâdî went to the king and reported that he was sure his brother's wife had committed adultery. When the king asked him to reform her, he approached her, saying: "The king has ordered me to have you stoned to death. Now what are saying [in response to this order]? If you still do not give in, 1 will have you stoned." The woman replied: "1 will not give in. So do whatever you have to do!" So he brought her outside [the town walls] , had her buried [up to the waist] in the ground, and stoned her together with the people [of that city] . When he thought she was dead he left her and went away.

When the night had fallen, she was still alive. She moved her body, got out of the pit, and went her way until she had left the [vicinity of the] city. Arriving at a monastery inhabited by a monk, she spent the night at the monastery's gate. In the morning, the monk opened the gate, saw her, and asked her about her story. …

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