Hellenism in Ancient India

By Gauranga Nath Banerjee | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
FABLES AND FOLKLORE

Indian Fairy-tales and Fables--Westward migration of Indian Fables.

Our wonder becomes great when we turn to popular stories which could not be brought within the category of mythical legends and which exhibit, in spite of differences of detail and local colouring, a closeness of resemblance which establishes their substantial identity. If among the stories which the Hindu, Persian, Greek or Teutonic mothers recounted to their children, we find tales which turn on the same incidents, and in their most delicate touches betray the influences of precisely the same sentiment, we must conclude either that these legends were passed from one clan or tribe to another, or that before the tribes separated from their common home, they not only possessed in mythical phrases relating to physical phenomena, the germs of the future epics of Asia and Europe, but had framed also a number of stories, which seem to point rather to a storehouse of moral proverbs. The story of the Master Thief is a case in point. It looks at first sight, as though it had nothing to do with the great legends of the Norse and Hellenic heroes, and the resemblance of some its incidents to those of a story told in the Hitopadesa suggests the conclusion that it found its way into Europe through the Arabic translation known as the Kalilag and Dimnag (vide, Macdonell, Sanskrit Literature, p. 417; Zu Kalila we-Dimna , by Dr. Steinschneider in Z. D. M. G., vol. xxvii, p. 550). Prof. Max Müller plainly avowing this belief said that "the story of the Master thief is told in the Hitopadesa" (see Chips from a German Workshop, vol ii, 229). The Sanskrit tale is that of a Brahman who on hearing from three thieves in succession that the Goat which he carried on his back was a Dog, throws the animal down and leaves it as a booty for the rogues,

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