“The Hermit and the Cat”

“The Hermit and the Cat” February 21, 2020

 

Kalila and his brother Dimna
A page from a manuscript of the Kalila wa Dimna dating to approximately AD 1220.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

 

I would like to call your attention to the

 

LDS Film Festival 2020

 

which opens next week.  It will run from Monday, 24 February 2020, through Saturday, 29 February 2020, at the SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem, Utah.

 

***

 

I share with you yet another nice little eighth-century animal fable (in my translation) from Munther A. Younes, Tales from Kalila wa Dimna: An Arabic Reader (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989):

 

A hermit and his wife lived in an old house along with a cat whom he loved more than anything else he owned.  The hermit wished that his wife would conceive a son and, after a long wait, she conceived a son and she and her husband rejoiced greatly at that.

One day, the wife went to the marketplace, leaving her husband and her son in the house.  A little while after her departure, a messenger of the king came and requested of the hermit that he go with him.  So the hermit closed the door and went with the messenger.  The boy and the cat remained inside the house.

While the boy was playing with the cat, a large snake came out from a hole in the house and drew close to the boy.  The cat attacked the snake and killed it before it reached the boy.

When the hermit returned, the cat greeted him as if she were expecting him to reward her for saving the life of his son.  But when the hermit saw the signs of excitement on the cat and the blood on its mouth and its paws, he thought that the cat had killed his only son.  So he grew enraged and struck the cat with his staff and killed her.  Then he entered his house and found his son in good health, and to his son’s side a dead snake.  At that, he realized that the cat had saved his son from the snake.  So he became angry with himself and regretted that he had killed the cat during a moment of baseless anger despite her lifelong loyalty to him.  And he reflected wistfully that, if he hadn’t had a son, his cat would still be alive.

 

The moral of the story, I suppose — certainly one of them — is that we shouldn’t jump to premature conclusions.  The “hermit” in this story acted before he knew all of the facts.

 

 


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