Behemoth, considering each type of animal, designated princes accordingly: the ox [as prince] over the herds; the ram, over the folds; the he-goat, over the flocks; the lion, over the beasts; the horse, over the [beasts] of burden; the eagle, over wild birds; the cock, over domesticated birds, and he stipulated that each one pay attention to his duties.
This fable urges the king to make good arrangements, according to what is proper, to appoint [g70] princes and judges, and similarly to correct the order in the Church.
The ox, butting with its horns, lost [one] in the river. Trying again, the same thing happened. After that, he gave it up.
The fable demonstrates the wisdom of those who yield, once advised of [someone else's] superior strength.
Once a ploughing ox fled from its yoke. Seized by a laborer (mshak), it was taken [to work] on the threshing-floor; fleeing from there [and recaptured] it was attached to a wagon, and [fleeing] from there [it was recaptured] and put to numerous [other] chores, until it realized that flight was impossible. Accepting this, it forgot [about running away].
This fable is an appropriate counselor to those who want to lead a life of dissolution, and to live without working. It is worth advising them [g71], similarly, until they accept everything; because it is impossible to conduct oneself honestly without work.
A multitude of flocks had assembled in the forest to hold a public discussion, to find a way of freeing themselves from the danger of wolves. When the wolves learned about this, they were horrified that perhaps [the flocks] would indeed succeed in destroying their tyranny over them through their strategems. And one of the old [wolves] said: "Their plan will be powerful if we do not pray that they themselves cause their own dispersal." So they prayed and dedicated a mass to God. At noon they went to the places where [the flocks] had [assembled]. Their councils scattered and fled, and the wolves were delighted.
We learn from this fable that when our enemies plot wickedly about us, and we are not sufficiently strong in numbers to resolve [the matter], we should pray and take refuge in the mass, so that God will overturn them [g72].
Once there was sadness among the flocks [which felt that]: "We are worked for our production, we accumulate milk in our breasts, people squeeze our teats and take our toil from us. Let us arise, depart, and never again return to them." But one of the wise ones among them said: "It is not so, for people take that [milk] which is in excess of what is needed for our offspring, and people care for us and for our progeny. We receive more than we give." Schooled by this, they were happy.
This fable advises the grumbling attendants about the lords from whom they receive. But taught by the wise, they realize that little is [asked] of them.
A ram struck a tree with the horns of his head many times. The horns broke off and he started cursing [the tree]. But [the tree] [g73] replied: "You were the cause of it. Why blame me?"
This fable rebukes senseless cursers who, themselves enraged with diseases, blame others.
Animals, as they were travelling in a flock, were wagging their tails. A herd of goats started to rebuke them, saying: "Why don't you move about more modestly, the way we do?" And the rebukers were particularly jealous.
This fable illustrates the behavior of the envious. When others advance, they scoff, yet lacking that [quality], they consider themselves modest.
A he-goat, leading [a herd] of goats, entered some rugged caves. A wolf saw [them] and came and inquired: "What are you doing here?" They replied: "We are going to be hermits in this spot for forty days" [g74]. Believing this, the wolf left them alone and departed. At this, the goats descended and went along their way in peace.
This fable teaches that it is harmless, and not blameworthy to free [oneself] from the threat of enemies with an appropriate falsehood.
Some animals came and said to the lion: "In every way you conduct yourself like a prince, but in one thing, like a thief, for you make your tracks invisible." [The animals] had devised [this strategem] for hindering [the lion], as he was a threat to them. Saddened by [what they had said], [the lion] went about openly while [the animals], aware of this, were free from him.
This fable teaches [us] to devise means of eluding evil by praising and rebuking others [g75].
The lion, having broken his foot, was annoyed at all of the animals, [saying]: "You are tributary to me, since I am prince of the beasts. Why now don't you offer mass so that I be healed?" And they replied: "Because through you we have found no protection, neither from the bear, the wolf, nor from any other beast. Nor do you look after us in any way. We ought to offer a mass to God that such misfortune befell you."
The message of this fable is clear. Wicked leaders, lay and clerical torment those obedient to them and do not protect others from danger. When, as is fitting, they fall into misfortune, let us thank God that it was not caused by us.
The lion, bear, and wolf, being of one mind, said: "Why are we eaters of raw meat? Let's [g76] catch a human being so that he will prepare our game as food, according to human custom." They captured someone and made him the cook. Harassed, the man devised a way to get free. He split a large log and placed wedges on either end. Then he called to the lion and wolf: "Help me split this log. Each of you put your paws under it and pull it apart." As soon as they did so, [the man] pulled out the wedges and they were trapped. Then, taking an axe, he began to hack away, saying: "I'll start with the lion."
This fable counsels against uncivilized desires, as they are the cause of wickedness
for some, frequently for beginners.
A bear's stomach pained him. He asked the fox about medicine, and the latter replied: "Pious father, there is medicine by such and such a name. Go over there [to the village] and you will be given honey which will help you greatly." As soon as [the bear] came near the village [g77], dogs chased him away. He started blaming the fox, [but the fox] returned: "The man who did not free you from the dogs and did not give you medicine was without education. Now come, I shall take you to a certain cleric who is a sagacious theologian." As soon as the cleric saw [them], he became hostile. The fox pointed out the entrance to the apiary, and the bear entered, first eating the hive, then taking [more] and departing. Then the cleric cursed the fox as the causer of the damage. But [the fox] replied: "If he did you that impoliteness, I am not responsible; for you did not give him the stomach medicine."
The layman, supposedly an ignoramous, remained unharmed while an equitable revenge was exacted from the cleric, for frequently such damage results from the leadership of stingy, treacherous, beast-like men [g78].
The fox, learning that the wolf had become blind, went to him to be his guide, for pay. One day, acciidentally, [the wolf] caused the fox to fall into the water. The latter did not believe [this was unintentional] and so waited to get revenge. The fox was frightened and wanted to flee, but was unable to, since [the wolf] held him. [The fox] said: "Tomorrow is Easter. I shall take you to the church to eat madagh (sacrificial meat)." The wolf was pleased, and they went the next day. [The fox] took him and threw him to the dogs, and the wolf said: "Is this the madagh, you wicked attendant?" And [the fox] answered: "That's it, for such a wicked, blind man as you is worthy of that and nothing else."
This fable speaks about criminals who have [so] repented that they guide the blind. Yet should evil-doers tempt them, they immediately revert to crime.
A wolf who had grown old went to a flock [of sheep] and said: "I am repenting [g79] now, having greatly grieved you. Therefore I wanted to come and even to stay with you so that I be forgiven. And I shall protect your little ones from other wolves." Delighted, the [watch]dogs said: "Hereafter, let's not condemn [the wolf]." So [the wolf] remained and waited until the lambs grew larger and then commenced eating and mauling them until many observed this, and he was put to death.
The fable advises [us] not to quickly believe someone with evil ways, for growing old, such becomes his nature. And he is dragged back to the same [evil], being a son of death.
Dogs came into the presence of their king and said: "You gave everyone a reason or model for living their lives, [but] how are we to live?" And [the king said [RB:the text seems to be corrupt here]: "Live!" They replied: "That's enough for us, but what if some guest should come to visit us?" And [the king] said to them: "Grapple with him so much that he won't come again."
This fable rebukes the inhospitable and those who hate strangers/foreigners (zotarateats's for [g80], as if by law, they worry about themselves and loath guests.
All the mice sent emissaries to the cat, saying: "How do we hurt you for you to persecute us so? What of yours do we eat?" And [the cat] replied: "Don't you know that people support us [cats] to keep their grainaries? If you do not harm that, then go about openly, and I will not harm you in any way." And placing his paw on his head, he confirmed this pledge with an oath. The mice, growing bold, wanted to collect grain which had fallen [on the floor], but [the cat] attacked and seized many of them. [The mice] said: "Truly, didn't you vow not to seek vengeance for fallen grains?" And he replied: "I didn't swear; rather, as is [my] custom, I placed my paw on my head."
The fable describes those who swear falsely, for they do not remain [true] to the provision or to the oath; rather, they violate [the oath] as soon as they find an appropriate moment [g81].
The panther, running after game, broke its back. It wickedly struck and cursed its own cub, but later regretted this, and lamented.
This fable reproves the hard-hearted, for being impatient to do evil on [some] occasion, they make their families grieve, yet later they regret their action.
The lion seized a thieving hyena, which said: "I eat the dead because I cannot vanquish the living. Now since you [have] conquered [me], kill [me] quickly.
The fable rebukes tyrannical princes who punish thieves, yet do the same things by force, according to the Apostle's reprimand.
The fox asked the rabbit: "How is it that I am always languishing, while you are so strong" [g82]? And he replied: "Because I don't worry about many things and I eat whatever I find."
This fable points to carefreeness as a cause of health, and to a simple diet (zdiwrachashakn) as the cause of carefreeness.
The hare was asked why it was so frightened. It replied: "Dogs, eagles, and men hunt us, therefore we have a right to be scared."
It is fitting to be advised by this fable for the enemies of our lives are many and [it is appropriate] to take care with dread.
Some [creatures] rebuked the beaver: "Why do you thrash about in the water so?" And [the beaver] replied: "If I didn't, I would be caught, killed, and skinned."
This fable alludes to wicked lords who torment [people] in life and in death [g83].
A hunter insulted the tiger which had blackened him with its excrement. And [the tiger] said: "Since you pierce me with arrow and sword, shouldn't you deserve such contempt?"
This fable is describing people who plan to commit murder and are then shocked when
[their would-be victims] say: "Why don't you let us kill ourselves?"
A fox came upon some book and went to certain ignorant [animals] claiming to be a priest. And he was designated [their] priest. On feast days [the fox] prayed in a loud voice and quite willingly blessed the salt, though he was idle on other days. Now at the time of the offering of the madagh (sacrificial animal), [the fox] licked up the blood. Upon being censured, he replied: "It was dedicated [to God] and thus it is appropriate to so act." When his falseness became clear, he slinked off in secret [g84].
The moral of this fable is clear. Hypocrites who never were priests deceive the ignorant. Should they apply themselves [to clerical work] they are exposed by their own deeds; and being exposed, they depart persecuted.
A monkey observed a muezzin (Muslim caller-to-prayer ?malum) doing ablutions, and it, too, washed. It saw [the muezzin] go onto a high place and cry out, and the monkey did the same. Descending, it saw a dog eating a corpse, and the monkey also started in. When censured, it replied: "I am a foreigner. I wash and am cleansed"—for it does what it sees.
This fable is simple. [People], seeing numerous evil things, do them. Washing, they say they are expiating, placing the cause on the heretical leader.
In a vision, a certain king saw foxes pouring down like rain. He ordered it proclaimed that one thousand dahegans would be [g85] given to whomever interpreted the meaning of this vision. When a certain poor man heard this, he went and said: "If you will excuse me for three days, I will reveal [the meaning] to you." Then he went to a desert/retreat and wandered about, meditating. A dragon (vishap) was there, saw the confused man, and said: "What will you give me if I interpret the king's vision for you?" And [the man] replied: "Half of what the king promised [me] will be yours." The dragon spoke: "Go and say that a time is coming when men will be deceivers and treacherous as foxes." So [the poor man] went and said this and his interpretation seemed correct [to the king], for indeed people were that way. [The king] gave him the promised one thousand dahegans. The man, however, deceived the dragon, not returning to him. Subsequently, [the king] saw another vision, in which sheep were raining down. He ordered the man summoned so that he interpret this one as he did the first. The man requested the same [three day] pardon. Embarassed as ungrateful, he went to the dragon, rebuking himself and saying [g86]: "I deceived you. But reveal this second [vision] and I shall give you [payment] for the first and for the second." [The dragon] interpreted it for him, ignoring what had happened. It said: "Go and say that the time has come when people are as simple-minded as sheep." He went and interpreted it. [The king] accepted [the explanation] and gave him an additional one thousand dahegans. Taking this, the man went and gave the one thousand dahegans to the dragon [as payment] for the first and second [interpretations]. After this, [the king] saw yet another vision wherein, lo, swords came raining down. And he had the man summoned again to have this [vision] interpreted too. The man made the same request for time and went to the dragon who immediately explained it as if to a friend. It said: "Go and say that the time has come when people come forth as tyrants and swordsmen." He went and related this to the king and received one thousand dahegans. Then he went to the dragon, saying to himself: "Now why should I leave the dragon one thousand dahegans or bring him five hundred dahegans [g84]? Rather, I shall attack and slay the dragon." And he attempted to strike the dragon, but failed since the dragon eluded him. The man regretted [his deed] and thought: "I have done wickedly, for should it be necessary again [to get an interpretation] how can I approach him?" Seeing the man grieving, the dragon said to him: "Grieve not, oh man, because you are not to blame; rather, it is the times. For your deception [belongs to] the time of hypocrites; your repentance and payment of the one thousand dahegans, to the time of ingenuousness; and your attack on me, to the time of tyrants."
The fable illustrates nothing other than this: that [one should] know people by the times, and should be careful. For the times bring forth diverse people, sometimes deceivers, sometimes simple-minded, sometimes tyrants, and many others like them.
An elephant gave its calf to Plato, to learn philosophy. First [Plato] [g88] commanded him to sit squat in the auditorium, and he could not. Then [Plato] told him to bow his head to the ground. But [the elephant] could not do that, either. So [Plato] returned him to his father, saying: "It would be fitting for your son to be in a king's palace, always on his feet, and not in my auditorium; for he can neither sit nor bow his head.
This fable teaches us that each person should choose some appropriate calling, in accord with his own make-up, conduct, etc.
A man struck his camel. Enraged, [the camel] spoke: "See that you don't strike me when I'm unhappy; otherwise, I will kill you!" Then [the man] asked: "Tell me what is a sign of your anger, so that, recognizing it, I will not hit you." And [the camel] replied: "When you see my lower lip protruding and my hooves making no noise, that is a sign of my sorrow." [The man] retorted: "It is always that way [with you]. How wll I know" [g89]?
This fable is about malicious people who are always full of wrath. Sometimes they conceal their evil by claiming to be sad. But their treacherous conduct is not believed.
A pig went to the Chaldeans, [placing his] hopes on astrology. He was ordered by the practioner to look at the sky and contemplate it. But the pig was unable to do this since, naturally, its neck does not turn. Then [the pig] was told to be quiet. But he said that he had a "worldly outlook" as a consequence of which he dug at the ground. Thus, he was unworthy of the sublime, since he was in love with the worldly.
This fable applies to those who, like pigs, are always staring at the ground, as if they do not want to look at the sky and see the work of God's hands [g90].
An ass went to a mountain to become a cleric, but was horrified at the severity of the place, and because they were advising him not to be lazy. He fled, crying out in complaint: "To the collar, to the collar!" as if to say that the collar (xarhan) was warm, and he had left that to become a cleric.
This fable pertains to those who come to a retreat from the world, yet have bestial behavior. Frightened by the clerics and by the advice of monks, they once again return to the world, remembering their former ways.
They were insulting a mule for being the son of an ass. And he boasted of his mother, [a horse]. However he was defeated, for descent from the father is more important than descent from the mother.
The message of this fable is clear: rule in a harmonious kingdom and in everything else should be based on [descent] from the fathers, rather than from the mothers [g91].
The horse, having grown haughty, did not want to submit to being ridden. In circulating around there, it encountered a lion. Fleeing from that, it met a bear. Escaping from that, it came upon a wolf, and so forth, and so on. Finally, humbled, [the horse] returned [home] docile; not for the food, but to escape a wicked death.
We should take example from this fable; because it is right to obey God, not only to receive nourishment, but so that we are freed from the dews and from an eternal, wicked death.
A buffalo wanted to be a surveyor, but while surveying it grew tired; and as it went along, it fell into some swamp. When a vardapet (Doctor of the Church) accused [the buffalo] of being impatient, it replied: "Could it be that only the earth is fit for measuring? I'll measure the water" [g92]!
This fable applies to those who, having given up some bad habit, then return to it; and when censured, say: "Could it be that only pious people [exist]? There are also lovers of sin, such as we."
A buffalo wanted to gore its keeper, but was unable. And it complained against God, saying: "Instead of making my horns straight, He made them curved." The keeper responded: "God knew your evil will, and therefore arranged for your horns to grow as they do."
This fable suits those who keep grudges, for God never lets them avenge themselves as they will.
A dragon (vishap) wanted to war with a stag and planned to do so on a plain, since the stag cannot strike on flat land [g93]. During the battle, [the dragon] was defeated by kicking. Entering [the stag's] den, [the dragon] quit it, panting. It went into the water where the stag was drinking, to challenge it there. Yet [the dragon] was crushed there, too; appearing entirely vanquished.
This recalls the battle between cenobites and the Devil. For should he battle in a worldly manner, that worldly one will be cast down; should he battle by harrassing [them] they will triumph with planning; should he wage [war] with learning, they shall also drive him thence; and they shall triumph in everything, like the Lord.
A wolf was waiting for a mountain-goat to fall asleep so that he could seize it. Realizing this, [the mountain-goat] did not sleep for many days. Meanwhile, the wolf, becoming drowsy, dozed off. Just then a lion came up and killed it.
This fable also applies to cenobites. For Satan waits for them to sleep with diseases so that he seize them. The cenobites [g94] remain vigilant while Satan dozes. Then Christ the lion will come and slay him.
A mole (t'obek) entreated the porcupine: "Let me take your son as a pupil, and let us be friends. When [the porcupine] accepted after much compulsion, [the mole] said: "Because [the baby porcupine] is difficult to kiss, remove its coat so it will be easy to fondle him." Deceived, [the porcupine] did so. And as soon as he gave him over, [the mole] began to eat [the baby], while [the father] was unable to do anything, and departed sobbing.
This fable presents the wilyness of foreigners, who deceive simple-minded Christians into giving their sons to the princes to be honored and exalted. Nor do they want any advisor to be among them, so that making their souls barren, they be killed. When the deception is exposed, [the parents] can do nothing except weep. The same thing befalls daughters [g95].
The panther went hunting and, not having any luck, was insulting its keeper (zbutsanoghn) [for] not eating, drinking, or mounting. To which [the keeper] replied: "You yourself are to blame, for you hunt lazily, not with fortitude."
The fable rebukes the lazy, those who work little, be it in spiritual or physical [work] and who, not succeeding, rather than blaming themselves, grumble against God and describes those who appropriately advise them to see themselves as the cause [of their failure].
An order came from the king of all the land creatures to come to him. They all assembled immediately. Now the newt (k'arat'awsh), lizard, and mole (xlord) also came, so that they too would receive honors. It was for this reason that [the king] had summoned [everyone], to honor each according to his [rank] [g96]. Everyone ridiculed them. [The king] elevated each one according to his rank and then asked them: "What service have you performed for me that I should honor you?" The newt and the lizard replied: "We can go into crevices, we enter the fortresses of our lord's enemies, and though we cannot conquer, we lead the troops there." Then the mole said: "When we enter a city, we mine." Accepting this, [the king] honored these [creatures who had been] scorned by many.
This fable shows that all, great and lowly, are needed. Not only kings, but everyone: princes and other lay [lords], similarly the church needs the lowly and scorned.
All the birds complained: "Our prince, the eagle, is wicked; for he always eats of us and does not protect us from other hunters" [g97]. Hearing this, [the eagle] said: "What is better for you than that? I bear two sons, and destroy one of them so that it will not be difficult for you. When you are near me, no one can hunt you, but when [enemies] suddenly come upon you elsewhere, they hunt. You accuse me in vain."
All kings are wont to behave in accordance with this fable: keeping with them a son as heir to the kingdom so that they not be the cause of the land's destruction. When people are close to them, no one dares to work evil.
Chicks said to their parents: "Why don't you hunt live [food] for us the way the eagle and hawk do? Instead, you bring us bones of the dead for food." And [the parents] replied: "Children, that is the reason that God made us long-lived. We do not kill the living, but are content with the dead—like priests, not like princes. We do not ravish the living" [g98].
The fable wants us to act justly, correctly and appropriately regarding the belongings of the dead, and not to unjustly ravish the living. Thus shall we live long on earth.
The hawk was pursuing a dove which cried out: "I am [for] the Lord's mass. Do not hurt me." And [the hawk] replied: "What is [intended for] the Lord's mass, belongs on the Lord's altar and not here, flapping about in the air." Pouncing on [the dove], [the hawk] ate it.
This fable is addressed to those who, frightened of death say: "We have dedicated ourselves to the Lord and dwell in a retreat." To such [people] one should say: "Such people should be clerics and not foolishly wandering about the land where they will not be saved, but seized.
A cock saw a quail (lor) with many sons thanking God, and [the cock] shared in its joy [g99]. The quail said: "If you are thanking [God] truthfully, you are fortunate." But just then the cock grabbed one of [the quail's] chicks and attacked it. The quail cried: "Lo! now it is revealed that you were giving thanks not because of God, but because of [your] greed.
This fable illustrates the behavior of princes who dissemble with those they have captured, pretending to be one of them, rather than the liars they really are.
The wood-pigeon (hawbal=hop'al), having escaped from the sparrow-hawk (shehen) which was hunting it, said: "Let there be mass [offered] to the Lord." The sparrow-hawk ridiculed this, saying: "What you sacrifice with your own hands—that's what's holy to the Lord!"
The reference is to shepherds who claim that those animals that have been eaten by beasts and mauled by wolves, may be used for sacrifice [g100].
The kite (ts'i), spotting a hen's chicks, promised to offer gifts to saint Sargis if he would help him hunt them. Descending, [the kite] seized his prey, but [the chick] resisted by pecking and blinding him. And [the kite] denounced the saint for not helping him. He learned that saints do not help to do evil, but good.
This fable scolds those who beseech the saints to be the cause of evil deeds, but are not favored, because the saints do not heed the mindlessness of fools or listen to their indecent words.
The sparrow (ch'it), seeing that the ostrich laid very large eggs, wanted to do likewise, and asked to be taught. [The ostrich] said: "I eat fire, and therefore I lay such powerful eggs" [g101]. [The sparrow], believing this, ate fire and died, not realizing that the cause of [the large eggs] was [the ostrich's] size, not the fire.
This fable rebukes senseless craving. For [the weak], seeing the deeds of the mighty, desire to do them too, not considering their own weakness. And when they want to learn how [to do likewise] as an art, [the mighty] ridicule them, not really revealing the cause [of their greatness] which [the weak] themselves should know.
On the holy feast of Easter, all the birds came together and professed the faith through communion. The goshawk (sakrh) and cormorant (hoghamagh) came with them and confessed to the priests: "We know nothing about pity, for we hunt mice and frogs and devour them." And [the priest] rejected them, caling them unclean. They went and hunted some "clean" chicks (dzags surbs) and offered them to the priest who justified them, saying: "You didn't know how to confess, because they were aged birds with [the feathers] molting from their wings." And he gave them communion.
The fable speaks metaphorically about priests. For prostitutes and other unclean persons they eject from the church, intimidating [them]. But later they receive them back with bribes, giving some excuse, and then givem them communion.
A flock of sparrows went to the stork (aragil) and said to it beseechingly: "Give us a place in your nest to bear our young and protect our chicks from the snake." And [the stork] responded: "What will you give me if I do that?" And they said: "We shall pray that your babies be nourished in health, [protected] from the harmfulness of the air, and, in the world to come be found worthy because of your justice." As a result of this [promise], [the stork] gave them room [g103]. Now it happened that when [the sparrows] had hatched chicks, a snake creeped by to take from among them. When the stork (tarheghn) saw this, it struck at and killed the snake; then it flew once around it borders simultaneously kililng snakes, for the preservation [of the sparrows].
The fable teaches [us] to be compassionate to the weak and to enjoy each salvation because of our good deeds.
The owl sent a messenger to the eagle requesting his daughter for a bride, saying: "You are the brave soldier of the day and I, of the night. We are suited for [marriage] relations." After numerous entreaties, [the eagle] agreed to give her. At the wedding, during the daytime, the bridegroom could not see and the multitude ridiculed [him]. But when it became night, the bride could not see, and derision accompanied this, too. Thus the marriage was quietly dissolved [g104].
The moral of the fable recalls those Christian ("believing") kings and princes who for some reason give their daughters in marriage to foreigners, [where they will be] cut off from the light of faith. Consequently, there is no union and separation becomes necessary.
All the birds began beseeching the eagle, under whose sway they were, saying: "We shall pay tax to you promptly; do you, for your part, not constantly terrify us." And [the eagle] made a treaty and lived in peace with them for a long time. But [the birds] started to rebell and even ridicule [the eagle] and, furthermore, having assembled, they planned to depose it. The sparrow boasted: "I shall blind its eyes with my droppings." Each one boasted of its own strength. And they even began to battle. But [the eagle], not standing for this, attacked and killed many of them [g105].
This fable deals with the believing king and the infidels who piously make peace. But, growing ungrateful, they rebell, not knowing the motives for peace, they scorn, and even move to warfare. Reluctantly [the king] must mercilessly kill them.
A hen, seized by her owner, complained greatly. Some blamed [her], saying: "Why are you cackling so foolishly?" And she said: "Because I am terrified, since it is not always for good that [one] is seized. Sometimes, held upside down [one] is taken for a journey [lasting] many days; sometimes [one] is roasted over the flames and eaten."
This fable describes the behavior of lords, for one does not always find goodness from them, although they may be sweet. Occasionally, it is worth [g106] looking at [their] bad points, to stay sentient and to deal with them in a state of readiness.
A certain individual frequently picked up a dove's chick and praised its simplicity. [The chick] said: "Oh you hard-hearted man! Though you call me simple, I wonder, were you commanded to be blood thirsty? Now it's clear that you operate with evil intentions."
This fable depicts the behavior of despoilers. They know that the virtuous have no malice; [but themselves] growing yet more wicked, praise their behavior—as a result of which they [should] be rebuffed. For while the virtuous were told to be patient, [nonetheless] they were not ordered to despoil them. Now it is clear that they work aggressively.
Some birds went as guests to the turtle-dove (tatrak) and saw that it was a poor, abject cleric [g107]. And they were shown its dwelling—one appropriate for clerical life. [But] at the same time they demanded various delicacies, which [the turtle-dove] did not have. The latter said to them: "You contradict yourselves, I see."
This fable illustrates the habit of laymen; for, seeing clerics and being shown their cave dwellings, [the laymen] demand rich food—a contradiction. As we [clerics] live in caves the way [the turtle-doves] do, how can we provide [visitors] with all the sundry foods they want?"
The cock crowed many times, then said: "God know, that one or two crows is sufficient [to rouse] the lively, while many [times] are needed for the lazy. Furthermore, the slothful are not even roused by that, but in order to eat some grain [g108].
We must understand this fable as follows: [reading/hearing] doctrinal writings once or twice is enough for the sentient; but the lazy [must hear] it numerous times. And although it is clear to preachers that the hard-hearted reap no benefit from it, nonetheless, [the preachers] say it repeatedly, so that [the lazy] do not claim: "We did not hear it."
The crow wanted to offer a sacrificial mass. It invited many [creatures], and they came gladly. Its sacrifice was to be an old mouse. [The crow] began to strike [the mouse] and then [to attack] the others. A war broke out. Many had their eyes pecked out; they denuded each other, and then they began cursing [the crow's] mass, the offerer, etc. [The crow] said to them: "I learned from the students to...the unclean to offer, and to war again.
This fable is clear to all... [RB: the text is defective]
Sparrows were having a public discussion about hunters. But an aged [sparrow] cautioned: "Do not assemble. Perhaps the enemy will hear the sound of your wings, and, flying off, you will expose your cowardice. Rather, go to the church and pray to God." But they did not listen. Suddenly they caught sound of the enemy's wings, and the assembly dissolved.
This fable advises us that when we are insufficient to withstand enemies, it is not good to assemble to express opinions about them, [for such an assembly] is easily dissolved from fear of them, and our cowardice is revealed. Rather, the wise are advised to seek refuge in prayer at church.
A crow's son died, and [the father] mourned greatly, along with many others who came to mourn [g110] with it. [The crow] prepared a great meal for the mourners, saying: "I learned this from Christians, not foreigners. The stingy call one to weep, but not to eat. And the crow did this so that it be healed by the word of the mass.
The fable demonstrates that the custom(s) of mourning, mass, etc. of [the foreigners'] orders are entirely mistaken.
In the forest the magpie (antsegh) ordinarily is always chirping, especially when it sees something living. When asked by its chick [why this was so], it replied: "So that the enemies always see me alert, and not think of hunting [me]."
This fable urges us to be alert and to have prayers and hyms ever on the tongue, so that an enemy spirit will not dare war with us. When we see him coming toward us, then especially let us increase our prayers [g111].
The blackbird (sarek) sent its son to receive a clerical education. But [the student] spent its time chirping and grieving. The priest advised it to pay attention to hymns and psalms which dispell mourning from the heart. But it then turned to dancing, [saying]: "My father's craft causes joy, yours causes sadness." Although taught that present sorrow brings joy later, nonetheless it was deaf to this, and returned home.
The fable means that illusionary worldly joy, as those who have experienced it know, ends in lamentation, as the Lord Himself said. Similarly, spiritual mourning ends in joy.
The raven (archnagraw) was invited to a wedding celebration by the vulture, but refused, saying: "I am a cleric, and a mourner [g112], and therefore cannot come." Pressed to interrupt its mourning, it refused, saying: "If we remove the mourning [attire i.e. clerical robes)] [for one day], necessarily we don it the next day. Better not to remove it at all.
This fable speaks of the appearance of clerics, for they are ever clad in black and are always mourning. Should someone wish to joyously divert himself for a while, [the pleasure] cannot last long. Knowing this, [the clerics] deem it good to remain the same.
The jackdaw (chayek) beseeched the goose, [saying]: "Because my face is dark as night, I am scorned by all. You, so white and bright, I beg you to teach me how to become white like you." Consenting, [the goose] said: "[You will be white as I am] if, like me, you always bathe in the water." But when [the jackdaw] bathed, it came forth with black feathers. Doing this once more, the same thing happened [g113]. Again it pleaded with [the goose] for instruction. [The goose] said: "When you are bathing, learn my language; then you may be like me." But [the jackdaw] refused to forget his mother tongue, and thus remained black-faced.
This fable is interpreted as follows: the Persian people are spiritually murky. Going to [Christian] priests, they want to learn how to acquire their spiritual luster. The priest, having said: "Keep the sacrament of baptism perfectly" [the Persian], washing to transfer his sins, nonetheless, does not consent to the true confession, and so, similarly remains spiritually black. It is not fitting to baptise them if they do not accept the faith.
The peacock (siramarg), having shown its beauty to all and receiving praise, thought to be king. But some of the wise counseled: "It is not proper to aspire for deceptive things, since one rules as king because of birth" [g114]. But [the peacock] did not heed. When the king of the birds heard about the matter, it came and attacked [the peacock's] children and clan (azgatohm), plucking out feathers and denuding wings. [The peacock] did not achieve kingship and, furthermore, lost its charms throught the actions of its own kind.
As in this fable, it happens that many people are deceived [into thinking] that because they are successful in one thing, they should reign. Charmed by the words of supporters, they are cast down by those same ones, and do not attain their goal.
A hunter, seeing a flock of partridges, started promising them honor from the royal house, and food prepared however they liked it. And indeed, he forthwith spread out some food. Some [partridges], meditating, said: "Your promise is wicked; you would destroy our freedom and, in the end, take our lives. No matter what other [lure] you hunt us with [g115], we will not consent." And, stretching forth their legs, they fled. However, some [partridges] were deceived by him, applied to him for food and comradeship—for which he had called them—and were caught. Then everything that the wise partridges had forecast was visited upon them.
Everything is clear in this fable. Satan, the hunter, deceives humankind with luxury and royal honor and with other similar things so that they be honored by these goods. The wise, however, seeing the ultimate danger, free themselves from evil by flight, knowing that in this world their freedom would be abridged while in the next world they would be lost completely.
The cuckoo (kkui), troubled by venereal disease, went and confessed to the turtle-dove: "So tormented am I that while I do not hatch my own chicks, I lay eggs in the nests of others." And [the turtle-dove] advised it: "Pray, and don't give way to vice, and offer frankincense [g116] to God." But [the cuckoo] did not cease being aroused, even though it offered mass. Consequently, nothing helped, and it was rebuffed all the more.
This fable rebukes the lewd, who, even though confessing judiciously and offering gifts to God, remain without aid since they will not restrain their thoughts.
Out of fear of hunters, a swallow made its nest in the rafters of a house. Harassed by mice, the domestic enemy, it took a cat's hair, put it in its nest, and its chicks remained unharmed.
This fable counsels us in accordance with the caution of birds. When we have carefully secured ourselves from foreign enemies, but are harassed by domestic enemies, we shall find in those domestic [enemies] our source of assistance against [the foreign enemies] [g117].
A wood-pigeon (hawbal/hop'al) demolished a turtle-dove's nest and built its own nest there. And it happened that they went to the just stork for trial. There they insulted each other and sang their own praises, the turtle-dove [doing so] sensibly and religiously; the wood-pigeon, by fasting for forty days. One observed [the other's] hypocrisy and the other [stated] that [its antagonist] had eaten the fruits of another's labor. The judge was severe with both of them. [The stork] asked the wood-pigeon: "Why did you ruin [the nest]?" And [the wood-pigeon] replied: "Because I saw no sign that it was a constructed [dwelling-place], and, therefore, I appropriated it." The judge inquired again: "Did you build what you confiscated?" [The wood-pigeon] replied: "No". "Or," asked the judge, "were there or were there not [at least] two beams, one placed on the other?" [The wood-pigeon] replied: "There were." [The judge] then ordered that [the nest] be returned [to the turtle-dove], and that, in addition, a fine by paid.
The fable orders that trials be conducted properly, so that the participants not openly boast or malign each other [g118]. Further, the fable teaches us not to take what we have not made [ourselves], and not to demolish a structure belonging to someone else, even if it is a pitiful structure.
Gathering together for flight, cranes (xordk') proceed one after the other, and when cawing, yield to each other. Unlike others, they do not fly about singly, but keep watch on each other.
We, too, ought to live in unity, and cautiously, honoring each other and keeping a comrade's life from danger.
The little horned-owl (bewichak) hooted: "Stop"! Then the other [owl] hooted: "I shall." But it did not stop; rather, it flew off elsewhere.
The fable exposes liars, for frequently they agree to do what is truthful, but [in fact] they do not.
The curlew (? arawr) and the cuckoo (kwiw) took their young to an island, raising them there fearlessly [g119]. And they said: "Lo, from now on we are not responsible; you are now old enough to look after yourselves.
The fable show that it is necessary to raise Christian children in the Church until they are old enough to choose between good and evil. Thereafter, we are not responsible.
During a great fast, the albatross (dzknak'agh) ate fish. A herbivorous bird, a vegetarian, rebuked it, but [the albatross] said: "I learned [how to fast] from Greek and Georgian priests; but I am better than they, for at least I do not drink wine."
The fable rebukes gluttonous people, for they bring scandal to many.
The field-fare bird (sarsarak) fattened up during the day;
but, in worrying about tomorrow, it wore itself out [g120].
The fable rebukes people who worry, for one should not forget
the Lord's advice: "Do not worry about tomorrow." [Worry] is
sickness for the soul and the body.
The nightingale, wren (ts'ax sarek) and other similar songbirds
not only sing, but love hearing others sing, without envy
This fable wants us to be without envy, so that while we sing
we love blessing and also love it when others sing.
The cicada (chpurh) sang so much that it became impregnated by
the wind; and as it gave birth, it cast off its shell.
The fable alludes to the blessed hymns, for they impregnate the good
mystery with the spirit and give birth to virtues, stripping away
bodily suffering [g121].
Birds have two articles of speech. Some [birds] speak it,
some sing it, such as those that cry "mate" and the other
"eat the food", etc.
This paradigm should be understood as follows: although it is
clear to the speaker or singer [whether he is speaking or singing],
to us it sounds the same. We should yoke together soul and body
according to Scripture, and for food eat the Lord's body [as communion].
The sandpiper (dziakan t'rhch'un) dug at a tree. Rain water
rotted the spot, worms were born, and then the bird dined on them.
The fable describes the Devil's [way of operating], for first
he attacks the heart, rots it with indolence, gives birth to wicked
counsel, then sups on it, for his food is sin.
The sick may be healed, simply by being visited [g122].
This fable suits the Lord, who healed with word and vision. Sick
people feel better at the sight of their loved ones.
The date is the same when sold as when produced.
This symbolizes the Lord, for He was the same before and after being
tempted. Similarly with us at our resurrection, for we arise
with the same bodies we died possessing. Furthermore, truth is the
same thing at its beginning as at its ending.
The bee, in its love of labor, assembles flower, wax, and
honey, and does its work.
Learn from this fable to the extent of the possible to gather words
from Scripture, light of blessing, and the sweet doctrine of the Saviour,
to cure the soul [g123].
The ant is diligent in its labor and wise. However, it is through
long suffering and patience that the work is completed.
Learn from this example that when you start a good work of spirit and body,
do not abandon it later through boredom.
A bear was digging up an anthill, gathering up [the ants] with its tongue
and eating them. The ants devised a way to kill it. They went to the
wasp, the horsefly (gorhex), the mosquito, dragonfly (shanachanch)
and wasp (bret), and beseeched them as relatives to help out. Commiserating
[with the ants] they attacked the bear's eyes and ears. The bear struck its head
on a rock, [the wound] putrefied, and worms also were engendered. From the
severity of the pain, [the bear] opened its mouth and cried out. [The insects],
entering the stomach, pierced the intestines. [The bear], so harassed, headed
for a current of water [g124], but went under so far that it drowned.
The thrust of this fable is this: the strong scorn the weak and do not
fear them. But the small wisely gain strength and vanquish the great.
So it is wise to fear the small as well as the great.
The hoopoo, although it fed its old father justly, nonetheless, was
despised by many because of its foul stench. Having found some fragrant
substance, [the hoopoo] hid it in its breast. But it was unable to
conceal its bad odor.
This fable relates to those people who, despite the fact that they
are praised for many things, should they have one inexplicable fault
are unable to mask that by acting differently.
A bat, unable to see the light, entered a crevice in the rocks and [remained]
there in a cave during daytime. Despite the fact that [g125] [as a group]
bats have a foul, horrible stench, at night, forming a detachment, they grow bold.
[Bats] in this fable are like dews (supernatural spirits) and robbers
for they flee from the laws of light, they love the darkness of ignorance,
dews roam about along with robbers, and robbers and thieves happily
form bands. They [too] possess an odious way of life, and work their
wickedness at night.
All the birds assembled to go to the sea for recreation. Some wandered
about by the shore; some completely submerged. some ascended, descended again,
but were unable to depart. Some, flying off, alighted on the mountains. Some
of them came and drowned. It was more an occasion of destruction than
The message of this fable should be understood as follows: the sea is the world,
the birds, humankind [g126] occupied with the ways of the world. Some behave
modestly; some are completely drowned in the love of the world; some try many times
to get free but cannot. Some become clerics on the mountains; some of them
are deceived by the illusion[ary] world. As the Lord said: "Many will be called
but few will be chosen."
The locust is called "God's own" because it is by His order
that they assemble to pollute the country, and with His concern
that flocks of birds are sent to destroy them.
This fable indicates that it is by the Lord's will that kings
muster troops to pollute the country by looting, and by His
providence that some others grow strong to beat them.
The bee-eater (meghuak'agh) does not harm a bee
in its own dwelling place, but should it encounter one
outside, it devours it [g127].
Satan cannot vanquish us as long as we remain within the Church,
our minds fixed on God. However, chancing upon us outside, [Satan] brings
us to [commit] many sins. Such is the moral of this fable.
Butterflies, while they fly in the air, cause no damage. However,
going down into the soil they produce the caterpillar which pollutes
This fable means that as long as we traverse the country with wisdom,
we bring profit to it, causing no damage. But if [that wisdom] is bowed
down to the ground, indecent counsel is engendered, and the body is
[The selection] of moral and fabulous fables is ended. Let us now
look at a few original ("created") fables which similarly portray
truth about the laity and clergy [g128].
Index to the Fables
Return to Historical Sources Menu
Return to History Workshop Menu
The field-fare bird (sarsarak) fattened up during the day; but, in worrying about tomorrow, it wore itself out [g120].
The fable rebukes people who worry, for one should not forget the Lord's advice: "Do not worry about tomorrow." [Worry] is sickness for the soul and the body.
The nightingale, wren (ts'ax sarek) and other similar songbirds not only sing, but love hearing others sing, without envy
This fable wants us to be without envy, so that while we sing we love blessing and also love it when others sing.
The cicada (chpurh) sang so much that it became impregnated by the wind; and as it gave birth, it cast off its shell.
The fable alludes to the blessed hymns, for they impregnate the good mystery with the spirit and give birth to virtues, stripping away bodily suffering [g121].
Birds have two articles of speech. Some [birds] speak it, some sing it, such as those that cry "mate" and the other "eat the food", etc.
This paradigm should be understood as follows: although it is clear to the speaker or singer [whether he is speaking or singing], to us it sounds the same. We should yoke together soul and body according to Scripture, and for food eat the Lord's body [as communion].
The sandpiper (dziakan t'rhch'un) dug at a tree. Rain water rotted the spot, worms were born, and then the bird dined on them.
The fable describes the Devil's [way of operating], for first he attacks the heart, rots it with indolence, gives birth to wicked counsel, then sups on it, for his food is sin.
The sick may be healed, simply by being visited [g122].
This fable suits the Lord, who healed with word and vision. Sick people feel better at the sight of their loved ones.
The date is the same when sold as when produced.
This symbolizes the Lord, for He was the same before and after being tempted. Similarly with us at our resurrection, for we arise with the same bodies we died possessing. Furthermore, truth is the same thing at its beginning as at its ending.
The bee, in its love of labor, assembles flower, wax, and honey, and does its work.
Learn from this fable to the extent of the possible to gather words from Scripture, light of blessing, and the sweet doctrine of the Saviour, to cure the soul [g123].
The ant is diligent in its labor and wise. However, it is through long suffering and patience that the work is completed.
Learn from this example that when you start a good work of spirit and body, do not abandon it later through boredom.
A bear was digging up an anthill, gathering up [the ants] with its tongue and eating them. The ants devised a way to kill it. They went to the wasp, the horsefly (gorhex), the mosquito, dragonfly (shanachanch) and wasp (bret), and beseeched them as relatives to help out. Commiserating [with the ants] they attacked the bear's eyes and ears. The bear struck its head on a rock, [the wound] putrefied, and worms also were engendered. From the severity of the pain, [the bear] opened its mouth and cried out. [The insects], entering the stomach, pierced the intestines. [The bear], so harassed, headed for a current of water [g124], but went under so far that it drowned.
The thrust of this fable is this: the strong scorn the weak and do not fear them. But the small wisely gain strength and vanquish the great. So it is wise to fear the small as well as the great.
The hoopoo, although it fed its old father justly, nonetheless, was despised by many because of its foul stench. Having found some fragrant substance, [the hoopoo] hid it in its breast. But it was unable to conceal its bad odor.
This fable relates to those people who, despite the fact that they are praised for many things, should they have one inexplicable fault are unable to mask that by acting differently.
A bat, unable to see the light, entered a crevice in the rocks and [remained] there in a cave during daytime. Despite the fact that [g125] [as a group] bats have a foul, horrible stench, at night, forming a detachment, they grow bold.
[Bats] in this fable are like dews (supernatural spirits) and robbers for they flee from the laws of light, they love the darkness of ignorance, dews roam about along with robbers, and robbers and thieves happily form bands. They [too] possess an odious way of life, and work their wickedness at night.
All the birds assembled to go to the sea for recreation. Some wandered about by the shore; some completely submerged. some ascended, descended again, but were unable to depart. Some, flying off, alighted on the mountains. Some of them came and drowned. It was more an occasion of destruction than relaxation.
The message of this fable should be understood as follows: the sea is the world, the birds, humankind [g126] occupied with the ways of the world. Some behave modestly; some are completely drowned in the love of the world; some try many times to get free but cannot. Some become clerics on the mountains; some of them are deceived by the illusion[ary] world. As the Lord said: "Many will be called but few will be chosen."
The locust is called "God's own" because it is by His order that they assemble to pollute the country, and with His concern that flocks of birds are sent to destroy them.
This fable indicates that it is by the Lord's will that kings muster troops to pollute the country by looting, and by His providence that some others grow strong to beat them.
The bee-eater (meghuak'agh) does not harm a bee in its own dwelling place, but should it encounter one outside, it devours it [g127].
Satan cannot vanquish us as long as we remain within the Church, our minds fixed on God. However, chancing upon us outside, [Satan] brings us to [commit] many sins. Such is the moral of this fable.
Butterflies, while they fly in the air, cause no damage. However, going down into the soil they produce the caterpillar which pollutes the soil.
This fable means that as long as we traverse the country with wisdom, we bring profit to it, causing no damage. But if [that wisdom] is bowed down to the ground, indecent counsel is engendered, and the body is polluted.
[The selection] of moral and fabulous fables is ended. Let us now look at a few original ("created") fables which similarly portray truth about the laity and clergy [g128].
Index to the Fables