Gateway to the Classics: The Tortoise and the Geese by Maude Barrows Dutton
The Tortoise and the Geese by  Maude Barrows Dutton

Front Matter

[Front Cover]



[Title Page]

[Copyright Page]


The Fables of Bidpai are an Eastern heritage from the centuries antedating the birth of Christ, and like all the works of early literature, they have come down to us out of obscure origins, enshrouded in traditions. History forbears even to certify that the reputed author of these tales existed, but tradition has inscribed him as a sage of India, who lived about the year 300 B. C. More than this, she records him as the bravest of all the philosophers of his generation, standing silent before King Dabschélim. He was led into the august presence of his Majesty by the sincere desire to bring wisdom to a foolish ruler. The royal personage scanned his face and bade him break his silence. Bidpai fearlessly performed his task, reaping as his reward a prison cell and fettered hands. Here he lay forgotten until one day the King, tormented by some unusual problem, bethought himself of the sage. Summoning him from his dungeon, he once again bade him share his wisdom with him. The reward this time was an elevation as high as his degradation had been low. He was given the kingdom to rule.

An era of great prosperity now set in for Dabschélim, darkened only by the thought of the briefness of mortal life. Wonted to look to Bidpai for the solution of all difficulties, he turned to him now, beseeching him to write down his words of wisdom and leave them as a lasting monument to him, Dabschélim. Thus it was that the sage, providing himself with food and parchment ample for a year, retired with one disciple into a closed room in the far part of the palace. At the end of twelve months the philosopher and his scribe issued, pale-faced, from their retreat; a great assemblage of the savants of the Empire was called; and standing in their midst facing Dabschélim, Bidpai read his fables, in which he had ingeniously inculcated all his moral wisdom. The King's delight was boundless. He told Bidpai to ask what he wished and it should be granted him. The sage requested only that the book should be carefully guarded in India, and the greatest precaution taken that it should not fall into the hands of the Persians.

All lovers of classics cannot but be glad that in spite of Bidpai's request the Book of Fables was eventually borne out of the Indian treasure house. A Persian physician, traveling in India in search of herbs whose sap should impart life again to the dead, returned to his native land with Bidpai's Fables. He set about translating them into Pehlevi, the language of Persia at that time. Their migration had begun. Starting in Sanscrit, they have passed into Pehlevi, Arabic, Persian, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and on into the modern tongues, finding their greatest vogue in Europe in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries.

It is rather singular that these fables have been so long treasured by scholars almost exclusively. La Fontaine was quick to seize upon them and incorporate them into his collection of fables, but English-speaking children have been given little opportunity to know them. In this small selection from the Fables of Bidpai only a scant portion of his wisdom and his humor is offered, but it is sincerely hoped that herein lies sufficient to awaken in our children a love for this Indian Sage that shall increase with the years until the name of Bidpai be ranked in their affections close to that of Aesop.

Maude Barrows Dutton

New York City.

[Contents Page 1 of 2]

[Contents Page 2 of 2]


 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home 
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2020   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.