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New Medieval Books: Kalīlah and Dimnah: Fables of Virtue and Vice

Kalīlah and Dimnah: Fables of Virtue and Vice

By Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ
Translated by Michael Fishbein and James E. Montgomery

New York University Press
ISBN: 9781479825776

Dating back to the 8th century, this text is a cross between Aesop’s Fables and a ‘Mirror for Princes’ – giving political advice through stories involving animals. It is adapted from a Persian text, which in turn was adapted from an Indian text known as Panchatantra. Through all these adaptations the text has become something of a tale within a tale, which is also within a tale.


The king said to the philosopher. “Now that I’ve heard a parable about how a crafty liar can drive friends apart and incite them to become enemies, tell me about how friendships between sincere brethren begin and how each benefits by following the other’s advice.”


“A wise man values nothing more than good friends,” replied the philosopher. “Friends help us achieve good things and they console us in times of adversity. The story of the ring dove, the crow, the gazelle, and the turtle is an example of this.”

“And what was their story?” asked the king.

Who is the book for?

While Kalīlah and Dimnah will find an audience who just wants to read a good story, it has some unique features that will be of interest to various scholars, including those that study how stories travel between cultures, animal fables, political treatises, and medieval Arabic literature.


The translators:

Michael Fishbein is a Lecturer Emeritus at the University of California – Los Angeles. James E. Montgomery is a Professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge.

You can learn more about this book from the publisher’s website

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