The Wise Fool: Fables from the Islamic World
. Barefoot Books . Cambridge, MA
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Here is a second copy of this book. I will repeat my comments from the first copy. This large-format, highly colorful book presents twenty-two tales of Mulla Nasruddin, a merry little figure with a turban and short jacket and a much-loved donkey (4). Many are wise-guy tales in the direction of Till Eulenspiegel. I do not think that I have ever encountered any of them. I find several particularly captivating. The Price of Steam (6) involves a judgment on a man who allegedly bought a cook's steam and therefore should pay for it. Nasruddin's judgment requires the eater to pull out the appropriate coins and jangle them. The sound of the jangling coins is the payment for a cooking pot's steam! In Across the River a man shouts across the river to Mulla to ask how he can get to the other side of the river since there are no ferry boats (18). I don't know why you need a ferry boat. You're already on the other side of the river. Arriving sweaty and stinky at a bath after a trip, Mulla is poorly treated by the attendants but gives them each a gold coin. A week later he comes again and is therefore royally treated but gives each a normal coin. This is for last week. The gold coins were for today (34-36). Mulla and Nedim agree to buy and share a large bowl of yogurt. Then Nedim refuses to put his sugar into the center; he will sugar only his side. Mulla thereupon pulls out olive oil and threatens to pour it into his side. Nedim backs down and agrees to put his sugar in the middle (52). In One-Legged Geese, Mulla eats a goose drumstick on the way to delivering the whole goose to the emperor and then convinces the emperor that all geese have only one leg (54-57). The illustrations are strong. Their style is well indicated in the first picture of Mulla and his donkey on 5. Perhaps the best of them is the last, which pictures accounts Mulla had done on pastry, because the emperor made the last overseer eat his accounts (60-61).