Kalila and Dimna


Kalila wa-Dimna (Kalila and Dimna) is a widely circulated collection of Oriental fables of Indian origin, composed in Sanskrit possibly as early as the third century BC. The fables were translated into Arabic in the eighth century by the Persian Ibn al-Muqaffa’, a highly educated writer and influential courtier. To this day, al-Muqaffa’s translation is considered an unsurpassed masterpiece of Arabic artistic prose, and numerous translations into European and Oriental languages dating from the 10th to the 14th centuries derive from his version. Influences of al-Muqaffa’s translation also are apparent in such important Western literary works as La Fontaine’s Fables and Goethe’s Reinecke Fuchs. Kalila wa-Dimna is a kind of mirror for princes. Questions of social life and of princely wisdom are explained on the basis of stories taken from the animal kingdom. This well-known manuscript, produced in Egypt circa 1310, is probably the oldest of the four known Arabic Kalila wa-Dimna manuscripts from the 14th century. One of the relatively few Arabic texts to be illustrated, it contains 73 miniatures, which have a high artistic quality and are thus an important monument of Arabic book decoration.

Last updated: October 16, 2012