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SOS: Searching Out Stories/Info - Middle East

Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers,
Teachers and Librarians


Advice, Discussion and References from Storytellers, Teachers, Librarians
(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)

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1) http://www.spiritoftrees.org/folktales/country/folktales_country.html#middle_east
Middle East Stories About Trees from Spirit of Trees.

2) Middle East and Gardens stories:
Hodja tales can always be short & sweet or have a bit more meat. The ones that fit the garden idea that popped into mind are the 1 where the Hodja sees what he thinks is a robber in his garden. He shoots several arrows at it. Turns out to be his shirt or jacket on the clothes line. There are various versions of what was Barbara Walker's title story for Watermelons, Walnuts and the Wisdom of Allah: And Other Tales of the Hoca, where he questions that 1 is so big & the other so small until he is hit by a falling walnut. Alice Geer Kelsey's Once the Hodja calls that tale Pumpkin Trees & Walnut Vines, so you get more of his ideas if he were Allah. There's yet another where he is cutting a tree branch while sitting in the tree on the wrong side of the branch. He's warned he will fall & is impressed when the "prophecy" comes true. (I'm sure I remember there's more to that 1 & it must be in the Walker book as I don't find it in any I have at home. It still could work even with just that part.) While looking I found 1 in The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin / The Subtleties of the Inimitable Mulla Nasrudin by Idries Shah where he is sent to find the wisdom of other eastern religions. After hearing of the wonderful sayings & wonders worked by their dead founders, when he returns he just says "Carrots." Asked to explain, he says,"The best part is buried; few know -- except the farmer -- by the green that there is orange underground; if you don't work for it, it will deteriorate; & there are a great many donkeys associated with it."

Oh, also don't forget The Tale of Caliph Stork. It's quite involved, but really gets rolling when the caliph & his vizier take a powder that lets them understand the speech of the animals. The only prohibition is not to laugh, but they do when they hear the comments made my storks wading in the pool in the caliph's garden.

3) Middle East and Gardens:
This is Chinese, but I'm sure there is a Hodja variant:
Afantí (pron. ah-fahn-TEE), champion of the poor
A rich man was annoyed that the poor people sat under his tree for the shade during the hot part of the day, so he offered the tree (or maybe just the shade) for sale. Afantí bought it and allowed the poor people to use the shade ALL day. Of course, the shade moved with the sun and the people moved with the shade, until by evening they were gathered in the rich man's house and garden, much to his even greater annoyance. But he couldn't do anything about it, because he had sold the tree (or maybe just the shade) to Afantí.

How about "The Black Prince"? Not Islamic, but from Egypt. Laura Simms' version is in Ready-To-Tell Tales (American Storytelling) by David Holt and Bill Mooney. The poor boy plays his flute to the girl in the garden and falls in love. Then learns she is the Pharoah's daughter. He feels a princess can not love him as he is. He goes into the desert in search of a magician to change his soul. Magician says once he changes a man's soul he cannot change it back. Three years pass. People think the boy has drowned. The boy comes back as The Black Prince, a warrior dressed in black, handsome and charismatic. He leads the Pharoah's troops in battle - earns reward. Pharoah offers him wealth and power. He spurns them, says he only wants to marry the Pharoah's daughter. The princess says she wioll marry him if she must, but her heart belongs to the boy who used to play the flute to her as she sat in her garden.

5) Query:
Ancient People of the Middle East
Am looking for a story about Sumerians Assyrians, and other ancient people of the middle east. Story deals with words and seal that the king puts on the law--once the seal is put on the or the word is written down it becomes law and cannot be changed--there is one in the Bible similar but there is a folk tale or two that deal with similar theme. I am searching for those secular versions. Can anyone out there help?


a) I have quite a bit on those civilisations, but you don't give much to go on - does the king have a name? What's the story summary? What/where's the Bible version? Are you sure it's a folk tale? - most extant tales from that time are myths or similar.

b) Obviously, the story of "Daniel in the Lions Den." The King, Cyryus, is bound by the Law of the Medes and Persians, and tricked into condemning Daniel for his practice of Prayer.

Created 2003; last update 1/1/10

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