Three Nimble Minds - The Power of Words
Arabian Knights - Volume 1

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Kaan Ya Makaan, Fee Qadeem Al-Zamaan…
There was a Place, in Times of Old…

Where a young man, named Amr bin Mu'id Yakrib, put on his armor, picked up his weapons, mounted his horse and rode out looking for a duel. On that bright and sunny morning, Amr was eager to secure a reputation for himself as a fearsome warrior, so he decided to pick a fight with the first knight he came across.

As Amr rode along, he spied a tethered horse pacing regally while it waited impatiently for its master. Beside the horse was a great spear, and not far from both horse and spear stood a knight answering the call of nature.

“Beware!” Amr called boldly to the knight, “I have come to kill you!”

“And who you are?” the startled knight replied.

“I am Amr bin Mu'id Yakrib!” the young warrior said, preening and puffing up his chest in an attempt to look both imposing and fearsome.

“O' Father of a Bull,” the knight replied, not at all impressed by the youth's posturing and puffing, “You are not being chivalrous. You are astride your horse and I am here on the ground. Give me your word that you will not kill me until I mount my horse and am prepared to face you.”

Amr was eager to gain a reputation as a great warrior, not as a cowardly murderer, so he readily swore not to harm the knight until he had mounted his respective horse, and was prepared to face him.

Upon receiving Amr's oath, the knight unhurriedly buckled on his sword, walked up to his horse and...sat down on the ground.

Stunned and confused, Amr demanded angrily, “What is this?!”

“I am not going to mount my horse,” the knight replied coolly to the hot-headed young man, “and I am not going to fight you. Whether you are the kind of man who breaks his oath or not, you would know that better than I, so do as you wish.”

Stymied and frustrated, Amr looked around while he tried to think of a way he could force the knight to face him without violating the oath he had so rashly taken.

After some hesitation and a great deal of frustrated pacing, Amr realized he had been outmaneuvered by the knight who had so cleverly used words as his weapons. Finally conceding defeat to the seated knight, Amr rode away, a wiser and more thoughtful man.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

One day, in the town of Al-Kufa, a woman lost her patience with her husband's sluggardly ways and exasperatedly suggested a course of action to him, “Why don't you go travelling and see if you can find some way to make a living?!”

Displeased by his wife's nagging, the man packed his bags and took to the road, hoping to earn a respectable amount of money one way or another.

Eventually, he managed to earn three hundred dirhams while he was in Al-Shaam. With such a tidy sum in his possession he decided to return to his wife, secure in the knowledge that he would be greeted with approval and pride.

On his way home, the man met a merchant who had a camel for sale. Dazzled by the beauty and strength of the animal, the man happily handed over his three hundred dirhams in return for the magnificent creature.

As the man travelled onwards, he discovered to his dismay that the camel was wild and unmanageable. It fought him as though he were its worst enemy, and relentlessly gave him trouble at every turn.

In a burst of pique and anger, the man roared at the camel, “I swear by God, as soon as I reach Al-Kufa, I will sell you for a single dirham!”

Finally reaching Al-Kufa, the man was greeted lovingly by his wife who looked over the beautiful camel with clear approval. Great was the man's embarrassment when he told his wife of the unbreakable oath he had sworn and that he would have to sell the camel for a single dirham.

“That is a problem that is easily fixed,” his wife said, laying a comforting hand on her husband's arm.

She turned and disappeared into their house, then came out carrying a small cage that contained a tiny bird. Carefully she hung the cage around the camel's neck and then turned back to her husband.

Grinning confidently, she said, “Take the camel to the marketplace and call out: This bird is for sale for three hundred dirhams and the camel is for sale for a single dirham, but they must be sold together!

Without delay, the man took the camel and the bird to the marketplace and called out what his wife had told him to say.

Almost immediately, a Bedouin man came and looked over both camel and bird, saying softly as he circled the lovely camel, “Such a beauty! So magnificent! If only you did not have that bird around your neck!”

That afternoon, the man returned home to his wife carrying a light heart in his chest and three hundred and one dirhams in his pocket.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

A man of the desert once stayed as a guest of a man of the city. The city man had a wife, two daughters and two sons. He was also the proud owner of many chickens.

The city man graciously received his guest and asked his wife to roast one of their numerous chickens, so that they may have a fine lunch to offer their guest from the desert.

When it was time for lunch, the family sat down with their guest and prepared to eat. Wishing to be polite, and to have a little fun at his guest's expense, the city man pushed the roasted chicken towards the desert man and requested that he divide the chicken between all those present.

“I am not very good at dividing,” the guest demurred, “but if you are willing to accept my method of dividing the chicken, then I will do so.”

Without further urging, the desert man took the roasted chicken and cut off the chicken's head and presented it to his host, saying playfully, “The head, for the head of the family.”

Then the he sliced off the chicken's wings and gave a wing to each of his host's two sons saying, “The wings for the sons.”

“The legs for the daughters,” the desert man continued as he sliced off the chicken's legs and served them to each of his host's daughters.

The guest then carefully sliced off the very back end of the chicken from which its tail grew, and placed it before his host's bemused wife, “The tail for the tail (other side) of the family.”

“And,” said the desert man with a cheeky grin as he placed the body of the chicken before himself, “the remains for the guest.”

Amused and diverted, the family politely ate their lunch as their guest hungrily ate the “remains” of the chicken.

The next day, the man asked his wife to roast five chickens and serve them for lunch. He knew that his guest, who lived a life of hardship in the desert, would be hard pressed to fairly divide the savory chickens. It would be entertaining to see how the Bedouin man would oh-so-innocently give himself the lion's share of the meal again.

Around noon, the family and their guest gathered again for an appetizing lunch of roast chicken. The host, still amused by the events of their previous lunch, again asked his guest to divide the chickens amongst those present.

“I think,” the desert man said in mock contrition, “That you found fault with my method of division yesterday.”

“Not at all,” the host exclaimed with merriment dancing in his eyes, “Please, honor us by dividing the chickens again today.”

“Shall I make the division using odds or evens?” the guest asked his host innocently.

“Odds,” the host replied, intrigued.

“Well, then,” the Bedouin man said, firmly laying hold of a roast chicken and placing it before his host and hostess, “You and your wife and a chicken, that's three, that's an odd number.”

“Your two sons and a chicken,” continued the guest, placing a chicken in front of the two boys, “That's three.”

Laying a chicken before his host's two daughters, the guest said, “Your two daughters and a chicken, that's three.”

“Then myself and two chickens, that's three,” the desert man finished triumphantly as he placed two chickens in front of himself.

The host and his family looked with dismay at the two roasted chickens lying before their guest, so the Bedouin man said, “Why do you stare so? Perhaps you dislike my method of dividing the chickens? It is the only way to divide them using odd numbers.”

“Then divide them using even numbers,” the city man challenged his guest.

With a smile and a nod, the desert man quickly gathered all the roasted chickens together and began to divide them again.

“You and your two sons and a chicken, that's four,” the Bedouin man said as he laid a chicken before his host.

“Your wife and her two daughters and a chicken, that's four,” the guest said, politely placing a roast chicken before the lady of the house and her two daughters.

“And myself and three chickens, that's four!” The guest said triumphantly as he placed three chickens in front of himself. “Thank God you made me understand how best to divide the chickens!”

Amused, and well aware of how rarely their guest had roast chicken for lunch, the polite host and his family sat and ate their two roasted chickens as their guest hungrily decimated his three.

*Written by © 2011. Care to read or leave Comments?

  1. Names, Translations and Aliases:
    • Amr bin Mu'id Yakrib: عمرو بن معد يكرب.

  1. Ibn Al-Jawzi, Jamal Al-Deen. (2011 AD, 1432 H). الأذكياء [The Clever]. Beirut: Dar Al-Kitab Al-Arabi. Page 73, 85, 75.

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