Georgia: The Shepherd Judge

This story is part of the Georgian Folktales unit. Story source: Georgian Folk Tales, by Marjory Wardrop (1894).

The Shepherd Judge

IN a certain land, there was once a king who had four viziers to judge the people. Once these judges uttered a remarkable sentence. At that time there came to the king a certain shepherd who spoke in a manner that pleased the king, so he commanded the viziers: 'Show this shepherd the sentence you pronounced.' When the shepherd had examined the decree of the viziers, it did not please him; he took it and altered it from beginning to end.

When the king saw this, he said to the shepherd: 'Since thou art so skilled in judging, be thou a judge.'

The shepherd refused and said: 'As long as I have eyes, I cannot judge; if you put out both my eyes, then I will be a judge.'

Finally he persuaded them to put out his eyes. They built him a great, fine house, they gave him scribes, furnished him with everything befitting his office, and made the shepherd supreme judge.

He began to do justice in such an upright manner that people flocked to him from every side. Everybody went to him for justice: great and small, master and servant, old and young, clergy and laity, friend and enemy — in a word, all who had suits with anybody came to him; everyone praised and blessed his decisions.

Once there came to him a man and a woman. The man said to the judge: 'I came to this woman's house on a mule; a calf accompanied my mule. When I tied up the mule, the calf began to suck its breast. The woman, seeing this, ran out, seized the calf, and began to grumble at me, saying it was her calf and asking how it came to be with my mule. I withstood her with all my might, but it was of no avail. She wished to drag away the calf, but I would not allow it; I would not give up my property to her. We quarrelled, and now we have come before thee —in God's name judge between us!'

Thus he spoke in person to the judge, but secretly he sent him a large bribe and a message, saying: 'Take this money, and put me not to shame before this woman.'

But the judge would not tamper with the scales of justice and sent to tell the man: 'How can I take the calf from the woman by force, if justice do not demand it?'

The judge asked the woman: 'What sayest thou?'

The woman replied: 'My lord, this man rode up to my house on a mule; I had nothing in the world but one calf and its mother, which I loved; my calf went up to this man's mule, caressed it, and took hold of it with its snout, as if it were going to suck its breast. The man, seeing this, thought: "I shall certainly take away this calf with me." He dragged it home, but, of course, I could not allow this — all extol thine equity; I too am come to thy door and trust thou wilt not suffer me to be trampled down by injustice.'

When the judge had heard both sides, he pronounced the following decision: 'Since a mule never bore offspring and never will, it is still less possible that a mule should bring forth a calf. Let the calf therefore be taken from the man and given to the woman who owns the cow, the mother of the calf.'

This judgment pleased everybody in the highest degree. And God was merciful to this good judge: by means of the kerchief of that woman, his eyes were made whole, and he saw. After this he saw with both eyes, but till the day of his death he judged uprightly; when he died, he went to heaven.

(700 words)

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