Tales of a Parrot: The Elk and the Ass

This story is part of the Tales of a Parrot unit. Story source: The Tooti Nameh or Tales of a Parrot, by Ziya'al-Din Nakhshabi (1801).

The Elk and the Ass, who Are Both Taken Prisoners

When the sun was set, and the moon appeared, Khojisteh went to the parrot to ask leave and said, "Thou who art the depository of my secret, I have thus heard that Omar Abdullah ul Azeez slept neither day nor night. They asked him, 'Why do not you sleep at some appointed time?' He answered, 'If I should sleep during the night, God would not be worshipped, and were I to take rest in the daytime, my subjects would suffer; therefore, I do not take any regular rest.' Parrot! I also am afraid that, by obliging my friend, I may lose my husband, and that if I am faithful to him, my lover will be jealous and dissatisfied. I therefore wish to relinquish both, and conceal myself with the veil of chastity."

The parrot said, "Khojisteh, continence is very commendable, but there is a time for all things; at present, it is as unpleasant as the ass's song."

Khojisteh asked, "What kind of story is that?"

The parrot said:

They have thus related: once on a time, an ass had contracted friendship with an elk, and they grazed together on the same spot. One night, in the season of spring, the ass and the elk happened to be grazing together. All of a sudden the ass was in high spirits and said to the elk, "In this delightful night, whilst the garden diffuses its sweets, and the air scatters musk all around us, if I were to sing, how pleasant it would be!"


The elk said to the ass, "What discourse are you uttering? You may be able to converse about pack-saddles and fullers, but your voice is harsh beyond all comparison; what business has an ass with singing? We have got into this garden by stealth, and if you should now begin braying, the gardener, being awakened, will call other men to his assistance, when you and I shall be made prisoners. Just as when some thieves, having got into the house of a rich man, found in a corner a vessel full of wine, which having seized and placed before them, they said, 'Let us now drink this liquor till it shall be time to commit the robbery.' When they had drunken the wine, they began to bawl and to sing; the master of the house awoke, gathered together his servants, seized the thieves, and put them in bonds."

The ass replied, "I am a citizen, and you a country boor; what judge are you of singing? Positively I will sing; what harm will it do you to hear me?"

In short, the ass began braying, which awakened the gardener and the master of the house, who bound them both.

The parrot, having finished this discourse, said to Khojistch, "My mistress, whosoever doth not act conformably to circumstances will meet with this fate; I would, therefore, advise you to observe all times. Arise, and go quickly to your friend."

Khojisteh wanted to have gone; at that instant, the cock crowed and, the dawn appearing, her departure was deferred.


(500 words)




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