Fables from East to West

The Indian fable is a prime example of a narrative tradition that, as it is transmitted from one culture to another, is adapted and absorbed. Originally written in ancient Sanskrit, many Indian works were translated into Pahlavi (Middle Persian) and thence into Arabic in the Middle Ages.

In Arabic literature the genre took root and became thoroughly assimilated; from there it went on to make its mark on medieval Hebrew and Spanish literatures. Through these, as well as through translations from the Arabic into Latin, it passed into every European language. Jews as translators, as well as the Hebrew translations, played an important role in the development of the genre in Europe.

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