Tales of Juha
Classic Arab Folk Humor
edited by Salma Khadra Jayyusi; introduction by Said Yaqtine
5 1/4" x 8" • 128 pages • ISBN 9781566566414 • paperback • $12.95 • READ MORE
Excerpt from the Introduction:
"Juha has become the fount of an inventiveness
that is prolific and ongoing—a reflection of the
qualities, notably complex, articulate and rich, that
are to be found in his own character. These qualities,
taken together, constitute an ambivalent character,
one embodying a balance of opposites.
When we examine Juha’s world of storytelling,
we find it to be universally appropriate, regardless of
individual age and experience. Various types of
character are represented, and, in the process, various
portrayals emerge, many of them contradictory.
He appears in the following roles: shepherd,
judge, merchant, scholar, saint, thief, and so on.
More generally, he appears as wealthy man or
pauper, generous man or miser, intelligent man or
simpleton, bachelor or married man. It is a world of
different features and numerous contradictory
aspects, representing humanity in all its variety of
category, status, and individual personality."
A farmer presented a small rabbit to Juha, who was
generous to him in return. The farmer thanked him
and went off. Next day, two villagers came and
awaited Juha’s hospitality. He asked them who they
were, and they told him they were the neighbors of the
man who’d given the rabbit. So, Juha treated them
generously, and they left full of gratitude. On the third
day, a group of villagers came to him, and he asked
them what they wanted. They were, they said, the
neighbors of the neighbors of the man who’d given the
rabbit. Juha went into the house, came back with a pot
of hot water and presented it to them.
“Oh neighbors of the neighbors of the man who
gave the rabbit,” he said, “this is the sauce of the
sauce of the rabbit. You can have it to keep.”
One day Juha was riding his donkey and his son was
following him on foot. A group of people passed by.
“Look at that man,” they commented, “riding
and letting his son walk. Doesn’t he have any pity?”
So, Juha dismounted and let his son ride the
donkey, while he walked along behind. Another
group of people passed by.
“Look at that lad,” they commented, “riding the
donkey while his father walks. Doesn’t he have any
manners?” So, Juha mounted the donkey together
with his son, and they went on their way. They
passed by a third group of people.
“Look at that heartless man,” they commented,
“riding the donkey along with his son. Doesn’t he
have any pity for the beast?”
So, Juha and his son both dismounted and
walked, driving the donkey on ahead of them. They
passed yet another group of people.
“Look at those two imbeciles,” they said, “tiring
themselves out walking, and there’s the donkey in
front of them without any load.”
So, Juha and his son carried the donkey between
them, and walked along like this. They passed still
another group of people.
“Look at these two madmen,” they said, “carrying
the donkey instead of letting the donkey carry them.”
At that the two of them let the donkey fall.
“Let me tell you something, son,” Juha said.
“You can never please everyone!”