By: Joseph Jacobs
Collection of tales on the wiles of women, the enveloping action of which deals with the attempt of a step-mother on the life of an Indian prince. His seven masters defer the evil day of his execution by telling tales of the wiles of women, somewhat after the fashion of the "Arabian Nights." The original, according to Benfey, was an Indian story-book, the chief tale of which was founded on a story of the life of Asoka; and the original name of the hero was probably Siddhapati. It is likely that the book passed through the same stages from India to the West as "Barlaam and Josaphat" and "Kalilah wa-Dimnah"; namely, translation from the Indian into Zend, and from that into either Syriac or Arabic, and then into the European languages. The Hebrew translation known as "Mishle Sindabar" is attributed to a certain Rabbi Joel, but probably owing to a confusion with the translator of the "Kalilah." It first appeared at the end of the "Chronicle of Moses" (Constantinople, 1516), which was reprinted at Venice (1544 and 1605), and which exists in several manuscripts. A fuller edition was published by Paulus Cassel under the title "Mischle Sindbad, Secundus Syntipas" (Berlin, 1888). A nominal second edition appeared in 1891.
The Hebrew version contains four stories not embodied in any of the others: one told by the stepmother about Absalom; another, "The Death of Absalom," told by the sixth vizier; and two, "The Disguise" and "The Three Hunchbacks," by the seventh vizier; the last-named story appears to be truncated, but is found in the Western versions in full. None of these appears in the western European translation, so that no importance can be attributed to their presence in the Hebrew version. The book was translated into German by H. Sengelmann, and into French by E. Carmoly ("Revue Orientale," 1844; published separately under the title of "Parables de Sandabar," 1849). A popular Arabic translation of the Hebrew version was published at Leghorn in 1868.
It is assumed that the title "Sindabar" has arisen from the confusion between ד and ד, but a like confusion might have existed in the Arabic original, in the script of which language the same similarity of letters occurs. The Hebrew version must have been written before 1316, at which date it is quoted in the "Iggeret Ba'ale Ḥayyim" of Kalonymus ben Kalonymus, and also in the Hebrew version of the "Kalilah wa-Dimnah".
- Steinschneider, Hebr. Uebers. pp. 887-892;
- idem, in Hebr. Bibl. xiii.-xiv.;
- Comparetti, The Book of Sindibad, pp. 64-67, London, 1882;
- Clouston, The Book of Sindibad, pp. 284-288, London, 1884.