These are thirteenth-century illustrations for the Kalīlah wa Dimnah
, an Arabic translation of an old collection of Indian folktales about animals called the Panchatantra
. The fables are supposed to present lessons in how to live wisely. In Sanskrit one of the book's five sections is called Kākolūkīyam
, "Of Crows and Owls," and it narrates various incidents in a long war between two species that ancient Indians regarded as traditional enemies.
How did the association of crows and owls as enemies come about, I wonder? They're both somewhat territorial birds, but they're active at completely opposite times of day. What interaction sparked these stories, I wonder? Did some crow poke its head in a tree and disturb a sleeping owl, resulting in a noisy fight that people marveled over and told stories about?
Or is it possibly the fact of the two species being active at entirely different times itself that led to the stories? After all, there are myths of the sun and the moon being enemies (or quarreling lovers, et cetera) precisely because of their (typically) being separated from each other by day and night.
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