A Persian Folktale

The Sage's Gift

This Persian folktale, The Sage's Gift, speaks eloquently about the value of and need for oral storytelling. It is also quite appropriate that this is a Persian story, as Persia was the land in which the Bahá’í Faith began in the 1800's. The story also gives a flavor of what early life might have been like for Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, who was also born into a royal family - a prince in the province of Nur.

“Long ago, in the city of Baghdad there was a caliph.

One day a son was born to him. It was his flrst born. In celebration, he ordered a feast to be held. To the feast he invited all the great and well-known people in the land.

On the day of the feast all the guests arrived, each bringing a gift for the child. There were gifts of gold, rare jewels, rich tapestries, carved marble. Everyone brought a gift - except one young sage called Meheled Abi. He came empty-handed. The caliph, taking offense, ordered the guards to seize Meheled Abi. Roughly, the guards dragged the young sage before the caliph, who demanded, “Why do you come without a gift?”

The young sage shrugged and answered, “These others, they bring visible riches; they bring gold, jewels, carpets. But my gift is an invisible wealth. It is this. Each day, when the child is old enough to hear, I will come to the palace and tell him stories. When he is grown, he will be wise and compassionate.”

Meheled Abi did as he promised. Each day he came to the palace and the young boy grew up hearing stories. After many years, the old caliph died and the young boy, now grown, succeeded his father. Just as Meheled Abi promised, the new caliph was wise and compassionate, more so than any ruler before him. And when he died, at his request a tomb was erected in the heart of the city with these words inscribed in stone: “If I am wise, it is because of the seed sown by the tales.” 

—Source - Apples from Heaven: Multicultural Folktales About Stories and Storytellers. Naomi Baltuck, 1995

     If, as this story suggests, oral storytelling offers humankind the valuable gift of wisdom, then the value of storytelling as a powerful method of communication must be recognized in order to be appreciated. The stories - and the messages contained in the stories - must be valued.

     My goal as an advocate for Bahá’í Storytelling is to attempt to make clear that there is an ever-growing body of Bahá’í stories which are, in themselves, valuable as repositories of Bahá’í teachings and wisdom.  Perhaps then oral storytelling can be given it due within the Bahá’í community - and valued as an art form which has the inherent potential to facilitate the transmission of spiritual qualities and human wisdom.