69. A Fair Division (IFA 9240)
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69 A Fair Division T O L D B Y H A N N A H R A B B I T O M O S H E R A B B I One market day, Djuha and two friends went to see what they could buy as partners. They bought a ram and two lambs and dragged them out of the market. Then it was time to split up and go home. “Come, let’s make a fair division ,” proposed Djuha. “You, my friends, are two; take a lamb and that will make three. The ram and I will take the other lamb.” 584 COMMENTARY FOR TALE 69 (IFA 9240) Told by Hannah Rabbi to Moshe Rabbi in 1971 in Haifa. Cultural, Historical, and Literary Background This is a mathematical joke that involves the manipulation of two sets of objects —possessors and the objects they possess—formulating an equation without equality. An examination of humor in mathematics and mathematic principles in humor is available.1 Such a joke is included in the opening sequence of riddles in MR Lamentations (I, 1:4): The house-owner asked him, “Who are you?” He replied, “I am the son of the man who died in your house.” He took him in and prepared a meal for him. Now this man had two sons and two daughters. When the hour of the repast came, he set before him at the meal five chickens as a course. When they were ready to eat, the host said to him, “Take it and serve.” He answered, “This is not mine [that I should serve it].” The man said to him, “I wish you to take it and serve.” He thereupon apportioned one chicken between the man and his wife, a second between the two sons, a third between the two daughters, and set two before himself. They ate without making any comment. That was the second [clever act performed by him]. . . . In the evening . . . the host inquired, “Is that how they serve in your place?” . . . He replied, “Did I not tell you that it was not mine? Nevertheless , what I have served I apportioned properly. On the first occasion you brought five chickens at the meal. You, your wife, and one chicken total three; your two sons and one chicken total three; your two daughters and one chicken total three; and I and two chickens total three.” Although this joke has been recorded since the late antiquities, its occurrence in the recorded Djuha tales is rather sparse. It occurs as tale type 1663 “Dividing Five Eggs Equally between Two Men and One Woman,” rather than as motif J1241.1 “Dividing two sheep and a ram: trickster to divide with two friends.” In the Peregringaggio di tre figluoli del di Serendippo (1557),2 it is one of the test questions that the Indian queen puts before the three brothers. It involves a pun that refers to testicles as eggs; this provides linguistic evidence of the Semitic provenance of the tale; see also tale IFA 6402 (vol. 1).3 To the best of my knowledge , the tale is not reported by scholars who have examined the Djuha tales in manuscripts, and it is seldom recorded from oral tradition.4 Similarities to Other IFA Tales Other versions of this tale in the IFA are listed in the notes to tale IFA 6402 (vol. 1). Similar ethical tales in the IFA are the following. 69 / A Fair Division  585  Folktale Types • 1663 “Dividing Five Eggs Equally Between Two Men and One Woman.”. • 1663 “Dividing Five Eggs Equally Between Two Men and One Woman” (new ed.). • 1633 (El-Shamy) “Dividing Five Eggs Between Two Men and One Woman.” • 1633 (Jason) “Dividing Five Eggs Equally Between Two Men and One Woman.” • 1633 (Marzolph) “Eier Aufteilen unter Zwei Männer und Ein Frau” (Dividing Eggs between Two Men and One Woman). • *1663 (Marzolph) “Kluges Verteilen der Gänse” (The Clever Division of the Goose). Folklore Motifs • J1241.1 “Dividing two sheep and a ram: trickster to divide with two friends.” • Z71.1 “Formulistic number: three.” __________ Notes __________ 1. Paulos, Mathematics and Humor. 2. Remer, ed. Serendipity and the Three Princes, 84. 3. Cammann, “Christopher the Armenian and the Three Princes of Serendip,” 236, 254 n. 50. 4. For examples of such a text, see Mouliéras, Les Fourberies de Si Djeh’a, 37–38 no. 12; Wesselski, Der Hodscha Nasreddin, 2:57, 202–203 no. 399 (cf. 2:144–146, 225 no...


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