Calila e Dimna

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Calila e Dimna is an Old Castilian collection of tales from 1251, translated from the Arabic text Kalila wa-Dimna by the order of the future King Alfonso X while he was still a prince. The Arabic text is itself an 8th-century translation by Ibn al-Muqaffa' of a Middle Persian version of the Sanskrit Panchatantra from about AD 300.[1]

It is linked with the wisdom manuals of prince's education through the eastern method of questions and answers between the king and a philosopher that leads to exemplary tales or exempla told by and featuring animals: an ox, a lion and two jackals called Calila and Dimna, which are who tell the majority of the tales. This structure is used in Don Juan Manuel's Tales of Count Lucanor.


This story has arrived to us through two manuscripts named as A and B. In the last part of the first one (from the first third of the 15th century) it is said that the book "was translated from Arabic to Latin, later it was Romanised by order of don Alfonso in 1261".[2] However, as the Spanish version is very near the Arabic one, a translation to Latin can be discarded. The fact that Alfonso is called "infante" (he was crowned in 1252) leads to set the date of composition in 1251 what would convert the book into the first prose-fiction work written in the Iberian Peninsula.


The main structure of the work is the narrative frame (the conversation between the king Dabshalem and the alguacil-philosopher Burduben). It has three parts clearly differentiated:

  • The introduction by Al-Muqaffa, an apology of knowledge and its practice nature.
  • Bercebuey's story (two chapters):
    • His trip to India searching for knowledge.
    • Contemptu mundi.
  • Calila e Dimna's story. In it we can distinguish two parts:
    • From chapter III to VI, the nearest part to Panchatantra.
    • Other, which encompasses the rest of the chapters and that follows simple organisative schemes and with Oriental parallelims.


  1. ^ Juan Manuel Cacho Blecua y María Jesús Lacarra, «Introducción», ed. lit. de Calila e Dimna, Madrid, Castalia (Clásicos Castalia, 133), 1984, pág. 10.
  2. ^ fue sacado de arábigo en latin, et romançado por mandato del infante don Alfonso [...] era de mill e dozientos e noventa y nueve años


  • ALVAR EZQUERRA, Carlos; GÓMEZ MORENO, Ángel y GÓMEZ REDONDO, Fernando, La prosa y el teatro en la Edad Media, Madrid, Taurus, 1991.
  • CACHO BLECUA, Juan Manuel y LACARRA DUCAY, María Jesús, «Introducción», ed. lit. de Calila e Dimna, Madrid, Castalia (Clásicos Castalia, 133), 1984, págs. 9-70. ISBN 84-7039-429-0
  • LACARRA DUCAY, María Jesús (ed., prólogo y notas), Cuento y novela corta en España, 1. Edad Media, Barcelona, Crítica, 1999, col. «Páginas de Biblioteca Clásica» dir. por Francisco Rico. Cfr. esp. para Calila e Dimna págs. 56-59. ISBN 84-7423-907-9
  • RUBIO TOVAR, Joaquín, La narrativa medieval: los orígenes de la novela, Madrid, Anaya, 1990.

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