Once, two rogues spotted a simpleton leading a jackass by a leash. One rogue said to the other, “Watch, I’ll rob that fool of his jackass just as easily as anything you’ve ever seen!”
And so the two rogues walked behind the Simpleton, and, sneaking the leash from the jackass’ neck, he put it on his own, while his comrade lead the jackass away.
When the Simpleton turned around and spied what he still thought to be his jackass, he was utterly astounded to see a man standing there in its place.
“Who in the world are you?” cried the Simpleton in amazement. The thief replied, “I am your poor jackass, except I am really a man! Once, long ago, when I came home drunk, as I did very often in those days, my mother called down the curse of Allah upon my head. I soon found myself transformed into jackass, and have walked the earth in this unfortunate guise ever since. My mother must have prayed for mercy for me, for I have transformed back into a human while you have been leading me home.”
At this, the Simpleton was most aggrieved, and exclaimed, “Oh! You poor, unfortunate man! I’ll free you at once!”
And so the thief took off his leas, and ran away to join his friend and the jackass they had stolen. The Simpleton went back to his wife, who inquired angrily after the lost jackass.
The Simpleton replied, “Oh, my wife! We have made a terrible mistake, for our jackass was really a man. Allah transformed him into the shape of a jackass, to punish him, but now he has changed back, and I have let him go!”
At this the wife was sore afraid, as she feared the judgement of Allah for all the bad treatment they had meted out to the jackass. Both of them hid in their home for many days, scarcely daring to venture out in their gloom and despair.
Finally, hungry and lackin mone, the wife commanded that the Simpleton go out and buy another jackass, so as to do a little homest labor and earn some bread. The Simpleton went to the village to do just this.
The thieves, in the meantime, had sold the Simpleton’s jackass to the man who dealt in livestock, and it was here that the Simpleton went, in search of another animal to buy.
How amazed he must have been when, among the herd, he found what was, unmistakably, his old jackass! After confirming this to his own personal satisfaction, the Simpleton became quite indignant, and, shaking his finger at the beast, he exclaimed, “You sinful, disgraceful man you! You must have gone home drunk yet again!”
Once a fool, always a fool.
(Source: The Arabian Nights)