Kalīlah wa Dimnah, a compendium of individual tales and short stories, is a very well-known Middle Eastern literary work. Although it can not match the popularity of the ‘One Thousand and One Nights’, it is nevertheless sufficiently well known to have attracted scholarly interest for decades. As a result, a considerable volume of scholarly writing has been produced regarding its origin and importance.
This article focuses on the origin of one story in the work, the trial of Dimnah. Since the Indian original is missing, accepted wisdom attributes the writing of this story to its first Arabic translator, Ibn al-Muqaffac. Although I do not challenge this view, I argue that there could be an Urtext in Middle Persian which was later rewritten by the famous translator. In what follows, this article provides evidence for this hypothesis from what at first glance might be considered a surprising perspective – Sasanian legal history.