Prof. David Heinrich Mueller was the first who came to Socotra in the very beginning of 1899 and collected a good number of Socotran folk tales – as transcribed texts with translations into German (trough the Arabic mix with its local dialectal forms) – that he published in the initial Volume I of “Die Mehri – und Soqotri – Sprache” (Südarabische Expedition, Band IV) in Vienna in 1902.

Although he was aiming at the gathering of possible bigger amount of such connected texts in the Soqotri language about that he knew that this unwritten language exists (Lt. J.R. Wellsted had published his list of Soqotri words in his Memoir of 1835) and that it is, most likely, Semitic, he was not a folklorist but a linguist – a professor of Semitic languages and literature – a Semitist of the world-class level, he, naturally, saw at once how nice these folk tales were. So, he accompanied his tales texts with the special articles of different degrees of expansion and depth. This fact may be significant in connection with our research and, especially, with two Mueller’s texts that we are referring to in this paper.

Prof. Mueller came to Socotra on board of the Swedish cargo ship “Gottfried”; he was a head of the Austrian linguistic expedition (above this the ship was carrying the natural scientific expedition of the British scientists to Abd al Kuri and Socotra under the British Protectorate, among them H. Forbes, W. Grant and others who that published the great illustrated book – “The Natural History of Sokotra and Abd al Kuri” – in 1903).* *


* David Heinrich Mueller (1846, Buchach, Galisia –1912, Vienna), the prominent Austro-Hungarian linguist, a student of T. Nöldeke, Professor of Oriental Languages ​​and Literature in the University of Vienna, Hofrat of the Austrian Empire, Knight of the Order of Leopold, Baron von Deham. The author of Himjaritische Inschriften (1875); Südarabische Studien (1877); Die Burgen und Schlösser Südarabiens (1879-81); Sabäische Denkmäler (with Mordtmann, 1883); Epigraphische Denkmäler aus Arabien (1889); Die altsemitischen Inschriften von Sendschirli (1893); Epigraphische Denkmäler aus Abessinien (1894); Ezechielstudien (1895); Die Propheten in ihrer ursprünglichen Form (1896); Südarabische Alterthümer (1899); Die Gesetze Hammurabi’s und Ihre Verhältnis zur Mosaische Gesetzgebung sowie zu den XII Tafeln (1903/05); etc.

* * The natural history of Sokotra and Abdel-Kuri : being the report upon the results of the Conjoint Expedition to these Islands in 1898-9, by Mr. W.R. Ogilvie-Grant, of the British Museum, and Dr. H.O. Forbes, of the Liverpool Museums, together with information from other available sources. Edited by Henry O. Forbes. Liverpool: The Free Public Museums, Henry Young and Sons. L.: R.H. Porter, 1903

In the “Vorword” of his Volume I (i.e. the Vol. IV of the general Südarabische Expedition’s materials publication) D. Mueller says that all the folk tales of this volume were recorded from only one informant – Matir ben Selim ben Matir (Māṭir b. Sēlim b. Māṭir)* from Qalansia, who was taken by him to the ship at 8th January in Shuab bay (“Ġubbet Sho‛b”) and left the ship only at 15th February – about three weeks before the ship took its course from Socotra toward Mahra at 5th March, 1899.

In the same time D. Mueller mentions that he worked with Matir’s (after recording) texts with the help of a clever and educated young Socotri man, from whom he took some variants to the words and
constructions. The name of this man was Selim ben Suleyman (Sēlim b. Suleimān)** D. Mueller does not mentioned, however, where he came from. We can only suggest about that on the basis, first, of his sailing from Shuab on the extreme south-west of Socotra to its official center of Hadibo (Tamarida) in the central part of the northern shore of the island, that young Socotri could be from this “more civilized” capital town area. And, second, – and this is a good evidence – on the basis of that corrections or variants to Matir’s tales made by Selim ben Suleyman and added by Mueller in parentheses into his publication shows Salim as a speaker of the dialect of Hadibo or nearest places. Another words, Selim was a speaker of the North-Central Soqotri dialect of Hadibo, while Matir had told all his tales in some kind of the Western Soqotri dialect (because his mother was “a Bedouin woman” from the mountains – almost likely from the western mountains of the island).


* “Māṭir b. Sēlim b. Māṭir aus Qalansia, dessen Mutter eine Beduinenfrau aus den Bergen war”. (S. VII)

** “Sēlim b. Suleimān, ein junger, zehr intelligenter Bursche, der Arabisch lesen konnte. Von ihm stammen die Uebersetzung des Buches Rut und die Varianten zu den anderen Texten”. (S. VIII)

We have found this – well presented – in the tale named “Treue wird belohnt” (S. 125-134). This tale and the “Geschichte zweier Brüder” tale (S. 69-91) are both that tales mentioned above and being a subject of our article – as well as the recorded by us in 1979 on the north-eastern slope of the Mauna Mountain Soqotri version of the world-famous “Two Brothers” tale* – the story or tale recorded in Ancient Egypt on the papyrus for the Crown Prince Seti personal library. ** It is the famous Papyrus d’Orbiney of the British Museum. ***


* California Linguistic Notes, Volume XXXIV No. 1, ISSN 1548-1484, winter, 2009 and California Linguistic Notes, Volume XXXV No. 2, ISSN 1548-1484, Spring, 2010

** We are referring to the Russian scientific translation made by Vladimir Vikentjev: “Drevnejegipetskaja povest o dvukh bratjakh” Moscow, 1917

*** “The Papyrus D’Orbiney contains a style of story that became popular in the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC)”. – Web-site of the British Museum: It seems to us, however, that this story became popular some millennia earlier.

To be continued… >>>

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