BEN HA-MELEKH VE-HA-NAZIR (Heb. בֶּן הַמֶּלֶדְ וְהַנָּזִיר "The Prince and the Hermit"), Hebrew version by Abraham b. Samuel ha-Levi Ibn Ḥasdai\>\> of an original Hindu tale about a prince who eventually became an ascetic. Balauhar and Budasaph, the names of the heroes of the tale in the old Pahlavi version, became Barlaam and Joasaph in the Greek version and Barlaam and Josaphat in the oldest Latin version (1048) and in later European translations. The Hebrew work is based on an Arabic version, but whether it is a translation or an adaptation cannot be determined until the Arabic text is established. Ben ha-Melekh ve-ha-Nazir is the account of a prince, Joasaph, sent by his father to a luxurious palace on an island in an effort to avert the fulfillment of a prophecy that he would become a Christian monk. When the prince discovers the reason for his confinement, he implores his father to allow him to return to the mainland. The king yields, and the son soon becomes aware of evil in the world, with consequent unrest in his heart. A monk, Barlaam, who comes disguised as a merchant (monks being prohibited in the land) gains access to the prince and gradually teaches him to realize the vanity of this world and the advantages of the ascetic life. Unlike the Greek and the Arabic tales, the Hebrew does not reintroduce the father, nor does it relate his efforts to undo the effects of the monk's instruction. Instead, it continues the discussion on philosophic and theological questions until the monk is obliged to leave and the prince feels bereft and lonely. The course of transmission of the original tale until it evolved into a world classic is complicated, with many problems still unresolved. In the European texts, the prince adopts the Christian faith of his preceptor. The Hindu original is obviously modeled after the life of Buddha. The Hebrew version is attractively written, and the prose narrative is interspersed with versified aphorisms. There is a Catalan translation by T. Calders (1987). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. Peri (Pflaum), Der Religionsdisput der Barlaam-Legende (1959); Abraham b. Ḥasdai, Ben-ha-Melekh ve-ha-Nazir, ed. by A.M. Habermann (1951); F. Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde (1879), 441–60; Steinschneider, Uebersetzungen, 863–7; E.A.W. Budge, Barlaam and Jewâsaf (1923); D.M. Lang, The Wisdom of Balahvar (1957); J. Jacobs, Barlaam and Josaphat (1896). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: T. Calders, El Príncep i el monjo d'Abraham ben Semuel ha-Levi ibn Hasday (1987).

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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