The Wren/Mosquito And The Elephant

Another saying on the tablet I cited yesterday turns up (with variants) in Greek fables. First, here’s the Akkadian fable:
(KAR 174 rev iii 50-54, Lambert 216, 218)
diq-diq-qu (dig-dig-qu?) ina m[u]ḫḫi pēri ki-i ú-š[i-bu]
um-ma ta-lim id-[k]a an-a-a-ma ina ši-qi mêMEŠ e-ra-[aq-ma]
pe-e-ru a-na ni-ni-qi (dig-dig-qu?) ip-[pal]
ki-i tu-ši-bu ul i-di-ma ka-la-ka mi-[i-nu]
ki-i ta-at-bu-ú ul i-de-e[-ma]
A wren, as it settled on an elephant,
said, “Brother, did I disturb your side? I will get off at the irrigated field.”
The elephant replied to the wren,
“I did not know that you sat – what do you amount to? –
nor will I know when you arise.”
Based on context and Greek parallels, Lambert, 216, 339, reads the otherwise unattested ni-ni-qu as “mosquito” where I follow Borger and others in reading dig-dig-qu.” The more common Akkadian word for “mosquito” is zaqqitu but see also baqqu, “gnat” and my speculation below. Diqdiqqu (diq-diq-qu) means “wren” or some other kind of small bird. This understanding is reinforced by the Sumerian fable I quote below. See CAD D, 159.
Here are a couple of the parallels from Greek traditions:
Babrius, Mythiambi Aesopei, Fable 84 (1st/2nd century CE) (Haubold, 1)
A mosquito alighted on a bull’s curly horn
and after a short stay whined,
“If I’m a weight and a pain on your neck,
I’ll get off and sit on a poplar by the river.”
But he said, “I don’t care whether you stay
or go; I didn’t even notice when you came.”
Mesomedes 11, (early 2nd century CE) (Haubold, 2)
On an elephant’s ear a mosquito
with wings all aflutter alighted
and foolishly said, “I will fly away,
for my weight you cannot support.”
But he smiled in amusement and said,
“But I neither knew when you flew down.’
nor when you fly off, O mosquito.”
Haubold directs us to a Sumerian proverb with an Akkadian parallel that expresses a similar idea, still in dialogue, but in a somewhat more prosaic form. I quote from Haubold, 3, “An elephant spoke to himself and said, ‘Among the wild creatures of Šakan, there is no one equal to me.’ The altirigu-bird answered him. ‘And yet, I, in my own proportion, I am equal to you,’ it said.”
[A little speculation if you will: I wondered for a while if reading the first three signs of the fable as NI NI QU might be correct after all. Well not exactly correct but an error for NI IM QU. In which case one might read NI.IMqu = baqqu, “gnat.” See CAD B, 101 for ni-im NIM ba-aq-qu Sa Vocabulary Text AD 17‘ as reconstructed from series A (= nâqu) VIII/3 Comm. 8.l. But this is really stretching things. In addition to the most obvious problems with this understanding, such a reading would itself be otherwise unattested.]

Borger, Rykle. “Eine altorientalische und antike Fabel Zaunkönig/Mücke und Elephant/Stier.” Bibliotheca Orientalis 61 (2004) 461-474
Haubold, Johannes, “Greece and Mesopotamia: Dialogues in Literature,” CHS Research Symposium, 30 April 2011. (and the literature he cites)
Lambert, Wilfred G., Babylonian Wisdom Literature (Oxford University Press, 1960; reprint Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1996)
West, Martin, “Fable and disputation” in The Heirs of Assyria (Melammu Symposia 1, eds. S. Aro; Helsinki et al; Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project 2000) 93-8