|Fatimid pottery cup, 11th century. |
The leopard came as usual and jumped up to that window, so one of the peasants went and informed Sir Adam. Sir Adam put on his hauberk, mounted his charger, took up his shield and spear and went off to the church, which was in ruins except for one standing wall where the window was located. When the leopard saw Sir Adam, it pounced down from the window on top of him while Sir Adam was still on his charger and broke his back, killing him. It then went away. The peasants of Hunak used to call that leopard 'the holy-warrior leopard.'
One of the special qualities of the leopard is that if it wounds a man, and a mouse urinates on the wound, the man will die. A mouse never gives up trying to reach a man wounded by a leopard: one person, out of fear of the mice, even had a bed made for himself sitting in the water, with cats tied all around it.
-Usama ibn Munqidh, The Book of Contemplation, p. 123-124. Trans. Paul Cobb, 2008, Penguin.
|Leopard, from "The Benefits of Animals"|
Image from here.
The flesh and fat of a leopard, boiled in the juice of olives, serve as a good salve for the sores, abcesses and pimples that break out on the body; his blood is a preventive liniment for all skin diseases."
-Ibn Bakhtishu, The Benefits of Animals, quoted from 1001 Tales of History's post on the book - which you should totally check out, if only to see the other fascinating pictures and descriptions.
Well. There's clearly something up between leopards and mice, some connection here. But why would these two creatures be connected?
Hmm. I am reminded...
“I am reminded,” said the Mouser, “of what a witch told me about adepts. She said that, if an adept chances to die, his soul is reincarnated in a mouse. If, as a mouse, he managed to kill a rat, his soul passes over to a rat. As a rat, he must kill a cat; as a cat, a wolf; as a wolf, a panther; and, as a panther, a man. There he can recommence his adeptry. Of course, it seldom happens that anyone gets all the way through the sequence and in any case it takes a very long time. Trying to kill a rat is enough to satisfy a mouse with mousedom.”Clearly the Mouser is misremembering (or the witch misspoke) and it was leopards, rather than panthers, that were in the adept chain of succession. But what if there were some way to short-circuit this process? What if an adept-turned-leopard-turned-mouse could easily slay a man while as a mouse? Perhaps through a wound that they had made as a leopard?
- “Adept’s Gambit,” Fritz Leiber
And this would explain why the mice never give up trying to reach the wounded man. Because if they can work their arts on the wounded...ah, the chance to be a human once more!
Perhaps some adept-leopards (leopard-adepts?) retain their loyalties in life, as the case of the holy-warrior leopard shows. Or perhaps this was merely an opportune moment for the adept to strike at a human and return to a human form. Yet it is curious that it did not attack the peasants...