As far as I understand, it's from the "Ahmed I Falnama" from the 16th century. I haven't been able to find any commentary on this particular miniature, however.

Some things to note: The camel looks freaked out, possibly angry, possibly scared. The man is holding on to the earth by two tufts of grass, which seem to be about to be eaten by two small animals, causing the man to fall. The man has two snakes around his ankles and there's a dragon/serpent in the bottom center, reinforcing the Tartarean imagery.

1 Answer 1


The miniature is indeed from the 17th century Falnama of Ahmed I, and according to Falnama: The Book of Omens, edited by Massumeh Farhad with Serpil Bagcı, it is titled "The Pit of Misfortune" and comes with the following text:

Like a mad camel is fate in the end: it will drag you to misery
Beware of it! Think of its end. Do not let It cast you from one pit into an other.

O augury seeker, know and be aware that a mad camel and a pit have turned up as your omen. This omen is not good for any affair or request and indicates grief, pain, suffering, and oppression. Beware. It would be better to eschew this intention. If you have taken this augury for travel, trade, or buying and selling, prospects are inauspicious unless it is for going on pilgrimage and to the shrines. If it is for buying slave boys or girls or beasts, entering a new house, or concluding a marriage, it is inauspicious. It is not unlikely that the seeker of this augury will experience disturbing events at all times. Do not reveal those events or dreams to anyone. Repent of and ask forgiveness for sins, do not postpone the five prayers, and do not neglect alms or charity that you may attain your goal.

In Minyatürlerle Osmanlı-İslâm Mitologyası by Metin And, the following description of the miniature is given (translated from Turkish using DeepL):

We can also give an example about the well from the stories of Kalile and Dinme. A man escaping from a mad camel throws himself into a well in search of shelter. However, at the bottom of the well, a dragon is waiting with open mouth for the man to get out. Where he wants to put his foot, there are four snakes. When he looks up, two rats are gnawing on the branches he is holding on to. At that moment, honey oozes from the honeycomb he sees. He takes some honey with his hand and eats it, but in the meantime he falls into the mouth of the dragon below.

Here, the author is referring to the Kalīla wa-Dimna collection of fables, which indeed contains the episode depicted in the miniature (see for example this folio from a 16th century manuscript). Here's the relevant passage from the English translation of the Kalīla wa-Dimna by Wyndham Knatchbull:

I therefore compared the human race to a man, who, flying from a furious elephant, goes down into a well; he suspends himself from two branches, which are at the brim of it, whilst his feet rest upon something projecting out of its sides, which proves to be the heads of four serpents appearing out of their holes; at the bottom he discovers a dragon with its mouth open ready to swallow him if he should fall; and raising his eye towards the two branches, he sees two rats, one white and the other black, which are incessantly gnawing the stems; at the same moment his attention is arrested by the sight of a beehive, and beginning eagerly to taste the honey, he is so taken up with its sweetness, that he forgets that his feet are resting upon the serpents, that the rats are gnawing the branches to which he is hanging, and that the dragon is ready to devour him, and thus his inconsiderateness and folly only cease with his existence. I considered the well to represent the world with the train of ills which belong to it: the four serpents are the four humours in the human body, which being disturbed in their mutual action become so many deadly poisons; the two rats are night and day, which are continually shortening the space of man's life; the dragon is the term of being, which sooner or later awaits us all; and the honey those animal indulgences, which by their delusive influence turn us away from the path of duty. I therefore finally determined to remain in my present state, watching over my actions, with the steady purpose of carrying them to the highest degree of perfection of which I should be capable, in the hope that I should one day find a guide for my conduct, a controlling power for the affections of my soul, and a faithful administrator of my worldly affairs.
Wyndham Knatchbull - Kalila and Dimna, Or, The Fables of Bidpai 80-82

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