A scholar sat writing, scratching out mistakes with his knife.
A monkey was watching.
As soon as the scholar left, the monkey jumped on the scholar's desk and tried to write.
When the scholar returned, he found his manuscript all smeared. Then he noticed the monkey watching him. The scholar smiled, picked up his knife and rubbed the blunt edge against his throat.
When the scholar left again, the monkey jumped back on the table and grabbed the knife. But because he didn't know the difference between the sharp edge and the blunt, he cut his own throat and died.
[a Tigray story from northern Ethiopia]
Inspired by: "The Tale of the Scholar and the Guenon" in Tales, Customs, Names, and Dirges of the Tigre Tribes by Enno Littmann, 1915.
Notes: You can read the original story online. Littmann notes: "This is told by the people of Kabasa." You can find out more about the guenon monkey at Wikipedia. I've seen fables about monkeys imitating fishermen and woodcutters, but this is a first for me of a monkey imitating a scholar writing! For another story about a scholar and his knife, see The Scholar's Knife (it's a Nasruddin story).