The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights
Translated by Malcolm C. Lyons, Publisher: Penguin Books
Translated by Malcolm C. Lyons, Publisher: Penguin Books
(Starting at the beginning and continuing from Night 1 though Night 8 and continuing into part way into Night 9)
Among the histories of past peoples a story is told that in the old days in the islands of India and China there was a Sasanian king, a master of armies, guards, servants and retainers, who had two sons, an elder and a younger. Although both of them were champion horsemen, the elder was better than his brother; he ruled over the lands, treating his subjects with justice and enjoying the affection of them all. His name was King Shahriyar, while his younger brother, who ruled Persian Samarkand, was called Shah Zaman. For ten years both of them continued to reign justly, enjoying pleasant and untroubled lives, until Shahriyar felt a longing to see Shah Zaman and sent off his vizier to fetch him. ‘To hear is to obey,’ said the vizier, and after he had travelled safely to Shah Zaman, he brought him greetings and told him that his brother wanted a visit from him.
Shah Zaman agreed to come and made his preparations for the journey. He had his tents put up outside his city, together with his camels, mules, servants and guards, while his own vizier was left in charge of his lands. He then came out himself, intending to leave for his brother’s country, but at midnight he thought of something that he had forgotten and went back to the palace. When he entered his room, it was to discover his wife in bed with »a black slave. The world turned dark for him and he said to himself: ‘If this is what happens before I have even left the city, what will this damned woman do if I spend time away with my brother?’ So he drew his sword and struck, killing both his wife and her lover as they lay together, before going back and ordering his escort to move off.
When he got near to Shahriyar’s city, he sent off messengers to give the good news of his arrival, and Shahriyar came out to meet him and greeted him delightedly. The city was adorned with decorations and Shahriyar sat talking happily with him, but Shah Zaman remembered what his wife had done and, overcome by sorrow, he turned pale and showed signs of illness. His brother thought that this must be because he had had to leave his kingdom and so he put no questions to him until, some days later, he mentioned these symptoms to Shah Zaman, who told him; ‘My feelings are Wounded,’ but did not explain what had happened with his wife. In order to cheer him up, Shahriyar invited him to come with him on a hunt, but he refused and Shahriyar set off by himself.
In the royal palace there were windows that overlooked Shahriyar’s garden, and as Shah Zaman Was looking, a door opened and out came twenty slave girls and twenty slaves, in the middle of whom Was Shahriyar’s very beautiful wife. They came to a fountain where they took off their clothes and the women sat with the men. ‘Mas‘ud,’ the queen called, at which a black slave came up to her and, after they had embraced each other, he lay with her, while the other slaves lay with the slave girls and they spent their time kissing, embracing, fornicating and drinking wine until the end of the day.
When Shah Zaman saw this, he told himself that what he had suffered was less serious. His jealous distress ended and, after convincing himself that his own misfortune was not as grave as this, he went on eating and drinking, so that when Shahriyar returned and the brothers greeted one another, Shahriyar saw that Shah Zaman’s color had come back; his face was rosy and, following his earlier loss of appetite, he was-eating normally. ‘You were pale, brother,” Shahriyar said, ‘but now you have got your color back, so tell me about this.’ ‘I’ll tell you Why I lost color,’ his brother replied, ‘but don’t press me to tell you how I got it back.’ ‘Let me know first how you lost it and became so weak,” Shahriyar asked him, and his brother explained: ‘When you sent your vizier to invite me to visit you, I got ready and had gone out of the city when I remembered a jewel that was intended as a present for you, which I had left in my palace. I went back there to find a black slave sleeping in my bed with my wife, and it was after I had killed them both that I came on to you. I was full of concern about the affair and this was why I became pale and sickly, but don’t make me say how I recovered.” Shahriyar, however, pressed him to do this, and so Shah Zaman finally told him all that he had seen.
‘I want to see this with my own eyes,’ said Shahriyar, at which Shah Zaman suggested that he pretend to be going out hunting again and then hide with him so that he could test the truth by seeing it for himself. Shahriyar immediately announced that he was leaving to hunt; the tents were taken outside the city and the king himself went out and took his seat in one of them, telling his servants that nobody was to be allowed in to visit him. Then secretly he made his way back to the palace where his brother was and sat down by the window overlooking the garden. After a while the slave girls and their mistress came there with the slaves and they went on acting as Shah Zaman had described until the call for the afternoon prayer.
Shahriyar was beside himself and told his brother: ‘Come, let us leave at once. Until we can find someone else to whom the same kind of thing happens, we have no need of a kingdom, and otherwise we would be better dead.’ They left by the postern gate and went on for some days and nights until they got to a tall tree in the middle of a meadow, where there was a spring of water by the Seashore. They drank from the spring and sat down to rest, but after a time the sea became disturbed and from it emerged a black pillar, towering up into the sky and moving towards the meadow. This sight filled the brothers with alarm and they climbed up to the top of the tree to see what was going to happen. What then appeared was a tall jinni, with a large skull and a broad breast, carrying a chest on his head. He came ashore and went up to sit under the tree "on top of which the brothers were hiding. The jinni then opened the chest, taking from it a box, and when he had opened this too, out came a slender girl, as radiant as the sun, who fitted the excellent description given by the poet ‘Atiyaz:
She shone in the darkness, and day appeared
As the trees shed brightness over her.
Her radiance makes suns rise and shine,
While, as for moons, she covers them in shame.
When veils are rent and she appears,
All things bow down before her.
As lightning flashes from her sanctuary,
A rain of tears floods down.
The jinni looked at her and said: ‘Mistress of the nobly born, whom I snatched away on your wedding night, I want to sleep for a while.” He placed his head on her knee and fell asleep, while she, for her part, looked up at the tree, on top of which were the two kings. She lifted the jinni’s head from her knee and put it on the ground, before gesturing to them to come down and not to fear him. ‘For God’s sake, don’t make us do this,’ they told her, but she replied: ‘Unless you come, I’ll rouse him against you and he will put you to the cruelest of deaths.’ This so alarmed them that they did what they were told and she then said: ‘Take me as hard as you can or else I'll wake him up.’ Shahriyar said fearfully to his brother: ‘Do as she says.’ But Shah Zaman refused, saying: ‘You do it first.’
They started gesturing to each other about this and the girl asked why, repeating: ‘If you don’t come up and do it, I’ll rouse the jinni against you.’ Because they were afraid, they took turns to lie with her, and when they had finished, she told them to get up. From her pocket she then produced a purse from which she brought out a string on which were hung five hundred and seventy signet rings. She asked them if they knew what these were and when they said no, she told them: ‘All these belonged to lovers of mine who cuckolded this jinni, so give me your own`rings.’
They started gesturing to each other about this and the girl asked why, repeating: ‘If you don’t come up and do it, I’ll rouse the jinni against you.’ Because they were afraid, they took turns to lie with her, and when they had finished, she told them to get up. From her pocket she then produced a purse from which she brought out a string on which were hung five hundred and seventy signet rings. She asked them if they knew what these were and when they said no, she told them: ‘All these belonged to lovers of mine who cuckolded this jinni, so give me your own`rings.’
When they had handed them over, she went on: ‘This jinni snatched me away on my wedding night and put me inside a box, which he placed inside this chest, with its seven heavy locks, and this, in turn, he put at the bottom of the tumultuous sea with its clashing waves. What he did not know was that, when a woman wants something, nothing can get the better of her, as a poet has said:
Do not put your trust in women
Or believe their covenants.
Their satisfaction and their anger
Both depend on their private parts.
They make a false display of love,
But their clothes are stuffed with treachery.
Take a lesson from the tale of Joseph,
And you will find some of their tricks.
Do you not see that your father, Adam,
Was driven out from Eden thanks to them?
Another poet has said:
Blame must be matched to what is blamed;
I have grown big, but my offense has not.
I am a lover, but what I have done
Is only what men did before me in old days.
What is a cause for wonder is a man
Whom women have not trapped by their allure.’
When the two kings heard this, they were filled with astonishment and said to each other: ‘jinni though he may be, what has happened to him is worse than what happened to us and it is not something that anyone else has experienced.’ They left the girl straight away and went back to Shahriyar’s city, where they entered the palace and cut off the heads of the queen, the slave girls and the slaves.
Every night for the next three years, Shahriyar would take a virgin, deflower her and then kill her. This led to unrest among the citizens; they fled away with their daughters until there were no nubile girls left in the city. Then, when the vizier was ordered to bring the king a girl as usual, he searched but could not find a single one, and had to go home empty-handed, dejected and afraid of what the king might do to him.
This man had two daughters, of whom the elder was called Shahrazad and the younger Dunyazad. Shahrazad had read books and histories, accounts of past kings and stories of earlier peoples, having collected, it was said, a thousand volumes of these, covering peoples, kings and poets. She asked her father what had happened to make him so careworn and sad, quoting the lines of a poet:
Say to the careworn man: ‘Care does not last,
And as joy passes, so does care.’
When her father heard this, he told her all that had happened between him and the king from beginning to end, at which she said: ‘Father, marry me to this man. Either I shall live or else I shall be a ransom for the children of the Muslims and save them from him.’ ‘By God,’ he exclaimed, ‘you are not to risk your life’ She insisted that it had to be done, but he objected: ‘I’m afraid that you may experience what happened to the donkey and the bull with the merchant.” ‘What was that,” she asked, ‘and what happened to the two of them?’ HER FATHER TOLD HER:
You must know, my daughter, that a certain merchant had both wealth and animals and had been given by Almighty God a knowledge of the languages of beasts and birds. He lived in the country and had at home a donkey and a bull. One day the bull went to the donkey’s quarters and found them swept out and sprinkled with water; there was sieved barley and straw in his trough, while the donkey was lying there at his ease. At times his master would ride him out on some errand, but he would then be taken back.
One day the merchant heard the bull say to the donkey: ‘I congratulate you. Here am I, tired out, while you are at your ease, eating sieved barley. On occasion the master puts you to use, riding on you but then bringing you back again, whereas I am always ploughing and grinding corn.’ The donkey replied: ‘When they put the yoke on your neck and want to take you out to the fields, don’t get up, even if they beat you, or else get up and then lie down again. When they bring you back and put beans down for you, pretend to be sick and don’t eat them; for one, two or three days neither eat nor drink and you will have a rest from your hard labour.”
The next day, when the herdsman brought the bull his supper, the creature only ate a little and next morning, when the man came to take the bull out to do the ploughing, he found him sick and said sadly: ‘This was why he could not Work properly yesterday.’ He went to the merchant and told him: ‘Master, the bull is unwell and didn’t eat any of his food yesterday evening’ The merchant realized what had happened and said:
‘Go and take the donkey to do the ploughing all day in his place.”
When the donkey came back in the evening after having been used for ploughing all day, the bull thanked him for his kindness in having given him a day’s rest, to which the donkey, filled with the bitterest regret, made no reply. The next morning, the herdsman came and took him out to plough until evening, and when the donkey got back, his neck had been rubbed raw and he was half dead with tiredness. When the bull saw him, he thanked and praised him, but the donkey said: ‘I was sitting at my ease, but was unable to mind my own business.’ Then he went on: ‘I have some advice to give you. I heard our master say that, if you don’t get up, you are to be given to the butcher to be slaughtered, and your hide is to be cut into pieces. I am afraid for you and so I have given you this advice.”
When the bull heard what the donkey had to say, he thanked him and said: ‘Tomorrow I’ll go out with the men.’ He then finished off all his food, using his tongue to lick the manger. While all this was going on, the merchant was listening to what the animals were saying. The next morning, he and his Wife went out and sat by the byre as the herdsman arrived and took the bull out. When the bull saw his master, he flourished his tail, farted and galloped off, leaving the man laughing so much that he collapsed on the ground. His wife asked why, and he told her: ‘I was laughing because of something secret that I saw and heard, but I can’t tell you or else I shall die.” ‘Even if you do die,’ she insisted, ‘you must tell me the reason for this.’ He repeated that he could not do it for fear of death, but she said: ‘You were laughing at me,’ and she went on insisting obstinately until she got the better of him. In distress, he summoned his children and sent for the qadi and the notaries with the intention of leaving his final instructions before telling his wife the secret and then dying. He had a deep love for her, she being his cousin and the mother of his children, while he himself was a hundred and twenty years old.
When all his family and his neighbors were gathered together, he explained that he had something to say to them, but that if he told the secret to anyone, he would die. Everyone there urged his wife not to press him and so bring about the death of her husband and the father of her children, but she said: ‘I am not going to stop until he tells me, and I shall let him die.” At that, the others stayed silent while the merchant got up and went to the byre to perform the ritual ablution, after which he would return to them and die.
The merchant had a cock and fifty hens, together with a dog, and he heard the dog abusing the cock and saying: ‘You may be cheerful, but here is our master about to die.’ When the cock asked why this was, the dog told him the whole story. ‘By God,’ exclaimed the cock, ‘he must be weak in the head. I have fifty wives and I keep them contented and at peace while he has only one but still can’t keep her in order. Why doesn’t he get some mulberry twigs, take her into a room and beat her until she either dies or repents and doesn’t ask him again?’
The vizier now said to his daughter Shahrazad: ‘I shall treat you as that man treated his wife.” ‘What did he do?’ she asked, AND HE WENT ON:
When he heard what the cock had to say to the dog, he cut some mulberry twigs and hid them in a room, where he took his Wife. ‘Come,’ he said, ‘so that I can speak to you in here and then die with no one looking on.’ She went in with him and he locked the door on her and started beating her until she fainted. ‘I take it all back,’ she then said, and she kissed his hands and feet, and after she had repented, she and ,her husband Went out to the delight of their family and the others there. They lived in the happiest of circumstances until their deaths.
Shahrazad listened to what her father had to say, but she still insisted on her plan and so he decked her out and took her to King Shahriyar. She had given instructions to her younger sister, Dunyazad, explaining: ‘When I go to the king, I shall send for you. You must come, and when you see that the king has done what he wants with me, you are to say: “Tell me a story, sister, so as to pass the waking part of the night.” I shall then tell you a tale that, God willing, will save us.”
Shahrazad was now taken by her father to the king, who was pleased to see him and said: ‘Have you brought what I Want?’ When the vizier said yes, the king was about to lie with Shahrazad but she shed tears and when he asked her what was wrong, she told him: ‘I have a young sister and I want to say goodbye to her.’ At that, the king sent for Dunyazad, and when she had embraced Shahrazad, she took her seat beneath the bed, while the king got up and deflowered her sister. They then sat talking and Dunyazad asked Shahrazad to tell a story to pass the waking hours of the night. ‘With the greatest pleasure,” replied Shahrazad, ‘if our cultured king gives me permission.’ The king was restless and when he heard what the sisters had to say, he was glad at the thought of listening to a story and so he gave his permission to Shahrazad.
SHAHRAZAD SAID: I have heard, O fortunate king, that a wealthy merchant, who had many dealings throughout the lands, rode out one day to settle a matter of business in one of them. When it became hot, he sat down under a tree and put his hand in his saddlebag, from which he took out a piece of bread and a date. He ate and when he had finished with the date he threw away its stone, at which a huge ‘ifrit appeared, with a drawn sword in his hand. This ‘ifrit came up to the merchant and said: ‘Get up so that I can kill you as you killed my son.” ‘How did I kill your son?’ asked the merchant, and the ‘ifrit told him: ‘When you ate that date and threw away the stone, it struck my son in the chest as he was walking, and he died instantly.’ ‘We belong to God and to Him do we return,’ recited the merchant, adding: ‘There is no might and no power except with God, the Exalted, the Omnipotent. If I killed him, this was by accident, so please forgive me.’ ‘I must kill you,’ insisted the ‘ifrit, and he dragged off the merchant, threw him down on the ground and raised his sword to strike.
With tears in his eyes, the merchant exclaimed: ‘I entrust my affair to God!’ and he then recited these lines:
Time is two days, one safe and one of peril,
And our lives are of two halves, one fair, one overcast.
Say to those who reproach us for what Time has done:
‘Does Time oppose any but great rnen?’
Do you not see that when the storm winds blow,
It is the tall trees that they strike?
Corpses rise to the surface of the sea,
While it is in its depths that pearls lie hid.
It may be that Time will mishandle us,
Subjecting us to constant harm.
Though in the heavens there are countless stars,
Only the sun and moon suffer eclipse.
There are both green and dry boughs on the earth,
But we throw stones only at those with fruit.
You think well of the days when they are fine,
So do not fear the evil that fate brings.
When he had finished, the ‘ifrit said: ‘Stop talking, for, by God, I am most certainly going to kill you.’ “Ifrit,’ the merchant said, ‘I am a wealthy man, with a wife and children; I have debts and I hold deposits, so let me go home and give everyone their due before returning to you at the start of the new year. I shall take a solemn oath and swear by God that I shall come back to you and you can then do what you want with me. God will be the guarantor of this.’ The ‘ifrit trusted him and let him go, after which he went home, settled all his affairs, and gave everyone what was owed them. He told his wife and children what had happened, gave them his injunctions and stayed with them until the end of the year, when he got up, performed the ritual ablution and, with his shroud under his arm, said goodbye to his family and all his relations as well as his neighbours, and set off reluctantly, while they all wept and wailed. He came to the orchard on what was New Year’s Day, and as he sat there weeping over his fate, a very old man approached him, leading a gazelle on a chain. The newcomer greeted him and asked him why he was sitting there alone, when the place was a haunt of jinn. The merchant told the story of his encounter with the ‘ifrit, and the old man exclaimed: ‘By God, brother, you are a very pious man and your story is so wonderful that were it written with needles on the corners of men’s eyes, it would be a lesson for those who take heed.’
He took his seat by the merchant’s side and promised not to leave until he had seen what happened to him with the ‘ifrit. As the two of them sat there talking, the merchant was overcome by an access of fear together with ever-increasing distress and apprehension. It was at this point that a second old man arrived, having with him two black Salukis. After greeting the two men, he asked them Why they were sitting in this haunt of jinn and they told him the story from beginning to end. No sooner had he sat down with them than a third old man, with a dappled mule, came up, greeted them and asked why they were there, at which they repeated the whole story - but there is no point in going over it again.
As soon as the newcomer had sat down, a huge dust-devil appeared in the middle of the desert, clearing away to show the ‘ifrit with a drawn sword in his hand and sparks shooting from his eyes. He came up to the three, dragged the merchant from between them and*said: ‘Get up so that I can kill you as you killed my beloved son.’ The merchant sobbed and wept, while the three old men shed tears, wailed and lamented. Then the first of them, the man with the gazelle, left the others, kissed the ‘ifrifs hand and said: ‘]inni, royal crown of the jinn, if I tell you the story of my connection with this gazelle, will you grant me a third share in this merchant’s blood?’ The ‘ifrit agreed to do this if he found the story marvelous, AND SO THE OLD MAN BEGAN HIS TALE:
Know, ‘ifrit, that this gazelle is my cousin, my own flesh and blood. I married her when she was still young and stayed with her for thirty years without her bearing me a child. So I took a concubine and she bore me a son, the perfection of whose eyes and eyebrows made him look like the full moon when it appears. He grew up and when he was fifteen I had occasion to travel to a certain city, taking with me a great quantity of trade goods. My wife, now this gazelle, had studied sorcery since her youth and she turned the boy into a calf and his mother into a cow, handing them over to the herdsman. When, after a long absence, I got back from my journey, I asked about the two of them and my wife told me that the woman had died and that the boy had run away, where she did not know.
For a year I remained sad at heart and tearful until ‘Id al-Adha came round and I sent to tell the herdsman to bring me a fat cow. What he brought me was my slave girl whom my wife had enchanted. I tucked up my clothes, took the knife in my hand and was about to slaughter her, when she gave a cry, howled and shed tears. This astonished me and, feeling pity for her, I left her and told the herdsman to fetch me another. At that my wife called out: ‘Kill this one, as I have no finer or fatter cow.” I went up again to do the killing and again the cow gave a cry, at which I told the herdsman to slaughter her and then skin her. I-Ie did this, only to discover that there was neither flesh nor fat in the carcass, but only skin and bone. I was sorry for what I had done at a time when regret was of no use, and I gave the cow to the herdsman, telling him to bring me a fat calf. He brought me my son, and when this ‘calf’ caught sight of me, he broke his tether and rolled in the dust in front of me, howling and shedding tears. Again I felt pity and told the herdsman to leave the calf and fetch me a cow, and again my Wife, now this gazelle, called to me, insisting that I must slaughter the calf that day. ‘This is a noble and a blessed day,” 'she pointed out. ‘The sacrifice must be a good one and we have nothing fatter or finer than this calf.’ ‘Look at what happened with the cow that you told me to kill. This led to a disappointment and we got no good from it at all, leaving me full of regret at having slaughtered it. This time I am not going to do what you say or kill this calf.” ‘By God the Omnipotent, the Compassionate, the Merciful, you must do this on this noble day, and if you don’t, then you are not my husband and I am not your wife.’ On hearing these harsh words, but not realizing what she intended to do, I went up to the calf with the knife in my hand.
Morning now dawned and Shahrazad broke off from what she had been allowed to say. ‘What a good, pleasant, delightful and sweet story this is!’ exclaimed Dunyazad, at which Shahrazad told her: ‘How can this compare with what I shall tell you this coming night, if I am still alive and the king spares me?’ ‘By God,’ the king said to himself, ‘I am not going to kill her until I hear the rest of the story,” and so they spent the rest of the time embracing one another until the sun had fully risen. The king then went to his court as the vizier came with the shroud under his arm, and he gave his judgements, appointing some officials and dismissing others, until evening, but to the vizier’s great surprise he gave no instructions about his daughter. The court was then dismissed and King Shahriyar returned to his palace.
When it was the second night, Dunyazad said to Shahrazad: ‘Sister, Hnish your story of the merchant and the ‘ifrit for us.’ ‘With pleasure,” replied Shahrazad, ‘if the king gives me permission,” and when the king gave it, SHE WENT ON:
I have heard, O fortunate king and rightly guided ruler, that when the merchant was about to cut the throat of the calf, he was moved by pity and told the herdsman to keep the calf among the other beasts. The ‘ifrit was listening with astonishment to what the old man with the gazelle was saying, AND THE MAN WENT ON:
Lord of the kings of the jinn, while all this was going on, my wife, now this gazelle, was looking on and telling me to kill the calf, because it was fat, but I could not bring myself to do this and so I told the herdsman to take it away, which he did. The next day, as I was sitting there, he came back to me and said: ‘I have something to tell you that will please you, and you owe me a reward for my good news.’ I agreed to this and he went on: ‘Master, I have a daughter who, as a young girl, was taught magic by an old woman we had staying with us. Yesterday when you gave me the calf, I went to the girl and, when she saw it, she covered her face, shed tears but then burst into laughter. Then she said: “Father, do you hold me so cheap that you bring strange men in to me?” “Where are these strange men,” I asked, “and why are you laughing and crying?” She said: "‘This calf you have with you is our master’s son, who is under a spell laid upon him and his mother by his father’s wife. This is why I was laughing, but the reason why I wept was that his father killed his mother.” I was astonished by this and as soon as I found that it was morning, I came to tell you.”
When I heard what the man had to say, I went out with him, drunk, although not on wine, with the joy and delight that I was feeling. When I got to his house his daughter welcomed me, kissing my hands, while the calf came and rolled on the ground in front of me. I asked her: ‘Is what you say about this calf true?’ ‘Yes, master,’ she assured me. ‘This is your darling son.’ ‘Girl,’ I told her, ‘if you free him, you can have all the beasts and everything else that your father looks after.’ She smiled and said: ‘Master, I only want this on two conditions, the first being that you marry me to him and the second that I be allowed to put a spell on the one who enchanted him and keep her confined, for otherwise I shall not be safe from her scheming.’
When I heard what she had to say, I promised to give her what she wanted as well as everything that was in her father’s charge, adding that I would even give her permission to kill my wife. At that, she took a bowl, filled it with water and recited a spell over it, after which she sprinkled the water over the calf, saying: ‘If you are a calf and this is how Almighty God created you, stay in this shape and don’t change, but if you are under a spell, then return to your original shape with the permission of Almighty God.’ The calf shuddered and became a man, at which I fell on him and said: ‘For God’s sake, tell me what my wife did to you and your mother? I-Ie told me what had happened, and I said:
‘My son, God has sent you a rescuer to restore your rights.’ I then married the herdsman’s daughter to him and she transformed my wife into this gazelle, saying: ‘This is a beautiful shape and not a brutish one, repellent to the sight.”
The girl stayed with us for some time until God chose to take her to Himself and my son went off to India, the country of the man with whom you have had this experience. I myself took my wife, this gazelle, and have travelled from place to place looking for news of him until fate brought me here and I saw this merchant sitting weeping. This is my story.
‘It is indeed a marvelous tale,’ the ‘ifrit agreed, ‘and I grant you a third share in his blood.’
At this point, the old man with the two Salukis came up and asked the ‘ifritz ‘If I tell you what happened to me and my brothers, these two dogs, and you find it the most amazing and astonishing of stories, will you transfer to me a third of this man’s offense?’ The ‘ifrit agreed AND THE MAN BEGAN:
Lord of the kings of the jinn, these two dogs are my brothers, I being the third. Gn his death my father left us three thousand dinars and each one of us opened a shop for trade. I had not been there for long before my eldest brother, now one of these dogs, sold the contents of his shop for a thousand dinars, bought trade goods and set off on his travels.
He had been away for a whole year when one day as I was in my shop a beggar came up to me and stopped. I wished him well, but he said, in tears: ‘Don’t you know me any more?’ When I looked at him closely, I saw that this was my brother and so I got up to welcome him and brought him into the shop. I asked him how he was and he said: ‘Don’t ask. My Wealth has gone and my circumstances have changed? I took him to the baths, gave him some of my own clothes and then brought him back home. Then I checked my accounts and the sales figures of my shop and I found that I had made a profit of a thousand dinars on a capital of two thousand. I divided this with my brother, telling him to forget that he had ever travelled abroad. I-Ie took the money gladly and opened another shop.
Some time later, my second brother, now this other dog, sold everything he had, with the intention of traveling. We tried unsuccessfully to stop him, but he bought trade goods and set out with some others. He too spent a whole year away before coming back to me in the same state as his brother. ‘Brother,’ I told him, ‘didn’t I tell you not to go?’ But he replied: ‘This was something decreed by fate, and here am I, a poor man, penniless and Without even a shirt.” I took him to the baths and gave him a new suit of my own clothes to put on, before bringing him to my shop, where we then ate and drank. I told him: ‘Brother,-*I check the accounts of my shop once every new year and any surplus I find I shall share with you.’ When I did my audit, I found that I had two thousand dinars, and after praising the Exalted Creator, I gave him a thousand and kept the other thousand myself.
My brother opened another shop, but after a time he and my other brother proposed that I should go off with them on a voyage. I refused, asking: ‘What did you get from your travels to make me imagine that I could make a profit?’ I refused to listen to them and we stayed there trading in our shops. Every year they would make the same proposal to me and I would not agree, until after six years I finally accepted and told them I would go with them. I asked them to show me what money they had, only to find that they had nothing at all, having squandered everything on food, drink and entertainment. I didn’t say a word to them but checked the accounts of my shop and sold what I owned together with all my shop goods, leaving me, to my delight, with a total of six thousand dinars, I divided this in half, telling my brothers that they and I could have three thousand dinars with which to trade, while I would bury the remaining three thousand in case the same thing happened to me as had happened to them. In that case I would have money left over to allow us to reopen our shops. They agreed to this and I handed each of them a thousand dinars, keeping a thousand for myself.
We provided ourselves with what we had to have in the Way of trade goods and made our preparations for travel, hiring a ship and loading our goods on board. After a whole month’s journey we brought them to a city, where they fetched us a ten-fold profit. We were about to sail off again when on the shore we came across a girl dressed in rags and tatters. She kissed my hand and asked if I was a charitable man, in which case she would reward me. ‘I love charity and good deeds,’ I told her, ‘even if you give me no reward.’ ‘Marry me, master,’ she said, ‘and take me to your country. I have given myself to you; treat me kindly, for I am someone who deserves kindness and generosity. I shall pay you back for this and don’t be misled by the state I am in now.’
When I heard this, I felt a yearning for her, as God, the Great and Glorious, had decreed, and so I took her, gave her clothes and provided her with elegantly furnished accommodation on the ship. I treated her with respect and as our journey went on I fell so deeply in love with her that I could not bear to leave her by night or by day. In my concern for her I neglected my brothers, who grew jealous of me, envying my Wealth and the quantity of my goods. They spent their time eyeing all this, and they discussed killing me and taking what I had, saying: ‘Let us kill our brother and then all this will be ours.” Satan made this seem good to them and so, finding me alone and asleep by the side of my wife, they picked us both up and threw us overboard.
My wife woke; a shudder ran through her and she became an ‘ifrita. She then carried me to an island where she left me for a time before coming back at dawn and saying: ‘I am your servant and it was I who saved your life by carrying you off, with the permission of Almighty God. You must know that I am one of the jinn and when I saw you I fell in love with you, as God had decreed. For I believe in Him and in His Apostle, may God bless him and give him peace. I came to you Wearing rags, as you saw, but you married me and now I have saved you from drowning. I am angry with your brothers and will have to kill them.’
I was astonished to hear this and I thanked her for what she had done but forbade her to kill my brothers. I then told her the whole story of my dealings with them and this prompted her to say: ‘Tonight I shall fly off to them, sink their ship and destroy them.’ I implored her in God’s Name not to do that, reminding her of the proverb that tells those who do good to those who wrong them - ‘The evil-doer’s own deeds are punishment enough for him’ - and pointing out that, at all events, they were my brothers. She continued to insist, despite my pleading with her, and she then flew off with me and put me down on the roof of my own house. I opened the doors, brought out the money that I had buried and opened up my shop, after greeting the people there and buying goods for trade.
When I went home that evening, I found these two dogs tied up and when they caught sight of me they came up with tears in their eyes and attached themselves to me. Before I realized what was happening, my wife told me: ‘These are your brothers? ‘Who did this to them?’ I asked, and she said: ‘I sent a message to my sister; it was she who transformed them, and they will not be freed from the spell for ten years.’ My brothers have now been like this for ten years and I was on my way to get them released when I came across this man. He told me his story and I decided not to leave him until I saw what was going to happen between you and him. This is my tale.
‘It is a marvelous one,” agreed the ‘ifrit, adding: ‘I grant you a third share in the blood he owes for his crime.’
The third old man, with the mule, now said: ‘If I tell you a more amazing story than these two, will you grant me the remaining share?’ The ‘ifrit agreed AND THE MAN WENT ON:
Sultan and leader of the jinn, this mule was my wife. I had been away for a year on my travels, and when I had finished I came back to her. This was at night and I saw a black slave lying in bed with her; the two of them talked, flirted, laughed, kissed and played with each other. My wife caught sight of me and came to me with a jug of water over which she uttered a spell. She sprinkled the water over me and said: ‘Leave this shape of yours and take the form of a dog.’ Immediately I became a dog and she drove me out through the door of the house.
I went on until I came to a butcher’s shop, where I started gnawing bones. The butcher saw me and took me into his house, where his daughter covered her face from me and said: ‘Are you bringing a man in to me?’ ‘Where is there a man?’ asked her father, and she said: ‘This dog is a man over whom his wife has cast a spell, but I can free him from it.’ ‘Do that, for God’s sake,’ said her father, and she took a jug of water, spoke some words over it and sprinkled some of it on me. ‘Go back to your original shape,’ she said, and that is what I did.
I kissed the girl’s hand and said: ‘I would like you to use your magic to do to my wife what she did to me.” She gave me some Water and told me: ‘When you find her asleep, sprinkle this water over her and say what you like, for she will become whatever you want.’ I took the water and went to my wife, whom I found sleeping. I sprinkled her with the water and said: ‘Leave this shape and become a mule,’ which she did there and then, and it is she whom you can see, sultan and chief of the kings of the jinn.
‘Is that true?’ the man asked the mule, at which it nodded its head, conveying by gesture the message: ‘That is my story and that is what happened to me.” When the old man had finished his tale, the ‘if7'il`, trembling with delight, granted him a third of the merchant’s blood.
Morning now dawned and Shahrazad broke off from what she had been allowed to say. ‘What a good, pleasant, delightful and sweet story this is!’ exclaimed Dunyazad, at which Shahrazad told her: ‘How can this compare with what I shall tell you this coming night, if I am still alive and the king spares me?’ ‘By God,’ the king said to himself, ‘I am not going to kill her until I hear the rest of this remarkable story,” and so they spent the rest of the time embracing one another until the sun had fully risen. The king then went to his court; the troops arrived together with the vizier, and when everyone was there, he gave his judgements, appointing some ofhcials, dismissing others, and issuing orders and prohibitions until evening. The court was then dismissed and the king returned to his palace, where, when night came, he lay again with Shahrazad.
When it was the third night, Dunyazad asked her sister to Finish the story. ‘With pleasure,’ said Shahrazad and went on: ‘I have heard, O fortunate king, that the third old man told the ‘ifrit a more remarkable story than the other two, and that in his astonishment and delight the ‘ifrit granted him the remaining share of the blood debt and allowed the merchant to go free. For his part, the merchant went and thanked the old men, who congratulated him on his safety, after which each of them went home. This, however, is not more surprising than the tale of the fisherman When the king asked what that was, SHE WENT ON:
I have heard, O fortunate king, that there once was a poor, elderly fisherman with a wife and three children, who was in the habit of casting his net exactly four times each day. He went out to the shore at noon one clay, put down his basket, tucked up his shirt, waded into the sea and cast his net. I-Ie waited until it had sunk down before pulling its cords together and then, finding it heavy, he tried unsuccessfully to drag it in. He took one end of it to the shore and fixed it to a peg that he drove in there, after which he stripped and dived into the sea beside it, where he continued tugging until he managed to get it up. He climbed out delightedly, put his clothes back on and went up to the net, only to find that what was in it was a dead donkey, and that the donkey had made a hole in the net. The fisherman was saddened by this and recited the formula: ‘There is no might and no power except with God, the Exalted, the Omnipotent before saying: ‘This is a strange thing that God has given me by way of food!’ and then reciting:
You who court danger, diving in the dark of night,
Give up; your efforts do not win your daily bread from God.
The fisherman rises to earn his keep;
There is the sea, with stars woven in the sky.
He plunges in, buffeted by waves,
His eyes fixed on his billowing net.
Happy with his night’s work, he takes back home
A fish, its jaw caught up on his pronged hook.
This fish is bought from him by one who spent his night
Out of the cold, enjoying his comforts.
Praise be to God, Who gives and Who deprives;
For one man eats the fish; another catches it.
He encouraged himself, saying that Almighty God would show favour and reciting:
When you are faced with hardship, clothe yourself
In noble patience; that is more resolute.
Do not complain, then, to
God’s servants; you complain
To those who have no mercy of the Merciful.
He freed the donkey from the net, which he then wrung out before spreading it out again and going back into the sea. Invoking the Name of God, he made another cast, waited until the net had settled, and found it heavier and more difficult to move than before. Thinking that it must be full of fish, he fastened it to his peg, stripped off his clothes and dived in to free it. After tugging at it he got it up on shore, only to discover that what was in it was a large jar full of sand and mud. Saddened by this sight, he recited:
Troubles of Time, give up!
Stop, even if you have not had enough.
I came out looking for my daily bread,
But I have found there is no more of this.
How many a fool reaches the Pleiades!
How many wise men lie hidden in the earth!
The fisherman threw away the jar, wrung out his net, cleaned it and went back a third time to the sea, asking God to forgive him. He made his cast and waited for the net to settle before drawing it in, and this time what he found in it were bits of pots, bottles and bones. He was furious and, shedding bitter tears, he recited:
You have no power at all over your daily bread;
Neither learning nor letters will fetch it for you.
Fortune and sustenance are divided up;
One land is fertile while another suffers drought.
Time’s changes bring down cultured men,
While fortune lifts the undeserving up.
Come, death, and visit me, for life is vile;
Falcons are brought down low while ducks are raised on high.
Feel no surprise if you should see a man of excellence
In poverty, while an inferior holds sway.
One bird circles the earth from east to west;
Another gets its food but does not have to move.
He then looked up to heaven and said: ‘O my God, You know that I only cast my net four times a day. I have done this thrice and got nothing, so this time grant me something on which to live.’ He pronounced the Name of God and cast his net into the sea. He waited until it had settled and then he tried to pull it in, but found that it had snagged on the bottom. He recited the formula: ‘There is no power and no might except with God,’ and went on:
How wretched is this kind of world
That leaves us in such trouble and distress!
In the morning it may be that things go well,
But I must drink destruction’s cup when evening comes.
Yet when it is asked who leads the easiest life,
Men would reply that this was I.
The fisherman stripped off his clothes and, after diving in, he worked his hardest to drag the net to shore. Then, when he opened it up, he found in it a brass bottle with a lead seal, imprinted with the inscription of our master Solomon, the son of David, on both of whom be peace. The fisherman was delighted to see this, telling himself that it would fetch ten gold dinars if he sold it in the brass market. He shook it and, discovering that it was heavy as well as sealed, he said to himself: ‘I wonder what is in it? I’ll open it up and have a look before selling it.” He took out a knife and worked on the lead until he had removed it from the bottle, which he then put down on the ground, shaking it in order to pour out its contents. To his astonishment, at first nothing came out, but then there emerged smoke which towered up into the sky and spread over the surface of the ground. When it had all come out, it collected and solidified; a tremor ran through it and it became an ‘ifrit with his head in the clouds and his feet on the earth. His head was like a dome, his hands were like winnowing forks and his feet like ships’ masts. He had a mouth like a cave with teeth-like rocks, while his nostrils were like jugs and his eyes like lamps. He was dark and scowling.
When he saw this ‘ifrit the fisherman shuddered; his teeth chartered; his mouth dried up and he could not see where he was going. At the sight of him the ‘ifrit exclaimed: ‘There is no god but the God of Solomon, His prophet. Prophet of God, do not kill me for I shall never disobey you again in word or in deed.” “Ifrit,’ the fisherman said, ‘you talk of Solomon, the prophet of God, but Solomon died eighteen hundred years ago and we are living in the last age of the world. What. is your story and how did you come to be in this bottle?’ To which the ‘ifrit replied: ‘There is no god but God. I have good news for you, fisherman.” ‘What is that?’ the fisherman asked, and the ‘ifrit said: ‘I am now going to put you to the worst of deaths.’ ‘For this good news, leader of the ‘ifrits,’ exclaimed the fisherman, ‘you deserve that God’s protection be removed from you, you damned creature. Why should you kill me and what have I done to deserve this? It was I who saved you from the bottom of the sea and brought you ashore?
But the ‘ifrit Said: ‘Choose what death you want and how you want me to kill you.’ ‘What have I done wrong,’ asked the fisherman, ‘and why are you punishing me?" The ‘ifrit replied: ‘Listen to my story,’ and the fisherman said: ‘Tell it, but keep it short as I am at my last gasp.” ‘Know, fisherman,’ the ‘ifrit told him, ‘that I was one of the apostate firm, and that together with Sakhr, the jinni, I rebelled against Solomon, the son of David, on both of whom be peace. Solomon sent his vizier, Asaf, to fetch me to him under duress, and I was forced to go with him in a state of humiliation to stand before Solomon. “I take refuge with God!” exclaimed Solomon when he saw me, and he then offered me conversion to the Faith and proposed that I enter his service. When I refused, he called for this bottle, in which he imprisoned me, sealing it with lead and imprinting on it the Greatest Name of God. Then, at his command, the jinn carried me off and threw me into the middle of the sea.
‘For a hundred years I stayed there, promising myself that I would give whoever freed me enough wealth to last him for ever, but the years passed and no one rescued me. For the next hundred years I told myself that I would open up all the treasures of the earth for my rescuer, but still no one rescued me. Four hundred years later, I promised that I would grant three wishes, but when I still remained imprisoned, I became furiously angry and said to myself that I would kill whoever saved me, giving him a choice of how he wanted to die. It is you who are my rescuer, and so I allow you this choice.’
When the fisherman heard this, he exclaimed in wonder at his bad luck in freeing the ‘ifrit now, and he Went on: ‘Spare me, may God spare you, and do not kill me lest God place you in the power of one who will kill you.’ ‘I must kill you,’ insisted the ‘ifrit, ‘and so choose how you want to die.’ Ignoring this, the fisherman made another appeal, calling on the ‘ifrit to show gratitude for his release. ‘It is only because you freed me that I am going to kill you,’ repeated the ‘i/frit, at which the fisherman said: ‘Lord of the ‘ifrits, I have done you good and you are repaying me with evil. The proverbial lines are right where they say:
We did them good; they did its opposite,
And this, by God, is how the shameless act.
Whoever helps those who deserve no help,
Will be like one who rescues a hyena.’
‘Don’t go on so long,’ said the ‘ifrit when he heard this, ‘for death is coming to you.” The fisherman said to himself: ‘This is a jinni and I am a human. God has given me sound intelligence which I can use to find a way of destroying him, whereas he can only use vicious cunning.’ So he asked: ‘Are you definitely going to kill me?’ and when the ‘ifrit confirmed this, he said: ‘I conjure you by the Greatest Name inscribed on the seal of Solomon and ask you to give me a truthful answer to a question that I have.’ ‘I shall,’ replied the ‘ifrit, who had been shaken and disturbed by the mention of the Greatest Name, and he went on: ‘Ask your question but be brief.” The fisherman went on: ‘You say you were in this bottle, but there is not room in it for your hand or your foot, much less all the rest of you.’ ‘You don’t believe that I was in it?’ asked the ‘ifrit, to which the fisherman replied: ‘I shall never believe it until I see it with my own eyes.”
Morning now dawned and Shahrazad broke off from what she had been allowed to say.
When it was the fourth night, Dunyazad asked her to finish the story, if she was not sleepy, AND SO SHE WENT ON:
I have heard, O fortunate king, that when the fisherman told the ‘ifrit that he would not believe him until he saw this with his own eyes, a shudder ran through the ‘ifrit and he became a cloud of smoke hovering over the sea. Then the smoke coalesced and' entered the jar bit by bit until it was all there. Quickly the fisherman picked up the brass stopper with its inscription and put it over the mouth of the bottle. He called out to the ‘ifritz ‘Ask me how you want to die. By God, I am going to throw you into the sea and then build myself a house in this place so that I can stop anyone who comes fishing by telling them_that there is an ‘ifrit here who gives anyone who brings him up a choice of how he wants to be killed.’
When the ‘ifrit heard this and found himself imprisoned in the bottle, he tried to get out but could not, as he was prevented by Solomon’s seal, and he realized that the fisherman had tricked him. ‘I was only joking,’ he told the fisherman, who replied: ‘You are lying, you most despicable, foulest and most insignificant of ‘ifrits,’ and he took up the bottle. ‘No, no,’ called the ‘if7'it, but the fisherman said: ‘Yes, yes,’ at which the ‘ifrit asked him mildly and humbly what he intended to do with him. ‘I am going to throw you into the sea,’ the fisherman told him. ‘You may have been there for eighteen hundred years, but I shall see to it that you stay there until the Last Trump. Didn’t I say: “Spare me, may God spare you, and do not kill me lest God place you in the power of one who will kill you”? But you refused and acted treacherously towards me. Now God has put you in my power and I shall do the same to you.’ ‘Open the bottle,’ implored the ‘ifrit, ‘so that I can do you good.’ ‘Damned liar,’ said the fisherman. ‘You and I are like the vizier of King Yunan and Duban the sage.’ ‘What is their story?’ asked the ‘ifrit, AND THE FISHERMAN REPLIED:
You must know, ‘ifrit, that once upon a time in the old days in the land of Ruman there was a king called Yunan in the city of Fats. I-Ie was a wealthy and dignified man with troops and guards of all races, but he was also a leper, who had taken medicines of various kinds and used ointments, but whose illness doctors and men of learning had been unable to cure.
There was an elderly physician known as Duban the sage, who had studied the books of the Greeks, the Persians, the Arabs and the Syrians. He was a master of medicine and of astronomy and was conversant with the fundamental principles of his subject, with a knowledge of what was useful and what was harmful. He knew the herbs and plants that were hurtful and those that were helpful, as well as having a mastery of philosophy, together with all branches of medicine and other sciences. When this man arrived at the city, within a few days he had heard that the king was suffering from leprosy and that no doctor or man of learning had been able to cure him. He spent the night thinking over the problem, and when dawn broke he put on his most splendid clothes and went to the king, kissing the ground before him and calling eloquently for the continuance of his glory and good fortune. After introducing himself, he went on: ‘I have heard, your majesty, of the disease that has afflicted you and that, although you have been treated by many doctors, they have been unable to remove it. I shall cure you without giving you any medicine to drink or applying any ointments.’
Yunan was amazed to hear what he had to say and asked how he was going to do that, promising to enrich him and his children’s children. ‘I shall shower favors on you,’ he said, ‘and grant you all your wishes, taking you as a boon companion and a dear friend? He then presented Duban with a robe of honor and treated him with favor, before asking: ‘Are you really going to cure my leprosy without medicines or ointment?’
Duban repeated that he would and the astonished king asked when this would be, urging him to be quick. ‘To hear is to obey,’ replied Duban, promising to do this the very next day.
Duban now went to the city, where he rented a house in which he deposited his books, his medicines and his drugs. He took some of the latter and placed them in a polo stick, for which he made a handle, and he used his skill to design a ball. ff he next day, after he had finished, he went into the presence of the king, kissed the ground before him, and told him to ride out to the polo ground and play a game. The king was accompanied by the emirs, chamberlains, viziers and officers of state, and before he had taken his seat on the ground, Duban came up to him and handed him the stick. ‘Take this,” he said. ‘Hold it like this and when you ride on to the Held, hit the ball with a full swing until the palm of your hand begins to sweat, together with the rest of your body. The drug will then enter through your palm and spread through the rest of you. When you have finished and the drug has penetrated, go back to your palace, wash in the baths and then go to sleep, for you will have been cured. That is all.’
At that, the king took the stick from him and mounted, holding it in his hand. He threw the ball ahead of him and rode after it, hitting it as hard as he could when he caught up with it, and then following it up and hitting it again until the palm of his hand and the rest of his body became sweaty because of his grip on the stick. When Duban saw that the drug had penetrated into the king’s body, he told him to go back to his palace and bathe immediately. The king went back straight away and ordered that the baths be cleared for him. This was done, and house boys and mamluks hurried up to him and prepared clothes for him to wear. I-Ie then entered the baths, washed himself thoroughly and dressed before coming out, after which he rode back to his palace and fell asleep.
So much for him, but as for Duban the sage, he returned to spend the night in his house, and in the morning he went to ask permission to see the king. On being allowed to enter, he went in, kissed the ground before him and addressed him with these verses which he chanted:
Virtues are exalted when you are called their father,
A title that none other may accept.
The brightness shining from your face removes
The gloom that shrouds each grave affair.
This face of yours will never cease to gleam,
Although the face of Time may frown.
Your liberality has granted me the gifts
That rain clouds shower down on the hills.
Your generosity has destroyed your wealth,
Until you reached the heights at which you aimed.
When Duban had finished these lines, the king stood up and embraced him, before seating him by his side and presenting him with splendid robes of honor. This was because when he had left the baths he had looked at his body and found it, to his great delight and relief, pure and silver white, showing no trace of leprosy. In the morning, he had gone to his court and taken his seat on his royal throne, the chamberlains and officers of state all standing up for him, and it was then that Duban had come in. The king had risen quickly for him, and after the sage had been seated by his side, splendid tables of food were set out and he ate with the king and kept him company for the rest of the day. The king then made him a present of two thousand dinars, in addition to the robes of honor and other gifts, after which he mounted him on his own horse.
Duban went back to his house, leaving the king filled with admiration for what he had done and saying: ‘This man treated me externally without using any ointment. By God, that is skill of a high order! He deserves gifts and favors and I shall always treat him as a friend and companion? The king passed a happy night, gladdened by the soundness of his body and his freedom from disease. The next day, he went out and sat on his throne_, While his state officials stood and the emirs and viziers took their seats on his right and his left. He asked for Duban, who entered and kissed the ground before him, at which the king got up, greeted him, seated him by his side and ate with him. He then presented him with more robes of honor as well as gifts, and talked with him until nightfall, when he gave him another five robes of honor together with a thousand dinars, after which Duban went gratefully home.
The next morning, the king came to his court, where he was surrounded by his emirs, viziers and chamberlains. Among the viziers was an ugly and ill-omened man, base, miserly and so envious that he was in love with envy. When this man saw that the king had taken Duban as an intimate and had rewarded him with favors, he was jealous and planned to do him an injury. For, as the sayings have it: ‘No one is free of envy’ and ‘Injustice lurks in the soul; strength shows it and weakness hides it.’
This vizier came up to King Yunan, kissed the ground before him and said: ‘King of the age, I have grown up surrounded by your bounty and I have some serious advice for you. Were I to conceal it from you, I would show myself to be a bastard, but if you tell me to give it to you, l shall do so.’ Yunan was disturbed by this and said: ‘What is this advice of yours?’ The vizier replied: ‘Great king, it was a saying of the ancients that Time was no friend to those who did not look at the consequences of their actions. I have observed that your majesty has wrongly shown favor to an enemy who is looking to destroy your kingdom. You have treated this man with generosity and done him the greatest honor, taking him as an intimate, something that fills me with apprehension?
Yunan was uneasy; his color changed and he asked the vizier who he was talking about. ‘If you are asleep, Wake up,’ the vizier told him, and went on: ‘I am talking about the sage Duban.’ ‘Damn you!’ exclaimed Yunan. ‘This is my friend and the dearest of people to me, for he cured me through something that I held in my hand from a disease that no other doctor could treat. His like is not to be found in this age or in this world, from west to east. You may accuse him, but today I am going to assign him pay and allowances, with a monthly income of a thousand dinars, while even if I divided my kingdom with him, this would be too little. I think that it is envy that has made you say this, reminding me of the story of King Sindbad.’
Morning now dawned and Shahrazad broke off from what she had been allowed to say.
When it was the fifth night, Dunyazad asked her sister to finish the story if she was not too sleepy, AND SHAHRAZAD SAID:
I have heard, O fortunate king, that King Yunan accused his vizier of being jealous of Duban and wanting to have him killed. ‘Then after that I would regret it,’ Yunan added, ‘as King Sindbad regretted killing his falcon.’ ‘Excuse me, your majesty,’ said the vizier, ‘but how was that?’ YUNAN WENT ON:
You must know that there was a Persian king with a passion for enjoyment and amusement, who had a fondness for hunting. He had reared a falcon which was his constant companion by night and by day, and which would spend the night perched on his wrist. I-Ie would take it hunting with him and he had a golden bowl made for it which he hung round its neck and from which it could drink. One day the chief falconer came to where he was sitting and told him that it was time to go out hunting. The king gave the orders and went off with the falcon on his wrist until he and his party reached a wadi, where they spread out their hunting Cordon. Trapped in this was a gazelle and the king threatened that anyone who allowed it to leap over his head would be put to death.
When the cordon was narrowed, the gazelle came to where the king was posted, supported itself on its hindlegs and placed its forelegs on its chest as though it was kissing the ground before him. He bent his head towards it and it then jumped over him, making for the open country. He noticed that his men were looking at him and winking at each other and when he asked his vizier what this meant, the man explained: ‘They are pointing out that you said that if anyone let the gazelle jump over his head, he would be killed.’
The king then swore that he would hunt it down and he rode off in pursuit, following the gazelle until he came to a mountain. There it was about to pass through a cleft when the king loosed his falcon at it and the bird clawed at its eyes, blinding and dazing it, so that the king could draw his mace and knock it over with a single blow. I-Ie then dismounted and cut its throat, after which he skinned it and tied it to his saddlebow.
As this was in the noonday heat and the region was desolate and waterless, both the king and his horse were thirsty by now. The king scouted round and discovered a tree from which what looked like liquid butter was dripping. Wearing a pair of kid gloves, he took the bowl from the falcon’s neck, filled it with this liquid and set it in front of the bird, but it knocked the bowl and overturned it. The king took it and filled it again, thinking that the falcon must be thirsty, but the same thing happened when he put it down a second time. This annoyed him and he went a third time to fill the bowl and take it to his horse, but this time the falcon upset it with its wing. The king cursed it, exclaiming: ‘You unluckiest of birds, you have stopped me drinking, and have stopped yourself and the horse.’ I-Ie then struck off its wing with a blow from his sword, but the bird raised its head as though to say by its gesture: ‘Look at the top of the tree.’ The king raised his eyes and what he saw there was a brood of Vipers whose poison was dripping down. Immediately regretting what he had done, he mounted his horse and rode back to his pavilion, bringing with him the gazelle, which he handed to the cook, telling him to take it and roast it. As he sat on his chair with the falcon on his wrist, it drew its last breath and died, leaving its master to exclaim with sorrow for having killed it, when it had saved his life. So ends the story of King Sindbad.
‘Great king,’ the vizier said, ‘Sindbad acted out of necessity and I can see nothing wrong in that. I myself am acting out of sympathy for you, so that you may realize that I am right, for otherwise you may meet the same fate as the vizier who schemed against the prince.” ‘How was that?’ the king asked, AND THE VIZIER SAID:
You must know, your majesty, that there was a vizier in the service of a certain king with a son who was passionately fond of hunting. This vizier had been ordered to accompany the prince wherever he Went, and so, when he went off to hunt one day, the vizier rode with him. While they were riding they caught sight of a huge beast and the vizier encouraged the prince to pursue it. The prince rode after it until he was out of sight and the beast then vanished into the desert, leaving the prince with no idea of where to go. just then, ahead of him he saw a weeping girl and when he asked her who she was, she told him: ‘I am the daughter of one of the kings of India and while I was in this desert I became drowsy. Then, before I knew what was happening, I had fallen off my beast and was left alone, not knowing what to do.’
When the prince heard this, he felt sorry for the girl and took her up behind him on the back of his horse. On his way, he passed a ruined building and the girl said she wanted to relieve herself. He set her down, but she was taking so long that he followed her, only to discover that, although he had not realized it, she was a female g/vu] and was telling her children: ‘I have brought you a fat young man today.’ ‘Fetch him to us, mother,’ they said, ‘so that We can swallow him down.” On hearing this, the prince shuddered, fearing for his life and certain that he was going to die. He went back and the ghula came out and, seeing him panic-stricken and shivering, she asked why he was afraid. ‘I have an enemy whom I fear,’ he told her. ‘You call yourself a prince?’ she asked, and when he said yes, she went on: ‘Why don’t you buy him off with money?’ ‘He won’t accept money but wants my life,’ he told her, adding: ‘I am afraid of him and I have been wronged.’ ‘In that case, if what you say is true, then ask help from God,” she said, ‘for He will protect you against your enemy’s evil and the evil that you fear from him.’ At that the prince lifted his head towards heaven and said: ‘God Who answers the prayers of those in distress when they call on You, and Who clears away evil, may You help me against my enemy and remove him from me, for You have power to do what You wish.’
After hearing the prince’s prayer, the ghula left him. He went back to his father and when he told him about the vizier’s advice, his father summoned the man and had him killed. As for you, your majesty, if you put your trust in this sage, he will see to it that you die the worst of deaths, and it will be the man whom you have well treated and taken as a friend who will destroy you. Don’t you see that he cured your disease externally through something you held in your hand, so how can you be sure that he won’t kill you by something else you hold?
‘What you say is right, vizier, my sound advisor,” agreed the king, ‘for this man has come as a spy to destroy me and if he could cure me with somethingI held, it may be that he can kill me with something that I smell.”
Then he asked the vizier what was to be done about Duban. The vizier said: ‘Send for him immediately, telling him to come here, and when he does, cut off his head and then you will be safe from any harm he may intend to do you. Betray him before he betrays you.” The king agreed with the vizier, and sent for Duban, who came gladly, not knowing what God the Merciful had ordained. This was as the poet said:
You who fear your fate, be at your ease;
Entrust your affairs to Him Who has stretched out the earth.
What is decreed by fate will come about,
And you are safe from what is not decreed.
Duban the wise came into the presence of the king and recited:
If I do not show gratitude
In accordance with part, at least, of your deserts,
Tell me for whom I should compose my poetry and my prose.
Before I asked, you granted me
Favors that came with no delay and no excuse.
Why then do I not give you your due of praise,
Lauding your generosity in secret and in public?
I shall record the benefits you heaped on me,
Lightening my cares, but burdening my back.
He followed this with another poem:
Turn aside from cares, entrusting your affairs to fate;
Rejoice in the good that will come speedily to you,
So that you may forget all that is past.
There is many a troublesome affair
Whose aftermath will leave you in content.
God acts according to His will;
Do not oppose your God.
He also recited:
Leave your affairs to God,
the Gentle, the Omniscient,
And let your heart rest from all worldly care.
Know that things do not go as you wish;
They follow the decree of God, the King.
He then recited:
Be of good cheer, relax; forget your cares;
Cares eat away the resolute man’s heart.
Planning is no help to a slave who has no power.
Abandon this and live in happiness.
The king asked him: ‘Do you know why I have sent for you?’ ‘No one knows what is hidden except for God,’ Duban replied;*‘I have sent for you,’ said the king, ‘in order to kill you and take your life.’ This astonished Duban, who said: ‘Why should you kill me, your majesty, and what is my crime?’ ‘I have been told that you are a spy,’ answered the king, ‘and that you have come to murder me. Iiam going to kill you before you can do the same to me.’ The king then called for the executioner and said: ‘Cut off this traitor’s head, so that we may be freed from his evil-doing.” ‘Spare me,’ said Duban, ‘and God will spare you; do not kill me, lest He kill you.’
He then repeated what I repeated to you, ‘if1'it, but you would not give up your intention to kill me. Similarly, the king insisted: ‘I shall not be safe unless I put you to death. You cured me with something that I held in my hand, and I cannot be sure that you will not kill me with something that I smell or in some other way.’ Duban said: ‘My reward from you, O king, is the reward of good by evil,’ but the king insisted:
‘You must be killed without delay.”
When Duban was certain that the king was going to have him killed, he wept in sorrow for the good that he had done to the undeserving, as the poet has said:
You can be sure that Maimuna has no sense,
Though this is what her father has.
Whoever walks on dry or slippery ground,
And takes no thought, must fall.
The executioner then came up, blindfolded him and unsheathed his sword, asking the king’s permission to proceed. Duban was weeping and imploring the king: ‘Spare me and God will spare you; do not slay me lest God slay you.’ He recited:
I gave my good advice and yet had no success,
While they succeeded, but through treachery.
What I advised humiliated me.
If I live, never shall I give advice again;
If not, after my death let all advisors be accursed.
Then he said to the king: ‘If this is how you reward me, it is the crocodile’s reward.’ The king asked for the story of the crocodile, but Duban replied: ‘I cannot tell it to you while I am in this state. I conjure you by God to spare me so that God may spare you.” At that one of the king’s courtiers got up and asked the king for Duban’s life, pointing out: ‘We have not seen that he has done you any wrong, but only that he cured you of a disease that no wise doctor was able to treat.’ The king said: ‘You do not know why I have ordered his death, but this is because, if I spare him, I shall certainly die. A man who cured me of my illness by something that I held in my hand is able to kill me by something that I smell. I am afraid that he has been bribed to murder me, as he is a spy and this is why he has come here. He must be executed, and after that I shall be safe.’
Duban repeated his plea for mercy, but on realizing that he could not escape execution, he said to the king: ‘If I must be killed, allow me a delay so that I may return to my house, give instructions to my family and my neighbours about my funeral, settle my debts and give away my books of medicine. I have a very special book which I shall present to you to be kept in your treasury.’ ‘What is in the book?’ asked the king.
‘Innumerable secrets,” Duban replied, ‘the least of which is that, if you cut off my head and then open three pages and read three lines from the left-hand page, my head will speak to you and answer all your questions’ The astonished king trembled with joy. ‘When I cut off your head, will you really talk to me?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ said Duban. ‘This is an amazing thing!’ exclaimed the king, and he sent him off under escort.
Duban returned to his house and settled all his affairs, and then the next day he came back to the court, where all the viziers, chamberlains, deputies and officers of state assembled, until the place looked like a garden in flower. He entered and was brought before the king, carrying with him an old book together with a collyrium case containing powder. He sat down and asked for a plate, which was brought. He then poured the powder on it and spread it out, after which he said: ‘King, take this book, but don’t open it until you cut off my head. When you have done that, set the head on the plate and have it pressed into the powder. At that, the flow of blood will halt and you can then open the book.”
The king took the book from him and gave orders for his execution. The executioner cut off his head, which fell on the plate, where it was pressed down into the powder. The blood ceased to flow and Duban the wise opened his eyes and said: ‘() king, open the book.’ The king did this, but he found the pages stuck together, so he put his finger into his mouth, wet it with his spittle, and with difficulty he opened the first, the second and the third pages. He opened six pages in all, but when he looked at them, he could find nothing written there. ‘Wise man,’ he said, ‘there is no writing here.’ ‘Open more pages,’ said Duban. The king opened three more, but soon afterwards he felt the poison with which the book had been impregnated spreading through him. He was wracked by convulsions and cried out that he had been poisoned, while Duban recited:
They wielded power with arrogance,
But soon it was as though their power had never been.
If they had acted justly, they would have met with justice,
But they were tyrants and Time played the tyrant in return,
Afflicting them with grievous trials.
It was as though here fate was telling them:
‘This is a return for that, and Time cannot be blamed.’
As soon as Duban’s head had finished speaking, the king fell dead. Know then, ‘ifrit, that had he spared Duban, God would have spared him, but as he refused and looked to have him killed, God destroyed him. Had you spared me, God would have spared you . . .
Morning now dawned and Shahrazad broke off from what she had been allowed to say. Then, when it was the sixth night, her sister, Dunyazad, told her to finish the story and Shahrazad said: ‘If the king permits rne.’ ‘Go on,’ he replied, AND SHE CONTINUED:
I have heard, O fortunate king, that the fisherman told the ‘ifritz ‘Had you spared me, I would have spared you, but you wanted nothing but my death and so now I am going to destroy you by throwing you into the sea here, imprisoned in this bottle? The ‘ifrit cried out: ‘I implore you, in God’s Name, fisherman, don’t do this! Spare me and don’t punish me for what I did. If I treated you badly, do you for your part treat me well, as the proverb says: “You who do good to the evil-doer, know that what he has done is punishment enough for him.” Do not do what ‘Umama did to ‘Atika!’ ‘What was that?’ asked the Fisherman, but the ‘ifrit said: ‘I cannot talk while I am imprisoned, but if you let me out, I shall tell you the story.’ The Hsherman said: ‘Stop talking like this, for I shall certainly throw you into the sea and I am never going to release you. I pleaded with you and begged you, but all you wanted to do was to kill me, although I had done nothing at all to deserve this and, far from doing you any harm, I had helped you by freeing you from your prison. When you did that to me, I realized that you were an evil-doer. Be sure that, when I throw you into the sea, if anyone brings you out, I will tell him what you did to me and warn him, so that he may throw you back again and there you will stay until the end of time or until you perish.” ‘Free me,’ pleaded the ‘ifrizi ‘This is a time for generosity and I promise you that I shall never act against you again but will help you by making you rich.’
At this, the fisherman made the ‘ifrit promise that were he freed, far from hurting his rescuer, he would help him. When the fisherman was sure of this and had made the ‘ifrit swear by the greatest Name of God, he opened the bottle and the smoke rose up, until it had all come out and had formed into a hideous shape. The ‘ifrit then picked the bottle up and hurled it into the sea, convincing the watching fisherman that he was going to be killed. The man soiled his trousers, crying: ‘This is not a good sign!’ but then his courage came back and he said: ‘God Almighty has said: “fulfill your promise, for your promise will be questioned.” You gave me your word, swearing that you would not act treacherously to me, as otherwise God will do the same to you, for He is a jealous God Who bides His time but does not forget. I say to you what Duban the wise said to King Yunan: “Spare me and God will spare you.” ’
The ‘ifrit laughed and told the fisherman to follow him as he walked ahead. This the fisherman did, scarcely believing that he was safe. The pair of them left the city, climbed a mountain and then went down into a wide plain. There they saw a pool, and after the ‘ifrit had waded into the middle of it, he asked the fisherman to follow him, which he did.
When the ‘ifrit stopped, he told the fisherman to cast his net, and the man was astonished to see that the pond contained colored fish - white, red, blue and yellow. He took out his net, cast it and when he drew it in he found four fish, each a different color. He was delighted by this, and the ‘ifrit said: ‘Present these to the sultan and he will enrich you. Then I ask you in God’s Name to excuse me, since at this time I know no other way to help you. I have been in the sea for eighteen hundred years and this is the first time that I have seen the face of the land.’ After advising the fisherman not to fish the pool more than once a day, he took his leave, speaking words of farewell. Then he stamped his foot on the earth and a crack appeared into which he was swallowed.
The fisherman returned to the city, full of wonder at his encounter. He took the fish to his house, Where he brought out-*an earthenware bowl, filled it with water and put them in it. As they wriggled about in the water, he placed the bowl on his head and went to the palace as the ‘ifrit had told him. When he came to the king and presented him with the fish, the king was astonished, for never iii his life had he seen anything like them. He gave orders that they were to be handed over to a slave girl who was acting as cook but whose skill had not yet been tested, as she had been given him three days earlier by the king of Rum. The vizier told her to fry the fish, adding that the king had said that he was testing her only in the hour of need, and that he was putting his hopes in her artistry and cooking skills, for the fish had been given him as a present.
After issuing these instructions, the vizier went back to the king, who told him to hand the fisherman four hundred dinars. After he had passed over the money, the man stowed it inside his clothes and set off back home at a run, falling, getting up and then stumbling again, thinking that this was all a dream. He bought what was needed for his family and then returned to his wife in joy and delight.
So much for him, but as for the slave girl, she took the fish and cleaned them. Then, after setting the frying pan on the fire, she put the fish in it and when one side was properly cooked, she turned them on to the other. All of a sudden, the kitchen wall split open and out came a girl, with a beautiful figure and smooth cheeks, perfect in all her attributes. Her eyes were darkened with kohl and she had on a silken kaf/Q)/eh with a blue fringe. She was wearing earrings; on her wrists were a pair of bracelets, while her fingers were adorned with rings set with precious gems, and in her hand she held a bamboo staff. Thrusting this into the pan, she asked: ‘Fish, are you still faithful to your covenant?’ at which the cook fainted. The girl repeated her question a second and a third time and the fish raised their heads from the pan and said: ‘Yes, yes,’ in clear voices, and then they recited:
If you return, we return;
If you keep faith, then so do we,
But if you go off, we are quits.
At that, the girl turned the pan upside down with her staff and left through the hole from which she had come, after which the wall closed up behind her. The cook recovered from her faint and saw the four fish burned like black charcoal. She exclaimed: ‘His spear was broken on his very first raid!’ and fell unconscious again on the floor. While she was in this confused state, the vizier came and saw that something had gone badly wrong with her, so much so that she could not even tell what day of the week it was. He nudged her with his foot, and when she had recovered her senses, she explained to him, in tears, what had happened. He was astonished, and exclaimed: ‘This is something wonderful’ He then sent for the fisherman and, when he was brought in, the vizier told him to fetch another four fish like the first ones.
The fisherman went to the pool, cast his net and when he drew it in, there were four fish like the first. He took them to the vizier, who brought them to the cook and said: ‘Fry these in front of me so that I can see what happens.’ The cook got up, prepared the fish, put the pan over the fire and threw them into it. As soon as she did, the wall split open and out came the girl, looking as she had done before, with a staff in her hand. She prodded the pan and asked: ‘Fish, fish, are you true to your old covenant? At this, all the fish raised their heads and repeated the lines:
If you return, we return;
If you keep faith, then so do we,
But if you go off, we are quits.
Morning now dawned and Shahrazad broke off from what she had been allowed to say. Then, when it was the seventh night, SHE CONTINUED:
I have heard, O auspicious king, that, when the fish spoke, the girl overturned the pan with her staff and then left by the way she had come, with the wall closing behind her. At that, the vizier got up and said: ‘This is something which must not be kept from the king.” So he went to the king and told him the story, explaining what he had seen for himself. ‘I must see this with my own eyes,’ said the king, and at that the fisherman was sent for and told to bring another four fish like the others. He went down to the pool with three guards as an escort and brought the fish immediately. The king ordered him to be given four hundred dinars, after which he turned to the vizier and told him: ‘Come and cook these fish in my presence’ The vizier did as he was told, brought the pan and, after preparing the fish, he put the pan over the fire and threw them into it. As soon as he did so, the wall split open and out came a black slave, tall as a mountain or like a survivor of the race of ‘Ad. In his hand was a green bough and he asked in a hectoring voice: ‘Fish, fish, are you true to your old covenant? The fish raised their heads from the pan and replied: ‘Yes, yes, we keep to our covenant.
If you return, we return;
If you keep faith, then so do we,
But if you go off, we are quits.”
The slave came up to the pan, overturned it with the branch that he was holding, and left by the way that he had come. The vizier and the king looked at the fish and saw that they were now like charcoal. The king was amazed and said: ‘This is something that cannot be kept quiet and there must be some secret attached to them.’ So he gave orders for the fisherman to be summoned and when the man came, the king asked him where the fish came from. ‘From a pool surrounded by four mountains,’ replied the fisherman, ‘and it is under the mountain outside the city.” The king turned and asked: ‘How many days’ journey is it?’ and the fisherman told him that it was half an hour away.
This astonished the king and he ordered his troops to mount and ride immediately, with the fisherman at their head, while the fisherman, in his turn, as he accompanied the king, spent his time cursing the ‘ifrit. The riders climbed up the mountain and then went down into a broad plain that they had never seen before in their lives. Everyone, including the king, was filled with wonder when they looked at it and at the pool in its centre, set as it was between four mountains, with its fish of four colors - red, white, yellow and blue. The king halted in astonishment and asked his soldiers and the others there whether they had ever seen the pool before. ‘King of the age,’ they replied, ‘never in all our lives have we set eyes on it.’ The elderly were asked about it, but they too said that they had never before seen the pool there.
The king then swore by God: ‘I shall not enter my city or sit on my throne again until I find out the secret of this pool and of these fish.’ He gave orders for his men to camp around the mountains, and then summoned his vizier, a learned, wise and sensible man, with a knowledge of affairs. When he came into the king’s presence, the king said to him: ‘I am going to tell you what I want to do. It has struck me that I should go out alone tonight and investigate the secret of this pool and of these fish. I want you to sit at the entrance of my tent and to tell the emirs, viziers, chamberlains and deputies, as well as everyone who asks about me, that I am unwell and that you have my instructions not to allow anyone to come in to see me. Don’t tell anyone what I am planning to do.’
The vizier was in no position to disobey and so the king changed his clothes and strapped on his sword. He climbed down from one of the mountains and walked on for the rest of the night until morning. He spent all the next day walking in the intense heat, and carried on for a second night until morning. At that point, he was pleased to see something black in the distance, and he said to himself: ‘Perhaps I shall find someone to tell me about the pool and the fish.’ When he went nearer he found a palace made of black stones plated with iron, one leaf of whose gate was open and the other shut. joyfully he stood by the door and knocked lightly; on hearing no reply, he knocked a second and a third time, and when there was still no answer, he knocked more loudly.
When no one answered, he was sure that the palace must be empty and so, plucking up his courage, he went through the gate to the passage that led from it, and called out: ‘People of the palace, here is a passing stranger. Have you any food?’
He repeated this a second and a third time, and when there was still no reply, emboldened and heartened, he went through the passage to the centre of the palace. This was furnished with silks, starry tapestries and other hangings, but there was no one there. In the centre was an open space, leading to four halls. There was a stone bench, and one hall next to another, then an ornate fountain and four lions of red gold, from whose mouths water poured, glittering like pearls or gems. Round and about were birds and over the top of the palace there was a net of gold that kept them from flying away, but the king was astonished and saddened that he had not seen anyone whom he could ask about the plain, the pool, the fish, the mountains and the palace.
He was sitting between the doors, sunk in thought, when suddenly he heard a plaintive sound coming from a sorrowful heart, with a voice chanting these verses:
I try to hide what I suffer at your hands, but this is clear,
With my eyes exchanging sleep for sleeplessness.
Time, you neither spare me nor cease your work,
And it is between hardship and danger that my heart lies.
Have you no mercy on one whom love’s law has abased,
Or on the wealthy who is now made poor?
I was jealous of the breeze as it blows over you,
But when fate pounces, then men’s eyes are blind.
What can the archer do if, as he meets the foe,
His bow-string snaps just when he wants to shoot?
When cares mass to assault a man,
Where can he flee from destiny and fate?
When the king heard this lament, he got up and, following the sound, he found a curtain lowered over the door of a room. He lifted it and behind it he found a handsome young man, well made, eloquent, with a bright face, ruddy cheeks and a mole on his cheek like a disc of amber. He was seated on a couch raised one cubit from the ground and he fitted the poet’s description:
There is many a slender one whose dark hair and bright forehead
Have made mankind to walk in dark and light.
Do not find fault with the mole upon his cheek:
I would sell my brother in exchange for such a speck.
The king was glad to see him and greeted him. He, for his part, was sitting there wearing a silk gown embroidered with Egyptian gold, and on his head was a crown studded with gems. He was showing signs of grief, but when the king greeted him, he replied with the utmost courtesy: ‘Your dignity deserves that I should rise for you, but I have an excuse for not doing so.’ ‘I excuse you, young man,’ said the king. ‘I am your guest and I am also here on an important errand. I want you to tell me about the pool, the fish, this palace, the reason why you are here alone and why you are weeping.’
When the young man heard this, tears coursed down his cheeks and he wept bitterly until his breast was drenched. He then recited:
Say to the one to whom Time grants sleep,
How often misfortunes subside only to rise up!
While you may sleep, God’s eye remains sleepless.
For whom is Time unclouded and for whom do worldly things endure?
He sighed deeply and continued to recite:
Entrust your affair to the Lord of all mankind;
Abandon care and leave aside anxious thoughts.
Do not ask how what happened has occurred,
For all things come about through the decree of fate.
The king, filled with wonder, asked the youth Why he was weeping.
‘How can I not shed tears,” he replied, ‘when I am in this state?’ and he reached down to the skirts of his robe and raised it. It could then be seen that the lower half of his body, down to his feet, was of stone, while from his navel to the hair of his head he was human. When he saw this condition of his, the king was filled with grief and regret. He exclaimed in sorrow: ‘Young man, you have added another care to my cares! I was looking for information about the fish, but now I see I must ask both about them and about you.’ He went on to recite the formula: ‘There is no power and no strength except with God, the Exalted, the Omnipotent,” and added: ‘Tell me at once what your story is.’
‘Listen and look,’ said the young man. ‘My ears and eyes are ready,’ replied the king, and the young man continued: ‘There is a marvelous tale attached to the fish and to me, which, were it written with needles on the corners of the eyes, would be a lesson for all who can learn.” ‘How is that?’ asked the king, AND THE YOUNG MAN REPLIED:
You must know that my father was the ruler of this city. His name was Mahmud and he was the king of the Black Islands and of these four mountains. He died after a reign of seventy years and I succeeded him on the throne. I married my cousin, who loved me so deeply that, if I left her, she would neither eat nor drink until my return. She stayed with me for five years but then one day she went in the evening to the baths.
I told the cook to prepare a quick supper for me and then I came to these apartments and lay down to sleep in our usual place, telling the slave girls to sit, one at my head and one at my feet. I was disturbed because of my wife’s absence, and although my eyes were shut, I could not sleep and I was still alert.
It was then that I heard the slave girl who was sitting at my head saying to her companion: ‘Mas‘uda, how unfortunate our master is and how miserable are the days of his youth! What damage he suffers at the hands of that damned harlot, our mistress!’ ‘Yes,’ answered the other, ‘may God curse treacherous adulteresses. A man like our master is too young to satisfy this whore, who every night sleeps outside the palace.’
The girl at my head said: ‘Our master is dumb and deluded in that he never asks questions about her.’ ‘Do you think that he knows about her and that she does this with his consent?’ exclaimed the other, adding:
‘She prepares him a drink that he takes every night before he goes to sleep and in it she puts a sleeping drug. He knows nothing about what happens or where she goes. After she has given him the drink, she puts on her clothes, perfumes herself and goes out, leaving him till dawn. Then she comes back to him and burns something under his nose so that he wakes from his sleep.’
When I heard what the girls were saying, the light became darkness in my eyes, although I could not believe that night had come. Then my wife returned from the baths; our table was spread and we ate, after which we sat for a time talking, as usual. Then she called for my evening drink and when she had given me the cup which she had poured out, I tipped the contents into my pocket, while pretending to be drinking it as usual. I lay down immediately and, pretending to be asleep, I heard her saying: ‘Sleep through the night and never get up. By God, I loathe you “and I loathe your appearance. I am tired of living with you and I don’t know when God is going to take your life.’ She then got up, put on her most splendid clothes, perfumed herself and, taking my sword, she strapped it on and went out through the palace gates, while for my part I got up and followed her out. She made her way through the markets until she reached the city gate. She spoke some words that I could not understand, at which the bolts fell and the gate opened.
My wife went out, without realizing that I was following her, and passed between the mounds until she came to a hut with a brick dome. As she went in through its door, I climbed on to the roof and looked down to see her enter and go up to a black slave. One of his lips looked like a pot lid and the other like the sole of a shoe - a lip that could pick up sand from the top of a pebble. The slave was lying on cane stalks; he was leprous and covered in rags and tatters. As my Wife kissed the ground before him, he raised his head and said: ‘Damn you, why have you been so slow? My black cousins were here drinking, and each left with a girl, but because of you I didn’t want to' drink.” She said: ‘My master, my darling, delight of my eyes, don’t you know that I am married to my cousin, whose appearance I hate and whose company I loathe? Were it not that I am afraid for you, I would not let the sun rise before the city had been left desolate, echoing to the screeches of owls and the cawing of crows, the haunt of foxes and Wolves, and I would move its stones to behind Mount Qaf.’ ‘You are lying, damn you,’ said the black man. ‘I swear by the chivalry of the blacks - and don’t think that our chivalry is like that of the whites - that if you are as late as this once more, I will never again keep company with you or join my body to yours. You are playing fast and loose with me. Am I here just to serve your lust, you stinking bitch, vilest of the whites?’
As I looked on and listened to what they were saying, the world turned black for me and I didn’t know Where I was. My Wife was standing weeping, humbling herself before the slave and saying: ‘My darling, fruit of my heart, if you are angry with me, who will save me, and if you throw me out, who will shelter me, my darling and light of my eyes?’ She went on weeping and imploring him until, to her delight, she managed to conciliate him. She then got up and took off all her clothes. ‘My master,’ she said, ‘is there anything for your servant to eat?’ ‘Lift the pan coVer,’ he said. ‘There are some cooked rat bones beneath it that you can eat, and you can then go to this jar and drink the remains of the beer there.’
After my Wife had eaten and drunk, she washed her hands and her mouth before lying down naked on the cane stalks with the slave, and getting in with him beneath the rags and tatters. When I saw what she had done, I lost control of myself and, climbing down from the top of the roof, I drew the sword that I had brought with me, intending' to kill them both. First I struck the neck of the slave, and thought that he was dead . . .
Morning now dawned on Shahrazad and she broke off from what she had been allowed to say. Then, when it was the eighth night, SHE CONTINUED:
I have heard, O auspicious king, that THE YOUNG MAN SAID:
I struck the slave with the intention of cutting off his head but I had failed to sever his jugular and only cut his gullet, skin and flesh. He let out a loud snort and as my wife stirred, I stepped back, returned the sword to its sheath and went back to the city, where I entered the palace and lay down on my bed until morning. There was my wife coming to wake me, with her hair shorn, wearing mourning. She said: ‘Cousin, don’t object to what I am doing, as I have had news°that my mother has died and that my father has been killed fighting the infidels, while one of my brothers has died of a fatal sting and the other of a fall. It is right for me to weep and grieve.’
When I heard this, I did not tell her what I knew but said: ‘Do what you think proper and I shall not oppose you.’ From the beginning to the end of a whole year she remained miserable and in mourning, and then she said to me: ‘I want you to build me a tomb shaped like a dome beside your palace, which I shall set aside for grief and call the House of Sorrows’ ‘Do as you please,’ I said, and she built her House of Sorrows, over which was a dome, covering what looked like a tomb. She brought the slave there and installed him in it, but he could no longer be of any service to her. He went on drinking wine, but since the day that I had Wounded him he could no longer speak, and he was alive only because his allotted span had not yet come to an end. Every day, morning and evening, my Wife would go to the tomb Weeping and lamenting for him, and she would give him wine and broth.
Things went on like this until it came to the second year. I had been long-suffering and had paid no attention to her, until one day, when came to her room unexpectedly, I found her exclaiming tearfully: ‘Why are you absent from my sight, my heart’s delight? Talk to me, O my soul; speak to me, my darling.” She recited:
If you have found consolation, love has left me no endurance.
My heart loves none but you.
Take my bones and my soul with you Wherever you may go,
And where you halt, bury me opposite you.
Call out my name over my grave and my bones will moan in answer,
Hearing the echo of your voice.
Then she went on:
My wishes are fulfilled on the day I am near you,
While the day of my doom is when you turn from me.
I may pass the night in fear, threatened with destruction,
But union with you is sweeter to me than safety.
Next she recited:
If every blessing and all this world were mine,
Together with the empire of the Persian kings,
To me this would not be worth a gnat’s wing,
If my eyes could not look on you.
When she had finished speaking and weeping, I said to her: ‘Cousin, that is enough of sorrow, and more weeping will do you no good.’ ‘Do not try to stop me doing what I must do,’ she said, ‘for in that case, I shall kill myself.’ I said no more and left her to do what she wanted, and she went on grieving, weeping and mourning for a second year and then a third. One day, I went to her when something had put me out of temper and I was tired of the violence of her distress. I found her going towards the tomb beneath the dome, saying: ‘Master, I hear no word from you. Master, why don’t you answer me?’ Then she recited:
Grave, grave, have the beloved’s beauties faded?
And has the brightness and the radiance gone?
Grave, you are neither earth nor heaven for me,
So how is it you hold both sun and moon?
When I heard what she said and the lines she recited, I became even angrier than before and I exclaimed: ‘How long will this sorrow last? Then I recited myself:
Grave, grave, has his blackness faded?
And has the brightness and the foulness failed?
Grave, you are neither basin nor a pot,
So how is it you hold charcoal and slime?
When she heard this, she jumped up and said: ‘Damn you, you dog.
It was you who did this to me and wounded my heart’s darling. You have caused me pain and robbed him of his youth, so that for three years he has been neither dead nor alive.’ To which I replied: ‘Dirty whore, filthiest of the fornicators and the prostitutes of black slaves, yes, it was I who did that.’ Then I drew my sword and aimed a deadly blow at her, but when she heard what I said and saw that I was intending to kill her, she burst out laughing and said: ‘Off, you dog! What is past cannot return and the dead cannot rise again, but God has given the man who did this to me into my power. Because of him there has been an unquenchable fire in my heart and a flame that cannot be hidden.’
Then, as she stood there, she spoke some unintelligible words and added: ‘Through my magic become half stone and half man.’ It was then that I became as you see me now, unable to stand or to sit, neither dead nor alive. After this, she cast a spell over the whole city, together with its markets and its gardens. It had contained four different groups, Muslims, Christians, Jews and Magians, and these she transformed into fish - the white fish being the Muslims, the red the Magians, the blue the Christians and the yellow the jews - and she transformed the four islands into four mountains that surround the pool. Every day she tortures me by giving me a hundred lashes with her whip until the blood flows down over my shoulders. Then she dresses me in a hair shirt of the kind that I am wearing on my upper half, over which she places this splendid gown.
The young man then wept and recited:
O my God, I must endure Your judgement and decree,
And if that pleases You, I shall do this.
Tyrants have wronged me and oppressed me here,
But Paradise may be my recompense.
My sufferings have left me in sad straits,
But God’s choice as His favored Prophet intercedes for me.
The king then turned to the youth and said: ‘Although you have freed me from one worry, you have added another to my cares. Where is the woman and where is the tomb with the wounded slave?’ ‘He is lying in his tomb beneath the dome,’ said the young man, ‘and she is in that chamber opposite the door. She comes out once each day at sunrise, and the first thing she does is to strip me and give me a hundred lashes. I weep and call out but I cannot move to defend myself, and after she has tortured me, she takes wine and broth to the slave. She will come early tomorrow.’ ‘By God, young man,’ said the king, ‘I shall do you a service for which I shall be remembered and which will be recorded until the end of time.” He then sat talking to him until nightfall, when they both slept.
Close to dawn the king rose, stripped off his clothes, drew his sword and went to where the slave lay, surrounded by candles, lamps, perfumes and unguents. He came up to the slave and killed him with one blow, before lifting him on to his back and throwing him down a well in the palace. After that, he wrapped himself in the slave’s clothes and lay down in the tomb with the naked sword by his side. After an hour, the damned sorceress arrived, but before she entered the tomb, she first stripped her cousin of his clothes, took a whip and beat him. He cried out in pain: ‘The state that I am in is punishment enough for me, cousin; have pity on me.’ ‘Did you have pity on me,’ she asked, ‘and did you leave me, my beloved? She beat him until she was tired and the blood flowed down his sides; then she dressed him in a hair shirt under his robe, and Went off to carry the slave a cup of wine and a bowl of broth.
At the tomb she wept and wailed, saying: ‘Master, speak to me; master, talk to me.’ She then recited:
How long will you turn away, treating me roughly?
Have I not shed tears enough for you?
How do you intend abandoning me?
If your object is the envious, their envy has been cured.
Shedding tears, she repeated: ‘Master, talk to me,’ The king lowered his voice, twisted his tongue, and speaking in the accent of the blacks, he said: ‘Oh, oh, there is no might and no power except with God, the Exalted, the Omnipotent’ When she heard this, she cried out with joy and then fainted. When she had recovered, she said: ‘Master, is this true?’ The king, in a weak voice, said: ‘You damned woman, do you deserve that anyone should talk to you or speak with you?’ ‘Why is that?’ she asked. ‘Because all day long you torture your husband, although he cries for help, and from dusk to dawn he stops me from sleeping as he calls out his entreaties, cursing both me and you. I-Ie disturbs me and harms me, and but for this I would have been cured. It is this that keeps me from answering you.’ ‘With your permission; she replied, ‘I shall release him.’ ‘Do that,’ said the king, ‘and allow me to rest.’ ‘I hear and obey,’ she replied and, after going from the tomb to the palace, she took a bowl, Hlled it with water and spoke some words over it. As the water boiled and bubbled, like a pot boiling on the fire, she sprinkled her husband with it and said: ‘I conjure you by the words that I have recited, if you are in this state because of my magic, revert from this shape to what you were before.’
A sudden shudder ran through the young man and he rose to his feet, overjoyed at his release, calling out: ‘I bear witness that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Apostle of God - may God bless him and give him peace.” His wife shouted at him, saying: ‘Go, and don’t come back, or else I shall kill you!’ He left her and she went back to the tomb, where she said: ‘Master, come out to me, so that I may see your beautiful form.’ In a Weak voice the king replied: ‘What have you done? You have brought me relief from the branch but not from the root.’ ‘My beloved, my black darling,” she said, ‘what is the root?’ ‘Curse you, you damned woman!’ he replied. ‘It is the people of the city and of the four islands. Every night at midnight the fish raise their heads asking for help and cursing me and you. It is this that stops my recovery. Go and free them quickly and then come back, take my hand and help me to get up, for I am on the road to recovery.’
On hearing these words and thinking that he was the slave, the sorceress was delighted and promised in God’s Name willingly to obey his command. She got up and ran joyfully to the pool, from which' she took a little water . . .
Morning now dawned and Shahrazad broke off from what she had been allowed to say. Then when it was the ninth night, SHE CONTINUED:
I have heard, O auspicious king, that after the Sorceress had taken water from the pool and spoken some unintelligible words over it, the fish danced, lifted their heads and immediately rose up, as the magic spell was removed from the city. It became inhabited again, the merchants buying and selling and each man practicing his craft, while the islands were restored to their former state. The Sorceress went straight away to the tomb and said to the king: ‘Give me your noble hand, my darling, and get up.” In a low voice, the king replied: ‘Come to me.’ When she did this he, with the drawn sword in his hand, struck her in the breast as she clung on to him, so that it emerged gleaming from her back. With another blow he cut her in two, and threw the two halves on the ground.
When he came out he found the young man whom she had enchanted standing waiting for him, congratulating him on his escape, kissing his hand and thanking him. The king asked him whether he would prefer to stay in his own city, or to go with him to his. ‘King of the age,’ said the young man, ‘do you know how long a journey it is to your city?’
‘Two and a half days,’ replied the king. ‘If you have been sleeping,’ said the young man, ‘wake up. Between you and your city is a full year’s worth of hard traveling. You only got here in two and a half days because this place was under a spell. But I shall not part from you for the blink of an eye.’ The king was glad and said: ‘Praise be to God, Who has given you to me. You shall be my son, for all my life I have been granted no other.’
They embraced with great joy and then walked to the palace. Here the young man told his courtiers to make ready for a journey and to collect supplies and whatever was needed. This took ten days, after which the young man and the king set off, the latter being in a fever of anxiety to get back his own city. They travelled with fifty mamluks and magnificent gifts, and their journey continued day and night for a whole year until, as God had decreed their safety, they eventually reached their goal. Word was sent to the vizier that the king had arrived safe and sound, and he, together with his soldiers, who had despaired of him, came to greet him, kissing the ground before him and congratulating him on his safe arrival.
The king then entered the city to take his seat on his throne, and the vizier, on presenting himself and hearing of all that had happened to the young man, added his own congratulations. Then, when things were settled, the king presented gifts to many people and he told the vizier to fetch the man who had brought him the fish and who had been responsible for saving the people of the enchanted city. A messenger was sent to him and when he was brought to the palace, the king presented him with robes of honor and asked him about his circumstances, and whether he had any children. The fisherman replied that he had two daughters and one son. The king sent for them and married one of the girls himself, giving the other to the young man. The fisherman’s son was made treasurer, while the vizier was invested and sent off as ruler of the capital of the Black Islands, the young man’s city. With him were sent the fifty mamluks who had come with the king, and he was given robes of honor to take to the emirs of the city. He kissed the king’s hands and started out immediately, while the king remained with the young man. The fisherman, meanwhile, had become the richest man of his age, while his daughters remained as wives of kings until they died.
(Note: This is not the end of Night 9. Text has been continued to this point so that the reader can learn what happen to the fisherman and his daughters.)