[Go back to The Water-Carrier and the Goldsmith's Wife]
King Khusrau Shahinshah of Persia loved fish; and one day, as he sat in his saloon, he and Shirin his wife, there came a fisherman, with a great fish, and he laid it before the King, who was pleased and ordered the man four thousand dirhams. Thereupon Shirin said to the King, "Thou hast done ill." Asked he, "And why?", and she answered, "Because if, after this, though give one of thy courtiers a like sum, he will disdain it and say, 'He hath but given me the like of what he gave the fisherman.' And if thou give him less, the same will say, 'He despiseth me and giveth me less than he gave the fisherman.'" Rejoined Khusrau, "Thou art right, but it would dishonour a king to go back on his gift; and the thing is done." Quoth Shirin, "If thou wilt, I will contrive thee a means to get it back from him." Quoth he, "How so?"; and she said, "Call back, if thou so please, the fisherman and ask him if the fish be male or female. If he say, 'Male,' say thou, 'We want a female,' and if he say, 'Female,' say, 'We want a male.'" So the King sent for the fisherman, who was a man of wit and astuteness, and said to him, "Is this fish male or female?" whereupon the fisherman kissed the ground and answered, "This fish is an hermaphrodite, neither male nor female." Khusrau laughed at his clever reply and ordered him other four thousand dirhams. So the fisherman went to the treasurer and, taking his eight thousand dirhams, put them in a sack he had with him. Then, throwing it over his shoulder, he was going away, when he dropped a dirham; so he laid the bag off his back and stooped down to pick it up. Now the King and Shirin were looking on, and the Queen said, "O King, didst thou note the meanness of the man, in that he must needs stoop down to pick up the one dirham, and could not bring himself to leave it for any of the King's servants?" When the King heard these words, he was exceeding wroth with the fisherman and said, "Thou art right, O Shirin!" So he called the man back and said to him, "Thou low-minded carle! Thou art no man! How couldst thou put the bag with all this money off thy back and bend thee groundwards to pick up the one dirham and grudge to leave it where it fell?" Thereupon the fisherman kissed the earth before him and answered, "May Allah prolong the King's life! Indeed, I did not pick up the dirham off the ground because of its value in my eyes; but I raised it off the earth because on one of its faces is the likeness of the King and on the other his name; and I feared lest any should unwittingly set foot upon it, thus dishonouring the name and presentment of the King, and I be blamed for this offence." The King wondered at his words and approved of his wit and shrewdness, and ordered him yet another four thousand dirhams. Moreover, he bade cry abroad in his kingdom, saying, "It behoveth none to be guided by women's counsel; for whoso followeth their advice, loseth, with his one dirham, other twain." And here is the tale they tell of...
[Go to Yahya Bin Khalid the Barmecide and the Poor Man]
Burton, Richard (1821-1890). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. London. 1885-1888. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. VII. Gutenberg Vol. VIII. Gutenberg Vol. IX. Gutenberg Vol. X. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.
1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM