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Burton: The Queen of Serpents

[Go back to Abu Al-Hasan and Abu Ja'afar the Leper]

There was once, in days of yore and in ages and times long gone before, a Grecian sage called Daniel, who had disciples and scholars and the wise men of Greece were obedient to his bidding and relied upon his learning. Withal had Allah denied him a man child. One night, as he lay musing and weeping over the lack of a son who might inherit his lore, he bethought him that Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) heareth the prayer of those who resort to Him and that there is no doorkeeper at the door of His bounties and that He favoureth whom He will without compt and sendeth no supplicant empty away; nay He filleth their hands with favours and benefits. So he besought the Almighty, the Bountiful, to vouchsafe him a son to succeed him, and to endow him abundantly with His beneficence. Then he returned home and carnally knew his wife who conceived by him the same night.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Eighty-third Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Grecian sage returned home and knew his wife who conceived by him the same night. A few days after this he took ship for a certain place, but the ship was wrecked and he saved himself on one of her planks, while only five leaves remained to him of all the books he had. When he returned home, he laid the five leaves in a box and locking it, gave the key to his wife (who then showed big with child), and said to her, "Know that my decease is at hand and that the time draweth nigh for my translation from this abode temporal to the home which is eternal. Now thou art with child and after my death wilt haply bear a son: if this be so, name him Hasib Karim al-Din and rear him with the best of rearing. When the boy shall grow up and shall say to thee, 'What inheritance did my father leave me?'' give him these five leaves, which when he shall have read and understood, he will be the most learned man of his time." Then he farewelled her and heaving one sigh, departed the world and all that is therein--the mercy of Allah the Most Highest be upon Him! His family and friends wept over him and washed him and bore him forth in great state and buried him; after which they wended their ways home. But few days passed ere his widow bare a handsome boy and named him Hasib Karim al-Din, as her husband charged her; and immediately after his birth she summoned the astrologers, who calculated his ascendants and drawing his horoscope, said to her, "Know, O woman! that this birth will live many a year; but that will be after a great peril in the early part of his life, wherefrom can he escape, he will be given the knowledge of all the exact sciences." So saying they went their ways. She suckled him two years, then weaned him, and when he was five years old, she placed him in a school to learn his book, but he would read nothing. So she took him from school and set him to learn a trade; but he would not master any craft and there came no work from his hands. The mother wept over this and the folk said to her, "Marry him: haply he will take heart for his wife and learn him a trade." So she sought out a girl and married him to her; but, despite marriage and the lapse of time, he remained idle as before, and would do nothing. One day, some neighbours of hers, who were woodcutters, came to her and said, "Buy thy son an ass and cords and an axe and let him go with us to the mountain and we will all of us cut wood for fuel. The price of the wood shall be his and ours, and he shall provide thee and his wife with his share." When she heard this, she joyed with exceeding joy and bought her son an ass and cords and hatchet; then, carrying him to the woodcutters, delivered him into their hands and solemnly committed him to their care. Said they, "Have no concern for the boy, our Lord will provide for him: he is the son of our Shaykh." So they carried him to the mountain, where they cut firewood and loaded their asses therewith; then returned to the city and, selling what they had cut, spent the monies on their families. This they did on the next day and the third and ceased not for some time, till it chanced one day, a violent storm of rain broke over them, and they took refuge in a great cave till the downfall should pass away. Now Hasib Karim al-Din went apart from the rest into a corner of the cavern and sitting down, fell to smiting the floor with his axe. Presently he noted that the ground sounded hollow under the hatchet; so he dug there awhile and came to a round flagstone with a ring in it. When he saw this, he was glad and called his comrades the woodcutters,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Eighty-fourth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Hasib Karim al-Din saw the flagstone with the ring, he was glad and called his comrades the woodcutters, who came to him and, finding it was fact, soon pulled up the stone and discovered under it a trap-door, which, being opened, showed a cistern full of bees' honey. Then said they to one another, "This is a large store and we have nothing for it but to return to the city and fetch vessels wherein to carry away the honey, and sell it and divide the price, whilst one of us stands by the cistern, to guard it from outsiders." Quoth Hasib, "I will stay and keep watch over it till you bring your pots and pans." So they left him on guard there and, repairing to the city, fetched vessels, which they filled with honey and loading their asses therewith, carried them to the streets and sold the contents. They returned on the morrow and thus they did several days in succession, sleeping in the town by night and drawing off the stuff by day, whilst Hasib abode on guard by it till but little remained, when they said one to other, "It was Hasib Karim al-Din found the honey, and tomorrow he will come down to the city and complain against us and claim the price of it, saying, Twas I found it;' nor is there escape for us but that we let him down into the cistern, to bale out the rest of the honey, and leave him there; so will he die of hunger, and none shall know of him." They all fell in with this plot as they were making for the place; and, when they reached it, one said to him, "O Hasib, go down into the pit and bale out for us the rest of the honey." So he went down and passed up to them what remained of the honey, after which he said to them, "Draw me up, for there is nothing left." They made him no answer; but, loading their asses, went off to the city and left him alone in the cistern. Thereupon he fell to weeping and crying, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!" Such was his case; but as regards his comrades, when they reached the city and sold the honey, they repaired to Hasib's mother, weeping, and said to her, "May thy head outlive thy son Hasib!" She asked, "What brought about his death?" and they answered, "We were cutting wood on the mountain- top, when there fell on us a heavy downfall of rain and we took shelter from it in a cavern; and suddenly thy son's ass broke loose and fled into the valley, and he ran after it, to turn it back, when there came out upon them a great wolf, who tore thy son in pieces and ravined the ass." When the mother heard this, she beat her face and strewed dust on her head and fell to mourning for her son; and she kept life and soul together only by the meat and drink which they brought her every day. As for the woodcutters they opened them shops and became merchants and spent their lives in eating and drinking and laughing and frolicking. Meanwhile Hasib Karim al-Din, who ceased not to weep and call for help, sat down upon the cistern edge when behold, a great scorpion fell down on him; so he rose and killed it. Then he took thought and said, "The cistern was full of honey; how came this scorpion here?" Accordingly he got up and examined the well right and left, till he found a crevice from which the scorpion had fallen and saw the light of day shining through it. So he took out his woodman's knife and enlarged the hole, till it was big as a window, then he crept through it and, after walking for some time, came to a vast gallery, which led him to a huge door of black iron bearing a padlock of silver wherein was a key of gold. He stole up to the door and, looking through the chink, saw a great light shining within; so he took the key and, opening the door, went on for some time, till he came to a large artificial lake, wherein he caught sight of something that shimmered like silver. He walked up to it and at last he saw, hard by a hillock of green jasper and on the hill top, a golden throne studded with all manner gems,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Eighty-fifth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Hasib reached the hillock he found it of green jasper surmounted by a golden throne studded with all manner gems, round which were set many stools, some of gold, some of silver and others of leek green emerald. He clomb the hillock and, counting the stools, found them twelve thousand in number; then he mounted the throne which was set on the centre and, seating himself thereon, fell to wondering at the lake and the stools, and he marvelled till drowsiness overcame him and he drops asleep. Presently, he was aroused by a loud snorting and hissing and rustling, so he opened his eyes; and, sitting up, saw each stool occupied by a huge serpent, an hundred cubits in length. At this sight, great fear get hold of him; his spittle dried up for the excess of his dread and he despaired of life, as all their eyes were blazing like live coals. Then he turned towards the lake and saw that what he had taken for shimmering water was a multitude of small snakes, none knoweth their compt save Allah the Most High. After awhile, there came up to him a serpent as big as a mule, bearing on its back a tray of gold, wherein lay another serpent which shone like crystal and whose face was as that of a woman and who spake with human speech. And as soon as she was brought up to Hasib, she saluted him and he returned the salutation. There upon, one of the serpents seated on the stools came up and, lifting her off the tray, set her on one of the seats and she cried out to the other serpents in their language, whereupon they all fell down from their stools and did her homage. But she signed to them to sit and they did so. Then she addressed Hasib, saying, "Have no fear of us, O youth; for I am the Queen of the Serpents and their Sultanah." When he heard her speak on this wise, he took heart and she bade the serpents bring him somewhat of food. So they brought apples and grapes and pomegranates and pistachio-nuts and filberts and walnuts and almonds and bananas and set them before him, and the Queen-serpent said, "Welcome, O youth! What is thy name?" Answered he, "Hasib Karim al-Din;" and she rejoined, "O Hasib, eat of these fruits, for we have no other meat and fear thou have nothing from us at all." Hearing this, he ate his fill and praised Allah Almighty; and presently they took away the trays from before him, and the Queen said, "Tell me, O Hasib, whence thou art and how camest thou hither and what hath befallen thee." So he told her his story from first to last, the death of his father; his birth; his being sent to school where he learnt nothing; his becoming a wood cutter; his finding the honey- cistern; his being abandoned therein; his killing the scorpion; his widening the crevice; his finding the iron door and his coming upon the Queen, and he ended his long tale with saying, "These be my adventures from beginning to end and only Allah wotteth what will betide me after all this!" Quoth the Queen, after listening to his words, "Nothing save good shall betide thee:"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Eighty-sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Serpent-queen had heard his story she said, "Nothing save good shall betide thee: but I would have thee, O Hasib, abide with me some time, that I may tell thee my history and acquaint thee with the wondrous adventures which have happened to me." "I hear and obey thy hest," answered he; and she began to tell in these words,...

[Go to The Adventures of Bulukiya]

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

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