[Go back to The Queen of the Serpents]
There was once in the city of Cairo a wise and pious king of the children of Israel, who was devoted to the study of books of learning, and he had a son named Beloukiya. When he grew old and weak and was nigh upon death, his grandees and officers of state came in to him, to salute him, and he said to them, "O folk, know that the hour is at hand of my departure from this world to the next, and I have no charge to lay on you, save to commend my son to your care." Then said he, "I testify that there is no god save God," and heaving one sigh, departed the world, the mercy of God be on him! They laid him out and washed him and buried him in great state. Then they made his son Beloukiya king in his stead; and he ruled the kingdom justly and the people had peace in his time.
It befell one day that he entered his father's treasures, to look about him, and coming upon a hidden door, opened it and found himself in a little closet, wherein stood a column of white marble. On the top of the column was a coffer of ebony, which he opened and saw therein a casket of gold, containing a book. He read the book and found therein a description of our lord Mohammed (whom God bless and preserve) and how he should be sent in the latter days and be the lord of the first and the last: and his heart was taken with love of him. So he assembled all the notables of the scribes and diviners and priests of the children of Israel and read the book to them, adding, "O folk, needs must I bring my father out of his grave and burn him." "Why wilt thou burn him?" asked they, and he answered, "Because he hid this book from me and imparted it not to me. (Now the old king had compiled it from the Pentateuch and the Book of Abraham and had hidden it in his treasury and imparted it to none.) "O King," rejoined they, "thy father is dead; his body is in the dust and his affair is in the hands of his Lord; thou shalt not take him forth of his tomb." So he knew that they would not suffer him to do this thing and leaving them, repaired to his mother, to whom said he, "O my mother, I have found, in one of my father's treasuries, a book containing a description of Mohammed (whom God bless and keep), a prophet who shall be sent in the latter days, and my heart is taken with his love; wherefore I am resolved to wander over the earth, till I foregather with him; else I shall die of longing for the love of him." Then he doffed his clothes and donned a pilgrim's gown of striped goat's hair cloth and sandals, saying to his mother, "Forget me not in thy prayers." She wept and said, "O my son, what will become of us after thee?" But he answered, saying, "I can endure no longer, and I commit my affair and shine to God the Most High."
Then he set out in the direction of Syria, without the knowledge of any of his people, and coming to the seashore, took passage in a ship, which he found there. They sailed till they came to an island, where they cast anchor and Beloukiya landed with the crew, but, becoming separated from the rest, sat down under a tree and fell asleep. When he awoke, he found that the ship had set sail without him, and in that island he saw serpents as big as camels and palm-trees, who sang he praises of Allah and blessed Mohammed, proclaiming the unity of God and glorifying the Most High; whereat he wondered greatly. When they saw him, they flocked to him and one of them said to him, "Who and whence art thou and whither goest thou?" Quoth he, "My name is Beloukiya; I am of the children of Israel, and am come out in quest of Mohammed (whom God bless and preserve), being distracted for love of him. But who are ye, O noble creatures?" "We are of the dwellers in Hell," answered they; "and God the Most High created us for the punishment of unbelievers." "And how came ye hither?" asked he, and they answered, "Know that Hell, of the greatness of its boiling, breathes twice a year, exhaling in the summer and inhaling in the winter, and hence the summer heat and the winter cold. When it exhales, it casts us forth of its maw, and we are drawn in again with the inhaled breath." Quoth Beloukiya, "Are there greater serpents than you in Hell?" And they said, "We are cast out with the expired breath but by reason of our smallness; for in Hell every serpent is so great, that, were the biggest of us to pass over its nose, it would not be ware of us." "Ye sing the praises of God," said Beloukiya, "and invoke blessings on Mohammed, whom God bless and preserve! Whence know ye of Mohammed?" O Beloukiya," answered they, "the name of Mohammed is written on the gates of Paradise; and but for him, God had not created Paradise nor heaven nor hell nor earth for He made all things that be, solely on his account, and hath coupled his name with His own in every place: wherefore we love Mohammed, whom God bless and preserve!"
The serpent's converse did but inflame Beloukiya's love for Mohammed and yearning for his sight; so he took leave of them and making his way to the sea-shore, found there a ship lying at anchor, in which he embarked and sailed till he came to another island. Here he landed and walking about, found there serpents, great and small, none knoweth their number save God the Most High and amongst them a white serpent, more brilliant than crystal, seated in a golden charger borne on the back of another serpent as big as an elephant. Now this was none other than myself; so, when I saw Beloukiya, I saluted him and he returned my salutation, and I said to him, "Who and what art thou and whither goest thou?" I am of the children of Israel," answered he "My name is Beloukiya, and I am a wanderer for the love of Mohammed, whose description I have read in the revealed scriptures and of whom I go in quest. But what art thou and what are these serpents about thee?" Quoth I, "I am the Queen of the Serpents; and when thou foregatherest with Mohammed (whom God bless and preserve),bear him my salutation." Then he took leave of me and journeyed till he came to Jerusalem.
Now there was in that City a man by name Uffan, who was deeply versed in all sciences, more especially in geometry and astronomy and mathematics, as well as in white magic and the Cabala; and he had studied the Pentateuch and the Evangel and the Psalms and the Book of Abraham and had read in certain books that whoso should wear the ring of our lord Solomon, men and Jinn and birds and beasts and all created things would be subject to him. Moreover, he had discovered that Solomon lay buried in a cavern beyond the Seven Seas, with the ring on his finger, which none, man nor genie, could take therefrom, and that none could sail upon the Seven Seas in ships; and he had found out by study that there was a certain herb, whose juice if one expressed and anointed therewith the soles of his feet, he should walk dryshod upon the surface of any sea that God the Most High had created; but none could come at this herb, except he had with him the Queen of the Serpents.
When Beloukiya arrived at Jerusalem, he [entered the temple and] sat down to do his devotions. Presently, Uffan came up and seeing him reading the Pentateuch and worshipping God the Most High, accosted him and asked him who and whence he was and whither bound? "My name is Beloukiya," answered the prince. "I am from the city of Cairo and am come forth, wandering, in quest of Mohammed, whom God bless and preserve!" Quoth Uffan, "Come with me to my house, that I may entertain thee." "I hear and obey," cried Beloukiya. So the sage took him by the hand and carried him to his house, where he entreated him with the utmost honour and said to him, "O my brother, tell me thy history and how thou camest by the knowledge of Mohammed (whom God bless and preserve) and who directed thee in this road." So he related to him his story, from first to last, at which Uffan well-nigh lost his wits for wonder and said to him, "O my brother, bring me to the Queen of the Serpents and I will bring thee in company with Mohammed, albeit the time of his coming is yet far distant. For thou must know that I have found in my books that there is a certain herb whose juice if one express and anoint therewith the soles of his feet, he shall go dryshod upon whatsoever sea God the Most High hath made; and if one have with him the Queen of the Serpents and traverse the mountains where the herbs grow, each herb by which he passes will speak and proclaim its virtues, by the ordinance of God the Most High. So, if we can take the Queen of the Serpents, we will put her in a cage and carry her to the mountains aforesaid; and when we have found the magical herb, we will let her go her way. Then will we anoint our feet with the juice of the herb and fare over the Seven Seas, till we come to the burial-place of our lord Solomon, when we will take the ring off his finger and rule even as he ruled and come to our desire; for, with the aid of the ring, we will enter the Ocean of Darknesses and drink of the Water of Life, and so God will let us tarry till the latter days and we shall foregather with Mohammed, whom God bless and preserve!"
Beloukiya consented to lead him to my abiding-place so Uffan made him a cage of iron and providing himself with two bowls, one full of milk and the other of wine, took ship with Beloukiya and sailed till they came to the island, where they landed and walked on inland. Then Uffan set up the cage, in which he laid a snare, and placing in it the two bowls, withdrew, he and Beloukiya, and concealed themselves afar off. Presently, up came the Queen of the Serpents (that is, myself) and examined the cage. When I smelt the milk, I slid off the back of my bearer and entering the cage, [drank up the milk. Then I] went to the bowl of wine and drank of it, whereupon my head became giddy and I slept. When Uffan saw this, he ran up and locking the cage upon me, set it on his head and made for the ship, he and Beloukiya. After awhile I awoke and finding myself in a cage of iron on a man's head and seeing Beloukiya walking beside the bearer, said to him, "This is the reward of those who do no hurt to men." "O Queen," answered he, "have no fear of us, for we will do thee no hurt. We would but have thee guide us to the herb whose juice, rubbed upon the soles of the feet, confers the power of walking dry-shod upon what sea soever God the Most High hath created; which when we have found, we will return thee to thy place and let thee go thy way."
Then they fared on till they came to the hills where grew the herbs, and as they went, each herb they passed began to speak and avouch its virtues by permission of God the Most High. As they were going along and the herbs speaking right and left, one of the latter spoke out and said, "I am the herb, which if one gather and press and anoint his feet with my juice, he shall fare dry-shod over what sea soever God the Most High hath created." When Uffan heard this, he set down the cage and gathering what might suffice them of the herb, bruised it and filled two vials with the juice; and with what was left they anointed their feet. Then they took up the cage and journeyed days and nights, till they reached the island, where they opened the cage and let me out. When I found myself at liberty, I asked them what use they thought to make of the juice of the herb; and they answered, saying, "We purpose to traverse the Seven Seas to the burial-place of our lord Solomon and take the ring from his finger " Quoth I, "Far is it from your power to possess yourselves of the ring!" "Wherefore?" asked they, and I replied. "Because God the Most High vouchsafed unto our lord Solomon the gift of this ring and peculiarly favoured him therewith, for that he said to Him, 'O my Lord, bestow upon me a dominion, that shall beseem none after me; for Thou art the Giver of gifts.' So the ring is not for you. Had ye taken the herb, whereof whoso eateth shall not die until the first blast [of the last trumpet], it had better availed you than this ye have gotten; for ye shall nowise come at your desire of it."
When they heard this, they repented them exceedingly and went their ways, whilst I went in quest of my subjects and found them fallen in piteous plight, the weaker of them having died in my absence and the stronger grown weak. When they saw me, they rejoiced and flocking about me, enquired what had befallen me. So I told them what had passed, after which I gathered them together and repaired with them to the mountain Caf, where I use to winter, spending the summer in the place where thou now seest me, O Hasib. This, then, is my story and what befell me [with Beloukiya and Uffan].'
Hasib marvelled at her words and said to her, 'I beseech thee, of thy favour, bid one of thy subjects bring me out to the surface of the earth, that I may go to my people.' 'O Hasib,' replied she, 'thou shalt not depart from us till winter come, and needs must thou go with us to the mountain Caf and divert thyself with the sight of hills and sands and trees and birds magnifying the One God, the Victorious, besides Marids and Afrits and Jinn, whose number none knoweth save God the Most High.' When Hasib heard this, he was sore chagrined and concerned; then he said to her, 'Tell me of Uffan and Beloukiya; when they departed from thee and went their way, did they win to the burial-place of our lord Solomon or not; and if they won thither, did they avail to take the ring or not? 'Know,'answered she, 'that, when they left me, they anointed their feet with the juice of the magical herb, and walking over the water, fared on from sea to sea, beholding the wonders of the deep, till they had traversed the Seven Seas and came in sight of a mighty mountain, soaring high into the air, whereat they rejoiced and said to one another, "Verily we have attained our desire." So they landed and found that the stones of the mountain were of emerald and its dust of musk, and in it was a stream of running water. They entered the passes of the mountain and walked on, till they saw a cavern afar off, surmounted by a great dome, and light shining therefrom. So they made for the dome and entering the cavern, beheld therein a throne of gold set with all manner jewels, and about it stools innumerable, none knoweth their number save God the Most High. On the throne they saw our lord Solomon lying, clad in robes of green silk, gold inwoven and broidered with all manner jewels and precious stones: his right hand was folded upon his breast and on the middle finger was the seal-ring, whose lustre outshone that of all the other jewels in the place.
Then Uffan taught Beloukiya charms and conjurations and said to him, "Repeat these conjurations and stint not therefrom till I take the ring." Then he went up to the throne; but, as he drew near unto it, a mighty serpent issued from beneath it and cried out at him with so terrible a cry that the whole place trembled and sparks flew from its mouth, saying, "Begone, or thou art a dead man!" But Uffan paid no heed to it and busied himself with his incantations. Then the serpent blew such a fiery blast at him, that the place was like to be set on fire, and said to him, "Woe to thee! Except thou turn back, I will consume thee!" Yet was he not troubled at this, but put out his hand to the ring and touched it and strove to draw it off Solomon's finger; whereupon the serpent blew on him [once more] and he became a heap of ashes.
When Beloukiya saw this, he fell down in a swoon. and the Lord (exalted be His majesty) bade Gabriel descend [and save him], before the serpent should blow on him. So Gabriel descended to the earth and finding Uffan reduced to ashes and Beloukiya fallen of a swoon, aroused the latter and saluting him, enquired how he had come thither. Beloukiya related to him his history, telling him how he had not come thither but for the love of Mohammed, and besought him to tell him where the latter was to be found. "O Beloukiya," replied the angel, "go thy ways, for the time of Mohammed's coming is yet far distant." Then he ascended to heaven, and Beloukiya wept sore and repented of that which he had done, calling to mind my words, whenas I said to them, "Far is it from your power to possess yourselves of the ring." Then he returned to the sea-shore and passed the night there, marvelling at the mountains and seas and islands, that encompassed him, and weeping over his case.
When it was day, he anointed his feet with the magical juice and descending to the water, set out and fared on over the surface of the sea nights and days, marvelling at the terrors and wonders of the deep, till he came to an island as it were Paradise. So he landed and found himself in a great and pleasant island, spacious and goodly, abounding in good things. Its dust was saffron and its gravel cornelian and precious stones; its hedges were of jessamine, its brushwood Comorin and Sumatra aloes-wood and its reeds sugar-cane. Its vegetation was of the goodliest of trees and of the brightest and sweetest of odoriferous flowers, of all kinds and colours: round about it were roses and narcissus and amaranths and gilly-flowers and camomiles and lilies and violets, and therein gazelles frisking and wild cattle coming and going. Its trees were tall and the singing of its birds, as they warbled on the branches and solaced the afflicted lover, was sweeter than the voices of those that chant the Koran. Its streams were flowing and its springs welling with sweet water; brief, it comprised all beauty and charms.
Beloukiya marvelled at the goodliness of the place, but knew that he had wandered from the road he had come, on his way over the Seven Seas in Uffan's company. He spent the day in exploring the island and at nightfall he climbed into a tree, to sleep; but, as he sat there, pondering the beauty of the place, the sea became troubled and there rose to the surface a great beast, which gave such a terrible cry that the isle trembled to its foundations. As Beloukiya gazed upon him and marvelled at the vastness of his bulk, he came ashore, followed by a multitude of other sea-beasts, each holding in his paw a jewel that shone like a lamp, so that the whole island became as light as day for the lustre thereof. After awhile, there appeared from the inward of the island lions and panthers and lynxes and other beasts of the land, none knoweth their number save God the Most High, who flocked down to the shore and foregathering with the beasts of the sea, conversed with them till daybreak, when they separated and went each his own way.
As soon as it was day, Beloukiya, terrified by what he had seen during the night, came down from the tree and anointing his feet with the magical juice, set out once more upon the surface of the water and fared on days and nights over the second sea, till he came to a great mountain, through whose midst ran a valley without end, the stones whereof were loadstone and its beasts lions and hares and panthers. He landed and wandered from place to place till nightfall, when he sat down on a rock by the seaside, to eat of the dried fish thrown up by the sea. Presently, he turned and saw a huge panther making for him, to devour him; so he anointed his feet in haste with the juice and descending to the surface of the water, fled over the third sea, in the darkness, for it was black night and there was a high wind, nor did he stay his course till he reached another island, on which he landed and found there trees, [bearing fruits] both soft and hard of skin. So he took of these fruits and ate and praised God the Most High; after which he walked about the island till nightfall, when he lay down to sleep.
He spent ten days in exploring the place, after which he again anointed his feet and setting out over the fourth sea, travelled nights and days, till he came to a third island of fine white sand, without trees or grass. He landed and balked about the island awhile, but, finding its only inhabitants sakers, that nested in the sand, he again anointed his feet and sped on over the fifth sea, till he came to a little island, whose soil and hills were of crystal. Therein were the veins wherefrom gold is wrought and marvellous trees with flowers in hue like gold, never had he seen their like in his wanderings. He landed and walked about, till it became dark, when the flowers began to shine like stars. When he saw this, he marvelled and said, "Assuredly, the flowers of this island are of those which wither from the sun and fall to the earth, where the wind smites them and they gather under the rocks and become hermetic powder which the folk collect and make gold thereof."
He lay there that night and at sunrise he again anointed his feet and descending to the shore, fared on over the sixth sea days and nights, till he came to a fifth island. Here he landed and found mountains covered with trees, whose fruits were as human heads hanging by the hair, and others whose fruits were green birds hanging by the feet; also a third kind, which burnt like fire and whose fruits were like prickly pears,--if a drop [of the juice] thereof fell on a man, he was consumed,--and others, whose fruits wept and laughed, besides many other marvels which he saw there. Then he returned to the sea-shore and finding there a great tree, sat down beneath it till dusk, when he climbed up into the branches to sleep. As he sat pondering the wonderful works of God, the sea became troubled, and there rose therefrom the daughters of the ocean, each holding in her hand a jewel that shone like the morning. They came ashore and sitting down under the tree, danced and sported and made merry, whilst Beloukiya watched them and marvelled at their gambols, till the morning, when they returned to the sea and disappeared. Then he came down and anointing his feet, set out on the surface of the seventh sea, over which he journeyed two whole months, without getting sight of land, what while he suffered exceeding hunger, so that he was fain to snatch up fish from the surface of the sea and devour them raw, for stress of want.
At the end of this time, he came to a sixth island abounding in trees and streams, where he landed, it being the forenoon. He walked about, looking right and left, till he came to an apple-tree and put out his hand to pluck of the fruit, when, behold, one cried out to him from the tree, saying, "An thou draw near to this tree, I will cut thee in twain." So he looked and saw a giant forty cubits high, after the measure of the people of that day, whereat he was sore affrighted and drew back from the tree. Then he said to the giant, "Why dost thou forbid me to eat of this tree?" "Because," replied the other, "thou art a son of Adam and thy father Adam forgot the covenant of God and disobeyed Him and ate of the tree." Quoth Beloukiya, "Who art thou and to whom doth this island, with its trees, belong?" "My name is Sherahiya," replied the giant, "and I am of the guards of King Sekher, to whom the island belongs and who hath given me charge over it. But who art thou and how comest thou hither?" Beloukiya told him his story and Sherahiya bade him be of good cheer and brought him to eat. So he ate his fill and taking leave of the giant, set out again and fared on over mountains and sandy deserts for ten days, at the end of which time he saw, in the distance, a cloud of dust hanging like a canopy in the air and making towards it, came presently to a great valley, two months' journey in length, where he heard a mighty clamour of cries and clash of arms and tramp of horse. As he drew near, he saw a multitude of horsemen engaged in sore battle and the blood running from them like a river. Their voices were like thunder and they were armed with bows and javelins and swords and spears and maces of iron and fought with the utmost fury.
At this sight, he was sore affrighted and knew not what to do; but, as he hesitated, they caught sight of him and held their hands from one another and left fighting. Then a troop of them came up to him, wondering at his make, and said to him, "What art thou and how camest thou hither?" Quoth he, "I am of the sons of Adam and am come out, distraught for the love of Mohammed, whom God bless and preserve; but I have wandered from my road." They marvelled at his speech and said, "Never saw we a son of Adam till now, nor did any ever come to this land." "But what are ye, O creatures?" asked Beloukiya. "We are of the Jinn," answered they; and he said, "What is the cause of the fighting amongst you and where is your abiding-place and what is the name of this valley and this land?" "Our abiding-place is the White Country," replied they. "This place is called the land of Sheddad, son of Aad, and every year God the Most High commandeth us to come hither and wage war upon the unbelieving Jinn." "And where is the White Country?" asked Beloukiya. "It is distant five-and-seventy years' journey behind the mountain Caf," answered they, "and we have no other business, when we are not doing battle with the unbelieving Jinn, than to magnify God and hallow Him. Moreover, we have a king called Sekher, and needs must thou go with us to him, that he may divert himself with thy sight."
Then they took him and fared on with him, till they came to their abiding-place, where he saw a multitude of tents of green silk, none knoweth their number save God the Most High, and in their midst a pavilion of red satin, a thousand cubits in compass, with cords of blue silk and pickets of gold and silver. This was the royal pavilion; so they made their way thither and carried Beloukiya into the presence of King Sekher, whom he found seated upon a throne of red gold, set with pearls and jewels, with the kings and princes of the Jinn on his right hand and on his left his councillors and Amirs and officers of state. So he went up to him and kissing the earth before him, saluted him. The King returned his salute and commending a chair to be set for him beside himself, bade him sit down and asked him who he was and how he came thither; whereupon Beloukiya related to him all that had befallen him in his wanderings and he marvelled thereat. Then he called for food and the servants spread the tables and set on fifteen hundred platters of gold and silver and brass, some containing twenty and some fifty boiled camels, and other some fifty head of sheep; at which Beloukiya marvelled exceedingly. Then they ate and he ate with them, till he was satisfied, and returned thanks to God the Most High; after which they cleared the tables and set on fruits, and they ate thereof, glorifying God and invoking blessings on His prophet Mohammed.
When Beloukiya heard them make mention of Mohammed, he wondered and said to King Sekher, "I have a mind to ask thee some questions." "Ask what thou wilt," rejoined the King, and Beloukiya said, "O King, what are ye and what is your origin and how come ye to know and love Mohammed, whom God bless and preserve?" "Know," answered the King, "that God created the fire in seven stages, one above the other, at a distance of a thousand years' journey between each two stages. The first stage he named Jehennem and appointed for the punishment of the transgressors of the true-believers, who die unrepentant, and the second he named Lezza and appointed for unbelievers. The name of the third is Jehim and is appointed for Gog and Magog. The fourth is called Saair and is appointed for the host of Iblis. The fifth is called Seker and is prepared for those who neglect prayer. The sixth is called Hutemeh and is appointed for Jews and Christians. The seventh is named Hawiyeh and is prepared for hypocrites. The most endurable of them all is Jehennem, being the topmost; yet in it are a thousand mountains of fire, in each mountain seventy thousand valleys of fire, in each valley seventy thousand cities of fire, in each city seventy thousand citadels of fire, in each citadel seventy thousand houses of fire, in each house seventy thousand couches of fire and in each couch seventy thousand kinds of torment. As for the other hells, none knoweth the number of kinds of torment that be therein save God the Most High."
When Beloukiya heard this, he fell down in a swoon and when he came to himself, he wept and said, "O King, what will our case be?" "Fear not," answered Sekher; "whoso loveth Mohammed and believeth in his religion, the fire shall not burn him, for he is made free therefrom for his sake, whom God bless and preserve! As for us, God created us of the fire; for the first that he made in Jehennem were two creatures, whom He called Melit and Khelit. Now Melit was made in the likeness of a pied wolf, with a tail after the likeness of a woman, and Khelit in that of a lion, with a tail like a tortoise, twenty years' journey in length. God commanded their tails to couple and do the deed of kind, and of them were born serpents and scorpions, whose dwelling is in the fire, that therewith God may torment those whom He casteth therein; and these increased and multiplied. Then God commanded the tails of Khelit and Melit to couple a second time, and Melit's tail conceived by that of Khelit and bore fourteen children, seven male and seven female, who grew up and intermarried, one with the other. They all were obedient to their father, except one of then, Iblis to wit, who disobeyed him and was changed into a worm. Now Iblis was one of the Cherubim, for he had served God till he was raised to the heavens and taken into the especial favour of the Merciful One, who made, him chief of the Cherubim. When God created Adam, He commanded Iblis to prostrate himself to him, but he refused; so God expelled him [from heaven] and cursed him. Of his lineage are the devils; and as for the other six males, they are the ancestors of the true-believing Jinn, and we are their descendants."
Beloukiya marvelled at the King's words and besought him to bid one of his officers carry him back to his native land. "That may we not do," answered Sekher, "save by commandment of God the Most High; but, an thou desire to return to thine own country, I will set thee on one of my mares and bid her carry thee to the farthest limit of my dominions, where thou wilt meet with the troops of another king, Berakhiya by name, who will recognize the mare and take thee off her back and send her back to me; and this is all we can do for thee." When Beloukiya heard this, he wept and said, "Do what thou wilt, O King." So Sekher caused bring the mare and setting Beloukiya on her back, said to him, "Beware lest thou alight or strike the mare or cry out in her face; else she will kill thee; but abide quiet on her back till she stop with thee; then dismount and go thy way." Then Beloukiya took leave of the King and setting out, rode on a long while between the rows of tents, till he came to the royal kitchens, where he stopped and gazed in wonderment or the great cauldrons, each holding fifty camels, hung up over the fire that blazed fiercely under them. King Sekher saw him from afar gazing on the cauldrons, and thinking him to be anhungred, commanded some of his officers to bear him two roasted camels. So they carried them to him and bound them behind him on the mare's back.
Then he took leave of them and fared on, till he came to the limit of King Sekher's dominions, where the mare stood still and Beloukiya dismounted and began to shake the dust of the journey from his clothes. As he was thus engaged, there accosted him a party of men, who recognizing the mare, carried her and Beloukiya before their King, whom he found seated in a splendid pavilion, in the midst of his troops and champions and vassal princes, in like state to that of King Sekher. So he saluted him, and the King returned his greeting and seated him beside himself; after which he called for food and they ate their fill and returned thanks to God. Then they set on fruits, and when they had eaten thereof, King Berakhiya said to his guest, "When didst thou leave King Sekher?" "Two days ago," replied Beloukiya. "Dost thou know," asked Berakhiya, "how many days' journey thou hast come in these two days?" "No," answered he, and the King rejoined, "Thou hast come threescore and ten months' journey; and when thou mountedst the mare, she was affrighted at thee, knowing thee for a son of Adam, and would have cast thee off; so they bound on her back these two camels, to steady her." When Beloukiya heard this, he marvelled and thanked God for safety. Then said the King, "Tell me thy story and what brought thee hither." So he told him his story from first to last, and the King marvelled at his words.'
Here the Queen of the Serpents broke off, and Hasib, after he had marvelled at her story, again besought her to let one of her subjects conduct him to the surface of the earth, that he might go to his family; but she answered, 'O Hasib, I know that the first thing thou wilt do, after greeting thy family, will be to go to the bath and wash thyself; and as surely as thou dost this, it will be the cause of my death.' Quoth Hasib, 'I swear that I will never again enter the bath, so long as I live, but will wash at home, when washing is incumbent on me.' 'I would not trust thee,' rejoined the Queen, 'though thou shouldst swear to me a hundred oaths; for I know thou art a son of Adam and that to thee no oath is sacred. Thy father Adam made a covenant with God the Most High, who kneaded the clay whereof He fashioned him forty days and made His angels prostrate themselves to him; yet did he perjure himself and forgot his promise and disobeyed the commandment of his Lord.' When Hasib heard this, he held his peace and burst into tears nor did he leave weeping for the space of ten days, at the end of which time he begged the Queen to acquaint him with the rest of Beloukiya's adventures. Accordingly, she began again as follows:
"Beloukiya tarried two months with King Berakhiya, then took leave of him and fared on over wastes and deserts nights and days, till he came to a high mountain, on whose summit he beheld a great angel seated, celebrating the praises of God and invoking blessings on Mohammed. Before him lay a tablet covered with black characters and white, on which his eyes were fixed, and his wings were outspread, one to the western and the other to the eastern horizon. Beloukiya ascended the hill and saluted the angel, who returned his salute and enquired who he was and what brought him thither. Accordingly, he repeated to him his history, from beginning to end, and besought him, in turn, to acquaint him with his own name and occupation and the meaning of the tablet that lay before him. "My name is Michael," replied the angel, "and I am charged with the alternation of night and day; and this is my occupation till the Day of Judgment."
The prince wondered at his words and at his aspect and the greatness of his size and taking leave of him, fared onward till he came to a vast meadow, full of trees, through which ran seven rivers. In one part of the meadow, he saw a great tree and under it four angels, the first in the likeness of a man, the second in the likeness of a wild beast, the third in the likeness of a bull and the fourth in the likeness of a bird, engaged in magnifying God the Most High and saying, "O my God and my Master and my Lord, I conjure Thee, by Thy splendour and by the glory of Thy prophet Mohammed (on whom be blessing and peace) to vouchsafe Thy mercy and forgiveness to all things created in my likeness; for Thou canst do all things!"
Beloukiya continued his journey, till he came to another mountain and ascending it, found a great angel seated on the summit, glorifying God and hallowing Him and invoking blessings on Mohammed; and he was continually opening and shutting his hands and closing and extending his fingers. The prince accosted him and saluted him; whereupon the angel returned his greeting and enquired who he was and how he came thither. So Beloukiya acquainted him with his adventures and besought him to tell him, in turn, who he was and what was his function and what mountain was that. Quoth the angel, "This is the mountain Caf, that encompasseth the world, and in my grasp are all countries that God hath made. When He is minded to afflict any country with earthquake or famine or slaughter or to bless it with plenty and prosperity, He bids me execute His commandment, and this I do without stirring from my place; for my hands lay hold upon the roots of the earth." "Hath God created other worlds than this within the mountain Caf?" asked Beloukiya. "Yes," answered the angel; "He hath made a world white as silver, whose vastness none knoweth but Himself, and hath peopled it with angels, whose meat and drink are the praise and magnification of God and the continual invocation of blessings upon His prophet Mohammed. Every Friday night they assemble on this mountain and worship God until the morning, and the recompense of their devotions they give to the sinners of the faith of Mohammed (whom God bless and keep) and to all who make the [complete] ablution of Friday; and this is their function until the Day of Resurrection." "And hath God created other mountains behind the mountain Caf?" asked Beloukiya. "Yes," replied the angel. "Behind this mountain is a range of mountains of snow and ice, five hundred years' journey in extent, and this it is that wards off the heat of Jehennem from the world, which would else be consumed thereby. Moreover, behind the mountain Caf are forty worlds, each the bigness of this world forty times told, some of gold, some of silver and other some of cornelian. Each of these worlds hath its own colour, and God hath peopled them with angels, that know not Adam nor Eve nor night nor day and have no other business than to celebrate His praises and hallow and magnify Him and make proclamation of His unity and supplicate Him on behalf of the followers of Mohammed (whom God bless and keep).
Thou must know also," continued the angel, " that God hath made the worlds in seven stages, one upon another, and hath created one of His angels, whose size and attributes none knoweth but Himself and who beareth the seven stages upon his shoulders. Under this angel God the Most High hath created a rock and under the rock, a bull, and under the bull, a great fish, and under the fish, a mighty ocean. God once told Jesus (on whom be peace) of this fish, and he said, 'O Lord, show me the fish, that I may look upon it.' So God commanded an angel to take Jesus and show him the fish. Accordingly, he carried the prophet to the sea, wherein the fish dwelt, and bade him look upon it. He looked, but [at first] saw nothing, when, suddenly, the monster darted past like lightning. At this sight, Jesus swooned away, and when he came to himself, God spoke to him, saying, 'O Jesus, hast thou seen the fish and noted its length and breadth?" 'By Thy splendour and majesty, O Lord,' replied Jesus, 'I saw no fish; but there passed me by a great bull, whose length was three days' journey, and I know not what manner of thing this is.' 'O Jesus,' rejoined the Almighty, 'this that thou sawest and which was three days in passing by thee, was [but] the head of the fish; and know that every day I create forty fish like unto this.' And Jesus marvelled at the power of God the Most High."
Quoth Beloukiya, "What hath God made beneath this nether sea?" "Under the sea," replied the angel, "God created a vast [abyss of] air, under the air the fire and under the fire a mighty serpent, by name Felec; and were it not for the fear of God the Most High, this serpent would swallow up all that is above it, without feeling it. When God created this serpent, He said to it, 'Open thy mouth and I will give thee somewhat to keep for me.' So it opened its mouth and God put Hell into its maw, saying, 'Keep it until the Day of Resurrection.' When that day comes, God will send His angels to bring Hell and chain it up until the Day of Judgment, when, at His commandment, it will open its gates and there will issue therefrom sparks bigger than mountains."
When Beloukiya heard these things, he wept sore and taking leave of the angel, fared on westward, till he came In sight of a great shut gate, before which sat two creatures. When he drew near, he saw that one of the gate-keepers had a lion's favour and the other that of a bull; So he saluted them and they returned his greeting and enquired who and whence he was and whither he was bound. Quoth he, "I am of the sons of Adam, a wanderer for the love of Mohammed, whom God bless and preserve; and I have strayed from my road." Then he asked them what they were and what was the gate before which they sat. "We are the guardians of this gate," answered they, "and we have no other business than the praise and glorification of God and the invocation of blessings on Mohammed (whom may He bless and keep)." "What is within the gate?" asked Beloukiya; and they answered, "We know not." Then said he, "I conjure you, by the virtue of your glorious Lord, open to me the gate, that I may see that which is therein." "None may open this gate, of all created beings," replied they, "save Gabriel, the Faithful One, on whom be peace." Then Beloukiya lifted up his voice in supplication to God and besought Him to send down His messenger Gabriel, to open for him the gate; and God gave ear unto his prayer and commanded the angel to descend and open to him the gate of the confluence of the Two Seas. So Gabriel descended and saluting the prince, opened the gate to him, saying, "Enter, for God commandeth me to open to thee." So he entered and Gabriel locked the gate behind him and flew back to heaven.
When Beloukiya found himself within the gate, he looked and beheld a vast ocean, whose water was half salt and half fresh, bounded on either side by ranges of mountains of red cornelian, whereon he saw angels singing the praises of God and hallowing Him. So he went up to these latter and exchanging salutations with them, questioned them of the sea and the mountains. "This place is situate under the empyreal heaven," replied they, "and all the waters of the world fall into this ocean, whence we are appointed to distribute them to the various parts of the earth, the salt to the seas and the fresh to the lakes and rivers; and this is our employ until the Day of Ressurrection. But thou, whence comest thou and whiter art thou bound?" So he told them his story and asked them of the road. They bade him traverse the ocean, that lay before him; so he anointed his feet with the juice of the magical herb and taking leave of the angels, set out upon the surface of the sea and sped on over the water nights and days, till he met a handsome youth journeying along like himself, whereupon he saluted him and he returned his greeting. After this, he espied four great angels faring over the surface of the sea, and their going was like the blinding lightning; so he stationed himself in their road, and when they came up to him, he saluted them and conjured them by the Almighty, the Glorious One, to tell him their names and whither they were bound. "My name is Gabriel," replied the first angel, "and these my companions are called Israfil and Michael and Azrael. Know that there has appeared in the East a mighty dragon, which has laid waste a thousand cities and devoured their inhabitants; wherefore God the Most High hath commanded us to go to him and seize him and cast him into Jehennem."
Beloukiya marvelled at the vastness of their stature and fared on, as before, days and nights, till he came to an island, where he landed and walked about, till he saw a comely young man of shining visage, sitting weeping and lamenting between two stately tombs. So he saluted him, and he returned his salutation, and Beloukiya said to him, "Who art thou and what are these two tombs, and why sittest thou here between them, weeping?" The stranger looked at him and wept sore, till he wet his clothes with his tears; them said, "O my brother, mine is a strange and wonderful story; but thou first tell me who thou art and what brought thee hither, and after I will, in turn, relate to thee my history." So Beloukiya sat down by him and related to him all that had befallen him from his father's death, adding, "This is my whole history, and God [alone] knoweth what will betide me after this." When the other heard his story, he sighed and said, "Alas, unhappy one! What things thou hast seen in thy life! [But my experiences are yet more surprising,] for know that I have looked upon lord Solomon, in his life, and have seen what is past count or reckoning. Indeed, may story is marvellous and my cas extraordinary, and I would have thee tarry with me, till I tell thee my history and how I come to be sitting here."'
Here Hasib interrupted the Queen of Serpents and said to her, 'I conjure thee by God, O Queen, release me and bid one of thy servants carry me forth to the surface of the earth, and I will swear an oath to thee that I will never enter the bath as long as I live.' But she said, 'This is a thing that may not be, nor will I credit thee upon thine oath.' When he heard this, he wept and all the serpents wept on his account and fell to interceding for him with their Queen and saying, 'We beseech thee, bid one of us carry him forth to the surface of the earth, and he will swear an oath to thee never to enter the bath his life long.' Thereupon the Queen (whose name was Yumeleika) turned to Hasib and made him swear to her, 'I would fain have thee tell me the history of the young man, whom Baloukiya found sitting between the two tombs.' So she said, 'Know, O Hasib, that the young man said to Beloukiya, "Know, O my brother, that...
[Go to The Story of Janshah]
Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram 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