[Go back to The Fourth Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor]
When I had been awhile on shore and had forgotten all my perils and sufferings, I was again seized with a longing to travel and see foreign countries. So I bought costly merchandise and making it up into bales, repaired to Bassora, where I found in the port a fine tall ship, newly built and fitted ready for sea. She pleased me, so I bought her and embarking my goods in her, hired a master and crew, over whom I set certain of my slaves and servants as inspectors. A number of merchants took passage with me and paid me freight; and we set sail in all joy and cheer, promising ourselves a prosperous voyage and much profit. We sailed from place to place, selling and buying and viewing the countries by which we passed, till one day we came to a great uninhabited island, waste and desolate, whereon was a vast white dome. The merchants landed to examine this dome, leaving me in the ship; and when they drew near, behold, it was a huge roc's egg. They fell a-beating it with stones, knowing not what it was, and presently broke it open, whereupon much water ran out of it and the young roc appeared within. So they pulled it forth of the shell and killed it and took of it great store of meat.
Now I was in the ship and knew not what they did, but presently one of them came up to me and said, "O my lord, come and look at the egg that we thought to be a dome." So I looked and seeing the merchants beating it with stones, called out to them to desist, for that the roc would come and break up our ship and destroy us. But they paid no heed to me and gave not over smiting upon the egg, till presently the day grew dark and the sun was hidden from us, as if some great cloud had passed between us and it. So we raised our eyes and saw that what we took for a cloud was the roc flying between us and the sun, and it was its wings that darkened the day. When it saw its egg broken, it gave a loud cry, whereupon its mate came flying up and they both began circling about the ship, crying out at us with voices louder than thunder. I called out to the master and the crew to put out to sea and seek safety in flight, before we were all destroyed. So the merchants came on board and we cast off and made haste to gain the open sea. When the rocs saw this, they flew off and we crowded sail on the ship, thinking to get beyond their reach; but presently they reappeared and flew after us, each with a huge rock in its claws, that it had brought from the mountains. As soon as the male bird came up with us, he let fall upon us the rock he held in his talons; but the master steered the ship aside, so that the rock missed her by some small matter and plunged into the sea with such violence, that the ship surged up and sank into the trough of the sea and the bottom of the ocean appeared to us. Then the she-bird let fall her rock, which was smaller than that of her mate, and as fore-ordained fate would have it, it fell on the poop of the ship and crushed it, breaking the rudder into twenty pieces; whereupon the vessel foundered and all on board were cast into the sea.
As for me, I struggled for dear life, till God threw in my way one of the planks of the ship, to which I clung and bestriding it, fell a-paddling with my hands and feet. Now the ship had gone down hard by an island and the winds and waves bore me on, till, by permission of God the Most High, they cast me up on the shore of the island, at the last gasp for toil and distress and hunger and thirst. So I landed more dead than alive, and throwing myself down on the beach, lay there awhile, till I began to recover myself, when I walked about the island and found it as it were one of the pleasaunces of Paradise, abounding in trees, laden with ripe fruits, and flowers of all kinds and running streams and birds warbling the praises of Him to whom belong power and eternity. So I ate my fill of the fruits and slaked my thirst with the water of the streams and returned thanks to God the Most High and glorified Him; after which I sat till nightfall, hearing no voice and seeing none.
Then I lay down, well-nigh dead for travail and affright, and slept without ceasing till morning, when I arose and walked among the trees, till I came to a spring of running water, by which sat an old man of venerable aspect, girt about with a waistcloth made of the leaves of trees. Quoth I to myself, "Belike this old man is of those who were wrecked in the ship and hath made his way to this island." So I went up to him and saluted him, and he returned my greeting by signs, but spoke not; and I said to him, "O old man, what ails thee to sit here?" He shook his head and moaned and signed to me, as who should say, "Take me on thy back and carry me to the other side of the stream." And I said to myself, "I will deal kindly with him and do what he desires; it may be God will reward me." So I took him on my shoulders and carrying him to the place to which he pointed, said to him, "Dismount at thy leisure." But he would not get off my back and wound his legs about my neck. I looked at them and seeing that they were like a buffalo's hide for blackness and roughness, was affrighted and would have cast him off; but he clung to me and gripped my neck with his legs, till I was well-nigh choked; the world grew black in my sight and I fell to the ground senseless. But he [still kept his seat and] beat me with his feet on the back and shoulders, till he enforced me rise, for excess of pain. Then he signed to me with his head to carry him hither and thither among the trees, to the best of the fruits; and if I refused to do his bidding or loitered, he beat me with his feet more grievously than if I had been beaten with whips. So I carried him about the island, like a captive slave, and he used to do his occasions on my back, dismounting not day nor night; but, when he wished to sleep, he wound his legs about my neck and lay down and slept awhile, then arose and beat me, where-upon I sprang up in haste, unable to gainsay him, because of the pain he inflicted on me. And indeed I repented me of having taken compassion on him and said in myself, "I did him a kindness and it hath turned to my hurt; by Allah, never more will I do any a service so long as I live!"
I abode thus a long while in the utmost wretchedness, hourly beseeching God the Most High that I might die, for stress of weariness and misery, till one day I came to a place wherein was abundance of gourds, many of them dry. So I took a great dry gourd and cutting open the neck, scooped out the inside and cleaned it; after which I gathered grapes from a vine that grew hard by and squeezed them into the gourd till it was full of the juice. Then I stopped up the mouth and set it in the sun, where I left it for some days till it became strong wine; and every day I used to drink of it, to comfort and sustain me under my fatigues with that froward devil, and as often as I drank, I forgot my troubles and took new heart.
One day, he saw me drinking and signed to me as who should say, "What is that?" Quoth I, "It is an excellent cordial, that cheers the heart and revives the spirits." 'Then, being heated with wine, I ran and danced with him among the trees, clapping my hands and singing and making merry. When he saw this, he signed to me to give him the gourd, that he might drink, and I feared him and gave it him. So he took it and draining it, cast it on the ground, whereupon he grew merry and began to jig to and fro on my shoulders; but presently the fumes of the wine rising to his head, he became helplessly drunk and his every limb relaxed and he swayed to and fro on my back. When I saw that he had lost his senses for drunkenness, I put my hand to his legs and loosing them from my neck, stooped down and threw him to the ground, hardly crediting my deliverance from him and fearing lest he should shake off his drunkenness and do me a mischief.So I took up a great stone from among the trees and smote him therewith on the head with all my might and crushed in his skull and killed him, may God have no mercy on him!
Then I returned, with a heart at ease, to my former station on the sea-shore and abode in the island many days, eating of its fruits and drinking of its waters and keeping a look out for passing ships; till, one day, as I sat on the beach, recalling all that had befallen me and saying, "I wonder if God will save me alive and restore me to my country and my friends!" I suddenly caught sight of a ship making for the island. Presently, it cast anchor and the passengers landed. So I made for them, and when they saw me, they hastened up to me and questioned me of my case and how I came thither. I told them all that had befallen me, whereat they marvelled exceedingly and said, "He who rode on thy shoulders is called the Old Man of the Sea, and none ever fell into his clutches and came off alive but thou; so praised he God for thy safety!" Then they set set food before me, of which I ate my fill, and gave me somewhat of clothes wherewith I clad myself and covered my nakedness; after which they took me up into the ship, and we sailed days and nights, till fate brought us to a place called the City of Apes, builded with lofty houses, all of which gave upon the sea. Now every night, as soon as it is dusk, the dwellers in this city use to come forth of the seaward doors of their houses and putting out to sea in boats and ships, pass the night thus in their fear lest the apes should come down on them from the mountains.
I landed to visit the city, but meanwhile the ship set sail without me and I repented of having gone ashore, and calling to mind my companions and what had befallen me with the apes, first and last, sat down and fell a-weeping and lamenting. Presently one of the townsfolk accosted me and said to me, "O my lord, meseems thou art a stranger to these parts?" "Yes," answered I, "I am indeed an unfortunate stranger, who came hither in a ship that cast anchor here, and I landed to visit the town; but when I would have gone on board again, I found they had sailed without me." "Come," said he, "and embark with us, for, if thou lie the night in the city, the apes will destroy thee." "I hear and obey," replied I and rising, straight-way embarked with him in one of the boats, whereupon they put out to sea and anchoring a mile from the land, passed the night there. At daybreak, they rowed back to the city and landing, went each about his business. Thus they did every night, for if any tarried in the town by night the apes came down on him and killed him. As soon as it was day, the apes left the place and ate of the fruits of the gardens, then went back to the mountains and slept there till nightfall, when they again came down upon the city.
Now this place was in the farthest part of the country of the blacks, and one of the strangest things that befell me during my sojourn there was on this wise. One of those, in whose company I passed the night in the boat, said to me, "O my lord, thou art a stranger in these parts; hast thou any craft at which thou canst work?" "By Allah, O my brother," replied I, "I have no trade nor know I any handicraft, for I was a merchant and a man of substance and had a ship of my own, laden with great store of goods and merchandise; but it foundered at sea and all were drowned but I, who saved myself on a piece of plank, that God vouchsafed me of His favour." With this, he fetched me a cotton bag and giving it to me, said, "Take this bag and fill it with pebbles from the beach and go forth with a company of the townsfolk, to whom I will commend thee. Do as they do and haply thou shalt gain what may further thy return to thy native land." Then he carried me to the beach, where I filled my bag with small pebbles, and presently we saw a company of folk issue from the town, each bearing a bag like mine, filled with pebbles. To these he committed me, commending me to their care and saying, "Take this man with you, for he is a stranger, and teach him how to gather, that he may get his living, and God will reward you." "We hear and obey," answered they and bidding me welcome, fared on with me till we came to a spacious valley, full of lofty trees, that none might climb.
Now in this valley were many apes, which fled at sight of us and climbed up into the trees; whereupon my companions began to pelt them with the stones they had in their bags, and the apes fell to plucking of the fruit of the trees and casting them at the folk. I looked at the fruits they cast at us and found them to be cocoa-nuts; so I chose out a great tree, full of apes, and going up to it, began to pelt them with stones, and they in return pelted me with nuts, which I collected, as did the rest: so that by the time I had made an end of my bagful of pebbles, I had gotten great plenty of nuts; and as soon as my companions had in like manner gotten as many nuts as they could carry, we returned to the city, where we arrived before the end of the day. Then I went in to the man who had brought me in company with the nut-gatherers and gave him all I had gotten, thanking him for his kindness; but he would not accept them and gave me the key of a closet in his house, saying, "Choose out the worst of the nuts and sell them and provide thyself with the price and lay up the rest here. And go thou forth every day and gather nuts, as thou hast done to-day, and lay up the rest here, so haply thou mayest collect enough to serve thee for thy return home." "God requite thee!" answered I and did as he counselled me, going out daily with the cocoa-nut gatherers, who commended me to each other and showed me the best-stocked trees.
Thus did I for some time, till I had laid up great store of excellent nuts, besides a large sum of money, the price of those I had sold. I became thus at my ease and bought all I saw and had a mind to and passed my time pleasantly, till one day, as I stood on the beach, a great ship cast anchor before the city and landed a company of merchants, who proceeded to sell and buy and trade for cocoa-nuts and other commodities. Then I went to my friend and told him of the coming of the ship and how I had a mind to return to my own country; and he said, "It is thine to decide." So I thanked him for his bounties and took leave of him; then, going to the captain of the ship, I agreed with him for my passage and embarked my cocoa-nuts and what else I possessed. We weighed anchor the same day and sailed from place to place; and wherever we stopped, I sold and traded with my cocoa-nuts, and God requited me more than I had lost. Amongst other places, we came to an island abounding in cloves and cinnamon and pepper, and the country people told me that by the side of each pepper-pod grows a great leaf that shades it [from the sun] and casts the water off it in the rainy season; but, when the rain ceases, the leaf turns over and falls down by the side of the pod. Here I took in great store of pepper and cloves and cinnamon, in exchange for cocoa-nuts, and we passed thence to the island of El Usrat, whence comes the Comorin aloes, and thence to another island, five days journey in length, where grows the Chinese aloes, which is better than the Comorin; but the people of the latter island are fouler of case and religion than those of the former, for that they love lewdness and wine-bibbing and know not prayer nor the call to prayer. Thence we came to the island of the pearl-fisheries, and I gave the divers some of my Cocoa-nuts and bade them dive on my account and for my luck. They did so and brought up great plenty of large and fine pearls; and they said to me, By Allah, O my master, thy luck is happy!" Then we sailed on, with the blessing of God the Most High, and arrived safely at Bassora. There I abode a little and then went on to Baghdad, where I foregathered with my friends and family, who gave me joy of my safe return, and laid up all my goods in my storehouses. Then I gave alms and largesse and clothed the widow and the orphan and made presents to my friends and relations; after which I returned to my old merry way of life and forgot all I had suffered in the great profit and gain I had made, for God had requited me fourfold that I had lost. This, then, is the history of my fifth voyage, and now to supper; and to- morrow, come and I will tell you what befell me in my sixth voyage; for it was still more wonderful than this.'
Then he called for food; and the servants spread the table, and they ate the evening-meal, after which he gave the porter an hundred dinars and he returned home, marvelling at all he had heard. Next morning, as soon as it was light, he prayed the morning prayer, and betaking himself to the house of Sindbad the Sailor, bade him good-morrow. The merchant bade him sit and talked with him, till the rest of the guests arrived. Then the servants spread the table and when they had well eaten and drunken and were merry, Sindbad the Sailor began the story of his sixth voyage as follows, saying, 'Know, O my brethren, that...
[Go to The Sixth Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor]
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