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Payne: The Fishes and the Crab

[Go back to The Fakir and His Pot of Butter]

There was once a pond of water, wherein dwelt a number of fish, and it befell that the water of the pond dwindled and shrank away, till there remained barely enough to suffice them and they were nigh upon death and said, "What will become of us? How shall we do and of whom shall we seek counsel for our deliverance?" Quoth one of them, who was the chiefest of them in wit and age, "There is nothing will serve us but that we seek deliverance of God; but, come, let us go to the crab and seek his counsel, for indeed he is the chiefest and wisest of us all." They all approved of the fish's advice and betook themselves to the crab, whom they found squatted in his hole, without news or knowledge of their strait. So they saluted him and said to him, "O our lord, doth not our affair concern thee, who art our ruler and our chief?" The crab returned their salutation, saying, "And on you be peace! What aileth you and what is your want?" So they told him the strait in which they were by reason of the shrinking of the water, and that, when it should be altogether dried up, destruction would betide them. "Wherefore," added they, "we come to thee, expecting thy counsel, so haply deliverance may be therein, for thou art the chiefest and most experienced of us."

The crab bowed his head awhile and said, "Doubtless ye lack understanding, in that ye despair of the mercy of God the Most High and His care for the provision of all His creatures. Know ye not that God (blessed and exalted be He!) provideth all his creatures without stint and that He fore-ordained their means of livelihood ere He created aught and appointed to each of His creatures a fixed term of life and an allotted provision, of His divine providence? How then shall we burden ourselves with concern for a thing that is written in His secret purpose? Wherefore, it is my judgment that ye can do no better than to seek aid of God the Most High, and it behoveth each of us to make clean his conscience with his Lord, both in public and private, and pray Him to succour us and deliver us from our strait; for God the Most High disappointeth not the expectation of those who put their trust in Him and rejecteth not the suit of those who supplicate Him. When we have mended our ways, our affairs will prosper and all will be well with us, and when the winter cometh and our land is deluged, by means of our effectual prayer, He will not undo the good He hath built up. So it is my counsel that we take patience and await what God shall do with us. If death come to us, we shall be at rest, and if there befall us aught that calleth for fight, we will flee and depart our land whither God will."

"Thou sayst sooth, O our lord," answered all the fish with one voice. "May God requite thee for us with good!" Then each returned to his place, and in a few days, God sent them a violent rain and the place of the pond was filled fuller than before. On like wise, O king,' continued Shimas, 'we despaired of a child being born to thee, and now that God hath vouchsafed unto us and unto thee this blessed son, we implore Him to make him indeed blessed and render him the solace of thine eyes and a worthy successor to thee and grant us of him the like of that which He hath granted us of thee; for God the Most High disappointeth not those that seek Him and it behoveth none to despair of His mercy.'

Then the second vizier rose and saluting the king, spoke as follows: 'Verily, a king is not called a king, save he give gifts and do justice and rule with equity and munificence and govern his subjects wisely, maintaining the established law and usages among them and justifying them, one against another, and sparing their blood and warding off hurt from them; and of his qualities should be that he be never unmindful of the poor and that he succour the highest and lowest of them and give them each his due, so that they all bless him and are obedient to his commandment. Without doubt, a king who is after this wise is beloved of his people and gaineth of this world eminence and of the next glory and the favour of the Creator of both worlds. And we thy subjects acknowledge in thee, O king, all the attributes of kingship I have set out, even as it is said, "The best of things is that the king of a people be just and their physician skilful and their teacher experienced, doing according to his knowledge." Now we enjoy this happiness, after we had despaired of the birth of a son to thee, to inherit thy crown; but God (magnified be His name!) hath not disappointed thine expectation, but hath granted thy prayer, by reason of the goodliness of thy trust in Him and thy submission of thine affairs to Him, and there hath betided thee that which betided the crow with the serpent.' 'What was that?' asked the king. 'Know, O king,' replied the vizier, 'that...

[Go to The Crow and the Serpent]


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


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