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Payne: The Queen of the Serpents

[Go back to Aboulhusn ed Durraj and Abou Jaafer the Leper]

There was once, of old days and in bygone ages and times, a Grecian sage called Daniel, who had scholars and disciples, and the wise men of Greece were obedient to his commandment and relied upon his learning; but God had denied him a son. One night, as he lay musing and weeping over the lack of a son, to whom he might bequeath his learning, he bethought himself that God (blessed and exalted be He) gives ear unto the prayer of those who resort to him and that there is no doorkeeper at the gate of His bounties and that He favours whom He will without stint and sends none empty away. So he besought the Most High, the Bountiful, to vouchsafe him a son, to succeed him, and to endow him abundantly with His favours. Then he returned and lay with 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 a plank, with the loss of all his books, save only five leaves thereof. When he returned home, he laid the five leaves in a chest and locking it, gave the key to his wife, who was then big with child, and said to her, 'Know that my last hour is at hand and that the time of my translation from this temporary abiding-place [of the world] to that which is eternal draws nigh. Now thou art with child and wilt haply bear a son after my death. If this be so, name him Hasib Kerimeddin and rear him well. When the boy grows up and says to thee, "What inheritance did my father leave me?" give him these five leaves, which when he has read and digested, he will be the most learned man of his time' Then he bade her farewell and heaving one sigh, departed the world and all that is therein, the mercy of the Most High God be upon him! His family and friends wept over him and washed him and bore him forth in great state and buried him.

After awhile, his widow bore a handsome boy and named him Hasib Kerimeddin, as her husband had charged her; then she summoned the astrologers, who took the altitude of the planets and drawing the boy's horoscope, said to her, 'Know that this boy will live many years; but a great peril will befall him in the early part of his life, from which if he escape, he will be given the knowledge of wisdom.' She suckled him two years, then weaned him, and when he was five years old, she sent him to school, but he would learn nothing. So she took him from school and set him to learn a trade; but he would not learn and there came no work from his hands. She wept over this and the folk said to her, 'Marry him: peradventure he will take thought for his wife and learn a trade.' So she sought out a girl and married him to her; but marriage wrought no change in him and he still remained idle as before.

One day, some neighbours of hers, who were woodcutters, came to her and said, 'Buy thy son an ass and cords and a hatchet, and let him go with us to the mountain and cut wood. The price of the wood shall be his and ours, and with his share he shall provide thee and his wife.' When she heard this, she rejoiced greatly and bought Hasib an ass and hatchet and cords; then, carrying him to the woodcutters, delivered him into their hands and commended him to their care. 'Have no concern for the boy,' answered they; 'he is the son of our Sheikh [Daniel,] and our Lord will provide him.' 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 price on their families. This they did every day for some time, till one day, as they were cutting wood on the mountain as usual, a violent storm of rain broke over them, and they took refuge in a great cave, till the storm should be past. It chanced that Hasib went apart from the rest into a corner of the cavern and sitting down, fell to smiting the earth [idly] with his axe. Presently, he noted that the ground gave out a hollow sound under the axe; 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, who came to him and speedily clearing away the earth from the stone, pulled it up and found under it a trap door, which, being opened, discovered a cistern full of bees' honey. Then said they to each other, 'We must return to the city and fetch vessels, in which to carry away the honey, and sell it and divide the price, whilst one of us stays by the cistern, to guard it from other than ourselves.' Quoth Hasib, 'I will stay and keep watch over it.' So they left him there and repairing to the city, fetched vessels, which they filled with honey and loading their asses therewith, carried them to the city and sold the contents.

Thus they did several days in succession, sleeping in the city by night, whilst Hasib abode on guard by the cistern, [till but little remained,] when they said to one another, 'It was Hasib found the honey, and to-morrow he will come down to the city and claim the price of it, saying, "It was I found it;" nor is there any means of quitting ourselves of this but that we let him down into the cistern, to get the rest of the honey, and leave him there; so will he perish miserably, and none will know of him.' They all fell in with this and returning to the cavern, said to Hasib, "Go down into the well and get us the rest of the honey.' So he went down and passed up to them the rest 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 away and left him alone in the cistern. When they reached the city, they repaired to Hasib's mother, weeping, and said to her, 'May thy head outlive thy son Hasib!' 'How did he die?' asked she. Quoth they, 'We were cutting wood in the mountain, when there fell on us a great storm of rain and we took shelter from it in a cavern. Presently, 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 ate the ass.' When she heard this, she buffeted her face and strewed dust on her head and fell a-mourning for her son, whilst the woodcutters sold the honey, with the proceeds of which they opened shops and became merchants and passed their lives in eating and drinking and making merry; but, every day, they brought Hasib's mother meat and drink.

Meanwhile, when Hasib found himself alone, he began to weep and call for help and say, 'There is no god but God, the Most High, the Supreme! I shall surely perish miserably!' As he was thus bemoaning himself, a great scorpion fell upon him; so he rose and killed it. Then he bethought him and said, 'The cistern was full of honey; how came this scorpion here?' Therewith he rose and examined the well right and left, till he found the crevice from which the scorpion had fallen and saw light shining through it. So he took out his knife and enlarged the opening, till it was big enough to allow him to pass, when he crept through it and found himself in a passage in the rock. Following this passage, he came to a vast gallery, which led him to a great iron door, made fast with a padlock of silver, in which was a golden key. He looked through the chink of the door and saw a great light shining within; so he took the key and opening the door [found himself in an open space and] walked on till he came to a great pond, full of something that glistened like water. Hard by he saw a high mound of green jasper and on the top of the mound a throne of gold, inlaid with all manner jewels, round which were set many stools, some of gold, some of silver and others of emerald. He climbed the mound and counting the stools, found them twelve thousand in number. Then he mounted the throne and seating himself thereon, sat marvelling at the pond and the stools, till drowsiness overcame him and he fell asleep.

Presently, he was aroused by a great snorting and hissing and rustling, and opening his eyes, saw seated on each stool a great serpent, a hundred cubits in length, with eyes that blazed like live coals. At this sight, great fear got hold on him; his spittle dried up, for the excess of his affright, and he despaired of life. Then he turned towards the pond and saw [that what he had taken for water was none other than a multitude of] small serpents, none knoweth their number save God the Most High. After awhile, there came a serpent as big as a mule, bearing on its back a charger of gold, wherein lay another serpent, that shone like crystal and whose face was as that of a woman. Thereupon, one of the serpents seated there came up and lifting her off the dish, set her on one of the stools. Then 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 saluted Hasib in human speech and he returned her salutation; and she said to him with fluent speech, 'Have no fear of us, O youth. I am the Queen of the Serpents and their Sultaness.' When he heard this, he took heart and she bade the serpents bring him 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 said, 'Welcome, O youth! What is thy name?' 'My name is Hasib Kerimeddin,' answered he; and she rejoined, 'O Hasib, eat of these fruits, for we have no other meat, and fear nothing from us.' So he ate his fill and praised God the Most High. Then they took away the tray from before him, and the Queen said to him, 'O Hasib, tell me whence thou art and how camest thou hither.' So he told her his story from first to last, adding, 'God [only] knows what will betide me after this!' Quoth the Queen, 'Nothing but good shall betide thee: but, O Hasib, I would have thee abide with me awhile, that I may tell thee my history and acquaint thee with the rare adventures that have come to my knowledge.' 'I hear and obey,' answered he; and she said, 'Know then, O Hasib, that...

[Go to The Adventures of Beloukiya]

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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