[Go back to Prince Zeyn Alasnam and the Sultan of the Genii]
Those who have written the history of Diarbekir inform us that there formerly reigned in the city of Harran a most magnificent and potent sultan, who loved his subjects, and was equally beloved by them. He was endued with all virtues, and wanted nothing to complete his happiness but an heir. Though he had the finest women in the world in his seraglio, yet was he destitute of children. He continually prayed to heaven for them; and one night in his sleep, a comely person, or rather a prophet, appeared to him, and said, "Your prayers are heard; you have obtained what you have desired; rise as soon as you awake, go to your prayers, and make two genuflexions, then walk into the garden of your palace, call your gardener, and bid him bring you a pomegranate, eat as many of the seeds as you please, and your wishes shall be accomplished."
The sultan calling to mind his dream when he awoke, returned thanks to heaven, got up, prayed, made two genuflexions, and then went into his garden, where he took fifty pomegranate seeds, which he counted, and ate. He had fifty wives who shared his bed; they all proved with child; but there was one called Pirouzè, who did not appear to be pregnant. He took an aversion to this lady, and would have her put to death. "Her barrenness," said he, "is a certain token that heaven does not judge Pirouzè worthy to bear a prince; it is my duty to deliver the world from an object that is odious to the Lord." He would have executed his cruel purpose had not his vizier prevented him; representing to him that all women were not of the same constitution, and that it was not impossible but that Pirouzè might be with child, though it did not yet appear. "Well," answered the sultan, "let her live; but let her depart my court; for I cannot endure her." "Your majesty," replied the vizier, "may send her to sultan Samer, your cousin." The sultan approved of this advice; he sent Pirouzè to Samaria, with a letter, in which he ordered his cousin to treat her well, and, in case she proved with child, to give him notice of her being brought to bed.
No sooner was Pirouzè arrived in that country, than it appeared that she was pregnant, and at length she was delivered of a most beautiful prince. The prince of Samaria wrote immediately to the sultan of Harran, to acquaint him with the birth of a son, and to congratulate him on the occasion. The sultan was much rejoiced at this intelligence, and answered prince Samer as follows: "Cousin, all my other wives have each been delivered of a prince. I desire you to educate that of Pirouzè, to give him the name of Codadad, and to send him to me when I may apply for him."
The prince of Samaria spared nothing that might improve the education of his nephew. He taught him to ride, draw the bow, and all other accomplishments becoming the son of a sovereign; so that Codadad, at eighteen years of age, was looked upon as a prodigy. The young prince, being inspired with a courage worthy of his birth, said one day to his mother, "Madam, I begin to grow weary of Samaria; I feel a passion for glory; give me leave to seek it amidst the perils of war. My father, the sultan of Harran, has many enemies. Why does he not call me to his assistance? Why does he leave me here so long in obscurity? Must I spend my life in sloth, when all my brothers have the happiness to be fighting by his side?" "My son," answered Pirouzè, "I am no less impatient to have your name become famous; I could wish you had already signalized yourself against your father's enemies; but we must wait till he requires it." "No, madam," replied Codadad, "I have already waited but too long. I burn to see the sultan, and am tempted to offer him my service, as a young stranger: no doubt but he will accept of it, and I will not discover myself, till I have performed some glorious actions: I desire to merit his esteem before he knows who I am." Pirouzè approved of his generous resolutions, and Codadad departed from Samaria, as if he had been going to the chase, without acquainting prince Samer, lest he should thwart his design.
He was mounted on a white charger, who had a bit and shoes of gold, his housing was of blue satin embroidered with pearls; the hilt of his scimitar was of one single diamond, and the scabbard of sandal-wood, adorned with emeralds and rubies, and on his shoulder he carried his bow and quiver. In this equipage, which greatly set off his handsome person, he arrived at the city of Harran, and soon found means to offer his service to the sultan; who being charmed with his beauty and promising appearance, and perhaps indeed by natural sympathy, gave him a favourable reception, and asked his name and quality. "Sir," answered Codadad, "I am son to an emir of Grand Cairo; an inclination to travel has made me quit my country, and understanding, in my passage through your dominions, that you were engaged in war, I am come to your court to offer your majesty my service." The sultan shewed him extraordinary kindness, and gave him a command in his army.
The young prince soon signalized his bravery. He gained the esteem of the officers, and was admired by the soldiers. Having no less wit than courage, he so far advanced himself in the sultan's esteem, as to become his favourite. All the ministers and other courtiers daily resorted to Codadad, and were so eager to purchase his friendship, that they neglected the sultan's sons. The princes could not but resent this conduct, and imputing it to the stranger, all conceived an implacable hatred against him; but the sultan's affection daily increasing, he was never weary of giving him fresh testimonies of his regard. He always would have him near his person; admired his conversation, ever full of wit and discretion; and to shew his high opinion of his wisdom and prudence, committed to his care the other princes, though he was of the same age as they; so that Codadad was made governor of his brothers.
This only served to heighten their hatred. "Is it come to this," said they, "that the sultan, not satisfied with loving a stranger more than us, will have him to be our governor, and not allow us to act without his leave? this is not to be endured. We must rid ourselves of this foreigner." "Let us go together," said one of them, "and dispatch him." "No, no," answered another; "we had better be cautious how we sacrifice ourselves. His death would render us odious to the sultan, who in return would declare us all unworthy to reign. Let us destroy him by some stratagem. We will ask his permission to hunt, and when at a distance from the palace, proceed to some other city, and stay there some time. The sultan will wonder at our absence, and perceiving we do not return, perhaps put the stranger to death, or at least will banish him from court, for suffering us to leave the palace."
All the princes applauded this artifice. They went together to Codadad, and desired him to allow them to take the diversion of hunting, promising to return the same day. Pirouzè's son was taken in the snare, and granted the permission his brothers desired. They set out, but never returned. They had been three days absent, when the sultan asked Codadad where the princes were, for it was long since he had seen them. "Sir," answered Codadad, after making a profound reverence, "they have been hunting these three days, but they promised me they would return sooner." The sultan grew uneasy, and his uneasiness increased when he perceived the princes did not return the next day. He could not check his anger: "Indiscreet stranger," said he to Codadad, "why did you let my sons go without bearing them company? Is it thus you discharge the trust I have reposed in you? Go, seek them immediately, and bring them to me, or your life shall be forfeited."
These words chilled with alarm Pirouzè's unfortunate son. He armed himself, departed from the city, and like a shepherd, who had lost his flock, searched the country for his brothers, inquiring at every village whether they had been seen: but hearing no news of them, abandoned himself to the most lively grief. "Alas! my brothers," said he, "what is become of you? Are you fallen into the hands of our enemies? Am I come to the court of Harran to be the occasion of giving the sultan so much anxiety?" He was inconsolable for having given the princes permission to hunt, or for not having borne them company.
After some days spent in fruitless search, he came to a plain of prodigious extent, in the midst whereof was a palace built of black marble. He drew near, and at one of the windows beheld a most beautiful lady; but set off with no other ornament than her own charms; for her hair was dishevelled, her garments torn, and on her countenance appeared all the marks of the greatest affliction. As soon as she saw Codadad, and judged he might hear her, she directed her discourse to him, saying, "Young man, depart from this fatal place, or you will soon fall into the hands of the monster that inhabits it: a black, who feeds only on human blood, resides in this palace; he seizes all persons whom their ill-fate conducts to this plain, and shuts them up in his dark dungeons, whence they are never released, but to be devoured by him."
"Madam," answered Codadad, "tell me who you are, and be not concerned for myself." "I am a young woman of quality of Grand Cairo," replied the lady; "I was passing by this castle yesterday, in my way to Bagdad, and met with the black, who killed all my attendants, and brought me hither; I wish I had nothing but death to fear, but to add to my calamity, this monster would persuade me to love him, and, in case I do not yield to-morrow to his brutality, I must expect the last violence. Once more," added she, "make your escape: the black will soon return; he is gone out to pursue some travellers he espied at a distance on the plain. Lose no time; I know not whether you can escape him by a speedy flight."
She had scarcely done speaking before the black appeared. He was of monstrous bulk, and of a dreadful aspect, mounted on a large Tartar horse, and bore such a heavy scimitar, that none but himself could wield. The prince seeing him, was amazed at his gigantic stature, directed his prayers to heaven to assist him, then drew his scimitar, and firmly awaited his approach. The monster, despising so inconsiderable an enemy, called to him to submit without fighting. Codadad by his conduct shewed that he was resolved to defend his life; for rushing upon him, he wounded him on the knee. The black, feeling himself wounded, uttered such a dreadful yell as made all the plain resound. He grew furious and foamed with rage, and raising himself on his stirrups, made at Codadad with his dreadful scimitar. The blow was so violent, that it would have put an end to the young prince, had not he avoided it by a sudden spring. The scimitar made a horrible hissing in the air: but, before the black could have time to make a second blow, Codadad struck him on his right arm, with such force, that he cut it off. The dreadful scimitar fell with the hand that held it, and the black yielding under the violence of the stroke, lost his stirrups, and made the earth shake with the weight of his fall. The prince alighted at the same time, and cut off his enemy's head. Just then, the lady, who had been a spectator of the combat, and was still offering up her earnest prayers to heaven for the young hero, whom she admired, uttered a shriek of joy, and said to Codadad, "Prince (for the dangerous victory you have obtained, as well as your noble air, convinces me that you are of no common rank), finish the work you have begun; the black has the keys of this castle, take them and deliver me out of prison." The prince searched the wretch as he lay stretched on the ground, and found several keys.
He opened the first door, and entered a court, where he saw the lady coming to meet him; she would have cast herself at his feet, the better to express her gratitude, but he would not permit her. She commended his valour, and extolled him above all the heroes in the world. He returned her compliments; and she appeared still more lovely to him near, than she had done at a distance. I know not whether she felt more joy at being delivered from the desperate danger she had been in, than he for having done so considerable a service to so beautiful a person.
Their conversation was interrupted by dismal cries and groans. "What do I hear?" said Codadad: "Whence come these miserable lamentations, which pierce my ears?" "My lord," said the lady to him, pointing to a little door in the court, "they come from thence. There are I know not how many wretched persons whom fate has thrown into the hands of the black. They are all chained, and the monster drew out one every day to devour."
"It is an addition to my joy," answered the young prince, "to understand that my victory will save the lives of those unfortunate beings. Come along with me, madam, to partake in the satisfaction of giving them their liberty. You may judge by your own feelings how welcome we shall be to them." Having so said, they advanced towards the door of the dungeon, and the nearer they drew, the more distinctly they heard the lamentations of the prisoners. Codadad pitying them, and impatient to put an end to their sufferings, presently put one of the keys into the lock. The noise made all the unfortunate captives, who concluded it was the black coming, according to custom, to seize one of them to devour, redouble their cries and groans. Lamentable voices were heard, which seemed to come from the centre of the earth.
In the mean time, the prince had opened the door; he went down a very steep staircase into a large and deep vault, which received some feeble light from a little window, and in which there were above a hundred persons, bound to stakes, and their hands tied. "Unfortunate travellers," said he to them, "wretched victims, who only expected the moment of an approaching cruel death, give thanks to heaven, which has this day delivered you by my means. I have slain the black by whom you were to be devoured, and am come to knock off your chains." The prisoners hearing these words, gave a shout of mingled joy and surprise. Codadad and the lady began to unbind them; and as soon as any of them were loose, they helped to take off the fetters from the rest; so that in a short time they were all at liberty.
They then kneeled down, and having returned thanks to Codadad for what he had done for them, went out of the dungeon; but when they were come into the court, how was the prince surprised to see among the prisoners, those he was in search of, and almost without hopes to find! "Princes," cried he, "am I not deceived? Is it you whom I behold? May I flatter myself that it may be in my power to restore you to the sultan your father, who is inconsolable for the loss of you? But will he not have some one to lament? Are you all here alive? Alas! the death of one of you will suffice to damp the joy I feel for having delivered you!"
The forty-nine princes all made themselves known to Codadad, who embraced them one after another, and told them how uneasy their father was on account of their absence. They gave their deliverer all the commendations he deserved, as did the other prisoners, who could not find words expressive enough to declare their gratitude. Codadad, with them, searched the whole castle, where was immense wealth; curious silks, gold brocades, Persian carpets, China satins, and an infinite quantity of other goods, which the black had taken from the caravans he had plundered, a considerable part whereof belonged to the prisoners Codadad had then liberated. Every man knew and claimed his property. The prince restored them their own, and divided the rest of the merchandise among them. Then he said to them, "How will you carry away your goods? We are here in a desert place, and there is no likelihood of your getting horses." "My lord," answered one of the prisoners, "the black robbed us of our camels as well as our goods, and perhaps they may be in the stables of this castle." "This is not unlikely," replied Codadad; "let us examine." Accordingly they went to the stables, where they not only found the camels, but also the horses belonging to the sultan of Harran's sons. There were some black slaves in the stables, who seeing all the prisoners released, and guessing thereby that their master had been killed, fled through by-ways well known to them. Nobody minded to pursue them. All the merchants, overjoyed that they had recovered their goods and camels, together with their liberty, thought of nothing but prosecuting their journey; but first repeated their thanks to their deliverer.
When they were gone, Codadad, directing his discourse to the lady, said, "What place, madam, do you desire to go to? Whither were you bound when you were seized by the black? I intend to bear you company to the place you shall choose for your retreat, and I question not but that all these princes will do the same." The sultan of Harran's sons protested to the lady, that they would not leave her till she was restored to her friends.
"Princes," said she, "I am of a country too remote from hence; and, besides that, it would be abusing your generosity to oblige you to travel so far. I must confess that I have left my native country for ever. I told you that I was a lady of Grand Cairo; but since you have shewn me so much favour, and I am so highly obliged to you," added she, looking upon Codadad, "I should be much in the wrong in concealing the truth from you; I am a sultan's daughter. An usurper has possessed himself of my father's throne, after having murdered him, and I have been forced to fly to save my life."
Codadad and his brothers requested the princess to tell them her story, assuring her they felt a particular interest in her misfortunes, and were determined to spare nothing that might contribute to render her more happy. After thanking them for their repeated protestations of readiness to serve her, she could not refuse to satisfy their curiosity, and began the recital of her adventures in the following manner.
[Go to The Princess of Deryabar]
Scott, Jonathan (1754-1829). The Arabian Nights Entertainments. London: Pickering and Chatto, 1890. 4 Volumes. Project Gutenberg.
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