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It has been lately related that there was formerly a sovereign of the East who had three sons, the eldest of whom had heard some traveller describe a particular country where there was a bird called Bulbul al Syach, who transformed any passenger who came near him into stone. The prince resolved to see this wonderful bird; and requested leave to travel from his father, who endeavoured in vain to divert him from his purpose. He took leave, and on his departure, pulling off a ring set with a magical gem, gave it to his second brother, saying, "Whenever you perceive this ring press hard upon your finger, be assured that I am lost beyond recovery." Having begun his journey, he did not cease travelling till he reached the spot where was the bird's cage, in which it used to pass the night, but in the daytime it flew about for exercise and food.
It was the custom of the bird to return about sunset to the cage; when, if it perceived any person near, it would cry out in a plaintive tone, "Who will say to a poor wanderer, Lodge? who will say to an unhappy Bulbul, Lodge?" and if the person replied, "Lodge, poor bird!" it immediately hovered over his head, and scattering upon him some earth from its bill, the person became transformed into a stone. Such proved the fate of the unfortunate prince.
The transformation of the eldest prince had no sooner taken place than the ring pressed hard upon the finger of the second, who exclaimed, "Alas! alas! my brother is lost; but I will travel, and endeavour to find out his condition." It was in vain that the sultan his father, and the sultana his mother, remonstrated. He departed after he had delivered the magical ring to his younger brother, and journeyed till he reached the cage of the bird; who having ensnared him to pronounce the word lodge, scattered some earth upon his head, when he, also, immediately became transformed into stone.
At this instant the youngest prince was sitting at a banquet with his father; when the ring pressed so hard to his finger, as to put him to much pain. He rose up, and exclaimed, "There is no refuge or asylum but with God; for his we are, and to him we must return." The sultan, upon this, inquired the cause of his grief; when he said, "My brother has perished."
The old sultan was loudly lamenting the loss of his two children, when the youngest continued, "I will travel and learn the fate of my brothers." "Alas!" said the father, "is it not enough that I have lost them, but thou also wilt rush into destruction? I entreat thee not to leave me." "Father," replied the prince, "fate impels me to search for my brothers, whom, perhaps, I may recover; but if I fail, I shall only have done my duty." Having said this, he departed, in spite of the tears and lamentations of his parents, and travelled till he had reached the residence of the bird; where he found his brothers transformed into images of stone. At sunset the bird began its usual tone; but the prince suspecting some deceit, forbore to speak, till at length the Bulbul retired to his cage, and fell asleep; when watching the opportunity, the prince darted upon it, and fastened the door. The bird awoke at the noise, and seeing himself caught, said, "Thou hast won the prize, O glorious son of a mighty sultan!" "If so," exclaimed the prince, "inform me by what means thou hast enchanted so many persons as I see around me changed into images of marble, and how I may release them from their unhappy state." "Behold," replied the bird, "yonder two heaps of earth, one white and the other blue. The blue enchants, and the other will recover from transformation."
The prince immediately took up handfuls of the white earth, and scattering it over the numerous images, they instantly became animated and restored to all their functions. He embraced his two brothers, and received their thanks; also those of the sons of many sultans, bashaws, and great personages, for giving them new life. They informed him that near the spot was a city, all the inhabitants of which had been, like them, transformed into stone. To this he repaired, and having relieved them from their enchantment, the people out of gratitude made him rich presents, and would have chosen him for their sovereign, but he declined their offer, and resolved to conduct his brothers in safety to their father.
The two elder princes, notwithstanding they owed the restoration of their lives to their brother, became envious of the valuable presents he had received, and of the fame he would acquire at home for his achievement. They said to one another, "When we reach the capital the people will applaud him, and say, ‘Lo! the two elder brothers have been rescued from destruction by the youngest.'"
The youngest prince being supplied with horses, camels, and carriages, for himself and companions, began his march homewards, and proceeded by easy stages towards the capital of his father; within one day's journey of which was a reservoir of water lined with marble. On the brink of this he ordered his tents to be pitched, resolving to pass the night and enjoy himself in feasting with his brothers. An elegant entertainment was prepared, and he sat with them till it was time to repose; when they retired to their tents, and he lay down to sleep, having on his finger a ring, which he had found in the cage of the Bulbul.
The envious brothers thinking this a fit opportunity to destroy their generous preserver, arose in the dead of night, and taking up the prince, cast him into the reservoir, and escaped to their tents undiscovered. In the morning they issued orders of march, the tents were struck, and the camels loaded; but the attendants missing the youngest prince, inquired after him; to which the brothers replied, that being asleep in his tent, they were unwilling to disturb him. This satisfied them, and having pursued their march they reached the capital of their father, who was overjoyed at their return, and admired the beauty of the Bulbul, which they had carried with them; but he inquired with eagerness what was become of their brother.
The brothers replied, "We know nothing of him, and did not till now hear of his departure in search of the bird, which we have brought with us." The sultan dearly loved his youngest son; and on hearing that his brothers had not seen him, beat his hands together, exclaiming, "Alas! alas! there is no refuge or asylum but with the Almighty, from whom we came, and to whom we must return."
We must now return to the youngest brother. When he was cast into the reservoir he awoke, and finding himself in danger, exclaimed, "I seek deliverance from that God who relieveth his servants from the snares of the wicked." His prayer was heard, and he reached the bottom of the reservoir unhurt; where he seated himself on a ledge, when he heard persons talking. One said to another, "Some son of man is near." "Yes," replied the other, "he is the youngest son of our virtuous sultan; who, after having delivered his two brothers from enchantment, hath been treacherously cast into this reservoir." "Well," answered the first voice, "he may easily escape, for he has a ring upon his finger, which if he will rub a genie will appear to him and perform whatever he may command."
The prince no sooner heard these words than he rubbed his hand over the ring, when a good genie appearing, said, "Prince, what are thy commands?"
"I command," replied the prince, "that thou instantly prepare me tents, camels, domestics, guards, and every thing suitable to my condition." "All is ready," answered the genie; who, at the same instant taking him from the ledge, conducted him into a splendid encampment, where the troops received him with acclamations. He ordered signals of march to be sounded, and proceeded towards the capital of his father. When he had arrived near the city, he commanded his tents to be pitched on the plain. Immediately his orders were obeyed, the tents were raised (a most magnificent one for himself), before which the servants raised a gorgeous awning, and sprinkled water to lay the dust. The cooks lighted their fires, and a great smoke ascended, which filled the plain.
The inhabitants of the city were astonished at the approach of the army, and when they saw the encampment pitched, supposed it to be that of a powerful enemy preparing for assaulting them. Intelligence of this unexpected host was conveyed to the sultan; who, on hearing it, instead of alarm, felt a pleasure which he could not account for, and said, "Gracious Allah! my heart is filled with delight; but why I know not." Immediately he commanded his suite to attend, and repaired to the encampment of his son, to whom he was introduced; but the prince being habited very richly, and differently from what he had seen him in, was not known by the sultan.
The prince received his father with the honours due to his rank, and when they were seated, and had entered into conversation, said, "What is become of thy youngest son?" The words were scarcely uttered, when the old sultan fell fainting to the earth. On his recovery, he exclaimed, "Alas! my son's imprudence led him to travel, and he has fallen a prey to the beasts of the forest." "Be comforted," replied the prince; "the disasters of fortune have not reached thy son, for he is alive and in health." "Is it possible?" cried the sultan; "ah! tell me where I shall find him!" "He is before thee," replied the prince: upon which, the sultan looking more closely, knew him, fell upon his neck, wept, and sunk to the earth overpowered with ecstacy.
When the sultan had recovered, he desired his son to relate his adventures, which he did from first to last. Just as he had finished the elder brothers arrived, and seeing him in such splendour, hung down their heads, abashed and unable to speak; but yet more envious than ever. The old sultan would have put them to death for their treachery, but the youngest prince said, "Let us leave them to the Almighty, for whoever commits sin will meet its punishment in himself."
When the husbandman had concluded the above story, the sultan was so highly pleased that he presented him with a large sum of money, and a beautiful slave, inquiring at the same time if he could divert him with another story, to which he replied in the affirmative.
On another night, when the sultan and the countryman had sat down to converse, the former desired him to relate some ancient story, when the latter began as follows.
[Go to A Sultan of Yemen and His Three Sons]
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