[Go back to A Sultan of Yemen and His Three Sons (cont.)]
In ancient days there lived a sultan of Hind, than whom no prince of the age was greater in extent of territory, riches, or force; but Heaven had not allotted to him offspring, either male or female: on which account he was involved in sorrow. One morning, being even more melancholy than usual, he put on a red habit, and repaired to his divan; when his vizier, alarmed at the robes of mourning, said, "What can have occasioned my lord to put on this gloomy habit?" "Alas!" replied the sultan, "my soul is this morning overclouded with melancholy." "Repair then to the treasury," said the vizier, "and view thy wealth; as, perhaps, the lustre of gold, and the brilliant sparkling of jewels, may amuse thy senses and disperse thy sorrow." "Vizier," answered the sultan, "this world to me is all vanity; I regard nothing but the contemplation of the Deity: yet how can I be relieved from melancholy, since I have lived to this age and he has not blessed me with children, either sons or daughters, who are the ornaments of manhood in this world?"
The sultan had scarcely ceased speaking, when a human figure of a dusky hue appeared before him, and said, "My sovereign, here is a confection left me by my ancestors, with an assurance, that whoever might eat of it would have offspring." The sultan eagerly took the confection, and by the blessing of Allah, one of the ladies of his haram conceived that very night. When her pregnancy was made known to him, the sultan was overjoyed, distributed large sums in charity to the poor, and every day comforted the distressed by his bounty.
When the sultana had gone her full time, she was delivered of a son beautiful in aspect, and of graceful person; at which the sultan became overjoyed, and on that day set apart one half of his treasures for the use of the infant prince, who was intrusted to the charge of experienced nurses. After he had thrived sufficiently at the breast he was weaned, and at six years of age put under the care of learned tutors, who taught him to write, to read the Koran, and instructed him in the other several branches of literature. When he had completed his twelfth year, he was accomplished in horsemanship, archery, and throwing the lance, till at length he became a distinguished cavalier, and excelled the most celebrated equestrians.
The young prince being on a certain day hunting in the vicinity of the capital, there suddenly appeared soaring and wheeling in the air a bird, whose plumage was of the most beautiful and glossy green. The prince let fly an arrow, but without effect, and the bird suddenly disappeared. It was in vain that he turned his eye to all quarters, in hopes of again discovering his wished-for prey, for the bird had flown out of sight, and the prince after searching in all directions till the close of day, returned vexed and much disappointed to his father's palace. On his entrance, the sultan and sultana perceiving his countenance gloomy, inquired the cause of his melancholy, when he informed them of the bird: upon which, they said, "Dear son, the creaures of the Almighty are innumerably diversified; and, doubtless, there are many birds as beautiful, and wonderfully more so than this, whose escape you so much regret." "It may be so," replied the prince; "but unless I shall be able to take this, which has so captivated my fancy, I will abstain from food."
On the following morning the prince repaired again to the chase, and having reached the same spot on the plain, to his great joy beheld the green bird. Having taken a cautious aim, he let fly an arrow; but she evaded it, and soared before him in the air. The prince spurred his courser and followed, keeping his desired prey in sight unceasingly till sunset; when both himself and his horse being exhausted he gave up the pursuit, and returned towards the city. As he was riding slowly, and almost fainting with hunger and fatigue, there met him a venerable looking personage, who said, "Prince, both thyself and thy charger seem exhausted; what can have been the cause of such over exercise?" "Father," answered the prince, "I have been pursuing, but in vain, a beautiful green bird, on which I had set my mind." "Son," replied the sage, "if thou wert to follow it for a whole year's journey, thy pursuit would be useless; for thou couldst never take it. This bird comes from a city in the country of Kafoor, in which are most delightful gardens abounding in such birds as this, and many other species still more beautiful, some of which sing enchantingly, and others talk like human beings; but, alas thou canst never reach that happy spot. Give up then all thoughts of the bird, and seek some other objeft for a favourite that thou mayst enjoy repose, and no longer vex thyself for impossibilities." When the prince heard this from the old man, he exclaimed, "By Allah! nothing shall prevent me from visiting the charming country thou hast mentioned;" and leaving the sage, he rode homewards, his mind wholly taken up in meditating on the land of Kafoor.
When the prince had reached the palace, the sultan perceiving his disordered state, inquired the adventures of the day; and being informed of his fruitless pursuit, and the remarks of the old man, said, "My son, discharge this idle chimera from thy mind, nor perplex thyself longer, since he who wishes for an impossibility may pine himself to death, but can never gain his desires: calm then thy soul, nor vex thyself longer in vain." "By Allah!" answered the prince, "my soul, O my father, is captivated with the desire of possessing this bird more strongly than ever, from the words of the venerable old man; nor is it possible I can enjoy repose till I have travelled to the island of Kafoor, and beheld the gardens containing such a wonderful feathered species." "Alas! my dear son," exclaimed the sultan, "think how afflicting must be to myself and thy mother thy absence from our sight, and for our sakes give up such a fruitless expedition."
The prince, notwithstanding the remonstrances of his father, continued obstinate, and said, "My travelling is inevitable: grant me then permission, or I will put myself to death." "If so," exclaimed the affrighted sultan, "there is no refuge or help but from the omnipotent Allah: well has the proverb remarked, that the nestling would not be restrained from the air, when suddenly the raven pounced upon it and bore it away. Heaven guard my son from the consequences of his imprudence." Having said thus, the sultan commanded preparations for the requisites of travel, and ordered a force to accompany the headstrong prince; who, having taken leave of his afflicted parents, began his expedition towards the country of Kafoor.
The prince pursued his journey without any extraordinary adventure for a whole month, and at the expiration of it arrived at a spot from which branched out three roads. At the junction of them was erected a lofty pyramid, each face fronting one of the roads. On one face was inscribed, "This is named the Path of Safety:" on the second, "This is called the Way of Repentance:" and on the third, "Whoever follows this road will not probably return." "I will pursue this last," said the prince to himself, and accordingly striking into it, proceeded onwards for twenty days, at the end of which he encamped near a desolated city, crumbling into ruin, wholly destitute of inhabitants. He commanded his attendants, as no provisions could be found in the city, to kill five sheep of the flocks he had brought with him, and dress them for their refreshment in various ways. When all were ready, and the simmaut was spread out, having performed his ablutions, he sat down with his principal followers.
The prince and his company had scarcely seated themselves, when, lo! there advanced from the desolated city a Genie, whom the prince seeing, stood up, and thus accosted, "Hail! and welcome to the sovereign of the Aoon, friendly to his brethren, and ruler of this extensive desert." He then addressed him, flatteringly, in fluent language and eloquent expression. The hair of this Oone Genie hung shaggily over his eyes, and flowed in matted tresses upon his shoulders. The prince took out a pair of scissors, and having condescendingly cut his hair, pared his nails, and washed him, seated him at the cloth, and placed before him the dish dressed peculiarly for himself.
The Oone ate, and was delighted with the affability of the prince, whom he addressed, saying, "By Allah, O Mahummud, son of a sultan! I am doomed to death by thy arrival here; but what, my lord, was thy object in coming?" Upon this the prince informed him of his having seen the bird, his vain attempts to take her, the account he had received from the old man, and his resolution, in consequence of his information, to penetrate to the kingdom of Kafoor, to visit the gardens, and bring away some of the wonderful birds.
When the Oone heard this, he said, "O son of a sultan, that country to thee is impenetrable, thou canst not reach it; for the distance from hence is a journey of three hundred years to the most laborious traveller; how then canst thou hope to arrive at it, much more return? But, my son, the good old proverb remarks, that kindness should be returned with kindness, and evil with evil, and that none are so cruel or so benevolent as the inhabitants of the desert. As thou hast treated me kindly, so, God willing, shalt thou have a return for thy goodness; but thou must leave here thy attendants and thy effects. Thou and I only will go together, and I will accomplish thy wish in gratitude for what thou hast done for me." The prince immediately retired from his encampment with the Oone, who said, "Mount upon my shoulders."
The prince obeyed the commands of the Oone, who having first stopped his rider's ears with cotton, mounted into the air, and after soaring for some hours descended; when the prince found himself in the island of Kafoor, and near the desired garden. Having alighted from the shoulders of the generous Oone, he examined the spot, beheld groves, blooming shrubs, flowers bordering clear streams, and beautiful birds chanting various melodies. The Oone said, "Behold the object, of thy search, enter the garden!" Upon this the prince left him, passed the gate, which was open, and entered. He walked on every quarter, and depending from the branches of flowering shrubs saw cages holding a variety of beautiful birds, two birds in each cage.
The prince took down a large cage, and having examined the birds, placed in it such as pleased him to the number of six, with which he was preparing to leave the garden; when at the gate a watchman met him, who cried out loudly, "A robber! a robber!" Instantly numerous guards rushing out, seized the prince, bound, and carried him before the sultan, to whom they complained, saying, "We found in the garden this young man, carrying off a cage with six birds. He must certainly be a robber."
The sultan addressed the prince, saying, "What induced thee, youthful stranger, to violate my property, trespass on the garden, and attempt stealing these birds?" The prince returned no answer: upon which the sultan exclaimed, "Young man, thou art verging upon death; yet still, if thy soul is bent upon having these birds, bring me from the Black Island some bunches of grapes, which are composed of emeralds and diamonds, and I will give thee six birds in addition to those thou hast stolen." Having said this, the sultan released the prince, who repaired to his generous friend the Oone, whom he informed of the unlucky conclusion of his adventure. "Our task is an easy one," answered the Oone; "mount upon my shoulders."
The prince did as he was desired, and after two hours flight the Oone descended and alighted, when the prince found himself in the Black Island. He immediately advanced towards the garden in which was the fruit composed of emeralds and diamonds. On the way a monster met him of terrible appearance.
The monster sprung at the prince, who, with surprising agility, drawing his sword, wounded the furious beast on the forehead with such effect, that, uttering a dreadful groan, he fell dead at his feet. It happened, by divine decree, that the sultan's daughter looking from a window of the haram, beheld the combat, and, stricken with the manly beauty and prowess of the prince, exclaimed, "Who can withstand thy courage, or who resist thy all conquering charms?" But he did not see the princess, or hear her applause.
The prince, after having slain the monster, proceeded to the garden, the gate of which he found open, and on entering, perceived variety of artificial trees composed of precious stones. Among them was one resembling the vine, the fruits of which were of emeralds and diamonds. He plucked off six bunches, and was quitting the garden when a sentinel met him; who, being alarmed, cried out, "A robber! a robber!" The guards rushed out, and having bound him, carried him before the sultan, saying, "My lord, we found this youth stealing the fruit from the garden of jewels."
The sultan was enraged, and on the point of ordering him to be put to death, when a number of persons entered, crying out, "Good tidings to our sovereign." "On what account?" exclaimed the sultan. "The horrible monster," replied they, "who used annually to appear and devour our sons and daughters, we have just now found dead and cloven in two." The sultan was so rejoiced at this happy event, that he refrained from the blood of the prince, and exclaimed, "Whoever has destroyed this monster let him come to me, and I swear by Allah, who has invested me with royalty, that I will give him my daughter in marriage; and whatever else he may desire, even to the half of my empire."
Upon the sultan's declaration being proclaimed, several young men appeared, pretending that they had killed the monster, and gave various accounts of the combat, which made the prince smile. "By Allah! it is strange," said the sultan, "that a youth in such a perilous situation should be so unconcerned as to smile." While the sultan was ruminating on this occurrence, a eunuch entered from the haram, requesting that he would come and speak to the princess his daughter, who had business of importance to communicate; upon which the sultan arose, and retired from the hall of audience.
When the sultan had entered the princess's apartment, he said, "What can have happened which has occasioned you to send for me so suddenly?" She replied, "Is it thy wish to know who slew the monster, and to reward the courageous hero?" "By Allah," answered the sultan, "who created subjects and their sovereigns, if I can discover him, my first offer to him shall be to espouse thee, whatever be his condition, or though he dwell in the most distant region." The princess rejoined, "No one slew the monster but the youth who entered the garden of gems, and was bearing off the fruit, whom thou wast just now on the point of putting to death."
When the sultan heard the above from his daughter, he returned to the divan, and calling the prince before him, said, "Young man, I grant thee thy pardon; art thou he who destroyed the monster?" "I am," replied the prince. The sultan would instantly have summoned the cauzee to perform the espousals; but the prince said, "I have a friend to consult; permit me to retire, and I will soon return." The sultan consented, saying, "Thy request is but reasonable; but come back quickly." The prince having repaired to his friend the Oone, informed him of what had happened to him, and of the offer of the sultan's daughter in marriage: upon which the Oone said, "Accept the princess; but on condition that, if you marry her, you shall be allowed to carry her to your own kingdom." The prince having returned to the sultan, proposed his terms, which were readily agreed to, and the nuptials were celebrated with the most splendid magnificence. After abiding in the palace of the sultan for a month and three days, he requested permission to depart with his bride towards his own country, which was granted.
On the departure of the prince, his father-in-law presented him with a hundred bunches of the grapes composed of emeralds and diamonds, and he repaired to his friend the Oone; who, having first stopped their ears with cotton, mounted them upon his shoulders, and soaring into the air, after two hours descended near the capital of the island of Kafoor. The prince, taking four bunches of the jewelled fruit, hastened to the palace, and laid them before the sultan; who, in astonishment, exclaimed, "Surely, this young stranger must be a powerful magician, or how could he have travelled the distance of three hundred years' journey, and have accomplished his purpose in less time than three months! Such an action is truly miraculous. Hast thou, indeed, young man," said the sultan, "been at the Black Island?" "I have," answered the prince. "Describe it to me," replied the sultan, "its appearance, its buildings, its gardens, and rivers." The prince having answered all his queries, the sultan said, "Noble youth, you may assuredly ask of me whatever you wish!" "I want nothing but the birds," rejoined the prince. "They are thine," returned the sultan; "but annually on a certain day, and this is it, there descends from yonder mountain a monstrous vulture, which tears in pieces our men, women, and children; and having flown away with them in his gigantic talons devours their flesh. I have a beautiful daughter, whom, if thou canst overcome this calamitous monster, I will give to thee in marriage."
The prince replied, "I will consult my friend;" and then returned to the Oone, whom he informed of the offer; but he had scarcely done speaking, when, lo! the vulture appeared: upon which the Oone, ascending into the air, attacked the monster, and after a fierce combat, tore him into halves; after which he descended to the prince, and said, "Go to the sultan, and acquaint him that his destructive enemy is slain."
The prince did as he was directed: upon which the sultan with his train, and an immense crowd of the inhabitants of the city, came out on horseback, and beheld the monstrous vulture, stretched dead on the ground, torn in halves. The sultan then conducted the prince of Hind to the palace; where his marriage with the princess was instantly celebrated, amid the highest festivity and rejoicings; and after remaining a full month at the sultan's court, he requested leave to depart; when his father-in-law presented him with ten cages, in each of which were four of the beautiful birds of variously coloured plumage, and dismissed him, after an affectionate farewell, with his daughter.
The prince having departed from the sultan repaired to his faithful friend the Oone, who welcomed his return; and having mounted him upon his back with his two brides, his jewel fruit, and the cages, immediately ascended into the air, from whence, after soaring for some hours, he gradually descended, and alighted near the ruined city, where the prince had left his tents, cattle, and followers, whom he found anxiously expecting his arrival. The friendly Oone had scarcely set him down, when he said to the prince, "My young friend Mahummud, the obligation already conferred upon me by thy coming here was great; but I have one more favour to request." "What can that be?" replied the prince. "That thou leave not this spot," continued the Oone, "until thou hast washed my corpse, enshrouded, and laid it in the grave." Having said thus, the Oone suddenly uttered one loud groan, and instantly his soul took its flight from the body. The astonished prince stood for some time overpowered with sorrow; but at length recovering himself, he, with the assistance of his domestics, washed the corpse, wrapped it in a winding sheet, and having prayed over it, deposited it in the earth.
The funeral ceremonies of his friend being over, he commenced his march homewards, and after three days arrived in sight of the inscribed pyramid, near which he perceived an extensive encampment, which, on reconnoitring, he found to be that of his father. The aged sultan, unable to bear the absence of his son, had marched from his capital in hopes of overtaking him; but on his arrival at the junction of the three ways, being confounded at the sight of the inscriptions, he had halted, not knowing where to proceed. Great was his joy on discovering the prince advancing towards that face of the pyramid on which was engraved, "Whoever travels this road will probably never return." When the raptures of meeting and mutual congratulations were over, the prince informed the sultan of his wonderful and successful adventures, which overpowered him with astonishment and joy. After reposing a few days, they proceeded towards the capital of the sultan; where tidings having arrived of their approach, the inhabitants ornamented the city with silks, carpets, and transparent paintings; and the nobles and respectable persons issued forth with splendid trains to meet and congratulate their sovereign and the prince, who entered in triumphal procession, amid the greatest rejoicings and prayers for their welfare and prosperity.
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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