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Scott: A Sultan of Yemen and His Three Sons

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It has been related, that in the kingdom of Yemen there was a sultan who had three sons, two of whom were born of the same mother, and the third of another wife, with whom becoming disgusted from some caprice, and having degraded her to the station of a domestic, he suffered her and her son to live unnoticed among the servants of the haram. The two former, one day, addressed their father, requesting his permission to hunt: upon which he presented them each with a horse of true blood, richly caparisoned, and ordered proper domestics to attend them to the chase.

When they had departed, the unfortunate youngest brother repaired to his unhappy mother, and expressed his wishes to enjoy, like the elder princes, the pleasures of the field. "My son," replied she, "it is not in my power to procure thee a horse or other necessaries." Upon this he wept bitterly; when she gave him some of her silver ornaments, which he took, and having sold them, with the price purchased a foundered steed. Having mounted it, and provided himself with some bread, he followed the track of his brothers for two days, but on the third lost his way. After wandering two days more he beheld upon the plain a string of emeralds and pearls, which shone with great lustre. Having taken it up, he wreathed it round his turban, and returned homewards exulting in his prize; but when he had arrived near the city his brothers met him, pulled him from his horse, beat him, and forced it from him. He excelled them both in prowess and vigour, but he was fearful of the sultan's displeasure, and his mother's safety, should he punish his insulters. He therefore submitted to the indignity and loss, and retired.

The two cowardly princes entered the palace, and presented the string of jewels to the sultan; who, after admiring it, said, "I shall not rest satisfied till the bird arrives to whom this certainly must have belonged:" upon which the brothers replied, "We will travel in search of it, and bring it to our august father and sultan."

Preparations being made, the brothers departed, and the youngest prince having mounted his lame steed followed them. After three days' journey he reached an arid desert, which having passed over by great exertion, he arrived almost exhausted at a city; which on entering he found resounding with the shrieks of lamentation and woe. At length he met with a venerable old man, to whom having made a respectful salute, he inquired of him the cause of such universal mourning. "My son," replied the old man, "on a certain day during the last forty-three years, a terrible monster has appeared before our city, demanding a beautiful virgin to be delivered up to him, threatening to destroy it in case of refusal. Unable to defend ourselves, we have complied with his demand, and the damsels of the city have drawn lots for the dreadful sacrifice; but this year the chance has fallen upon the beautiful daughter of our sultan. This is the day of the monster's usual arrival, and we are involved in universal lamentation for her unhappy fate."

When the young prince heard the above, he, under the direction of the old man, repaired to the place of the monster's resort, resolved to conquer him or die. Scarcely had he reached it, when the princess approached it, splendidly habited, but with a dejected head, and drowned in tears. He made a respeftful salute, which she returned, saying, "Hasten, young man, from this spot, for a monster will soon appear, to whom, by my unhappy fate, I am destined. Should he discover thee, he will tear thee in pieces." "Princess," replied he, "I know the circumstance, and am resolved to become a ransom for thy beauty."

The prince had hardly uttered these words, when a column of dust arose; from which with dreadful howlings and fury the monster issued, lashing his gigantic sides with his thick tail. The princess shrieked, and wept in the agonies of fear; but the prince drawing his sabre, put himself in the way of the savage monster; who, enraged, snorted fire from his wide nostrils, and made a spring at the prince. The gallant youth with wonderful agility evaded his talons, and darting from side to side of the monster, watched his opportunity, till rushing upon him, he cleft his head asunder just between his eyes, when the huge creature fell down and growled his last in a tremendous roar.

The princess, on seeing the monster expire, ran to her deliverer, wiped the dust and sweat from his face with her veil, uttering grateful thanks, to which he replied, "Return to thy lamenting parents;" but she would not, and said, "My lord, and light of my eyes, thou must be mine and I thine." "That is perhaps impossible," rejoined the prince; and hastening from her, he returned to the city, where he took up his lodging in an obscure corner. She now repaired to the palace. On her entrance, the sultan and her mother were astonished, and inquired in alarm the cause of her return; fearing that she had escaped from the monster, who would in revenge destroy the city.

The princess related the story of her deliverance by a handsome youth: upon which, the sultan, with his attendants, and most of the inhabitants of the place, repaired to view the monster, whom they found extended dead on the earth. The whole city was now filled with grateful thanksgivings and universal rejoicing. The sultan, eager to shew his gratitude to the gallant youth, said to the princess, "Shouldst thou know thy deliverer wert thou to see him again?" "Certainly!" replied she; for love had impressed his image on her mind too strongly to be ever erased.

The sultan, upon this, issued a proclamation, commanding every male in the city to pass under the windows of his daughter's apartment; which was done successively for three days; but she did not recognize her beloved champion. The sultan then inquired if all the men of the city had obeyed his commands, and was informed that all had done so, except a young man at a certain serai, who was a foreigner, and therefore had not attended. The sultan ordered him to appear; and he had no sooner approached the window than the princess threw down upon his head an embroidered handkerchief, exclaiming, "This is our deliverer from the fangs of the monster."

The sultan now ordered the young prince to be introduced to his presence, to which he advanced, making the obeisances customary to royal personages in a graceful manner. "Art thou the destroyer of the monster?" exclaimed the sultan. "I am," answered the prince. "Tell me how I can reward thee?" replied the sultan. "My request to God and your majesty," answered the prince, "is, that the princess thy daughter may be given me in marriage." "Rather ask me a portion of my treasures," rejoined the sultan. Upon this, the officers of the court observed, that as he had saved the princess from death, he was worthy of her; and the sultan at length consenting, the marriage knot was tied. The young prince received his bride, and the nuptials were consummated. Towards the close of night he arose, and having taken off her ring, put his own in its room on her finger, and wrote upon the palm of her hand, "I am called Alla ad Deen, the son of a potent sultan, who rules in Yemen; if thou canst come to me there, well; otherwise remain with thy father."

When the prince had done as above related, he left his bride asleep, and quitting the palace and city, pursued his travels; during which he married another wife, whom he had saved from an elephant in a similar way: he left her in the same manner as the first.

When the prince had left his second wife, he proceeded in search of the bird to whom the string of emeralds and pearls had belonged, and at length reached the city of its mistress, who was daughter to the sultan, a very powerful monarch. Having entered the capital, he walked through several streets, till at last he perceived a venerable old man, whose age seemed to be, at least, that of a hundred years, sitting alone. He approached him, and having paid his respects, sat down, and entering into conversation, at length said, "Canst thou, my uncle, afford me any information respecting a bird, whose chain is composed of pearls and emeralds, or of its mistress?"

The old man remained silent, involved in thought, for some instants; after which, he said, "My son, many sultans and princes have wished to attain this bird and the princess, but failed in the attempt; however, do thou procure seven lambs, kill them, flay and cut them up into halves. In the palace are eight courts, at the gates of seven of which are placed two hungry lions; and in the latter, where the princess resides, are stationed forty slaves. Go, and try thy fortune."

The prince having thanked the old man, took his leave, procured the lambs, cut them up as directed, and towards midnight, when the step of man had ceased from passing, repaired to the first gate of the palace, before which he beheld two monstrous lions, their eyes flaming like the mouth of a lighted oven. He cast before each half a lamb, and while they were devouring it passed on. By the same stratagem he arrived safely into the eighth court: at the gate of which lay the forty slaves sunk in profound sleep. He entered cautiously, and beheld the princess in a magnificent hall, reposing on a splendid bed; near which hung her bird in a cage of gold wire strung with valuable jewels. He approached gently, and wrote upon the palm of her hand, "I am Alla ad Deen, son of a sultan of Yemen. I have seen thee sleeping, and taken away thy bird. Shouldst thou love me, or wish to recover thy favourite, come to my father's capital." He then departed from the palace, and having reached the plain, stopped to repose till morning.

The prince being refreshed, at day-light having invoked Allah to protect him from discovery, travelled till sunset, when he discovered an Arab encampment, to which he repaired and requested shelter. His petition was readily attended to by the chief; who seeing him in possession of the bird, which he knew, said to himself, "This hyoung man must be a favourite of heaven, or he could not have obtained a prize for which so many potent sultans, princes, and viziers, have vainly fallen sacrifices." He entertained him with hospitality, but asked no questions, and in the morning dismissed him with prayers for his welfare, and a present of a beautiful horse. Alla ad Deen having thanked his generous host took leave, and proceeded unceasingly till he arrived within sight of his father's capital. On the plain he was again overtaken by his two brothers, returning from their unsuccessful expedition, who seeing the bird and splendid cage in his possession, dragged him suddenly from his horse, beat him cruelly, and left him. They entered the city, and presenting the cage to their father, framed an artful tale of danger and escapes that they had undergone in procuring it; on hearing which, the sultan loaded them with caresses and praises, while the unfortunate Alla ad Deen retired bruised and melancholy to his unhappy mother.

The young prince informed his mother of his adventures, complained heavily of his loss, and expressed his resolves to be revenged upon his envious brothers. She comforted him, entreated him to be patient, and wait for the dispensations of Allah; who, in proper season, would shew his power in the revealment of justice. We now return to the princess who had lost her bird.

When she awoke in the morning, and missed her bird, she was alarmed; but on perceiving what was written upon her palm still more so. She shrieked aloud; her attendants ran in, and finding her in a frantic state, informed the sultan; who, anxious for her safety, hastened to the apartment. The princess being somewhat recovered, related the loss of her bird, shewed the writing on her hand, and declared that she would marry no one but him who had seen her asleep. The sultan finding remonstrances vain, agreed to accompany his daughter in search of the prince, and issued orders for his army to prepare for a march to Yemen.

When the troops were assembled, the sultan conducted his daughter to the camp, and on the day following marched; the princess with her ladies being conveyed in magnificent equipages. No halt was made till the army arrived near the city, where Alia ad Deen had delivered the daughter of its sultan by killing the elephant. A friendly ambassador being dispatched to request permission to encamp and purchase a supply of provisions, he was honourably received, and the sultan of the city proceeded in great pomp to visit his brother monarch, who then informed him of the object of his expedition. This convinced the other sultan that the stealer of the bird must also have been the deliverer of his daughter, and he resolved to join in the search. Accordingly, after three days of splendid entertainments and rejoicings, the two sultans, with the two princesses, and their united forces, moved towards Yemen. Their route lay through the capital, the daughter of whose sultan Alla ad Deen had saved from the fangs of the savage monster.

On the arrival of the allies at this city an explanation similar to the last took place, and the third sultan resolved to accompany them in search of the husband of his daughter, who readily agreed to join the other princesses. They marched; and on the route the princess who had lost her bird was fully informed by the others of the beauty, prowess, and manly vigour of Alla ad Deen; which involved her more than ever in anxious impatience to meet him. At length, by continued and uninterrupted movements, the three sultans reached Yemen, and pitched their encampments about sunset on a verdant plain well watered, near the capital.

It was with much dread and apprehension that the sultan of Yemen beheld such a numerous host encamped so near his residence; but he concealed his fears, and gave proper orders for securing it from surprise during the night. With the morning his alarms were removed, as the allied sultans dispatched an ambassador with rich presents, assurances that they had no hostile intentions, and a request that he would honour them by a visit to their camp, and furnish it with supplies. The sultan complied with the invitation, and the suite being prepared, he proceeded, attended by all his courtiers in the highest magnificence, to the encampment; where he was received with due honours. At the outposts the three sultans met him, and after the usual greetings of ceremony conducted him to a splendid tent made of crimson velvet, the fringes and ropes of which were composed of gold threads, the pins of solid silver, and the lining of the richest silver tissue, embroidered with flowers of raised work in silks of all colours, intermixed with foils and gold. It was covered with superb carpets, and at the upper end on a platform spread with gold brocade were placed four stools, the coverings of which, and the cushions, were magnificent beyond description, being made of Persian velvet, fringed and flowered with costly pearls.

When the four sultans were seated, and some conversation had taken place, in which the latter was informed of the occasion of the others having marched into his country, the cloth was spread, and a magnificent entertainment served up in dishes of agate, crystal, and gold. The basins and ewers for washing were of pure gold set with jewels. Such was the richness of every thing, that the sultan with difficulty refrained from shewing his surprise, and inwardly exclaimed, "By Allah, till now I never have beheld such a profusion of splendour, elegance, and valuable furniture!" When the meal was ended, coffee, various sorts of confections, and sherbets were brought in; after which the company conversed. The three sultans inquired of their royal guest if he had any children, to which he replied that he had two sons.

The sultans then requested that he would send for them: upon which, their father dispatched a messenger to summon them to his presence. They repaired to the camp, mounted on chargers richly caparisoned, and most splendidly dressed. On their entering the tent, the princesses, who were seated in a recess concealed from view by blinds of gold wire, gazed eagerly at them; and she who had lost her bird inquired of the other two if either of them was their husband. They replied in the negative, remarking that he was of personal beauty, and dignified appearance, far superior to these princes. The three sultans, also, questioned their daughters on the subject, and received similar answers.

The sultans, upon this, inquired of the father of the princes if he had any other sons; to which he replied that he had one; but that he had long rejected him, and also his mother, from notice; and that they lived among the domestics of the palace. The sultans entreated to see him, and he was introduced, but in a mean habit. The two princesses whom he had delivered from the monsters and married immediately recognized him, and exclaimed together, "This is truly our beloved husband!" He was then embraced by the sultans, and admitted to his wives; who fell upon his neck in transports of joy and rapture, kissing him between his eyes, while the princess who had lost the bird prostrated herself before him, covered with a veil, and kissed his hand.

After this scene the young prince returned to his father, and the other sultans, who received him respectfully, and seated him by them, at which the father was astonished; but more so, when, turning to his brothers, he addressed them, saying, "Which of you first found the string of emeralds and pearls?" To this they made no reply: when he continued, "Who of you killed the monster, destroyed the elephant, or, fortifying his mind, dared to enter the palace of this sultan, and bring away the cage with the bird? When you both, coward-like, rushed upon me, robbed me of my prizes, and wounded me, I could easily have overcome you; but I felt that there was a season appointed by Providence for justice upon you and my wretched father, who rejected my mother and myself, depriving us of our just claims." Having thus spoken, he drew his sabre, and rushing upon the two guilty princes struck them dead, each at one blow. He would, in his rage, have attacked his father; but the sultans prevented him, and having reconciled them, the old sultan promised to leave him his heir, and to restore his mother to her former rank and consequence. His nuptials with the third princess were then celebrated; and their fathers, after participating for forty days in the magnificent entertainments given on the occasion, took leave, and returned to their several kingdoms. The old sultan finding himself, from age, incapable of the cares of government, resigned the throne to his son, whose authority was gladly submitted to by the people, who admired his prowess and gallantry.

Some time after his accession to the kingdom, attended only by some select courtiers, and without the cumbrous appendages of royalty, he left his capital upon a hunting excursion. In the course of the sport, passing over a desert plain, he came to a spot where was the opening of a cave, into which he entered, and observed domestic utensils and other marks of its being inhabited; but no one was then within it.

The curiosity of the sultan being excited, he resolved to wait until the owners of the cave should appear, and cautioned his attendants not to mention his rank. He had not sat long, when a man was seen advancing with a load of provisions and two skins of water. On his coming to the mouth of the cave, the sultan addressed him, saying, "Whence comest thou, where art thou going, and what dost thou carry?" "I am," replied the man, "one of three companions, who inhabit this cave, having fled from our city to avoid imprisonment, and every ten days one of us goes to purchase provisions: to-day was my turn, and my friends will be here presently." "What was the cause of your flight?" rejoined the sultan. "As to that," answered the man, "it can only be communicated by the relation of our adventures, which are curious, and if you wish to hear them, stay with us to-night, and we will each, in our turn, relate his own story."

The sultan upon this, said to himself, "I will not move from this spot until I have heard their adventures;" and immediately dispatched his attendants, excepting a few, with orders to bring from the city some necessaries for the night. "For," thought he, "hearing these stories will be pleasanter than hunting, as they may, perhaps, inform my mind." He remained in the cave with his few followers; and soon after arrived the two other inmates, who were succeeded by the sultan's messengers with the requisites for a substantial repast, of which all partook without ceremony. When it was finished, the sultan desired the owners of the cave to relate their adventures; and they replied, "To hear is to obey:" the first beginning as follows.

[Go to The Story of the First Sharper in the Cave]


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


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