Week 12: Thousand-and-One Nights

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The Story of the Husband and the Parrot

Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 500 words.

The frametale structure now becomes even more complex: we have Scheherazade telling the sultan a story about the fisherman, in which the fisherman tells a story to the genius about the Greek king and the physician, in which the vizir urges the king not to the trust the physician, whereupon the king tells the vizir a story about a talktative parrot (which, he says, is the same story that Sindbad's vizir told to him in order to stop Sindbad from killing his own son).

"I am sure," said the king, "that this man is the most faithful and virtuous of men. If he wished to take my life, why did he cure me? Cease to speak against him. I see what it is, you are jealous of him; but do not think that I can be turned against him. I remember well what a vizir said to King Sindbad, his master, to prevent him from putting the prince, his son, to death."

What the Greek king said excited the vizir's curiousity, and he said to him, "Sire, I beg your majesty to have the condescension to tell me what the vizir said to King Sindbad."

"This vizir," he replied, "told King Sindbad that one ought not believe everything that a mother-in-law says, and told him this story."


A good man had a beautiful wife, whom he loved passionately, and never left if possible. One day, when he was obliged by important business to go away from her, he went to a place where all kinds of birds are sold and bought a parrot. This parrot not only spoke well, but it had the gift of telling all that had been done before it. He brought it home in a cage, and asked his wife to put it in her room, and take great care of it while he was away. Then he departed.

On his return he asked the parrot what had happened during his absence, and the parrot told him some things which made him scold his wife.

She thought that one of her slaves must have been telling tales of her, but they told her it was the parrot, and she resolved to revenge herself on him.

When her husband next went away for one day, she told on slave to turn under the bird's cage a hand-mill; another to throw water down from above the cage, and a third to take a mirror and turn it in front of its eyes, from left to right by the light of a candle. The slaves did this for part of the night, and did it very well.

The next day when the husband came back he asked the parrot what he had seen. The bird replied, "My good master, the lightning, thunder and rain disturbed me so much all night long, that I cannot tell you what I have suffered."

The husband, who knew that it had neither rained nor thundered in the night, was convinced that the parrot was not speaking the truth, so he took him out of the cage and threw him so roughly on the ground that he killed him. Nevertheless he was sorry afterwards, for he found that the parrot had spoken the truth.


"When the Greek king," said the fisherman to the genius, "had finished the story of the parrot, he added to the vizir, "And so, vizir, I shall not listen to you, and I shall take care of the physician, in case I repent as the husband did when he had killed the parrot."


Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • how did the husband find out about his wife misbehaving in his absence?
  • how did the wife make the parrot think that it had rained and thundered all night?
  • why did the husband decide not to believe what the parrot told him anymore?
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Source: The Arabian Nights Entertainments, Selected and Edited by Andrew Lang, after the edition of Longmans, Green and Co, (1898). Website: Project Gutenberg.


Modern Languages MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:48 PM