THE BOOK OF THE THOUSAND NIGHTS
AND ONE NIGHT
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful! Praise be to God, the Lord of the two worlds, (1) and blessing and peace upon the Prince of the Prophets, our lord and master Mohammed, whom God bless and preserve with abiding and continuing peace and blessing until the Day of the Faith! Of a verity, the doings of the ancients become a lesson to those that follow after, so that men look upon the admonitory events that have happened to others and take warning, and come to the knowledge of what befell bygone peoples and are restrained thereby. So glory be to Him who hath appointed the things that have been done aforetime for an example to those that come after! And of these admonitory instances are the histories called the Thousand Nights and One Night, with all their store of illustrious fables and relations.
It is recorded in the chronicles of the things that have been done of time past that there lived once, in the olden days and in bygone ages and times, a king of the kings of the sons of Sasan, who reigned over the Islands (2) of India and China and was lord of armies and guards and servants and retainers. He had two sons, an elder and a younger, who were both valiant cavaliers, but the elder was a stouter horseman than the younger. When their father died, he left his empire to his elder son, whose name was Shehriyar, and he took the government and ruled his subjects justly, so that the people of the country and of the empire loved him well, whilst his brother Shahzeman became King of Samarcand of Tartary. The two kings abode each in his own dominions, ruling justly over their subjects and enjoying the utmost prosperity and happiness, for the space of twenty years, at the end of which time the elder king yearned after his brother and commanded his Vizier to repair to the latter's court and bring him to his own capital. The Vizier replied, "I hear and obey," and set out at once and journeyed till he reached King Shahzeman's court in safety, when he saluted him for his brother and informed him that the latter yearned after him and desired that he would pay him a visit, to which King Shahzeman consented gladly and made ready for the journey and appointed his Vizier to rule the country in his stead during his absence. Then he caused his tents and camels and mules to be brought forth and encamped, with his guards and attendants, without the city, in readiness to set out next morning for his brother's kingdom. In the middle of the night, it chanced that he bethought him of somewhat he had forgotten in his palace; so he returned thither privily and entered his apartments, where he found his wife asleep in his own bed, in the arms of one of his black slaves. When he saw this, the world grew black in his sight, and he said to himself, "If this is what happens whilst I am yet under the city walls, what will be the condition of this accursed woman during my absence at my brother's court?" Then he drew his sword and smote the twain and slew them and left them in the bed and returned presently to his camp, without telling any one what had happened. Then he gave orders for immediate departure and set out a'once and travelled till he drew near his brother's capital when he despatched vaunt-couriers to announce his approach. His brother came forth to meet him and saluted him and rejoiced exceedingly and caused the city to be decorated in his honour. Then he sat down with him to converse and make merry; but King Shahzeman could not forget the perfidy of his wife and grief grew on him more and more and his colour changed and his body became weak. Shehriyar saw his condition, but attributed it to his separation from his country and his kingdom, so let him alone and asked no questions of him, till one day he said to him, "O my brother, I see that thou art grown weak of body and hast lost thy colour." And Shahzeman answered, "O my brother, I have an internal wound," but did not tell him about his wife. Said Shehriyar, "I wish thou wouldst ride forth with me a-hunting; maybe it would lighten thy heart." But Shahzeman refused; so his brother went out to hunt without him. Now there were in King Shahzeman's apartments lattice-windows overlooking his brother's garden, and as the former was sitting looking on the garden, behold a gate of the palace opened, and out came twenty damsels and twenty black slaves, and among them his brother's wife, who was wonderfully fair and beautiful. They all came up to a fountain, where the girls and slaves took off their clothes and sat down together. Then the queen called out, "O Mesoud!" And there came to her a black slave, who embraced her and she him. Then he lay with her, and on likewise did the other slaves with the girls. And they ceased not from kissing and clipping and cricketing and carousing until the day began to wane. When the King of Tartary saw this, he said to himself, "By Allah, my mischance was lighter than this!" And his grief and chagrin relaxed from him and he said, "This is more grievous than what happened to me!" So he put away his melancholy and ate and drank. Presently, his brother came back from hunting and they saluted each other: and Shehriyar looked at Shahzeman and saw that his colour had returned and his face was rosy and he ate heartily, whereas before he ate but little. So he said to him, "O my brother, when I last saw thee, thou wast pale and wan, and now I see that the colour has returned to thy face. Tell me how it is with thee." Quoth Shahzeman, "I will tell thee what caused my loss of colour, but excuse me from acquainting thee with the cause of its return to me." Said Shehriyar, "Let me hear first what was the cause of thy pallor and weakness." "Know then, O my brother," rejoined Shahzeman, "that when thou sentest thy vizier to bid me to thee, I made ready for the journey and had actually quitted my capital city, when I remembered that I had left behind me a certain jewel, that which I gave thee. So I returned to my palace, where I found my wife asleep in my bed, in the arms of a black slave. I slew them both and came to thee; and it was for brooding over this affair, that I lost my colour and became weak. But forgive me if I tell thee not the cause of my restoration to health." When his brother heard this, he said to him, "I conjure thee by Allah, tell me the reason of thy recovery!" So he told him all that he had seen, and Shehriyar said, "I must see this with my own eyes." "Then," replied Shahzeman, "feign to go forth to hunt and hide thyself in my lodging and thou shalt see all this and have ocular proof of the truth." So Shehriyar ordered his attendants to prepare to set out at once; whereupon the troops encamped without the city and he himself went forth with them and sat in his pavilion, bidding his servants admit no one. Then he disguised himself and returned secretly to King Shahzeman's palace and sat with him at the lattice overlooking the garden, until the damsels and their mistress came out with the slaves and did as his brother had reported, till the call to afternoon prayer. When King Shehriyar saw this, he was as one distraught and said to his brother, "Arise, let us depart hence, for we have no concern with kingship, and wander till we find one to whom the like has happened as to us, else our death were better than our life." Then they went out by a postern of the palace and journeyed days and nights till they came to a tree standing in the midst of a meadow, by a spring of water, on the shore of the salt sea, and they drank of the stream and sat down by it to rest. When the day was somewhat spent, behold, the sea became troubled and there rose from it a black column that ascended to the sky and made towards the meadow. When the princes saw this, they were afraid and climbed up to the top of the tree, which was a high one, that they might see what was the matter; and behold, it was a genie of lofty stature, broad-browed and wide-cheated, bearing on his head a coffer of glass with seven locks of steel. He landed and sat down under the tree, where he set down the coffer, and opening it, took out a smaller one. This also he opened, and there came forth a damsel slender of form and dazzlingly beautiful, as she were a shining sun, as says the poet Uteyeh:She shines out in the dusk, and lo! the day is here, And all the trees flower forth with blossoms bright and clear,
When the genie saw her, he said to her, "O queen of noble ladies, thou whom indeed I stole away on thy wedding night, I have a mind to sleep awhile." And he laid his head on her knees and fell asleep. Presently the lady raised her eyes to the tree and saw the two kings among the branches; so she lifted the genie's head from her lap and laid it on the ground, then rose and stood beneath the tree and signed to them to descend, without heeding the Afrit. (3) They answered her, in the same manner, "God on thee (4) excuse us from this." But she rejoined by signs, as who should say, "If you do not come down, I will wake the Afrit on you, and he will kill you without mercy." So they were afraid and came down to her, whereupon she came up to them and offered them her favours, saying, "To it, both of you, and lustily; or I will set the Afrit on you." So for fear of him, King Shehriyar said to his brother Shahzeman, "O brother, do as she bids thee." But he replied, "Not I; do thou have at her first." And they made signs to each other to pass first, till she said, "Why do I see you make signs to each other? An you come not forward and fall to, I will rouse the Afrit on you." So for fear of the genie, they lay with her one after the other, and when they had done, she bade them arise, and took out of her bosom a purse containing a necklace made of five hundred and seventy rings, and said to them, "Know ye what these are?" They answered, "No." And she said, "Every one of the owners of these rings has had to do with me in despite of this Afrit. And now give me your rings, both of you." So each of them took off a ring and gave it to her. And she said to them, "Know that this genie carried me off on my wedding night and laid me in a box and shut the box up in a glass chest, on which he clapped seven strong locks and sank it to the bottom of the roaring stormy sea, knowing not that nothing can hinder a woman, when she desires aught, even as says one of the poets:I rede thee put no Faith in womankind, Nor trust the oaths they lavish all in vain:
Or as another says:Out on yon! blame confirms the blamed one in his way. My fault is not so great indeed as you would say.
When the two kings heard this, they marvelled and said, "Allah! Allah! There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme! We seek aid of God against the malice of women, for indeed their craft is great!" Then she said to them, "Go your ways." So they returned to the road, and Shehriyar said to Shahzeman, "By Allah, O my brother, this Afrit's case is more grievous than ours. For this is a genie and stole away his mistress on her wedding night and clapped her in a chest, which he locked with seven locks and sank in the midst of the sea, thinking to guard her from that which was decreed by fate, yet have we seen that she has lain with five hundred and seventy men in his despite, and now with thee and me to boot. Verily, this is a thing that never yet happened to any, and it should surely console us. Let us therefore return to our kingdoms and resolve never again to take a woman to wife; and as for me, I will show thee what I will do." So they set out at once and presently came to the camp outside Shehriyar's capital and, entering the royal pavilion, sat down on their bed of estate. Then the chamberlains and amirs and grandees came in to them and Shehriyar commanded them to return to the city. So they returned to the city and Shehriyar went up to his palace, where he summoned his Vizier and bade him forthwith put his wife to death. The Vizier accordingly took the queen and killed her, whilst Shehriyar, going into the slave girls and concubines, drew his sword and slew them all. Then he let bring others in their stead and took an oath that every night he would go in to a maid and in the morning put her to death, for that there was not one chaste woman on the face of the earth. As for Shahzeman, he sought to return to his kingdom at once; so his brother equipped him for the journey and he set out and fared on till he came to his own dominions. Meanwhile, King Shehriyar commanded his Vizier to bring him the bride of the night, that he might go in to her; so he brought him one of the daughters of the amirs and he went in to her, and on the morrow he bade the Vizier cut off her head. The Vizier dared not disobey the King's commandment, so he put her to death and brought him another girl, of the daughters of the notables of the land. The King went in to her also, and on the morrow he bade the Vizier kill her; and he ceased not to do thus for three years, till the land was stripped of marriageable girls, and all the women and mothers and fathers wept and cried out against the King, cursing him and complaining to the Creator of heaven and earth and calling for succour upon Him who heareth prayer and answereth those that cry to Him; and those that had daughters left fled with them, till at last there remained not a single girl in the city apt for marriage. One day the King ordered the Vizier to bring him a maid as of wont; so the Vizier went out and made search for a girl, but found not one and returned home troubled and careful for fear of the king's anger. Now this Vizier had two daughters, the elder called Shehrzad and the younger Dunyazad, and the former had read many books and histories and chronicles of ancient kings and stories of people of old time; it is said indeed that she had collected a thousand books of chronicles of past peoples and bygone kings and poets. Moreover, she had read books of science and medicine; her memory was stored with verses and stories and folk-lore and the sayings of kings and sages, and she was wise, witty, prudent and well-bred. She said to her father, "How comes it that I see thee troubled and oppressed with care and anxiety? Quoth one of the poets:'Tell him that is of care oppressed, That grief shall not endure alway,
When the Vizier heard his daughter's words, he told her his case, and she said, "By Allah, O my father, marry me to this king, for either I will be the means of the deliverance of the daughters of the Muslims from slaughter or I will die and perish as others have perished." "For God's sake," answered the Vizier, "do not thus adventure thy life!" But she said, "It must be so." Whereupon her father was wroth with her and said to her, "Fool that thou art, cost thou not know that the ignorant man who meddles in affairs falls into grievous peril, and that he who looks not to the issue of his actions finds no friend in time of evil fortune? As says the byword, 'I was sitting at my ease, but my officiousness would not let me rest.' And I fear lest there happen to thee what happened to the ox and the ass with the husbandman." "And what happened to them?" asked she. Quoth the Vizier, "Know, O my daughter, thatStory of the Ox (5) and the Ass
There was once a merchant who was rich in goods and cattle, and he had a wife and children and dwelt in the country and was skilled in husbandry. Now God had gifted him to understand the speech of beasts and birds of every kind, but under pain of death if he divulged his gift to any one; so he kept it secret for fear of death. He had in his byre an ox and an ass, each tied up in his stall, hard by the other. One day, as the merchant was sitting near at hand, he heard the ox say to the ass, 'I give thee joy, O Father Wakeful! (6) Thou enjoyest rest and attention and they keep thy stall always swept and sprinkled, and thine eating is sifted barley and thy drink fresh water, whilst I am always weary, for they take me in the middle of the night and gird the yoke on my neck and set me to plough and I toil without ceasing from break of morn till sunset. I am forced to work more than my strength and suffer all kinds of indignities, such as blows and abuse, from the cruel ploughman; and I return home at the end of the day, and indeed my sides are torn and my neck is flayed. Then they shut me up in the cow-house and throw me beans and straw mixed with earth and husks, and I lie all night in dung and stale. But thy place is always swept and sprinkled and thy manger clean and full of sweet hay and thou art always resting, except that, now and then, our master hath occasion to ride thee and returns speedily with thee; and but for this thou art always resting and I toiling, and thou sleeping and I waking; thou art full and I hungry and thou honoured and I despised.' 'O broadhead,' answered the ass, ' he was in the right who dubbed thee ox, (7) for thou art stupid in the extreme, nor is there in thee thought or craft but thou showest zeal and cost thine utmost endeavour before thy master and fearest and killest thyself for the benefit of another. Thou goest forth at the time of morning prayer and returnest not till sundown and endurest all day all manner of afflictions, now blows now fatigue and now abuse. When thou returnest, the ploughman ties thee to a stinking manger, and thou friskest and pawest the ground and buttest with thy horns and bellowest greatly, and they think thou art content. No sooner have they thrown thee thy fodder than thou fallest on it greedily and hastenest to fill thy belly with it. But if thou wilt follow my counsel, it will be the better for thee and thou wilt get twice as much rest as I. When thou goest forth to the furrow and they lay the yoke on thy neck, lie down, and do not rise, even if they beat thee, or only rise and lie down again; and when they bring thee home, fall prostrate on thy back and refuse thy fodder, when they throw it thee and feign to be sick. Do this for a day or two and thou wilt have rest from toil and weariness.' The ox thanked the ass greatly for his advice and called down blessings on him; and the merchant heard all that passed between them.
Next day the ploughman took the ox and yoked him to the plough and set him to work as usual. The ox began to fall short in his work, and the ploughman beat him till he broke the yoke and fled, following out the ass's precepts; but the man overtook him and beat him till he despaired of life. Yet for all that, he did nothing but stand still and fall down till the evening. Then the ploughman took him home and tied him in his stall; but he withdrew from the manger and neither frisked nor stamped nor bellowed as usual, and the man wondered at this. Then he brought him the beans and straw, but he smelt at them and left them and lay down at a distance and passed the night without eating. Next morning, the ploughman came and found the straw and beans untouched and the ox lying on his back, with his stomach swollen and his legs in the air; so he was concerned for him and said to himself, 'He has certainly fallen ill, and this is why he would not work yesterday.' Then he went to his master and told him that the ox was ill and would not touch his fodder. Now the farmer knew what this meant, for that he had overheard the talk between the ox and the ass as before mentioned. So he said, ' Take that knave of an ass and bind the yoke on his neck and harness him to the plough and try and make him do the ox's work.' So the ploughman took the ass and made him work all day beyond his strength to accomplish the ox's task; and he beat him till his skin and ribs were sore and his neck flayed with the yoke. When the evening came and the ass resumed home, he could hardly drag himself along. But as for the ox, he had lain all day, resting, and had eaten his fodder cheerfully and with a good appetite; and all day long he had called down blessings on the ass for his good counsel, not knowing what had befallen him on his account. So when the night came and the ass returned to the stable, the ox arose and said to him, 'Mayst thou be gladdened with good news, O Father Wakeful! Through thee, I have rested today and have eaten my food in peace and comfort.' The ass made him no answer, for rage and vexation and fatigue and the beating he had undergone; but he said to himself, 'All this comes of my folly in giving another good advice; as the saying goes, "I was lying at full length, but my officiousness would not let me be." But I will go about with him and return him to his place, else I shall perish.' Then he went to his manger weary, whilst the ox thanked him and blessed him. "And thou, O my daughter," said the Vizier, "like the ass, wilt perish through thy lack of sense, so do thou oft quiet and cast not thyself into perdition; indeed I give thee good counsel and am affectionately solicitous for thee." "O my father," answered she, "nothing will serve me but I must go up to this king and become his wife." Quoth he, "An thou hold not thy peace and bide still, I will do with thee even as the merchant did with his wife." "And what was that?" asked she. "Know," answered he, "that the merchant and his wife and children came out on the terrace, it being a moonlit night and the moon at its full. Now the terrace overlooked the byre; and presently, as he sat, with his children playing before him, the merchant heard the ass say to the ox, 'Tell me, O Father Stupid, what dost thou mean to do tomorrow?' 'What but that thou advisest me?' answered the ox. ' Thine advice was as good as could be and has gotten me complete rest, and I will not depart from it in the least; so when they bring me my fodder, I will refuse it and feign sickness and swell out my belly.' The ass shook his head and said, 'Beware of doing that I' 'Why?' asked the ox, and the ass answered, ' Know that I heard our master say to the labourer, "If the ox do not rise and eat his fodder today, send for the butcher to slaughter him, and give his flesh to the poor and make a rug of his skin." And I fear for thee on account of this. So take my advice, ere ill-hap betide thee, and when they bring thee the fodder, eat it and arise and bellow and paw the ground with thy feet, or our master will assuredly slaughter thee.' Whereupon the ox arose and bellowed and thanked the ass, and said, 'Tomorrow, I will go with them readily.' Then he ate up all his fodder, even to licking the manger with his tongue.
When the merchant heard this, he was amused at the ass's trick, and laughed, till he fell backward. 'Why dost thou laugh?' asked his wife; and he said, ' I laughed at something that I saw and heard, but it is a secret and I cannot disclose it, or I shall die.' Quoth she, 'There is no help for it but thou must tell me the reason of thy laughter, though thou die for it.' 'I cannot reveal it,' answered he, 'for fear of death.' 'It was at me thou didst laugh,' said she, and ceased not to importune him till he was worn out and distracted. So he assembled all his family and kinsfolk and summoned the Cadi and the witnesses, being minded to make his last dispositions and impart to her the secret and die, for indeed he loved her with a great love, and she was the daughter of his father's brother and the mother of his children. Moreover, he sent for all her family and the neighbours, and when they were all assembled, he told them the state of the case and announced to them the approach of his last hour. Then he gave his wife her portion and appointed guardians of his children and freed his slave girls and took leave of his people. They all wept, and the Cadi and the witnesses wept also and went up to the wife and said to her, 'We conjure thee, by Allah, give up this matter, lest thy husband and the father of thy children die. Did he not know that if he revealed the secret, he would surely die, he would have told thee.' But she replied, 'By Allah, I will not desist from him, till he tell me, though he die for it.' So they forbore to press her. And all who were present wept sore, and there was a general mourning in the house. Then the merchant rose and went to the cow-house, to make his ablutions and pray, intending after to return and disclose his secret and die.
Now he had a cock and fifty hens and a dog, and he heard the latter say in his lingo to the cock, 'How mean is thy wit, O cock! May he be disappointed who reared thee! Our master is in extremity and thou clappest thy wings and crowest and fliest from one hen's back to another's! God confound thee! Is this a time for sport and diversion? Art thou not ashamed of thyself?' 'And what ails our master, O dog?' asked the cock. The dog told him what had happened and how the merchant's wife had importuned him, till he was about to tell her his secret and die, and the cock said, 'Then is our master little of wit and lacking in sense; if he cannot manage his affairs with a single wife, his life is not worth prolonging. See, I have fifty wives. I content this one and anger that, stint one and feed another, and through my good governance they are all under my control. Now, our master pretends to sense and accomplishments, and he has but one wife and yet knows not how to manage her.' Quoth the dog, 'What, then, should our master do?' 'He should take a stick,' replied the cock, 'and beat her soundly, till she says, "I repent, O my lord! I will never again ask a question as long as I live." And when once he has done this, he will be free from care and enjoy life. But he has neither sense nor judgment.'
When the merchant heard what the cock said, he went to his wife (after he had hidden a rattan in an empty store-room) and said to her, 'Come with me into this room, that I may tell thee my secret and die and none see me.' So she entered gladly, thinking that he was about to tell her his secret, and he locked the door; then he took the rattan and brought it down on her back and ribs and shoulders, saying, ' Wilt thou ask questions about what is none of thy business?' He beat her till she was well-nigh senseless, and she cried out, 'By Allah, I will ask thee no more questions, and indeed I repent sincerely!' And she kissed his hands and feet. Then he unlocked the door and went out and told the company what had happened, whereat they rejoiced, and mourning was changed into joy and gladness. So the merchant learnt good management from a cock, and he and his wife lived happily until death.
And thou, O my daughter," added the Vizier, "except thou desist from this thing, I will do with thee even as the merchant did with his wife." "I will never desist," answered she, "nor is it this story that can turn me from my purpose; and an thou yield not to me, I will go up myself to the King and complain to him of thee, in that thou grudges the like of me to the like of him." Quoth her father, "Must it be so?" And she answered "Yes." So being weary of striving with her and despairing of turning her from her purpose, he went up to King Shehriyar and kissing the earth before him, told him about his daughter and how she would have him give her to him that next night; whereat the King marvelled and said to him, "How is this? By Him who raised up the heavens, if thou bring her to me, I shall say to thee on the morrow, 'Take her and put her to death.' And if thou kill her not, I will kill thee without fail." "O king of the age,"answered the Vizier, "it is she who will have it so; and I told her all this, but she will not hear me and insists upon passing this night with thy highness." "It is well," answered Shehriyar; "go and make her ready, and tonight bring her to me." So the Vizier returned to his daughter and told her what had passed, saying, "May God not bereave us of thee!" But Shehrzad rejoiced with an exceeding joy and made ready all that she needed, and said to her sister Dunyazad, "O my sister, note well what I shall enjoin thee. When I go up to the Sultan, I will send after thee, and when thou comest to me and seest that the King has done his will of me, do thou say to me, 'O my sister, an thou be not asleep, tell us some of thy delightful stories, to pass away the watches of this our night.' Do this and (God willing) it shall be the means of my deliverance and of the ridding of the folk of this calamity, and by it I will turn the King from his custom." Dunyazad answered, "It is well." And the Vizier carried Shehrzad to the King, who took her to his bed and fell to toying with her. But she wept, and he said to her, "Why dost thou weep?" "O king of the age," answered she, "I have a young sister and I desire to take leave of her this night and that she may take leave of me before the morning." So he sent for Dunyazad, and she waited till the Sultan had done his desire of her sister and they were all three awake, when she coughed and said, "O my sister, an thou be not asleep, tell us one of thy pleasant stories, to beguile the watches of our night, and I will take leave of thee before the morning." "With all my heart," answered Shehrzad, "if the good king give me leave." The King being wakeful, was pleased to hear a story and said, "Tell on." Whereat she rejoiced greatly and said, "It is related, O august king, that