The Tale of Zayn Al-asnam,
The Dream of Riches. In Croker's Irish Fairy Legends there is a droll version, of this story, entitled "Dreaming Tim Jarvis." Honest Tim, we are told, "took to sleeping, and the sleep set him dreaming, and he dreamed all night, and night after night, about crock full of gold. . . . At last he dreamt that he found a mighty great crock of gold and silver, and where, do you think ? Every step of the way upon London Bridge itself! Twice Tim dreamt it, and three times Tim dreamt the same thing; and at last he made up his mind to transport himself, and go over to London, in Pat Mahoney's coaster and so he did!" Tim walks on London Bridge day after day until he sees a man with great black whiskers and a black cloak that reached down to the ground, who accosts him, and he tells the strange man about his dream. "Ho! Ho!" says the strange man, "is that all, Tim? I had a dream myself and I dreamed that I found a crock of gold in the Fort field, on Jerry Driscoll's ground at Balledehob, and, by the same token, the pit where it lay was close to a large furze bush, all full of yellow blossom." Tim hastens back to his old place, sells his cabin and garden, and buys the piece of waste ground so minutely described by the man with black whiskers, finds the pit, jumps into it, and is among the fairies, who give him leave to stuff his pockets with gold; but when he returns to upper earth he discovers that he has got only a handful of small stones mixed with yellow furze blossoms.
In a note appended to this tale, Croker cites the following from Grimm's "Deutsche Sagan," vol. i. p. 290: A man once dreamed that if he went to Regensburg and walked on the bridge he should become rich. He went accordingly; and when he had spent near a fortnight walking backwards and forwards on the bridge, a rich merchant came up to him wondering what he was doing here every day, and asked him what he was looking for. He answered that he had dreamed if he would go to the bridge of Regensburg he should become rich. "Ha!" said the merchant, "what do you say about dreams?--Dreams are but froth (Träume sind Schaume). I too have dreamed that there is buried under yonder large tree (pointing to it) a great kettle full of money; but I gave no heed to this, for dreams are froth." The man went immediately and dug under the tree, and there he got a treasure, which made a rich man of him, and so his dream was accomplished.--The same story is told of a baker's boy at Lubeck, who dreamed that he should find a treasure on the bridge; there he met a beggar, who said he had dreamed there was one under a lime-tree in the churchyard of Mollen, but he would not take the trouble of going there. The baker's boy went, and got the treasure.--It is curious to observe that all the European versions of the story have reference to a bridge, and it must have been brought westward in this form.
The Quest of the Image.--It has only now occurred to my mind that there is a very similar story in the romance of the Four Dervishes ("Kissa-i-Chehár-Darwesh"), a Persian work written in the 13th century, and rendered into Urdú about 80 years ago, under the title of "Bagh o Bahár" (Garden of Spring), of which an English translation was made by L. F. Smith, which was afterwards improved by Duncan Forbes. There the images are of monkeys--circumstance which seems to point to an Indian origin of the story--but the hero falls in love with the spotless girl, and the jinn-king takes possession of her, though he is ultimately compelled to give her up.--The fact of this story of the quest of the lacking image being found in the Persian language is another proof that the tales in The Nights were largely derived from Persian story-books.
Aladdin; Or, the Wonderful Lamp.
There is a distorted reflection of the story in M. Rene Basset's recently published "Contes Populaires Berbères," No. xxix., which is to this effect: A taleb proclaims, "Who will sell himself for 100 mitqals?" One offers, the Kádí ratifies the sale; the (now) slave gives the money to his mother, and follows the taleb. Away they go. The taleb repeats certain words, upon which the earth opens, and he sends down the slave for "the candlestick, the reed, and the box." The slave hides the box in his pocket and says he did not find it. They go off, and after a time the slave discovers that his master has disappeared. He returns home, hires a house, opens the box, and finds a cloth of silk with seven folds; he undoes one of them, whereupon genii swarm about the room, and a girl appears who dances till break of day. This occurs every night. The king happens to be out on a nocturnal adventure, and hearing a noise, enters the house and is amused till morning. He sends for the box to be brought to the palace, gives the owner his daughter in marriage, and continues to divert himself with the box till his death, when his son-in-law succeeds him on the throne.
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
My obliging friend, Mr. W. F. Kirby, who contributed to the 10th volume of Sir Richard's Nights proper the very able Bibliographical Essay, has drawn my attention to an analogue of this tale in Geldart's Folk-Lore of Modern Greece: There were two brothers, one of whom was wealthy and had four children, who were in feeble health, the other was poor and had seven children, who were in robust health. The poor brother's wife, begging relief was allowed to come twice a week to the house of the rich brother to bake bread. Her children were starving, but the rich people gave the mother nothing for several days, and all she could do was to wash the dough off her hands for the children, who thrived, and the rich man, discovering the cause, made his wife compel the poor woman to wash her hands before she left the house. The father found his children crying for food, and pretended to go to the wood for herbs, but really purposing to kill himself by falling from a crag. But seeing a great castle, he determined first to ascertain what it was, so he went near, and having climbed a tree, saw forty-nine dragons come out. When they were gone he entered, and found a treasure, filled his bag and hurried away. On his return home he found his wife weeping bitterly, but when he showed her the treasure, she said the first thing was to buy oil to light a lamp to our Lady. Next day they bought a house, and moved into it, but agreed only to buy what they needed for each day's use and nothing they could do without. For two months they went often to church and helped the poor, till, one day, the wife of the rich man, who had met with losses lately, called for them and was hospitably received. She heard the story of the treasure, and the poor man offered to show his brother the place. The rich brother miscounted the dragons as they left the castle, and the one left to watch killed and quartered him. Two days afterwards his brother went to look for him, brought home the severed body, and got a tailor to sew the quarters together. Next day the dragons called on the tailor to make them coats and shoes (sic), and heard of his sewing together the body. He showed them the house, and forty-eight dragons got into chests, which the forty-ninth deposited with the poor man. The children, playing about he chests, heard the dragons say, "Would that it were night, that we might eat them all!" So the father took forty-eight spits and made them red hot, and thrust them into the chests, and then said that a trick had been played upon him, and sent his servant to throw them one by one into the sea. As often as the servant returned he pretended to him that he did not throw the chest far enough and it had come back and thus he disposed of the whole number. In the morning when the last dragon came, the poor man told him one chest was found open: he was seized with fear, pushed in and spitted like the others and the poor man became the possessor of the dragons' castle.
There can be no doubt, I think, that this story owes nothing to Galland, but that it is a popular Greek version of the original Asiatic tale, of which Galland's "Ali Baba" is probably a fair reflection. The device of pretending to the servant that the dragon he had thrown into the sea was returned has its exact analogue in the humorous fabliau of "Les Trois Bossus," where a rustic is made to believe that each of the hunchbacks had come back again, with the addition that, on returning from the river the third time, he seizes the lady's hunchbacked husband and effectually disposes of him.
The Tale of Prince Ahmad.
Though my paper on this tale is of considerable length, it would perhaps have been deemed intolerably long had I cited all the versions of the first part--the quest of the most wonderful thing--which are current in Europe, for it is found everywhere, though with few variations of importance. There are two, however, of which I may furnish the outlines in this place.
In the "Pentamerone" of Basile, [FN#444], a man sends his five sons into the world to learn something. The eldest becomes a master-thief; the second has learned the trade of shipwright; the third has become a skilful archer; the fourth has found an herb which brings the dead to life, and the youngest has learned the speech of birds. Soon after they have returned home, they set out with their father to liberate a princess who had been stolen by a wild man, and by the exercise of their several arts succeed in their adventure. While they quarrel as to which of them had by his efforts done most to deserve the princess for wife, the king gives her to the father, as the stock of all those branches.
In the 45th of Laura Gonzenbach's "Sicilianische Märchen," the king's daughter is stolen by a giant and recovered by the seven sons of a poor woman. The eldest can run like the wind, the second can hear, when he puts his ear to the ground, all that goes on in the world; the third can with a blow of his fist break through seven iron doors; the fourth is a thief; the fifth can build an iron tower with a blow of his fist; the sixth is an unfailing shot, the seventh has a guitar which can awaken the dead. Youths thus wonderfully endowed figure in many tales, but generally as the servants of the hero.
By comparing the different European versions it will be found that some are similar to the first part of the tale of Prince Ahmad, insomuch as the brothers become possessed of certain wonderful things which are each instrumental in saving the damsel's life; while others more closely approach the oldest known form of the story, in representing the heroes as being endowed with some extraordinary kind of power, by means of which they rescue the damsel from a giant who had carried her off. It is curious to observe that in the "Sindibád Náma" version the damsel is both carried off by a demon and at death's door, which is not the case of any other Asiatic form of the story.