Select the desired text size
Story of the envious man.
From Arabian Nights Entertainments by Andrew Lang.
Start of Story
Age Rating 8 Plus.
As he spoke he seized me violently by the arm; the roof of the palace
opened to make way for us, and we mounted up so high into the air that
the earth looked like a little cloud. Then, as before, he came down
with the swiftness of lightning, and we touched the ground on a
Then he stooped and gathered a handful of earth, and murmured some
words over it, after which he threw the earth in my face, saying as he
did so, "Quit the form of a man, and assume that of a monkey." This
done, he vanished, and I was in the likeness of an ape, and in a
country I had never seen before.
However there was no use in stopping where I was, so I came down the
mountain and found myself in a flat plain which was bounded by the sea.
I travelled towards it, and was pleased to see a vessel moored about
half a mile from shore. There were no waves, so I broke off the branch
of a tree, and dragging it down to the water's edge, sat across it,
while, using two sticks for oars, I rowed myself towards the ship.
The deck was full of people, who watched my progress with interest, but
when I seized a rope and swung myself on board, I found that I had only
escaped death at the hands of the genius to perish by those of the
sailors, lest I should bring ill-luck to the vessel and the merchants.
"Throw him into the sea!" cried one. "Knock him on the head with a
hammer," exclaimed another. "Let me shoot him with an arrow," said a
third; and certainly somebody would have had his way if I had not flung
myself at the captain's feet and grasped tight hold of his dress. He
appeared touched by my action and patted my head, and declared that he
would take me under his protection, and that no one should do me any
At the end of about fifty days we cast anchor before a large town, and
the ship was immediately surrounded by a multitude of small boats
filled with people, who had come either to meet their friends or from
simple curiosity. Among others, one boat contained several officials,
who asked to see the merchants on board, and informed them that they
had been sent by the Sultan in token of welcome, and to beg them each
to write a few lines on a roll of paper. "In order to explain this
strange request," continued the officers, "it is necessary that you
should know that the grand-vizir, lately dead, was celebrated for his
beautiful handwriting, and the Sultan is anxious to find a similar
talent in his successor. Hitherto the search has been a failure, but
his Highness has not yet given up hope."
One after another the merchants set down a few lines upon the roll, and
when they had all finished, I came forward, and snatched the paper from
the man who held it. At first they all thought I was going to throw it
into the sea, but they were quieted when they saw I held it with great
care, and great was their surprise when I made signs that I too wished
to write something.
"Let him do it if he wants to," said the captain. "If he only makes a
mess of the paper, you may be sure I will punish him for it. But if,
as I hope, he really can write, for he is the cleverest monkey I ever
saw, I will adopt him as my son. The one I lost had not nearly so much
No more was said, and I took the pen and wrote the six sorts of writing
in use among the Arabs, and each sort contained an original verse or
couplet, in praise of the Sultan. And not only did my handwriting
completely eclipse that of the merchants, but it is hardly too much to
say that none so beautiful had ever before been seen in that country.
When I had ended the officials took the roll and returned to the Sultan.
As soon as the monarch saw my writing he did not so much as look at the
samples of the merchants, but desired his officials to take the finest
and most richly caparisoned horse in his stables, together with the
most magnificent dress they could procure, and to put it on the person
who had written those lines, and bring him to court.
The officials began to laugh when they heard the Sultan's command, but
as soon as they could speak they said, "Deign, your highness, to excuse
our mirth, but those lines were not written by a man but by a monkey."
"A monkey!" exclaimed the Sultan.
"Yes, sire," answered the officials. "They were written by a monkey in
"Then bring me the monkey," he replied, "as fast as you can."
The Sultan's officials returned to the ship and showed the royal order
to the captain.
"He is the master," said the good man, and desired that I should be
Then they put on me the gorgeous robe and rowed me to land, where I was
placed on the horse and led to the palace. Here the Sultan was
awaiting me in great state surrounded by his court.
All the way along the streets I had been the object of curiosity to a
vast crowd, which had filled every doorway and every window, and it was
amidst their shouts and cheers that I was ushered into the presence of
I approached the throne on which he was seated and made him three low
bows, then prostrated myself at his feet to the surprise of everyone,
who could not understand how it was possible that a monkey should be
able to distinguish a Sultan from other people, and to pay him the
respect due to his rank. However, excepting the usual speech, I
omitted none of the common forms attending a royal audience.
When it was over the Sultan dismissed all the court, keeping with him
only the chief of the eunuchs and a little slave. He then passed into
another room and ordered food to be brought, making signs to me to sit
at table with him and eat. I rose from my seat, kissed the ground, and
took my place at the table, eating, as you may suppose, with care and
Before the dishes were removed I made signs that writing materials,
which stood in one corner of the room, should be laid in front of me.
I then took a peach and wrote on it some verses in praise of the
Sultan, who was speechless with astonishment; but when I did the same
thing on a glass from which I had drunk he murmured to himself, "Why, a
man who could do as much would be cleverer than any other man, and this
is only a monkey!"
Supper being over chessmen were brought, and the Sultan signed to me to
know if I would play with him. I kissed the ground and laid my hand on
my head to show that I was ready to show myself worthy of the honour.
He beat me the first game, but I won the second and third, and seeing
that this did not quite please I dashed off a verse by way of
The Sultan was so enchanted with all the talents of which I had given
proof that he wished me to exhibit some of them to other people. So
turning to the chief of the eunuchs he said, "Go and beg my daughter,
Queen of Beauty, to come here. I will show her something she has never
The chief of the eunuchs bowed and left the room, ushering in a few
moments later the princess, Queen of Beauty. Her face was uncovered,
but the moment she set foot in the room she threw her veil over her
head. "Sire," she said to her father, "what can you be thinking of to
summon me like this into the presence of a man?"
"I do not understand you," replied the Sultan. "There is nobody here
but the eunuch, who is your own servant, the little slave, and myself,
yet you cover yourself with your veil and reproach me for having sent
for you, as if I had committed a crime."
"Sire," answered the princess, "I am right and you are wrong. This
monkey is really no monkey at all, but a young prince who has been
turned into a monkey by the wicked spells of a genius, son of the
daughter of Eblis."