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Story of the envious man.
From Arabian Nights Entertainments by Andrew Lang.
Start of Story
Age Rating 8 Plus.
As will be imagined, these words took the Sultan by surprise, and he
looked at me to see how I should take the statement of the princess.
As I was unable to speak, I placed my hand on my head to show that it
"But how do you know this, my daughter?" asked he.
"Sire," replied Queen of Beauty, "the old lady who took care of me in
my childhood was an accomplished magician, and she taught me seventy
rules of her art, by means of which I could, in the twinkling of an
eye, transplant your capital into the middle of the ocean. Her art
likewise teaches me to recognise at first sight all persons who are
enchanted, and tells me by whom the spell was wrought."
"My daughter," said the Sultan, "I really had no idea you were so
"Sire," replied the princess, "there are many out-of-the-way things it
is as well to know, but one should never boast of them."
"Well," asked the Sultan, "can you tell me what must be done to
disenchant the young prince?"
"Certainly; and I can do it."
"Then restore him to his former shape," cried the Sultan. "You could
give me no greater pleasure, for I wish to make him my grand-vizir, and
to give him to you for your husband."
"As your Highness pleases," replied the princess.
Queen of Beauty rose and went to her chamber, from which she fetched a
knife with some Hebrew words engraven on the blade. She then desired
the Sultan, the chief of the eunuchs, the little slave, and myself to
descend into a secret court of the palace, and placed us beneath a
gallery which ran all round, she herself standing in the centre of the
court. Here she traced a large circle and in it wrote several words in
When the circle and the writing were finished she stood in the middle
of it and repeated some verses from the Koran. Slowly the air grew
dark, and we felt as if the earth was about to crumble away, and our
fright was by no means diminished at seeing the genius, son of the
daughter of Eblis, suddenly appear under the form of a colossal lion.
"Dog," cried the princess when she first caught sight of him, "you
think to strike terror into me by daring to present yourself before me
in this hideous shape."
"And you," retorted the lion, "have not feared to break our treaty that
engaged solemnly we should never interfere with each other."
"Accursed genius!" exclaimed the princess, "it is you by whom that
treaty was first broken."
"I will teach you how to give me so much trouble," said the lion, and
opening his huge mouth he advanced to swallow her. But the princess
expected something of the sort and was on her guard. She bounded on
one side, and seizing one of the hairs of his mane repeated two or
three words over it. In an instant it became a sword, and with a sharp
blow she cut the lion's body into two pieces. These pieces vanished no
one knew where, and only the lion's head remained, which was at once
changed into a scorpion. Quick as thought the princess assumed the
form of a serpent and gave battle to the scorpion, who, finding he was
getting the worst of it, turned himself into an eagle and took flight.
But in a moment the serpent had become an eagle more powerful still,
who soared up in the air and after him, and then we lost sight of them
We all remained where we were quaking with anxiety, when the ground
opened in front of us and a black and white cat leapt out, its hair
standing on end, and miauing frightfully. At its heels was a wolf, who
had almost seized it, when the cat changed itself into a worm, and,
piercing the skin of a pomegranate which had tumbled from a tree, hid
itself in the fruit. The pomegranate swelled till it grew as large as
a pumpkin, and raised itself on to the roof of the gallery, from which
it fell into the court and was broken into bits. While this was taking
place the wolf, who had transformed himself into a cock, began to
swallow the seed of the pomegranate as fast as he could. When all were
gone he flew towards us, flapping his wings as if to ask if we saw any
more, when suddenly his eye fell on one which lay on the bank of the
little canal that flowed through the court; he hastened towards it, but
before he could touch it the seed rolled into the canal and became a
fish. The cock flung himself in after the fish and took the shape of a
pike, and for two hours they chased each other up and down under the
water, uttering horrible cries, but we could see nothing. At length
they rose from the water in their proper forms, but darting such flames
of fire from their mouths that we dreaded lest the palace should catch
fire. Soon, however, we had much greater cause for alarm, as the
genius, having shaken off the princess, flew towards us. Our fate
would have been sealed if the princess, seeing our danger, had not
attracted the attention of the genius to herself. As it was, the
Sultan's beard was singed and his face scorched, the chief of the
eunuchs was burned to a cinder, while a spark deprived me of the sight
of one eye. Both I and the Sultan had given up all hope of a rescue,
when there was a shout of "Victory, victory!" from the princess, and
the genius lay at her feet a great heap of ashes.
Exhausted though she was, the princess at once ordered the little
slave, who alone was uninjured, to bring her a cup of water, which she
took in her hand. First repeating some magic words over it, she dashed
it into my face saying, "If you are only a monkey by enchantment,
resume the form of the man you were before." In an instant I stood
before her the same man I had formerly been, though having lost the
sight of one eye.
I was about to fall on my knees and thank the princess but she did not
give me time. Turning to the Sultan, her father, she said, "Sire, I
have gained the battle, but it has cost me dear. The fire has
penetrated to my heart, and I have only a few moments to live. This
would not have happened if I had only noticed the last pomegranate seed
and eaten it like the rest. It was the last struggle of the genius,
and up to that time I was quite safe. But having let this chance slip
I was forced to resort to fire, and in spite of all his experience I
showed the genius that I knew more than he did. He is dead and in
ashes, but my own death is approaching fast." "My daughter," cried the
Sultan, "how sad is my condition! I am only surprised I am alive at
all! The eunuch is consumed by the flames, and the prince whom you
have delivered has lost the sight of one eye." He could say no more,
for sobs choked his voice, and we all wept together.
Suddenly the princess shrieked, "I burn, I burn!" and death came to
free her from her torments.
I have no words, madam, to tell you of my feelings at this terrible
sight. I would rather have remained a monkey all my life than let my
benefactress perish in this shocking manner. As for the Sultan, he was
quite inconsolable, and his subjects, who had dearly loved the
princess, shared his grief. For seven days the whole nation mourned,
and then the ashes of the princess were buried with great pomp, and a
superb tomb was raised over her.
As soon as the Sultan recovered from the severe illness which had
seized him after the death of the princess he sent for me and plainly,
though politely, informed me that my presence would always remind him
of his loss, and he begged that I would instantly quit his kingdom, and
on pain of death never return to it. I was, of course, bound to obey,
and not knowing what was to become of me I shaved my beard and eyebrows
and put on the dress of a calender. After wandering aimlessly through
several countries, I resolved to come to Bagdad and request an audience
of the Commander of the Faithful.
And that, madam, is my story.