The Story of the Merchant and the Genie
There was once upon a time a merchant who possessed great wealth, in land and merchandise, as well as in money. He had to from time to time, to take journeys for his business. One day, having to go a long way from home, he mounted his horse, taking with him a small bag in which he had put a few biscuits and dates, because he had to pass through the desert where there was no food. He arrived without any problems, and, having finished his business, set out on his return. On the fourth day of his journey, the heat of the sun being very great, he turned off the road to rest under some trees. He found at the foot of a large walnut tree a spring of clear and running water. He dismounted, tied his horse to a branch of the tree, and sat by the spring, after having taken from his bag some of his dates and biscuits. When he had finished this simple meal he washed his face and hands in the spring.
When he was doing this he saw an enormous genie, white with rage, coming towards him, with a scimitar in his hand.
“Arise,” he cried in a terrible voice, “and let me kill you as you have killed my son!”
As he uttered these words he gave a frightful yell. The merchant, much terrified at the hideous face of the monster answered him tremblingly, “Alas, good sir, what can I have done to you to deserve death?”
“I shall kill you,” repeated the genie, “as you have killed my son.”
“But,” said the merchant, “how can I have killed your son? I do not know him, and I have never even seen him.”
“When you arrived here did you not sit down on the ground?” asked the genie, “and did you not take some dates from your bag, and while eating them did not you throw the seeds away?”
“Yes,” said the merchant, “I certainly did so.”
“Then,” said the genie, “I tell you, you have killed my son, for while you were throwing away the seeds, my son was passing by, and one of them struck him in the eye and killed him. So I shall kill you.”
“Ah, sir, forgive me!” cried the merchant.
“I will have no mercy on you,” answered the genie.
“But I killed your son quite accidentally, so I beg you to spare my life.”
“No,” said the genie, “I shall kill you as you killed my son,” and so saying, he seized the merchant by the arm, threw him on the ground, and lifted his scimitar to cut off his head.
The merchant, protesting his innocence, cried for his wife and children, and tried pitifully to escape his fate. The genie, with his raised scimitar, waited till he had finished, but was not in the least moved.
Scheherazade, at this point, seeing that it was day, and knowing that the Sultan always rose very early to attend the council, stopped speaking.
“Indeed, sister,” said Dinarzade, “this is a wonderful story.”
“The rest is still more wonderful,” replied Scheherazade, “and you would say so, if the sultan would allow me to live another day, and would allow me to tell it to you the next night.”
Schahriar, who had been listening to Scheherazade with pleasure, said to himself, “I will wait till tomorrow. I can always have her killed when I have heard the end of her story.”
All this time the grand-vizier was in a terrible state of anxiety. But he was much delighted when he saw the Sultan enter the council chamber without giving the terrible command that he was expecting.
The next morning, before sunrise, Dinarzade said to her sister, “Dear sister, if you are awake please go on with your story.”
The Sultan did not wait for Scheherazade to ask. “Finish,” said he, “the story of the genie and the merchant. I am curious to hear the end.”
So Scheherazade went on with the story. This happened every morning. The Sultana told a story and the Sultan let her live to finish it.
When the merchant saw that the genie was determined to cut off his head, he said, “One word more, I beg you. Give me just a short time to go home and tell my wife and children farewell. When I have done this I will come back here, and you shall kill me.”
“But,” said the genie, “if I give you the time you ask for, I am afraid that you will not come back.”
“I give you my word of honour,” answered the merchant, “that I will come back without fail.”
“How long do you require?” asked the genius.
“I ask you for a year,” replied the merchant. “I promise you that, twelve months from tomorrow, I shall be waiting under these trees to give myself up to you.”
On this the genie left him near the spring and disappeared.
The merchant, having recovered from his fright, mounted his horse and went on his way.
When he arrived home his wife and children received him with the greatest joy. But instead of embracing them he began to weep so bitterly that they soon guessed that something terrible had happened.
“Tell us,” said his wife, “what has happened.”
“Alas!” answered her husband, “I have only a year to live.”
Then he told them what had happened between him and the genie, and how he had given his word to return at the end of a year to be killed. When they heard this sad news they were in despair, and wept much.
The next day the merchant began to settle his affairs, and first of all to pay his debts. He gave presents to his friends, and money to the poor. He set his slaves free, and provided for his wife and children. The year soon passed, and he had to depart. When he tried to say goodbye he was quite overcome with grief. At length he reached the place where he had first seen the genie. He dismounted, and sat down at the edge of the spring, where he awaited the genie.
While he was waiting an old man leading a deer came towards him. They greeted one another, and then the old man said to him, “May I ask, brother, what brought you to this deserted place, where there are so many evil genies about? To see these beautiful trees one would imagine people live here, but it is a dangerous place to stop long in.”
The merchant told the old man why he had to come there. He listened in astonishment.
“This is a most marvelous story. I should like to see when you meet with the genie.” So saying, he sat down by the merchant.
While they were talking another old man came up, followed by two black dogs. He greeted them, and asked what they were doing in this place. The old man who was leading the deer told him the adventure of the merchant and the genie. The second old man also decided to stay there to see what would happen. He sat down by the others, and was talking, when a third old man arrived. He asked why the merchant who was with them looked so sad. They told him the story, and he also decided to see what would happen between the genie and the merchant, so he waited with the rest.
They soon saw in the distance a thick smoke, like a cloud of dust. This smoke came nearer and nearer, and then, all at once, it vanished, and they saw the genie, who, without speaking to them, approached the merchant, sword in hand, and, taking him by the arm, said, “Get up and let me kill you as you killed my son.”
The merchant and the three old men began to weep and groan.
Then the old man leading the deer threw himself at the monster’s feet and said, “O Prince of the Genies, I beg you to calm yourself and to listen to me. I am going to tell you my story and that of the deer I have with me, and if you find it more marvelous than that of the merchant who you are about to kill, I hope that you will do away with a third part of his punishment?”
The genie considered some time, and then he said, “Very well, I agree to this.”
The Story of the First Old Man and of the Deer
This deer that you see with me is my wife. We have no children of our own. Therefore I adopted the son of a favorite slave, and decided to make him my heir.
My wife, however, took a great dislike to both mother and child, which she hid from me till too late. When my adopted son was about ten years old I had to go on a journey. Before I went I asked my wife to look after both the mother and child while I was gone which lasted a whole year. During this time she studied magic in order to carry out her wicked scheme. When she had learnt enough she took my son to a distant place and changed him into a calf. Then she gave him to my servant, and told him to look after a calf she had bought. She also changed the slave into a cow, which she sent to my servant.
When I returned I asked about my slave and the child. “Your slave is dead,” she said, “And as for your son, I have not seen him for two months, and I do not know where he is.”
I was saddened to hear of my slave’s death, but as my son had only disappeared, I thought I should soon find him. Eight months, however, passed, and still no news of him and then the feast of Bairam came.
To celebrate it I ordered my servant to bring me a very fat cow to sacrifice. The cow that he brought was my unfortunate slave. I tied her, but just as I was about to kill her she began to low most sadly, and I saw that her eyes were streaming with tears. It seemed to me most extraordinary, and, feeling pity, I ordered the servant to lead her away and bring another. My wife, who was present, laughed at me. “What are you doing?” she cried. “Kill this cow. It is the best we have to sacrifice.”
To please her, I tried again, but again the animal’s lows and tears moved me.
“Take her away,” I said to the servant “and kill her; I cannot.”
The servant killed her, but on skinning her found that she was nothing but bones, although she appeared so fat. I was puzzled.
“Keep her for yourself,” I said to the steward, “and if you have a fat calf, bring that in her place.”
In a short time he brought a very fat calf, which, although I did not know it, was my son. It tried hard to break its rope and come to me. It threw itself at my feet, with its head on the ground, as if it wished to beg me not to take away its life.
I was even more surprised and touched at this action than I had been at the tears of the cow.
“Go,” I said to the servant, “take back this calf, take great care of it, and bring me another in its place instantly.”
As soon as my wife heard me say this she at once cried out, “What are you doing, husband? Do not sacrifice any calf but this.”
“Wife,” I answered, “I will not sacrifice this calf,” and in spite of all her arguments, I remained firm.
I had another calf killed and this one was led away. The next day the servant asked to speak to me in private.
“I have come,” he said, “to tell you some news which I think you will like to hear. I have a daughter who knows magic. Yesterday, when I was leading back the calf which you refused to sacrifice, I noticed that she smiled, and then directly afterwards began to cry. I asked her why she did so.”
“Father,” she answered, “This calf is the son of our master. I smile with joy at seeing him still alive, and I weep to think of his mother, who was sacrificed yesterday as a cow. These changes have been made by our master’s wife, who hated the mother and son.”
“At these words,” continued the old man, “you can imagine my astonishment. I went immediately with the servant to speak with his daughter myself. When the steward’s daughter came I asked her if she could change my son back to his proper shape.”
“Yes, I can,” she replied, “on two conditions. One is that you will give him to me for a husband, and the other is that you will let me punish the woman who changed him into a calf.”
“To the first condition,” I answered, “I agree with all my heart. To the second I also agree, I only ask you to spare her life.”
“That I will do,” she replied. “I will treat her as she treated your son.”
Then she took a cup of water and spoke over it some words I did not understand. Then, on throwing the water over him, he became immediately a young man once more.
“My son, my dear son,” I exclaimed. “This kind maiden has rescued you from a terrible enchantment, and I am sure that out of gratitude you will marry her.”
He agreed joyfully, but before they were married, the young girl changed my wife into a deer, and it is she who you see before you.
Since then my son has become a widower and has gone traveling. I am now going in search of him, and not wishing to give my wife to the care of other people, I am taking her with me. Is this not a most marvelous tale?
“It is indeed,” said the genie, “And because of it I give to you the third part of the punishment of this merchant.”
When the first old man had finished his story, the second, who was leading the two black dogs, said to the genie, “I am going to tell you what happened to me, and I am sure that you will find my story even more astonishing than the one which you have just been listening to. But when I have told it, will you give me also the third part of the merchant’s punishment?”
“Yes,” replied the genie, “provided that your story is better than that of the deer.”
With this agreement the second old man began in this way.
The Story of the Second Old Man, and of the Two Black Dogs
Great prince of the genies, you must know that we are three brothers; these two black dogs and myself. Our father died, leaving us each a thousand gold coins. With this sum we all three took up the same work, and became merchants. A short time after we had opened our shops, my eldest brother, one of these two dogs, decided to travel to foreign countries to trade merchandise. So he sold all he had and bought merchandise for the voyages he was about to make. He set out, and was away a whole year. At the end of this time a beggar came to my shop. “Good-day,” I said. “Good-day,” he answered. “Is it possible that you do not recognize me?” Then I looked at him closely and saw he was my brother. I made him come into my house, and asked him how he had been.
“Do not question me,” he replied, “See me, you see all I have. It would trouble me to tell of all the misfortunes that have happened to me in a year, and have brought me to this state.”
I shut up my shop, taking him to the bath and giving him my most beautiful robes. I examined my accounts, and found that I had doubled my money. I now had two thousand gold coins. I gave my brother half, saying, “Now, brother, you can forget your losses.” He accepted them with joy, and we lived together as we had before.
Some time afterwards my second brother wished also to sell his business and travel. My eldest brother and I did all we could to persuade him not to, but it was no use. He joined a caravan and set out. He came back at the end of a year in the same state as his elder brother. I took care of him, and as I had a thousand gold coins to spare I gave them to him, and he re-opened his shop.
One day, my two brothers came to me to propose that we should make a journey and trade. At first I refused to go. “You traveled,” I said, “and what did you gain?” But they came to me repeatedly, and after having refused for five years I at last agreed. But when they had made their preparation, and they began to buy the merchandise we needed, they found they had spent every piece of the thousand gold coins I had given them. I did not scold them. I divided my six thousand gold coins with them, giving a thousand to each and keeping one for myself, and the other three I buried in a corner of my house. We bought merchandise, loaded a ship with it, and set sail.
After two months’ sailing, we arrived at a seaport, where we disembarked and did a great trade. Then we bought the merchandise of the country, and were just going to sail once more, when I was stopped on the shore by a beautiful though poorly dressed woman. She came up to me, kissed my hand, and begged me to marry her, and take her on board. At first I refused, but she begged so hard and promised to be such a good wife to me, that at last I agreed. I got her some beautiful dresses, and after having married her, we embarked and set sail. During the voyage, I discovered so many good qualities in my wife that I began to love her more and more. But my brothers began to be jealous of my good fortune, and set to work to plot against my life. One night when we were sleeping they threw my wife and myself into the sea. My wife, however, was a fairy, and so she did not let me drown, but carried me to an island. When the day dawned, she said to me,
“When I saw you on the seashore I immediately liked you so I presented myself in the disguise you saw. Now I have rewarded you by saving your life. But I am very angry with your brothers, and I shall not rest till I have taken their lives.”
I thanked the fairy for all that she had done for me, but I begged her not to kill my brothers.
I calmed her down, and in a moment she carried me from the island where we were to the roof of my house, and she disappeared a moment afterwards. I went down, and opened the doors, and dug up the three thousand gold coins which I had buried. I went to the place where my shop was, opened it, and received from my fellow merchants congratulations on my return. When I went home, I saw two black dogs who came to meet me with sorrowful faces. I was much astonished, but the fairy who reappeared said to me, “Do not be surprised to see these dogs. They are your two brothers. I have made them remain for ten years in these shapes.” Then having told me where I could find her, she vanished.
The ten years are nearly passed, and I am on the road to find her. Passing by, I met this merchant and the old man with the deer so I stayed with them.
This is my story, O prince of genies! Do you not think it is a most marvelous one?
“Yes, indeed,” replied the genie, “And I will give up to you the third of the merchant’s punishment.”
Then the third old man made the genie the same request as the other two had done, and the genie promised him the last third of the merchant’s punishment if his story was better than both the others.
So he told his story to the genie, but I cannot tell you what it was, as I do not know.
But I do know that it was even more marvelous than either of the others, so that the genie was astonished, and said to the third old man, “I will give up to you the third part of the merchant’s punishment. He ought to thank all three of you for having helped him. If it wasn’t for you for you, he would be here no longer.”
So saying, he disappeared, to the great joy of the company. The merchant did not fail to thank his friends, and then each went on his way. The merchant returned to his wife and children, and passed the rest of his days happily with them.