The Fisherman And The Jinnee , From The Thousand And

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“The Fisherman and the Jinnee”, from The Thousand and One NightsBackgroundOnce upon a time there was a poor fisherman who had a wife and three children tosupport.He used to cast his net four times a day. It chanced that one day he went down to thesea at noon and, reaching the shore, set down his basket, rolled up his shirt-sleeves,and cast his net far out into the water. After he had waited for it to sink, he pulled onthe cords with all his might; but the net was so heavy that he could not draw it in. Sohe tied the rope ends to a wooden stake on the beach and, putting off his clothes,dived into the water and set to work to bring it up. When he had carried it ashore,however, he found in it a dead donkey.“By Allah,1 this is a strange catch!” cried the fisherman, disgusted at the sight. After hehad freed the net and wrung it out, he waded into the water and cast it again, invokingAllahs help. But when he tried to draw it in he found it even heavier than before.Thinking that he had caught some enormous fish, he fastened the ropes to the stakeand, diving in again, brought up the net. This time he found a large earthen vesselfilled with mud and sand.Angrily the fisherman threw away the vessel, cleaned his net, and cast it for the thirdtime. He waited patiently, and when he felt the net grow heavy he hauled it in, only tofind it filled with bones and broken glass. In despair, he lifted his eyes to heaven andcried: “Allah knows that I cast my net only four times a day. I have already cast it forthe third time and caught no fish at all. Surely He will not fail me again!”With this the fisherman hurled his net far out into the sea, and waited for it to sink tothe bottom. When at length he brought it to land he found in it a bottle made of yellowcopper. The mouth was stopped with lead and bore the seal of our master Solomonson of David.2 The fisherman rejoiced, and said: “I will sell this in the market of thecoppersmiths. It must be worth ten pieces of gold.” He shook the bottle and, finding itheavy, thought to himself: “I will first break the seal and find out what is inside.”The fisherman removed the lead with his knife and again shook the bottle; but scarcelyhad he done so, when there burst from it a great column of smoke which spread alongthe shore and rose so high that it almost touched the heavens. Taking shape, thesmoke resolved itself into a jinnee of such prodigious3 stature that his head reachedthe clouds, while his feet were planted on the sand. His head was a huge dome and

his mouth as wide as a cavern, with teeth ragged like broken rocks. His legs toweredlike the masts of a ship, his nostrils were two inverted bowls, and his eyes, blazinglike torches, made his aspect fierce and menacing.The sight of this jinnee struck terror to the fishermans heart; his limbs quivered, histeeth chattered together, and he stood rooted to the ground with parched tongue andstaring eyes.“There is no god but Allah and Solomon is His Prophet!” cried the jinnee. Then,addressing himself to the fisherman, he said: “I pray you, mighty Prophet, do not killme! I swear never again to defy your will or violate your laws!”“Blasphemous giant,” cried the fisherman, “do you presume to call Solomon theProphet of Allah? Solomon has been dead these eighteen hundred years, and we arenow approaching the end of Time. But what is your history, pray, and how came you tobe imprisoned in this bottle?”On hearing these words the jinnee replied sarcastically: “Well, then; there is no godbut Allah! Fisherman, I bring you good news.”“What news?” asked the old man.“News of your death, horrible and prompt!” replied the jinnee.“Then may heavens wrath be upon you, ungrateful wretch!” cried the fisherman. “Whydo you wish my death, and what have I done to deserve it? Have I not brought you upfrom the depths of the sea and released you from your imprisonment?”But the jinnee answered: “Choose the manner of your death and the way that I shallkill you. Come, waste no time!”“But what crime have I committed?” cried the fisherman.“Listen to my story, and you shall know,” replied the jinnee.“Be brief, then, I pray you,” said the fisherman, “for you have wrung my soul withterror.”“Know,” began the giant, “that I am one of the rebel jinn who, together with Sakhr theJinnee, mutinied against Solomon son of David. Solomon sent against me hisVizier,4 Asaf ben Berakhya, who vanquished me despite my supernatural power andled me captive before his master. Invoking the name of Allah, Solomon adjured me toembrace his faith and pledge him absolute obedience. I refused, and he imprisoned

me in this bottle, upon which he set a seal of lead bearing the Name of the Most High.Then he sent for several of his faithful jinn, who carried me away and cast me into themiddle of the sea. In the ocean depths I vowed: I will bestow eternal riches on him whosets me free! But a hundred years passed away and no one freed me. In the secondhundred years of my imprisonment I said: For him who frees me I will open up theburied treasures of the earth! And yet no one freed me. Whereupon I flew into a rageand swore: I will kill the man who sets me free, allowing him only to choose themanner of his death! Now it was you who set me free; therefore prepare to die andchoose the way that I shall kill you.”“O wretched luck, that it should have fallen to my lot to free you!” exclaimed thefisherman. “Spare me, mighty jinnee, and Allah will spare you; kill me, and so shallAllah destroy you!”“You have freed me,” repeated the jinnee. “Therefore you must die.”“Chief of the jinn,” cried the fisherman, “will you thus requite5 good with evil?”“Enough of this talk!” roared the jinnee. “Kill you I must.”At this point the fisherman thought to himself: “Though I am but a man and he is ajinnee, my cunning may yet overreach his malice.” Then, turning to his adversary, hesaid: “Before you kill me, I beg you in the Name of the Most High engraved onSolomons seal to answer me one question truthfully.”The jinnee trembled at the mention of the Name, and, when he had promised toanswer truthfully, the fisherman asked: “How could this bottle, which is scarcely largeenough to hold your hand or foot, ever contain your entire body?”“Do you dare doubt that?” roared the jinnee indignantly .“I will never believe it,” replied the fisherman, “until I see you enter this bottle with myown eyes!”Upon this the jinnee trembled from head to foot and dissolved into a column of smoke,which gradually wound itself into the bottle and disappeared inside. At once thefisherman snatched up the leaden stopper and thrust it into the mouth of the bottle.Then he called out to the jinnee: “Choose the manner of your death and the way that Ishall kill you! By Allah, I will throw you back into the sea, and keep watch on this shoreto warn all men of your treachery!”When he heard the fishermans words, the jinnee struggled desperately to escape fromthe bottle, but was prevented by the magic seal. He now altered his tone and,

assuming a submissive air, assured the fisherman that he had been jesting with himand implored him to let him out. But the fisherman paid no heed to the jinneesentreaties,6 and resolutely carried the bottle down to the sea.“What are you doing with me?” whimpered the jinnee helplessly.“I am going to throw you back into the sea!” replied the fisherman. “You have lain inthe depths eighteen hundred years, and there you shall remain till the LastJudgment!7 Did I not beg you to spare me so that Allah might spare you? But you tookno pity on me, and He has now delivered you into my hands.”“Let me out,” cried the jinnee in despair, “and I will give you fabulous riches!”“Perfidious8 jinnee,” retorted the fisherman, “you justly deserve the fate of the King inthe tale of ‘Yunan and the Doctor.’“What tale is that?” asked the jinnee.The Tale of King Yunan and Duban the DoctorIt is related (began the fisherman) that once upon a time there reigned in the land ofPersia a rich and mighty king called Yunan. He commanded great armies and had anumerous retinue of followers and courtiers. But he was afflicted with a leprosy9 whichbaffled his physicians and defied all cures.One day a venerable10 old doctor named Duban came to the Kings capital. He hadstudied books written in Greek, Persian, Latin, Arabic, and Syriac, and was deeplyversed in the wisdom of the ancients. He was master of many sciences, knew theproperties of plants and herbs, and was above all skilled in astrology and medicine.When this physician heard of the leprosy with which Allah had plagued the King and ofhis doctors vain endeavors to cure him, he put on his finest robes and betook himselfto the royal palace. After he had kissed the ground before the King and called downblessings upon him, he told him who he was and said: “Great king, I have heard aboutthe illness with which you are afflicted and have come to heal you. Yet will I give youno potion to drink, nor any ointment to rub upon your body.”The King was astonished at the doctors words, and asked: “How will you do that? ByAllah, if you cure me I will heap riches upon you and your childrens children after you.Anything you wish for shall be yours and you shall be my companion and my friend.”

Then the King gave him a robe of honor and other presents, and asked: “Is it reallytrue that you can heal me without draft or ointment? When is it to be? What day, whathour?”“Tomorrow, if the King wishes,” he replied.He took leave of the King, and hastening to the center of the town rented for himself ahouse, to which he carried his books, his drugs, and his other medicaments. Then hedistilled balsams and elixirs,11 and these he poured into a hollow polo-stick.Next morning he went to the royal palace, and, kissing the ground before the King,requested him to ride to the field and play a game of polo with his friends. The Kingrode out with his viziers and his chamberlains,12 and when he had entered the playingfield the doctor handed him the hollow club and said: “Take this and grasp it firmly.Strike the ball with all your might until the palm of your hand and the rest of your bodybegin to perspire. The cure will penetrate your palm and course through the veins andarteries of your body. When it has done its work, return to the palace, wash yourself,and go to sleep. Thus shall you be cured; and peace be with you.”The King took hold of the club and, gripping it firmly, struck the ball and galloped afterit with the other players. Harder and harder he struck the ball as he dashed up anddown the field, until his palm and all his body perspired. When the doctor saw that thecure had begun its work, he ordered the King to return to the palace. The slaveshastened to make ready the royal bath and prepare the linens and the towels. TheKing bathed, put on his night-clothes, and went to sleep.Next morning the physician went to the palace. When he was admitted to the Kingspresence he kissed the ground before him and wished him peace. The King hastilyrose to receive him; he threw his arms around his neck and seated him by his side.For when the King had left the bath the previous evening, he looked upon his bodyand rejoiced to find no trace of the leprosy: his skin had become as pure as virginsilver.The King regaled the physician sumptuously all day. He bestowed on him robes ofhonor and other gifts and, when evening came, gave him two thousand pieces of goldand mounted him on his own favorite horse. Soenraptured was the King by theconsummate skill of his doctor that he kept repeating to himself: “This wise physicianhas cured me without draft or ointment. By Allah, I will load him with honors and heshall henceforth be my companion and trusted friend.” And that night the King lay

down to sleep in perfect bliss, knowing that he was clean in body and rid at last of hisdisease.Next morning, as soon as the King sat down upon his throne, with the officers of hiscourt standing before him and his lieutenants and viziers seated on his right and left,he called for the physician, who went up to him and kissed the ground before him. TheKing rose and seated the doctor by his side. He feasted him all day, gave him athousand pieces of gold and more robes of honor, and conversed with him till nightfall.Now among the Kings viziers there was a man of repellent aspect, an envious, blacksouled villain, full of spite and cunning. When this Vizier saw that the King had madethe physician his friend and lavished on him high dignities and favors, he becamejealous and began to plot the doctors downfall. Does not the proverb say: “All menenvy, the strong openly, the weak in secret”?So, on the following day, when the King entered the council-chamber and was about tocall for the physician, the Vizier kissed the ground before him and said: “My bounteousmaster, whose munificence extends to all men, my duty prompts me to forewarn youagainst an evil which threatens your life; nor would I be anything but a base-bornwretch were I to conceal it from you.”Perturbed at these ominous words, the King ordered him to explain his meaning.“Your majesty,” resumed the Vizier, “there is an old proverb which says: He who doesnot weigh the consequences of his acts shall never prosper. Now I have seen the Kingbestow favors and shower honors upon his enemy, on an assassin who cunninglyseeks to destroy him. I fear for the Kings safety.”“Who is this man whom you suppose to be my enemy?” asked the King, turning pale.“If you are asleep, your majesty,” replied the Vizier, “I beg you to awake. I speak ofDuban, the doctor.”“He is my friend,” replied the King angrily, “dearer to me than all my courtiers; for hehas cured me of my leprosy, an evil which my physicians had failed to remove. Surelythere is no other physician like him in the whole world, from East to West. How canyou say these monstrous things of him? From this day I will appoint him my personalphysician, and give him every month a thousand pieces of gold. Were I to bestow onhim the half of my kingdom, it would be but a small reward for his service. Yourcounsel, my Vizier, is the prompting of jealousy and envy. Would you have me kill my

benefactor and repent of my rashness, as King Sindbad repented after he had killedhis falcon?”The Tale of King Sindbad and the FalconOnce upon a time (went on King Yunan) there was a Persian King who was a greatlover of riding and hunting. He had a falcon which he himself had trained with lovingcare and which never left his side for a moment; for even at night-time he carried itperched upon his fist, and when he went hunting took it with him. Hanging from thebirds neck was a little bowl of gold from which it drank. One day the King ordered hismen to make ready for a hunting expedition and, taking with him his falcon, rode outwith his courtiers. At length they came to a valley where they laid the hunting nets.Presently a gazelle fell into the snare, and the King said: “I will kill the man who letsher escape!”They drew the nets closer and closer round the beast. On seeing the King the gazellestood on her haunches and raised her forelegs to her head as if she wished to salutehim. But as he bent forward to lay hold of her she leapt over his head and fled acrossthe field. Looking round, the King saw his courtiers winking at one another.“Why are they winking?” he asked his Vizier.“Perhaps because you let the beast escape,” ventured the other, sm-iling.“On my life,” cried the King, “I will chase this gazelle and bring her back!”At once he galloped off in pursuit of the fleeing animal, and when he had caught upwith her, his falcon swooped upon the gazelle, blinding her with his beak, and the Kingstruck her down with a blow of his sword. Then dismounting he flayed the animal andhung the carcass on his saddle-bow.It was a hot day and the King, who by this time had become faint with thirst, went tosearch for water. Presently, however, he saw a huge tree, down the trunk of whichwater was trickling in great drops. He took the little bowl from the falcons neck and,filling it with this water, placed it before the bird. But the falcon knocked the bowl withits beak and toppled it over. The king once again filled the bowl and placed it beforethe falcon, but the bird knocked it over a second time. Upon this the King became veryangry, and, filling the bowl a third time, set it down before his horse. But the falconsprang forward and knocked it over with its wings.“Allah curse you for a bird of ill omen!” cried the King. “You have prevented yourselffrom drinking and the horse also.”

So saying, he struck the falcon with his sword and cut off both its wings. But the birdlifted its head as if to say: “Look into the tree!” The King raised his eyes and saw in thetree an enormous serpent spitting its venom down the trunk.The King was deeply grieved at what he had done, and, mounting his horse, hurriedback to the palace. He threw his kill to the cook, and no sooner had he sat down, withthe falcon still perched on his fist, than the bird gave a convulsive gasp and droppeddown dead.The King was stricken with sorrow and remorse for having so rashly killed the birdwhich had saved his life.When the Vizier heard the tale of King Yunan, he said: “I assure your majesty that mycounsel is prompted by no other motive than my devotion to you and my concern foryour safety. I beg leave to warn you that, if you put your trust in this physician, it iscertain that he will destroy you. Has he not cured you by a device held in the hand?And might he not cause your death by another such device?”“You have spoken wisely, my faithful Vizier,” replied the King. “Indeed, it is quiteprobable that this physician has come to my court as a spy to destroy me. And sincehe cured my illness by a thing held in the hand, he might as cunningly poison me withthe scent of a perfume. What should I do, my Vizier?”“Send for him at once,” replied the other, “and when he comes, strike off his head.Only thus shall you be secure from his perfidy.”Thereupon the King sent for the doctor, who hastened to the palace with a joyful heart,not knowing what lay in store for him.“Do you know why I have sent for you?” asked the King.“Allah alone knows the unspoken thoughts of men,” replied the physician.“I have brought you here to kill you,” said the King.The physician was thunderstruck at these words, and cried: “But why should you wishto kill me? What crime have I committed?”“It has come to my knowledge,” replied the King, “that you are a spy sent here tocause my death. But you shall be the first to die.”

Then he called out to the executioner, saying: “Strike off the head of this traitor!”“Spare me, and Allah will spare you!” cried the unfortunate doctor. “Kill me, and soshall Allah kill you!”But the King gave no heed to his entreaties. “Never will I have peace again,” he cried,“until I see you dead. For if you cured me by a thing held in the hand, you willdoubtless kill me by the scent of a perfume, or by some other foul device.”“Is it thus that you repay me?” asked the doctor. “Will you thus requite good with evil?”But the King said: “You must die; nothing can now save you.”When he saw that the King was determined to put him to death, the physician wept,and bitterly repented the service he had done him. Then the executioner cameforward, blindfolded the doctor and, drawing his sword, held it in readiness for theKings signal. But the doctor continued to wail, crying: “Spare me, and Allah will spareyou! Kill me, and so shall Allah kill you!”Moved by the old mans lamentations, one of the courtiers interceded for him with theKing, saying: “Spare the life of this man, I pray you. He has committed no crimeagainst you, but rather has he cured you of an illness which your physicians havefailed to remedy.”“If I spare this doctor,” replied the King, “he will use his devilish art to kill me. Thereforehe must die.”Again the doctor cried: “Spare me, and Allah will spare you! Kill me, and so shall Allahkill you!” But when at last he saw that the King was fixed in his resolve, he said: “Yourmajesty, if you needs must kill me, I beg you to grant me a days delay, so that I maygo to my house and wind up my affairs. I wish to say farewell to my family and myneighbors, and instruct them to arrange for my burial. I must also give away my booksof medicine, of which there is one, a work of unparalleled virtue, which I would offer toyou as a parting gift, that you may preserve it among the treasures of your kingdom.”“What may this book be?” asked the King.“It holds secrets and devices without number, the least of them being this: that if, afteryou have struck off my head, you turn over three leaves of this book and read the firstthree lines upon the left-hand page, my severed head will speak and answer anyquestions you may ask it.”

The King was astonished to hear this, and at once ordered his guards to escort thephysician to his house. That day the doctor put his affairs in order, and next morningreturned to the Kings palace. There had already assembled the viziers, thechamberlains, the nabobs,13 and all the chief officers of the realm, so that with theircolored robes the court seemed like a garden full of flowers.The doctor bowed low before the King; in one hand he held an ancient book, and inthe other a little bowl filled with a strange powder. Then he sat down and said: “Bringme a platter!” A platter was instantly brought in, and the doctor sprinkled the powderon it, smoothing it over with his fingers. After that he handed the book to the King andsaid: “Take this book and set it down before you. When my head has been cut off,place it upon the powder to stanch the bleeding. Then open the book.”The King ordered the executioner to behead the physician. He did so. Then the Kingopened the book, and, finding the pages stuck together, put his finger to his mouth andturned over the first leaf. After much difficulty he turned over the second and the third,moistening his finger with his spittle at every page, and tried to read. But he could findno writing there.“There is nothing written in this book,” cried the King.“Go on turning,” replied the severed head.The King had not turned six pages when poison (for the leaves of the book had beentreated with venom) began to work in his body. He fell backward in an agony of pain,crying: “Poisoned! Poisoned!” and in a few moments breathed his last.“Now, treacherous jinnee,” continued the fisherman, “had the King spared thephysician, he in turn would have been spared by Allah. But he refused, and Allahbrought about the Kings destruction. And as for you, if you had been willing to spareme, Allah would have been merciful to you, and I would have spared your life. But yousought to kill me; therefore I will throw you back into the sea and leave you to perish inthis bottle!”. . .