Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Story of the Envier and the Envied
KNOW, O my master, that there was a certain man who had a neighbour that envied him; and the more this person envied him, so much the more did God increase the prosperity of the former. Thus it continued a long time; but when the envied man found that his neighbour persisted in troubling him, he removed to a place where there was a deserted well; and there he built for himself an oratory, and occupied himself in the worship of God. Numerous Fakirs1 assembled around him, and he acquired great esteem, people repairing to him from every quarter, placing firm reliance upon his sanctity; and his fame reached the ears of his envious neighbour, who mounted his horse, and went to visit him; and when the envied man saw him, he saluted him, and payed him the utmost civility. The envier then said to him, I have come hither to inform thee of a matter in which thou wilt find advantage, and for which I shall obtain a recompense in heaven. The envied man replied, May God requite thee for me with every blessing. Then, said the envier, order the Fakirs to retire to their cells, for the information that I am about to give thee I would have no one overhear. So he ordered them to enter their cells; and the envier said to him, Arise, and let us walk together, and converse; and they walked on until they came to the deserted well before mentioned, when the envier pushed the envied man into this well, without the knowledge of any one, and went his way, imagining that he had killed him.
But this well was inhabited by Jinn, who received him unhurt, and seated him upon a large stone; and when they had done this, one of them said to the others, Do ye know this man? They answered, We know him not.This, said he, is the envied man who fled from him who envied him, and took up his abode in this quarter, in the neighbouring oratory, and who entertaineth us by his zikr2 and his readings; and when his envier heard of him, he came hither to him, and, devising a stratagem against him, threw him down here. His fame hath this night reached the Sultan of this city, who hath purposed to visit him to-morrow, on account of the affliction which hath befallen his daughter.And what, said they, hath happened to his daughter? He answered, Madness; for Meymun, the son of Demdem, hath become inflamed with love for her; and her cure is the easiest of things. They asked him, What is it?and he answered, The black cat that is with him in the oratory hath at the end of her tail a white spot, of the size of a piece of silver; and from this white spot should be taken seven hairs, and with these the damsel should be fumigated, and the Marid would depart from over her head, and not return to her; so she would be instantly cured. And now it is our duty to take him out.
When the morning came, the Fakirs saw the sheykh rising out of the well; and he became magnified in their eyes. And when he entered the oratory, he took from the white spot at the end of the cats tail seven hairs, and placed them in a portfolio by him; and at sunrise the King came to him, and when the sheykh saw him, he said to him, O King, thou hast come to visit me in order that I may cure thy daughter. The King replied, Yes, O virtuous Sheykh.Then. said the sheykh, send some person to bring her hither; and I trust in God, whose name be exalted, that she may be instantly cured. And when the King had brought his daughter, the sheykh beheld her bound, and, seating her, suspended a curtain over her, and took out the hairs, and fumigated her with them; whereupon the Marid cried out from over her head, and left her; and the damsel immediately recovered her reason, and, veiling her face, said to her father, What is this, and wherefore didst thou bring me to this place? He answered her, Thou hast nothing to fear;and rejoiced greatly. He kissed the hand of the envied sheykh, and said to the great men of his court who were with him, What shall be the recompense of this sheykh for that which he hath done? They answered, His recompense should be that thou marry him to her.Ye have spoken truly, said the King:and he gave her in marriage to him, and thus the sheykh became a connection of the King; and after some days the King died, and he was made King in his place.
And it happened one day that this envied King was riding with his troops, and he saw his envier approaching; and when this man came before him he seated him upon a horse with high distinction and honour, and, taking him to his palace, gave him a thousand pieces of gold, and a costly dress; after which he sent him back from the city, with attendants to escort him to his house, and reproached him for nothing.Consider, then, O Efrit, the pardon of the envied to the envier, and his kindness to him, notwithstanding the injuries he had done him.
The Efrit, when he had heard this story, replied, Lengthen not thy words to me: as to my killing thee, fear it not; and as to my pardoning thee, covet it not; but as to my enchanting thee, there is no escape from it;and, so saying, he clove the earth asunder, and soared with me through the sky to such a height that I beheld the world beneath me as though it were a bowl of water; then, alighting upon a mountain, he took up a little dust, and, having muttered and pronounced certain words over it, sprinkled me with it, saying, Quit this form, and take the form of an ape!whereupon I became like an ape of a hundred years of age.
When I saw myself changed into this ugly form, I wept for myself, but determined to be patient under the tyranny of fortune, knowing it to be constant to no one. I descended from the summit of the mountain, and, after having journeyed for the space of a month, arrived at the sea-shore; and, when I had stood there a short time, I saw a vessel in the midst of the sea, with a favourable wind approaching the land; I therefore hid myself behind a rock on the beach, and when the ship came close up, I sprang into the midst of it. But as soon as the persons on board saw me, one of them cried, Turn out this unlucky brute from the ship:another said, Let us kill him:and a third exclaimed, I will kill him with this sword. I, however, caught hold of the end of the sword, and tears flowed from my eyes; at the sight of which the captain took compassion on me, and said to the passengers, O merchants, this ape hath sought my aid, and I give it him; he is under my protection; let no one, therefore, oppose or trouble him. He then treated me with kindness, and whatever he said to me I understood, and all that he required to be done I performed as his servant.
We continued our voyage for fifty days with a fair wind, and cast anchor under a large city containing a population which no one but God, whose name be exalted, could reckon; and when we had moored our vessel, there came to us some memluks from the King of the city, who came on board the ship, and complemented the merchants on their safe arrival, saying, Our King greeteth you, rejoicing in your safety, and hath sent to you this roll of paper, desiring that each of you shall write a line upon it; for the King had a Wezir who was an eminent calligraphist, and he is dead, and the King hath sworn that he will not appoint any person to his office who cannot write equally well. Though in the form of an ape, I arose and snatched the paper from their hands; upon which, fearing that I would tear it a d throw it into the sea, they cried out against me, and would have killed me; but I made signs to them that I would write, and the captain said to them, Suffer him to write, and if he scribble we will turn him away; but if he write well I will adopt him as my son; for I have never seen a more intelligent ape. So I took the pen, and demanded the ink, and wrote in an epistolary hand this couplet:
Fame hath recorded the virtues of the noble; but no one hath been able to reckon thine.
May God not deprive mankind of such a father; for thou art the parent of every excellence.
Then, in a more formal, large hand, I wrote the following verses:
There is no writer that shall not perish; but what his hand hath written endureth ever.
Write, therefore, nothing but what will please thee when thou shalt see it on the day of resurrection.
Two other specimens I wrote, in two different and smaller hands, and returned the paper to the memluks, who took it back to the King; and when he saw what was written upon it, the hand of no one pleased him excepting mine; and he said to his attendants, Go to the author of this hand-writing, put upon him this dress, and mount him upon a mule, and conduct him, with the band of music before him, to my presence. On hearing this order, they smiled; and the King was angry with them, and said, How is it that I give you an order, and ye laugh at me? They answered, O King, we laugh not at thy words, but because he who wrote this is an ape, and not a son of Adam: he is with the captain of the ship newly arrived.
The King was astonished at their words; he shook with delight, and said, I would purchase this ape. He then sent some messengers to the ship, with the mule and the dress of honour, saying to them, Ye must clothe him with this dress, and mount him upon the mule, and bring him hither. So they came to the ship, and, taking me from the captain, clad me with the dress; and the people were astonished, and flocked to amuse themselves with the sight of me. And when they brought me to the King, and I beheld him, I kissed the ground before him three times, and he ordered me to sit down: so I sat down upon my knees; and the persons present were surprised at my polite manners, and especially the King, who presently ordered his people to retire. They, therefore, did so; none remaining but the King, and a eunuch, and a young memluk, and myself. The King then commanded that a repast should be brought; and they placed before him a service of viands, such as gratified the appetite and delighted the eye; and the King made a sign to me that I should eat; whereupon I arose, and, having kissed the ground before him seven times, sat down to eat with him; and when the table was removed, I washed my hands, and, taking the ink-case, and pen and paper, I wrote these two verses:
Great is my appetite for thee, O Kunafeh!3 I cannot be happy nor endure without thee.
Be thou every day and night my food; and may drops of honey not be wanting to moisten thee.
Having done this, I arose, and seated myself at a distance; and the King, looking at what I had written, read it with astonishment, and exclaimed, Can an ape possess such fluency and such skill in calligraphy? This is, indeed, a wonder of wonders!Afterwards, a chess-table was brought to the King, and he said to me, Wilt thou play? By a motion of my head I answered, Yes:and I advanced, and arranged the pieces. I played with him twice, and beat him; and the King was perplexed, and said, Were this a man, he would surpass all the people of his age.
He then said to this eunuch, Go to thy mistress, and say to her, Answer the summons of the King:that she may come and gratify her curiosity by the sight of this wonderful ape. The eunuch, therefore, went, and returned with his mistress, the Kings daughter, who, as soon as she saw me, veiled her face, and said, O my father, how is it that thou art pleased to send me and suffer strange men to see me?O my daughter, answered the King, there is no one here but the young memluk, and the eunuch who brought thee up, and this ape, with myself, thy father: from whom, then, dost thou veil thy face?This ape, said she, is the son of a King, and the name of his father is Eymar: he is enchanted, and it was the Efrit Jarjaris, a descendant of Iblis, who transformed him, after having slain his own wife, the daughter of King Aknamus. This, whom thou supposedst to be an ape, is a learned and wise man.The King was amazed at his daughters words, and, looking towards me, said, Is it true that she saith of thee? I answered, by a motion of my head, Yes:and wept. The King then said to his daughter, By what means didst thou discover that he was enchanted?O my father, she answered, I had with me, in my younger years, an old woman who was a cunning enchantress, and she taught me the art of enchantment: I have committed its rules to memory, and know it thoroughly, being acquainted with a hundred and seventy modes of performing it, by the least of which I could transport the stones of thy city beyond Mount Kaf, and make its site to be an abyss of the sea, and convert its inhabitants into fish in the midst of it.I conjure thee, then, by the name of Allah, said her father, to restore this young man, that I may make him my Wezir. Is it possible that thou possessedst this excellence, and I knew it not? Restore him, that I may make him my Wezir, for he is a polite and intelligent youth.
She replied, With pleasure:and, taking a knife upon which were engraved some Hebrew names, marked with it a circle in the midst of the palace. Within this she wrote certain names and talismans, and then she pronounced invocations, and uttered unintelligible words; and soon the palace around us became immersed in gloom to such a degree, that we thought the whole world was overspread; and lo, the Efrit appeared before us in a most hideous shape, with hands like winnowing-forks, and legs like masts, and eyes like burning torches; so that we were terrified at him. The Kings daughter exclaimed, No welcome to thee!to which the Efrit, assuming the form of a lion, replied, Thou traitress, how is it that thou hast broken thine oath? Did we not swear that we would not oppose one another?Thou wretch, said she, when didst thou receive an oath?The Efrit, still in the form of a lion, then exclaimed, Take what awaiteth thee!and, opening his mouth, rushed upon the lady; but she instantly plucked a hair from her head and muttered with her lips, whereupon the hair became converted into a piercing sword, with which she struck the lion, and he was cleft in twain by the blow; but his head became changed into a scorpion. The lady immediately transformed herself into an enormous serpent, and crept after the execrable wretch in the shape of a scorpion, and a sharp contest ensued between them; after which, the scorpion became an eagle, and the serpent, changing to a vulture, pursued the eagle for a length of time. The latter then transformed himself into a black cat, and the Kings daughter became a wolf, and they fought together long and fiercely, till the cat, seeing himself overcome, changed himself into a large red pomegranate, which fell into a pool; but, the wolf pursuing it, it ascended into the air, and then fell upon the pavement of the palace, and broke in pieces, its grains becoming scattered, each apart from the others, and all spread about the whole space of ground enclosed by the palace. The wolf, upon this, transformed itself into a cock, in order to pick up the grains, and not leave one of them; but, according to the decree of fate, one grain remained hidden by the side of the pool of the fountain. The cock began to cry, and flapped its wings, and made a sign to us with its beak; but we understood not what it would say. It then uttered at us such a cry, that we thought the palace had fallen down upon us; and it ran about the whole of the ground, until it saw the grain that had lain hid by the side of the pool, when it pounced upon it, to pick it up; but it fell into the midst of the water, and became transformed into a fish, and sank into the water; upon which the cock became a fish of a larger size, and plunged in after the other. For a while it was absent from our sight; but, at length, we heard a loud cry, and trembled at the sound; after which, the Efrit rose as a flame of fire, casting fire from his mouth, and fire and smoke from his eyes and nostrils: the Kings daughter also became as a vast body of fire; and we would have plunged into the water from fear of our being burnt and destroyed; but suddenly the Efrit cried out from within the fire, and came towards us upon the liwan,4 blowing fire at our faces. The lady, however, overtook him, and blew fire in like manner in his face; and some sparks struck us both from her and from him: her sparks did us no harm; but one from him struck me in my eye, and destroyed it, I being still in the form of an ape; and a spark from him reached the face of the King, and burned the lower half, with his beard and mouth, and struck out his lower teeth: another spark also fell upon the breast of the eunuch; who was burnt, and died immediately. We expected destruction, and gave up all hope of preserving our lives; but while we were in this state, a voice exclaimed, God is most great! God is most great! He hath conquered and aided, and abandoned the denier of the faith of Mohammad, the chief of mankind.5 The person from whom this voice proceeded was the Kings daughter: she had burnt the Efrit; and when we looked towards him, we perceived that he had become a heap of ashes.
The lady then came to us, and said, Bring me a cup of water:and when it was brought to her, she pronounced over it some words which we understood not, and, sprinkling me with it, said, Be restored, by virtue of the name of the Truth, and by virtue of the most great name of God, to thy original form!whereupon I became a man as I was at first, excepting that my eye was destroyed. After this, she cried out, The fire! the fire! O my father, I shall no longer live, for I am predestined to be killed. Had he been a human being, I had killed him at the first of the encounter. I experienced no difficulty till the scattering of the grains of the pomegranate, when I picked them up excepting the one in which was the life of the Jinni: had I picked up that, he had instantly died; but I saw it not, as fate and destiny had appointed; and suddenly he came upon me, and a fierce contest ensued between us under the earth, and in the air, and in the water; and every time that he tried against me a new mode, I employed against him one more potent, until he tried against me the mode of fire; and rarely does one escape against whom the mode of fire is employed. Destiny, however, aided me, so that I burned him first; but I exhorted him previously to embrace the faith of El-Islam. Now I die; and may God supply my place to you.Having thus said, she ceased not to pray for relief from the fire; and lo, a spark ascended to her breast, and thence to her face; and when it reached her face, she wept, and exclaimed, I testify that there is no deity but God, and I testify that Mohammad is Gods Apostle!We then looked towards her, and saw that she had become a heap of ashes by the side of the ashes of the Efrit.
We were plunged into grief on her account, and I wished that I had been in her place rather than have seen that sweet-faced creature who had done me this kindness reduced to a heap of ashes: but the decree of God cannot be averted. The King, on beholding his daughter in this state, plucked out what remained of his beard, and slapped his face, and rent his clothes; and I also did the same, while we both wept for her. Then came the chamberlains and other great officers of the court, who, finding the King in a state of insensibility, with two heaps of ashes before him, were astonished, and remained encompassing him until he recovered from his fit, when he informed them of what had befallen his daughter with the Efrit; and great was their affliction. The women shrieked, with the female slaves, and continued their mourning seven days. After this, the King gave orders to build, over the ashes of his daughter, a great tomb with a dome, and illuminated it with candles and lamps: but the ashes of the Efrit they scattered in the wind, exposing them to the curse of God. The King then fell sick, and was near unto death: his illness lasted a month; but after this he recovered his health, and, summoning me to his presence, said to me, O young man, we passed our days in the enjoyment of the utmost happiness, secure from the vicissitudes of fortune, until thou camest to us, when troubles overcame us. Would that we had never seen thee, nor thy ugly form, on account of which we have been reduced to this state of privation; for, in the first place, I have lost my daughter, who was worth a hundred men; and, secondly, I have suffered this burning, and lost my teeth: my eunuch also is dead: but it was not in thy power to prevent these afflictions: the decree of God hath been fulfilled on us and on thee; and praise be to God that my daughter restored thee, though she destroyed herself. Now, however, depart, O my son, from my city. It is enough that hath happened on thy account; but as it was decreed against us and thee, depart in peace.
So I departed, O my mistress, from his presence; but before I quitted the city, I entered a public bath, and shaved my beard. I traversed various regions, and passed through great cities, and bent my course to the Abode of Peace, Baghdad, in the hope of obtaining an interview with the Prince of the Faithful, that I might relate to him all that had befallen me.