Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Third Voyage of Es-Sindibad of the Sea
KNOW, O my brothers (and hear from me the story of the third voyage, for it is more wonderful than the preceding stories, hitherto relatedand God is all-knowing with respect to the things which He hideth, and omniscient), that, in the times past, when I returned from the second voyage, and was in a state of the utmost joy and happiness, rejoicing in my safety, having gained great wealth, as I related to you yesterday, God having compensated me for all that I had lost, I resided in the city of Baghdad for a length of time in the most perfect prosperity and delight, and joy and happiness. Then my soul became desirous of travel and diversion, and I longed for commerce and gain and profits; the soul being prone to evil. So I meditated, and bought an abundance of goods suited for a sea-voyage, and packed them up, and departed with them from the city of Baghdad to the city of El-Basrah. There, coming to the bank of the river, I beheld a great vessel, in which were many merchants and other passengers, people of worth, and comely and good persons, people of religion and kindness and probity. I therefore embarked with them in that vessel, and we departed in reliance on the blessing of God (whose name be exalted!), and his aid and favour, rejoicing in expectation of good-fortune and safety. We ceased not to proceed from sea to sea, and from island to island, and from city to city; at every place by which we passed diverting ourselves, and selling and buying, in the utmost joy and happiness. Thus we did until we were, one day, pursuing our course in the midst of the roaring sea, agitated with waves, when, lo, the master standing at the side of the vessel, looked at the different quarters of the sea, and then slapped his face, furled the sails of the ship, cast its anchors, plucked his beard, rent his clothes, and uttered a great cry. So we said to him, O master, what is the news? And he answered, Know, O passengers, whom may God preserve! that the wind hath prevailed against us, and driven us out of our course in the midst of the sea, and destiny hath cast us, through our evil fortune, towards the Mountain of Apes. No one hath ever arrived at this place and escaped, and my heart is impressed with the conviction of the destruction of us all.And the words of the master were not ended before the apes had come to us and surrounded the vessel on every side, numerous as locusts, dispersed about the vessel and on the shore. We feared that, if we killed one of them, or struck him, or drove him away, they would kill us, on account of their excessive number; for numbers prevail against courage; and we feared them lest they should plunder our goods and our commodities. They are the most hideous of beasts, and covered with hair like black felt, their aspect striking terror. No one understandeth their language or their state, they shun the society of men, have yellow eyes, and black faces, and are of small size, the height of each one of them being four spans. They climbed up the cables, and severed them with their teeth, and they severed all the ropes of the vessel in every part: so the vessel inclined with the wind, and stopped at their mountain, and on their coast. Then, having seized all the merchants and the other passengers, and landed upon the island, they took the vessel with the whole of its contents, and went their way with it.
They left us upon the island, the vessel became concealed from us, and we knew not whither they went with it. And while we were upon that island, eating of its fruits and its herbs, and drinking of the rivers that were there, lo, there appeared to us an inhabited house in the midst of the island. We therefore went towards it, and walked to it; and, behold, it was a pavilion, with lofty angles, with high walls, having an entrance with folding doors, which were open; and the doors were of ebony. We entered this pavilion, and found in it a wide, open space, like a wide, large court, around which were many lofty doors, and at its upper end was a high and great mastabah. There were also in it utensils for cooking, hung over the firepots, and around them were many bones. But we saw not there any person; and we wondered at that extremely. We sat in the open space in that pavilion a little while, after which we slept; and we ceased not to sleep from near the mid-time between sunrise and moon until sunset. And, lo, the earth trembled beneath us, and we heard a confused noise from the upper air, and there descended upon us, from the summit of the pavilion, a person of enormous size, in human form, and he was of black complexion, of lofty stature, like a great palm-tree: he had two eyes like two blazes of fire, and tusks like the tusks of swine, and a mouth of prodigious size, like the mouth of a well, and lips like the lips of a camel, hanging down upon his bosom, and he had ears like two mortars, hanging down upon his shoulders, and the nails of his hands were like the claws of the lion. So when we beheld him thus, we became unconscious of our existence, our fear was vehement, and our terror was violent, and through the violence of our fear and dread and terror we became as dead men. And after he had descended upon the ground, he sat a little while upon the mastabah. Then he arose and came to us, and, seizing me by my hands from among my companions the merchants, lifted me up from the ground in his hand, and felt me and turned me over; and I was in his hand like a little mouthful. He continued to feel me as the butcher feeleth the sheep that he is about to slaughter; but he found me infirm from excessive affliction, and lean from excessive fatigue and from the voyage; having no flesh. He therefore let me go from his hand, and took another, from among my companions; and he turned him over, as he had turned me over, and felt him as he had felt me, and let him go. He ceased not to feel us and turn us over, one after another, until he came to the master of our ship, who was a fat, stout, broad-shouldered man; a person of strength and vigour: so he pleased him, and he seized him as the butcher seizeth the animal that he is about to slaughter, and, having thrown him on the ground, put his foot upon his neck, which he thus broke. Then he brought a long spit, and thrust it into his throat, and spitted him; after which he lighted a fierce fire, and placed over it that spit upon which the master was spitted, and ceased not to turn him round over the burning coals until his flesh was thoroughly roasted; when he took him off from the fire, put him before him, and separated his joints as a man separates the joints of a chicken, and proceeded to tear in pieces his flesh with his nails, and to eat of it. Thus he continued to do until he had eaten his flesh, and gnawed his bones, and there remained of him nothing but some bones, which he threw by the side of the pavilion. He then sat a little, and threw himself down, and slept upon that mastabah, making a noise with his throat like that which is made by a lamb or other beast when slaughtered; and he slept uninterruptedly until the morning, when he went his way.
As soon, therefore, as we were sure that he was far from us, we conversed together, and wept for ourselves, saying, Would that we had been drowned in the sea, or that the apes had eaten us; for it were better than the roasting of a man upon burning coals! By Allah, this death is a vile one! But what God willeth cometh to pass, and there is no strength nor power but in God, the High, the Great! We die in sorrow, and no one knoweth of us; and there is no escape for us from this place!We then arose and went forth upon the island, to see for us a place in which to hide ourselves, or to flee; and it had become a light matter to us to die, rather than that our flesh should be roasted with fire. But we found not for us a place in which to hide ourselves; and the evening overtook us. So we returned to the pavilion, by reason of the violence of our fear, and sat there a little while; and, lo, the earth trembled beneath us, and that black approached us, and, coming among us, began to turn us over, one after another, as on the former occasion, and to feel us, until one pleased him; whereupon he seized him, and did with him as he did with the master of the ship the day before. He roasted him, and ate him upon the mastabah, and ceased not to sleep that night, making a noise with his throat like a slaughtered animal; and when the day came, he arose and went his way, leaving us as usual. Upon this we assembled together and conversed, and said, one to another, By Allah, if we cast ourselves into the sea and die drowned, it will be better than our dying burnt; for this mode of being put to death is abominable! And one of us said, Hear my words. Verily we will contrive a stratagem against him and kill him, and be at ease from apprehension of his purpose, and relieve the Muslims from his oppression and tyranny.So I said to them, Hear, O my brothers. If we must kill him, we will transport this wood, and remove some of this firewood, and make for ourselves rafts, each to bear three men, after which we will contrive a stratagem to kill him, and embark on the rafts, and proceed over the sea to whatsoever place God shall desire. Or we will remain in this place until a ship shall pass by, when we will embark in it. And if we be not able to kill him, we will embark [on our rafts], and put out to sea; and if we be drowned, we shall be preserved from being roasted over the fire, and from being slaughtered. If we escape, we escape; and if we be drowned, we die martyrs.To this they all replied, By Allah, this is a right opinion and a wise proceeding. And we agreed upon this matter, and commenced the work. We removed the pieces of wood out of the pavilion, and constructed rafts, attached them to the sea-shore, and stowed upon them some provisions; after which we returned to the pavilion.
And when it was evening, lo, the earth trembled with us, and the black came in to us, like the biting dog. He turned us over and felt us, one after another, and, having taken one of us, did with him as he had done with the others before him. He ate him, and slept upon the mastabah, and the noise from his throat was like thunder. So thereupon we arose, and took two iron spits, of those which were set up, and put them in the fierce fire until they were redhot, and became like burning coals; when we grasped them firmly, and went with them to that black while he lay asleep snoring, and we thrust them into his eyes, all of us pressing upon them with our united strength and force. Thus we pushed them into his eyes as he slept, and his eyes were destroyed, and he uttered a great cry, whereat our hearts were terrified. Then he arose resolutely from that mastabah, and began to search for us, while we fled from him to the right and left, and he saw us not; for his sight was blinded; but we feared him with a violent fear, and made sure, in that time, of destruction, and despaired of safety. And upon this he sought the door, feeling for it, and went forth from it, crying out, while we were in the utmost fear of him; and lo, the earth shook beneath us, by reason of the vehemence of his cry. So when he went forth from the pavilion, we followed him, and he went his way, searching for us. Then he returned, accompanied by a female, greater than he, and more hideous in form; and when we beheld him, and her who was with him, more horrible than he in appearance, we were in the utmost fear. As soon as the female saw us, we hastily loosed the rafts that we had constructed, and embarked on them, and pushed them forth into the sea. But each of the two blacks had a mass of rock, and they cast at us until the greater number of us died from the casting, there remaining of us only three persons, I and two others; and the raft conveyed us to another island.
We walked forward upon that island until the close of the day, and the night overtook us in this state; so we slept a little; and we awoke from our sleep, and, lo, a serpent of enormous size, of large body and wide belly, had surrounded us. It approached one of us, and swallowed him to his shoulders: then it swallowed the rest of him, and we heard his ribs break in pieces in its belly; after which it went its way. At this we wondered extremely, and we mourned for our companion, and were in the utmost fear our ourselves, saying, By Allah, this is a wonderful thing! Every death that we witness is more horrible than the preceding one! We were rejoiced at our escape from the black; but our joy is not complete! There is no strength nor power but in God! By Allah, we have escaped from the black and from drowning; but how shall we escape from this unlucky serpent?Then we arose and walked on over the island, eating of its fruits, and drinking of its rivers, and we ceased not to proceed till morning, when we found a great, lofty tree. So we climbed up it, and slept upon it; I having ascended to the highest of its branches. But when the night arrived, and it was dark, the serpent came, looking to the right and left, and, advancing to the tree upon which we were, came up to my companion, and swallowed him to his shoulders; and it wound itself round the tree with him, and I heard his bones break in pieces in its belly: then it swallowed him entirely, while I looked on; after which it descended from the tree, and went its way.I remained upon that tree the rest of the night; and when the day came, and the light appeared, I descended from the tree, like one dead, by reason of excessive fear and terror, and desired to cast myself into the sea, that I might be at rest from the world; but it was not a light matter to me to do so; for life is dear. So I tied a wide piece of wood upon the soles of my feet, crosswise, and I tied one like it upon my left side, and a similar one upon my right side, and a similar one upon the front of my body, and I tied one long and wide upon the top of my head, crosswide, like that which was under the soles of my feet. Thus I was in the midst of these pieces of wood, and they enclosed me on every side. I bound them tightly, and threw myself with the whole upon the ground; so I lay in the midst of the pieces of wood, which enclosed me like a closet. And when the evening arrived, the serpent approached as it was wont, and saw me, and drew towards me; but it could not swallow me when I was in that state, with the pieces of wood round me on every side. It went round me; but could not come at me: and I looked at it, being like a dead man, by reason of the violence of my fear and terror. The serpent retired from me, and returned to me; and thus it ceased not to do: every time that it desired to get at me to swallow me, the pieces of wood tied upon me on every side prevented it. It continued to do thus from sunset until daybreak arrived and the light appeared and the sun rose, when it went its way, in the utmost vexation and rage. Upon this, therefore, I stretched forth my hands and loosed myself from those pieces of wood, in a state like that of the dead, through the severity of that which I had suffered from that serpent.
I then arose, and walked along the island until I came to the extremity of it; when I cast a glance towards the sea, and beheld a ship at a distance, in the midst of the deep. So I took a great branch of a tree, and made a sign with it to the passengers, calling out to them; and when they saw me, they said, We must see what this is. Perhaps it is a man.Then they approached me, and heard my cries to them. They therefore came to me, and took me with them in the ship, and asked me respecting my state: so I informed them of all that had happened to me from beginning to end, and of the troubles that I had suffered; whereat they wondered extremely. They clad me with some of their clothes, attiring me decently; and after that, they put before me some provisions, and I ate until I was satisfied. They also gave me to drink some cool and sweet water, and my heart was revived, my soul became at ease, and I experienced great comfort. God (whose name be exalted!) had raised me to life after my death: so I praised Him (exalted be his name!) for His abundant favours, and thanked Him. My courage was strengthened after I had made sure of destruction, so that it seemed to me that all which I then experienced was a dream.We proceeded on our voyage, and the wind was fair to us by the permission of God (whose name be exalted!) until we came in sight of an island called the Island of Es-Selahit, where sandalwood is abundant, and there the master anchored the ship, and the merchants and other passengers landed, and took forth their goods to sell and buy. The owner of the ship then looked towards me, and said to me, Hear my words, Thou art a stranger and poor, and hast informed us that thou hast suffered many horrors: I therefore desire to benefit thee with something that will aid thee to reach thy country, and thou wilt pray for me.I replied, So be it, and thou shalt have my prayers. And he rejoined, Know that there was with us a man voyaging, whom we lost, and we know not whether he be living or dead, having heard no tidings of him. I desire to commit to thee his bales that thou mayest sell them in this island. Thou shall take charge of them, and we will give thee something proportionate to thy trouble and thy service; and what remaineth of them we will take and keep until we return to the city of Baghdad, when we will inquire for the owners family, and give to them the remainder, together with the price of that which shall be sold of them. Wilt thou then take charge of them, and land with them upon this island, and sell them as do the merchants?I answered, I hear and obey thee, O my master; and thou art beneficent and kind. And I prayed for him and thanked him for that.
He thereupon ordered the porters and sailors to land those goods upon the island, and to deliver them to me. And the clerk of the ship said, O master, what are these bales which the sailors and porters have brought out, and with the name of which of the merchants shall I mark them? He answered, Write upon them the name of Es-Sindibad of the Sea, who was with us, and was drowned [or left behind] at the island [of the rukh], and of whom no tidings have come to us; wherefore we desire that this stranger sell them, and take charge of the price of them, and we will give him somewhat of it in requital of his trouble and his sale of them. What shall remain we will take with us until we return to the city of Baghdad, when, if we find him, we will give it to him; and if we find him not, we will give it to his family in Baghdad.So the clerk replied, Thy words are good, and thy notion is excellent. And when I heard the words of the master, mentioning that the bales were to be inscribed with my name, I said within myself, By Allah, I am Es-Sindibad of the Sea. Then I fortified myself, and waited till the merchants had landed and had assembled conversing and consulting upon affairs of selling and buying, when I advanced to the owner of the ship, and said to him, O my master, dost thou know what manner of man was the owner of the bales which thou hast committed to me that I may sell them? He answered me, I know not his condition; but he was a man of the city of Baghdad, called Es-Sindibad of the Sea; and we had cast anchor at one of the islands, where he was lost, and we have had no tidings of him to the present time. So upon this I uttered a great cry, and said to him, O master (whom may God preserve!), know that I am Es-Sindibad of the Sea. I was not drowned; but when thou anchoredst at the island, and the merchants and other passengers landed, I also landed with the party, taking with me something to eat on the shore of the island. Then I enjoyed myself in sitting in that place, and slumber overtaking me, I slept, and became immersed in sleep; after which I arose and found not the ship, nor found I any one with me. Therefore this wealth is my wealth, and these goods are my goods. All the merchants also who transport diamonds saw me when I was upon the mountain of the diamonds, and they will bear witness for me that I am Es-Sindibad of the Sea, as I informed them of my story and of the events that befell me with you in the ship. I informed them that ye had forgotten me upon the island, asleep, hand that I arose and found not any one, and that what had befallen me befell me.
And when the merchants and other passengers heard my words, they assembled around me; and some of them believed me, and others disbelieved me. But while we were thus talking, lo, one of the merchants, on his hearing me mention the valley of diamonds arose and advanced to me, and said to them, Hear, O company, my words. When I related to you the most wonderful thing that I had seen in my travels, I told you that, when we cast down the slaughtered animals into the valley of diamonds, I casting down mine with the rest, as I was accustomed to do, there came up with my slaughtered beast a man attached to it, and ye believed me not, but accused me of falsehood.They replied, Yes: thou didst relate to us this thing, and we believed thee not. And the merchant said to them, This is the man who attached himself to my slaughtered animal; and he gave me some diamonds of high price, the like of which exist not, rewarding me with more than would have come up with my slaughtered animal, and I took him as my companion until we arrived at the city of El-Basrah, whence he proceeded to his country, having bidden us farewell, and we returned to our own countries. This is he, and he informed us that his name was Es-Sindibad of the Sea: he told us likewise of the departure of the ship, and of his sitting in that island. And know ye that this man came not to us here but in order that ye might believe my words respecting the matter which I told you; and all these goods are his property; for he informed us of them at the time of his meeting with us, and the truth of his assertion hath become manifest.So when the master heard the words of that merchant, he arose and came to me, and, having looked at me awhile with a scrutinizing eye, said, What is the mark of thy goods? I answered him, Know that the mark of my goods is of such and such a kind. And I related to him a circumstance that had occurred between me and him when I embarked with him in the vessel from El-Basrah. He therefore was convinced that I was Es-Sindibad of the Sea, and he embraced me and saluted me, and congratulated me on my safety, saying to me, By Allah, O my master, thy story is wonderful and thy case is extraordinary! But praise be to God who hath brought us together, and restored thy goods and thy wealth to thee!
Upon this, I disposed of my goods according to the knowledge I possessed and they procured me, during that voyage, great gain, whereat I rejoiced exceedingly, congratulating myself on my safety, and on the restoration of my wealth to me. And we ceased not to sell and buy at the islands until we arrived at the country of Es-Sind,1 where likewise we sold and bought. And I beheld in that sea [which we navigated, namely the Sea of India,] many wonders and strange things that cannot be numbered nor calculated. Among the things that I saw there were a fish in the form of the cow, and a creature in the form of the ass; and I saw a bird that cometh forth from a sea-shell, and layeth its eggs and hatcheth them upon the surface of the water, and never cometh forth from the sea upon the face of the earth.After this we continued our voyage, by permission of God (whose name be exalted!), and the wind and voyage were pleasant to us, until we arrived at El-Basrah, where I remained a few days. Then I came to the city of Baghdad, and repaired to my quarter, entered my house, and saluted my family and companions and friends. I rejoiced at my safety and my return to my country and my family and city and district, and I gave alms and presents, and clad the widows and the orphans, and collected my companions and friends. And I ceased not to live thus, eating and drinking, and sporting and making merry, eating well and drinking well, associating familiarly and mingling in society; and I forgot all that had happened to me, and the distresses and horrors that I had suffered. And I gained during that voyage what could not be numbered nor calculated.Such were the most wonderful of the things that I beheld during that voyage; and tomorrow, if it be the will of God (whose name be exalted!), thou shalt come. [O Sindibad of the Land,] and I will relate to thee the story of the fourth voyage; for it is more wonderful than the stories of the preceding voyages.