From "The Goldenrod Fairy Book" selected and translated by Esther Singleton; Dodd, Mead & Company; New York; pp. 173-200.
The King called all the astrologers in his kingdom together and ordered them to calculate the infant’s nativity. They declared that he would live long and be very brave, but that all his courage would be little enough to carry him through the misfortunes that threatened him. The King was not daunted at this prediction. “My son,” said he, “is not to be pitied, since he will be brave; it is fit that princes should have a taste of 174 misfortunes; for adversity tries virtue, and they are the better qualified to reign.”
He rewarded the astrologers and dismissed them; and caused Zeyn to be educated with the greatest care imaginable, appointing him able masters as soon as he was of age to receive their instructions. In short, he proposed to make him an accomplished Prince, when on a sudden this good King fell ill. Perceiving his disease was mortal, he sent for his son, and among other things advised him rather to endeavour to be beloved than feared by his people.
As soon as the King was dead, Prince Zeyn went into mourning, which he wore seven days, and the eighth he ascended the throne, taking his father’s seal off the royal treasury and putting on his own, beginning thus to taste the sweets of ruling. Being naturally prodigal, he set no bounds to his grants, so that his treasury was soon drained.
Zeyn, seeing all his wealth consumed, repented that he had made no better use of it. He fell into a deadly melancholy, and nothing could comfort him. One night he saw in a dream a venerable old man coming towards him, who with a smiling 175 countenance said: “Know, Zeyn, that there is no sorrow but what is followed by mirth, no misfortune but what in the end brings some happiness. If you desire to see the end of your affliction, get up, set out for Egypt, go to Grand Cairo; a great fortune attends you there.”
When he awakened in the morning the Prince was struck with his dream, and spoke of it very seriously to his mother, who only laughed at it. “My son,” said she, “would you go into Egypt on the faith of that fine dream?” “Why not?” answered Zeyn. “The old man that appeared to me seemed supernatural. I rely on the confidence he has inspired me with. I am full of his promises, and have resolved to follow his advice.”
The Queen endeavoured to dissuade him, but in vain. He committed the government of his kingdom to her, set out one night very privately from his palace, and took the road to Cairo, without suffering any person to attend him.
After much trouble and fatigue he arrived at that famous city, like which there are few in the world, either for extent or beauty. He alighted at the gate of a mosque, where, being spent by weariness, he lay down. No sooner was he fallen 176 asleep than he saw the same old man, who said to him: “I am pleased with you, my son; you have given credit to my words. You have come hither without being deterred by the length or the difficulties of the way; but know I have not made you undertake such a long journey with any other design than to try you. I find you have courage and resolution. You deserve that I should make you the richest and happiest Prince in the world. Return to Balsora, and you shall find immense wealth in your palace. No King ever possessed so much as there is.”
The Prince was not pleased with that dream. “Alas!” thought he to himself when he awaked, “how much was I mistaken? That old man, whom I took for our prophet, is not other than the production of my disturbed imagination. My fancy was so full of him that it is no wonder I have seen him again. I had best return to Balsora; what should I do here any longer? It is very happy that I have told none but my mother the motive of my journey. I should become a jest to my people if they knew it.”
Accordingly he set out again for his kingdom, and as soon as he arrived there the Queen asked 177 him whether he returned well pleased. He told her all that happened, and was so much concerned for having been so credulous that the Queen, instead of adding to his vexation by reproving or laughing at him, comforted him.
“Forbear afflicting yourself, my son,” said she. “If God has appointed you riches you will have them without any trouble. Be easy; all that I recommend to you is to be virtuous; renounce the delights of dancing, music, and high-coloured wine; shun all these pleasures; they have already almost ruined you; apply yourself to make your subjects happy; by securing their happiness you will establish your own.”
Prince Zeyn swore he would for the future follow his mother’s advice, and be directed by the wise viziers she had chosen to assist him in the government. But the very night after he returned to his palace he saw the old man the third time in a dream, who said to him: “The time of your prosperity is come, brave Zeyn; to-morrow morning, as soon as you are up take a little pick-axe and go dig in the late King’s closet; you will there find a mighty treasure.”
As soon as the Prince awakened he got up, ran 178 to the Queen’s apartment, and, with much eagerness, told her the new dream of that night. “Really, my son,” said the Queen, smiling, “that is a very positive old man; he is not satisfied with having deceived you twice; have you a mind to believe him again?” “No, madam,” answered Zeyn, “I give no credit to what he has said; but I will, for my own satisfaction, search my father’s closet.” “I really fancied so,” cried the Queen, laughing heartily. “Go, my son, satisfy yourself; my comfort is that that work is not so fatiguing as the journey to Egypt.” “Well, madam,” answered the King, “I must own that this third dream has restored my confidence, for it is connected with the two others. I would rather search in vain than blame myself for having, perhaps, missed of great riches by being unreasonably incredulous.”
Having spoken these words, he left the Queen’s apartment, caused a pick-axe to be brought him, and went alone into the late King’s closet. He took up more than half the square stones it was paved with, and, not finding anything, ceased working to take a little rest, thinking: “I am much afraid my mother had cause enough to 179 laugh at me.” However, he took heart and went on with his labours; nor had he cause to repent, for on a sudden he discovered a white stone, which he took up, and under it found a door, made fast with a steel padlock, which he broke with the pick-axe, and opened the door, which covered a staircase of white marble. He immediately lighted a candle, and went down those stairs into a room, the floor whereof was laid with tiles of porcelain, and the roof and walls were crystal; but his eyes were particularly attracted by four shelves raised a little above the level of the floor, on each of which there were ten porphyry urns. He fancied they were full of wine. “Well,” said he, “that wine must be very old; I do not question but that it is excellent.” He went up to one of the urns, took off the cover, and with no less joy than surprise perceived it was full of pieces of gold. He found all the urns full of the same coin, and, taking out a handful, carried it to the Queen.
That Princess, it may be imagined, was amazed when the King gave her an account of what he had seen. “Oh, my son,” said she, “do not throw away all that treasure foolishly as 180 you have already done the royal treasure. Let not your enemies have occasion to rejoice.” “No, madam,” answered Zeyn, “I will from henceforward live after such a manner as will be pleasing to you.”
The Queen desired her son to conduct her to the wonderful subterranean place which her husband had made with such secrecy that she had never heard of it. Zeyn led her to the closet, down the marble stairs, and into the chamber where the urns were. She observed everything with the eye of curiosity, and in a corner spied a little urn of the same kind as the other forty. The Prince had not seen it before, but on opening it he found a golden key. “My son,” said the Queen, “this key certainly belongs to some other treasure; let us look all about; perhaps we may discover the use it is designed for.”
They examined the chamber carefully, and at length found a keyhole in one of the panels of the wall. The King readily opened the door, which led into a chamber, in the midst of which were nine pedestals of massy gold, on eight of which stood as many statues, each of them made of a single diamond, and from them came such 181 a brightness that the whole room was perfectly light.
“Oh, heavens!” cried Zeyn in astonishment, “where could my father find such rareties?” The ninth pedestal redoubled this amazement, for it was covered with a piece of white satin, on which were written these words: “Dear son, it cost me toil to get these eight statues; but, though they are extraordinarily beautiful, you must understand that there is a ninth in the world that surpasses them all; that alone is worth more than a thousand such as these. If you desire to be master of it go to the city of Cairo, in Egypt. One of my old slaves, whose name is Mobarec, lives there; you will easily find him; the first person you meet will show you his house; find him out, and tell him all that has befallen you; he will know you to be my son, and he will conduct you to the place where that wonderful statue is, which you will get with safety.”
The Prince, having read these words, said to the Queen: “I should be sorry to be without that ninth statue; it must certainly be a very rare piece, since all these together are not of so great value. I will set out for Grand Cairo; nor do I 182 believe, madam, that you will oppose my design.” “No, my son,” answered the Queen, “I am not against it; you are certainly under the special protection of our great prophet; he will not suffer you to perish in this journey. Set out when you think fit; your viziers and I will take care of the government during your absence.”
The Prince made ready his equipage, but would take only a small number of slaves with him. Nothing remarkable befell him by the way, but, arriving at Cairo, he inquired for Mobarec. The people told him he was one of the wealthiest inhabitants of the city; that he lived like a great lord, and that his house was open, especially for strangers. Zeyn was conducted thither, knocked at the gate, which a slave opened, and said: “What is it you want, and who are you?” “I am a stranger,” answered the Prince, “and having heard so much of Lord Mobarec’s generosity, am come to take up my lodging with him.” The slave desired Zeyn to stay awhile, and went to acquaint his master, who ordered him to invite the stranger to enter. The slave returned to the gate and told the Prince he was welcome.
Zeyn went in, crossed a large court, and 183 entered into a hall magnificently furnished, where Mobarec received him very courteously. The Prince, having answered his compliments, said to Mobarec: “I am son to the late King of Balsora, and my name is Zeyn Alasnam.” “That King,” said Mobarec, “was formerly my master; but, my Lord, I never knew of any children he had; what is your age?” “I am twenty years old,” answered the Prince. “How long is it since you left my father’s court?” “About two and twenty years,” replied Mobarec, “but how can you convince me that you are his son?” “My father,” rejoined Zeyn, “had a subterranean place under his closet, in which I have found forty porphyry urns of gold.” “And what more is there?” said Mobarec. “There are,” answered the Prince, “nine pedestals of massive gold, on eight whereof there are eight diamond statues; and on the ninth is a piece of white satin on which my father has written what I am to do to get another stature, more valuable than all those together. You know where that statue is, for it is mentioned on the satin that you will conduct me to it.”
As soon as he had spoken these words Mobarec 184 fell down at his feet, and, kissing one of his hands several times, said: “I bless God for having brought you hither; I know you to be the King of Balsora’s son. If you will go to the place where the wonderful statue is, I will conduct you; but you must find rest here a few days. This day I treat the great men of the court; we were at table when word was brought me of your being at the door. Will you vouchsafe to come and be merry with us?” “I shall be very glad,” replied Zeyn, “to be admitted to your feast.” Mobarec immediately led him under a dome where the company was, seated him at the table, and served him kneeling. The great men of Cairo were surprised, and whispered to one another: “Who is this stranger to whom Mobarec pays so much respect?”
When they had dined, Mobarec said to the company: “Great men of Cairo, do not be surprised to see me serve this young stranger after this manner. Know that he is the son of the King of Balsora, my master. His father purchased me with his money, and died without making me free; so that I am still a slave, and consequently all I have of right belongs to this 185 young Prince, his sole heir.” Here Zeyn interrupted him: “Mobarec,” said he, “I declare before all these lords that I make you free from this moment, and that I renounce all right to your person and all you possess. Consider what you would have me do more for you.” Mobarec then kissed the ground and returned the Prince most hearty thanks. Wine was then brought in; they drank all day, and towards the evening presents were distributed among the guests, who then went away.
The next day Zeyn said to Mobarec: “I have taken rest enough. I came not to Cairo to take my pleasure; my design is to get the ninth statue; it is time for us to set out in search of it.” “Sir,” said Mobarec, “I am ready to comply with your desires; but you know not what dangers you must encounter to make this precious conquest.” “Whatever the danger may me,” answered the Prince, “I have resolved to undertake it; I will either perish or succeed.”
Mobarec, finding him determined to set out, called his servants and ordered them to make ready his equipage. They travelled many days, at the end whereof, being come to a delightful 186 spot, they alighted from their horses. Then Mobarec said to the servants that attended them: “Do you stay in this place and take care of our equipage till we return.” Then he said to Zeyn: “Now, sir, let us two go on by ourselves. We are near the dreadful place where the ninth statue is kept. You will stand in need of all your courage.”
They soon came to a lake. Mobarec sat down on the brink of it, saying to the Prince: “We must cross this sea.” “How can we cross it,” answered Zeyn, “when we have no boat?” “You will see one appear in a moment,” replied Mobarec; “the enchanted boat of the King of the Genii will come for us. But do not forget what I am going to say to you: you must observe a profound silence; do not speak to the boatman, though his figure seem never so strange to you; whatsoever extraordinary circumstances you observe, say nothing; for I tell you beforehand that if you utter the least word, when we are embarked, the boat will sink down.” “I shall take care to hold my peace,” said the Prince; “you need only tell me what I am to do and I will strictly observe it.”187
While they were talking he suddenly spied the boat on the lake, and it was made of red sandal wood. It had a mast of fine amber, and a blue satin flag; there was only one boatman in it, whose head was like an elephant’s and his body like a tiger’s. When the boat was come up to the Prince and Mobarec, the monstrous boatman took them up one after the other with his trunk, and put them into his boat, and carried them over the lake in a moment. He then again took them up with his trunk, set them on shore, and immediately vanished with his boat.
“Now we may talk,” said Mobarec; “the island we are on belongs to the King of the Genii; there are no more such in the world. Look round you, Prince; can there be a more delightful place? Behold the fields adorned with all sorts of flowers and odoriferous plants; admire those beautiful trees, whose delicious fruit makes the branches bend down to the ground; enjoy the pleasures of those harmonious songs by a thousand birds of as many various sorts, unknown in other countries.” Zeyn could not sufficiently admire the beauties with which he was surrounded, and still found something new as he advanced further into the island.188
At length they came before a palace made of fine emeralds, encompassed with a ditch, on the banks whereof, at certain distances, were planted such tall trees that they shaded the whole palace. Before the gate, which was of massy gold, was a bridge made of one single shell of a fish, although it was at least six fathoms long and three in breadth. At the head of the bridge stood a company of genii of a prodigious height, who guarded the entrance into the castle with great clubs of China steel.
“Let us go no farther,” said Mobarec; “these genii will knock us down, and in order to prevent their coming to us we must perform a magical ceremony.” He then drew out of a purse, which he had under his garment, four long slips of yellow taffeta; one he put about his middle and laid the other on his back, giving the other two to the Prince, who did the like. Then Mobarec laid on the ground two large tablecloths, on the edges whereof he scattered some precious stones, musk, and amber. Then he sat down on one of those cloths and Zeyn on the other; and Mobarec said to the Prince: “I shall now, sir, conjure the King of the Genii, who lives in the palace that is 189 before us; may he come in a peaceful mood to us! I confess I am not without apprehension about the reception he may give us. If our coming into this island is displeasing to him, he will appear in the shape of a dreadful monster; but if he approves of your design, he will show himself in the shape of a handsome man. As soon as he appears before us you must rise and salute him, without going off your cloth, for you would certainly perish should you stir off it. You must say to him: ‘Sovereign Lord of the Genii, my father, who was your servant, has been taken away by the angel of death. I wish your Majesty may protect me, as you always protected my father.’ If the King of the Genii,” added Mobarec, “asks you what favour you desire of him, you must answer: ‘Sir, I most humbly beg of you to give me the ninth statue.’”
Mobarec, having thus instructed Prince Zeyn, began his conjuration. Immediately their eyes were dazzled with a long flash of lightning, which was followed by a clap of thunder. The whole island was covered with a thick darkness, a furious storm of wind blew, a dreadful cry was heard, the island felt a shock, and there was such an 190 earthquake as that which Asrayel is to cause on the day of judgment.
Zeyn was startled, and began to look upon that noise as a very ill omen; when Mobarec, who knew better than he what to think of it, began to smile, and said: “Take courage, my Prince, all goes well.” In short, that very moment the King of the Genii appeared in the shape of a handsome young man, yet there was something of a sternness in his air.
As soon as Prince Zeyn had made him the compliment he had been taught by Mobarec, the King of the Genii, smiling, answered: “My son, I loved your father, and every time he came to pay me his respects I presented him with a statue, which he carried away with him. I have no less kindness for you. I obliged your father, some days before he died, to write that which you read on the piece of white satin. I promised him to receive you under my protection and to give you the ninth statue, which in beauty surpasses those you have already. I have begun to perform my promise to him. It was I whom you saw in a dream, in the shape of an old man. I caused you to open the subterraneous place where the urns 191 and the statues are. I have a great share in all that has befallen you, or rather am the occasion of it. I know the motive that brought you hither; you shall obtain what you desire. Though I had not promised your father to give it, I would willingly grant it to you; but you must first swear to me, by all that is sacred, that you will return to this island, and that you will bring a maid in her fifteenth year, who is chaste. She must also be perfectly beautiful, and you must be a master of yourself as you are conducting her hither as not even to desire to enjoy her.”
Zeyn took the rash oath that was required of him. “But, my Lord,” said he then, “suppose I should be so fortunate as to meet with such a maid as you require, how shall I know that I have found her?” “I own,” answered the King of the Genii, smiling, “that you might be mistaken in her appearance; that knowledge is above the sons of Adam, and therefore I do not mean to depend upon your judgment in that particular. I will give you a looking-glass which will be more certain than your conjectures. When you shall have seen a maiden fifteen years of age, perfectly 192 beautiful, you shall only need look into the glass, in which you shall see her figure. If she be chaste, the glass will remain clear and unsullied; but if, on the contrary, it sullies, that will be a certain sign that she has not always been prudent. Do not forget the oath you have taken; keep it like a man of honour; otherwise I will take away your life, as much kindness as I have for you.” Prince Zeyn Alasnam protested again that he would keep his word.
Then the King of the Genii delivered to him a looking-glass, saying: “My son, you may return when you please; there is the glass you are to make use of.” Zeyn and Mobarec took leave of the King of the Genii and went towards the lake. The boatman with the elephant’s head brought the boat and carried them over the lake as he had done before. They rejoined their servants and returned with them again to Cairo.
Prince Alasnam rested a few days at Mobarec’s house, and then said to him: “Let us go to Bagdad to seek a maiden for the King of the Genii.” “Why, are we not at Grand Cairo?” said Mobarec; ‘shall we not fine beautiful enough maidens here?” “You are right,” answered the 193 Prince, “but how shall we find them?” “Do not trouble yourself about that, sir,” replied Mobarec; “I know a very shrewd old woman whom I will entrust with this affair.”
The old woman showed the Prince a considerable number of beautiful maidens, but when he consulted his looking-glass the glass always appeared sullied. When they found there were no chaste maids to be found in Cairo, they went to Bagdad, where they hired a magnificent palace in one of the chief quarters of the city, and began to live splendidly.
There lived in that quarter an iman whose name was Boubekir Muezin, a vain, haughty, and envious person. He hated the rich only because he was poor, his misery making him angry at his neighbour’s prosperity. He heard of Zeyn Alasnam and of the plenty his house afforded. This was enough for him to take an aversion to that Prince; and it proceeded so far that one day after the evening prayer in the mosque, he reviled him to the people assembled there.
But Mobarec, who had been at prayers and heard all that was said, put five hundred pieces of 194 gold into a handkerchief, made up a parcel of several silks, and went to Boubekir’s house. The doctor asked him in a harsh tone what he wanted. “Doctor,” answered Mobarec, with an obliging air, “I am your neighbour and your servant. I come from Prince Zeyn, who desires to be acquainted with you, and in the meantime begs you to accept of this small present.” Boubekir was transported with joy, and answered Mobarec thus: “Be pleased, sir, to beg the Prince’s pardon for me; I am ashamed I have not been to see him, but I will atone for my fault and wait on him to-morrow.” Accordingly the next day, after morning prayer, he said to the people: “The stranger I spoke to you about yesterday in the evening is no ill man, as some ill-designing persons would have persuaded me; he is a young Prince endowed with every virtue.”
Having thus wiped off the ill impression he had given the people concerning Zeyn, Boubekir returned home, put on his best apparel, and went to visit that young Prince, who gave him a courteous reception. After several compliments had passed on both sides, Boubekir said to the Prince: “Sir, do you design to stay long at Bagdad?” 195 I shall stay,” answered Zeyn, “till I can find a maid fifteen years of age, perfectly beautiful and perfectly chaste.” “You seek after a great rarety,” replied the iman, “and I should fear your search would prove unsuccessful did I not know where is a maid of that character. Her father was formerly vizier; but he has left the court and lived a long time in a house by himself; where he applies himself solely to the education of his daughter. If you wish I will go ask her of him for you. I do not doubt but he will be overjoyed to have a son-in-law of your quality.”
Boubekir conducted the Prince to the vizier, who, as soon as he was acquainted with the Prince’s birth and design, called his daughter and made her take off her veil. Never had the young King of Balsora beheld such a perfect and striking beauty. He stood amazed, and since he could then try whether the maid was as chaste as fair, he putted out his glass, which remained bright and unsullied.
When he perceived he had at length found such a person as he desired, he entreated the vizier to grant her to him. The contract was 196 immediately signed and the marriage prayer said. After this ceremony Zeyn carried the vizier to his house, where he treated him magnificently, and gave him considerable presents. Next he sent a prodigious quantity of jewels to the bride by Mobarec, who brought her to his house, where the wedding was kept with all the pomp that became Zeyn’s quality. When all the company was dismissed Mobarec said to his master: “Let us be gone, sire; let us not stay any longer at Bagdad, but return to Cairo. Remember the promise you made to the King of the Genii.” “Let us go,” answered the Prince. “I must take care to perform it exactly; yet I must confess, my dear Mobarec, that if I obey the King of the Genii it is not without reluctance. The person I have married is charming, and I am tempted to carry her to Balsora and place her on the throne.” “Alas, sir,” answered Mobarec, “take heed how you give way to your inclination; make yourself master of your passions, and, whatsoever it cost you, be as good as your word to the King of the Genii.” “Well, then, Mobarec,” said the Prince, “do you take care to conceal that lovely maid from me; let her never 197 appear in my sight; perhaps I have already seen too much of her.”
Mobarec made everything ready for their departure; they returned to Cairo, and thence set out for the island of the King of the Genii. When they were there the maid, who had performed the journey in a horse-littler, and whom the Prince had never seen since his wedding-day, said to Mobarec: “Where are we? Shall we be soon in the dominions of the Prince, my husband?” “Madam,” answered Mobarec, “it is time to undeceive you. Prince Zeyn married you only in order to get you from your father; he did not engage his faith to you to make you sovereign of Balsora, but to deliver you to the King of the Genii, who has asked of him a virgin of your character.” At these words she began to weep bitterly, which moved the Prince ad Mobarec. “Take pity on me,” said she. “I am a stranger; you will be accountable to God for you treachery towards me.”
Her tears and complaints were of no effect, for she was presented to the King of the Genii, who, having gazed on her with attention, said to Zeyn: “Prince, I am satisfied with your 198 behaviour; the virgin you have brought me is beautiful and chaste, and I am pleased with the force you have put upon yourself to be as good as your word to me. Return to your dominions, and when you shall enter the subterranean room, where the eight statues are, you shall find the ninth which I promised you. I will make my genii carry it thither.”
Zeyn thanked the King and returned to Cairo with Mobarec, but he did not stay long there; his impatience to see the ninth statue made him hasten his departure. However, he could not but often think of the young virgin he married; and, blaming himself for having deceived her, he looked upon himself as the cause and instrument of her misfortune. “Alas!” said he to himself, “I have taken her from a tender father to sacrifice her to a genie. Oh, incomparable beauty! you deserve a better fate.”
Prince Zeyn, disturbed with these thoughts, at length reached Balsora, where his subjects made extraordinary rejoicings for his return. He went directly to give an account of his journey to his mother, who was in a rapture to hear he had obtained the ninth statue. “Let us go, my 199 son,” said she; “let us see it, for it is certainly in the chamber under ground, since the King of the Genii told you you should find it there.”
The young King and his mother, being both impatient to see that wonderful statue, went down to the subterraneous place, and into the room of the statues; but how great was their surprise when, instead of a statue of diamonds, they espied on the ninth pedestal a most beautiful virgin, whom the Prince knew to be the same he had conducted to the island of the genii.
“Prince,” said the young maid, “you are surprised to see me here; you expected to have found something more precious than me, and I question not but that you now repent having taken so much trouble; you expected a better reward.” “Madam,” answered Zeyn, “Heaven is my witness that I more than once was like to have broken my word with the King of the Genii, to keep you to myself. Whatsoever be the value of a diamond statue, is it worthy the satisfaction of enjoying you? I love you above all the diamonds and wealth in the world.”
Just as he had finished speaking a clap of thunder was heard, which shook the subterraneous 200 place. Zeyn’s mother was frightened, but, the King of the Genii immediately appearing, dispelled her fear. “Madam,” said he to her, “I protect and love your son. I had a mind to try whether, at his age, he could subdue his passions. I know the charms of this young lady have wrought upon him. This is the ninth statue I designed for him; it is more rare and precious than the others. Live,” said he (directing his discourse to the young Prince), “live happy, Zeyn, with this young lady, who is your wife; and if you would have her true and constant to you, love her always and love her only. Give her no rival, and I will answer for her fidelity.”
Having spoken these words, the King of the Genii vanished, and Zeyn, enchanted with that young lady, consummated the marriage the same day, and caused her to be proclaimed Queen of Balsora. These two ever-faithful and loving consorts lived together many years.