Saturday, July 3, 2010


The following very elaborate narrative elaborates on the workings of supernatural
beings ranging from dragons to jinn (called here peris, dews,
and even Arabs). In keeping with many Asian traditions, the dragons of
this tale are benign, providing helpful advice and magical objects to the
Padishah (emperor). The jinns, however, are the source of misfortune to
both humans and the superhuman characters that populate this tale.

There was once a Padishah who had the misfortune to have all his children
stolen as soon as they reached their seventh year. Grief at this terrible
affliction caused him almost to lose his reason, ‘‘Forty children have
been born to me,’’ said he, ‘‘each seeming more beautiful than the one which
preceded it, so that I never tired of regarding them. O that one at least had been
spared to me! Better that I should have had none than that each should have
caused me so much grief.’’

He brooded continually over the loss of his children, and at length, unable
to endure it longer, he left his palace at night and wandered no one knew
whither. When morning broke he was already a good distance from his capital.
Presently he reached a spring, and was about to take an abdest [Islamic Purification
by washing the hands before prayer] to say the prayer namaz, when he
observed what appeared like a black cloud in the sky, moving towards him.
When it came quite near he saw that it was a flight of forty birds, which,
twittering and cooing, alighted at the spring. Alarmed, the Padishah hid himself.
As they drank at the spring one of the birds said, ‘‘Mother’s milk was never
our kismet [destiny]. We must perforce drink mountain water. Neither father
nor mother care for us.’’

Then said another, ‘‘Even if they think about us, they cannot know where
we are.’’ At these words they flew away.

The Padishah murmured to himself, ‘‘Poor things! Even such small creatures,
it seems, grieve over the absence of their parents.’’

When he had taken his abdest and said his prayers the day had fully dawned
and the nightingales filled the air with their delightful songs. Having traveled
all night, he could not keep his eyes open longer from fatigue, and he fell into a
slumber while his mind was still occupied with thoughts of his lost children. In
a dream he saw a dervish approaching him. The Padishah offered him a place at
his side and made the newcomer the confidante of his sorrow.

Now the dervish knew what had befallen the Padishah’s children, and said,
‘‘My Shah, grieve not; though thou seest not thy children, thy children see thee.
The birds that came to the spring while thou wast praying were thy children.
They were stolen by the peris, and their abode is at a year’s distance from here.
They can, if they will, fly not only here but even into thy palace, but they fear
the peris. When thou departest from here, drink like the doves from the spring,
and Allah will restore to thee thy children.’’

The Padishah woke up from his sleep and, reflecting a little, he remembered
the words of the dervish in his dream, and he decided to bend his steps towards
the spring. What a sight his eyes beheld there! Blood was flowing from the
spring. Alarmed, he wondered whether he were sleeping or waking. Presently
the sun appeared above the horizon and he was convinced it was no dream.
Closing his eyes and repressing his aversion, he drank from the bloody spring as
though it were pure water; then, turning to the right, he hastened on his way.

All at once he saw in the distance what seemed like a great army drawn up
in battle array. Not knowing whether they were enemies or friends, he hesitated
about proceeding, but at length resolved to go forward and take his chance. On
approaching the army he was surprised to find it was composed of dragons of all
sizes, the smallest, however, being as large as a camel. ‘‘Woe is me!’’ he groaned;
‘‘who knows but what I thought a dream was sorcery! What shall I do now? If I
go forward I shall certainly be cut to pieces, and I cannot go back without being
seen.’’ He prayed to Allah for deliverance from this danger which threatened

It happened, however, that these were only newly born dragons, the oldest
being but a few days old. None of them had their eyes open, Thus they were
wandering about blindly, unable to find their home, though keeping together by

This discovery was very reassuring for the Padishah, who gave the dragons a
wide berth and so continued his way without molestation

Night came on, and as he wended his way among the mountains the sound
of a terrible howling smote his ears. It was the dragon-mother calling her lost
children. The Padishah was seized with fear as the dragon, seeing him,
exclaimed, ‘‘At last I have thee; my young ones have fared ill at thy hands; thou
shalt not escape—thou who hast slain a thousand of my offspring.’’ The
Padishah answered tremblingly that he had indeed seen the young dragons, but
had done them no harm; not being a hunter, he had no thought of harming anyone.
‘‘If thou speakest the truth,’’ returned the dragon-mother, ‘‘tell me in what
direction my children have gone.’’ The Padishah accordingly explained where
he had seen them, whereupon the old dragon changed him into a tobacco-box,
which she stuck in her girdle. Thus she carried him with her on her search for
the missing young ones, and after a while she found them quite safe and sound.

The dragon-mother drove her children home before her, the Padishah still
as a tobacco-box in her girdle. By and by they came across the four walls of a
fortress standing in the midst of the desert. Taking a whip from her girdle the
dragon struck the walls a mighty blow, on which they fell down and a larger
dragon came forth from the ruins. The walls now destroyed had enclosed a fine
serai, which they entered. The female dragon, having changed the Padishah
again to his original form, took him into one of the apartments of the palace
and thus addressed him, ‘‘Child of men, why camest thou hither? I see thou
hadst no evil intention.’’

When the Padishah had related his story, the dragon observed, ‘‘The matter
can easily be rectified. All thy children are in the Hyacinth Kiosk. The place is
a good distance away, and if thou goest alone thou wilt hardly succeed in reaching
it. After crossing the mountain thou wilt come to a desert where my brother
lives; his children are bigger than mine and know the place well. Go to him,
present my compliments, and ask him to escort thee to the Hyacinth Kiosk.’’
The dragon now took leave of the Padishah, who set off on his journey.

It was a long time ere he had crossed the mountain and come in sight of
the desert. After traversing the latter for some time he saw a serai much larger
than the one he had left. At the gate stood a dragon twice as large as the other,
at a thousand paces distant its eyes seemed to be closed, but from the narrow
opening between the upper and lower lids came a ray of flame sufficient to
scorch any human being that might come within reach of it. When the
Padishah saw this he thought to himself, ‘‘My last hour is surely come.’’ At the
top of his voice he shouted to the dragon his sister’s greeting. Hearing the words
the great beast opened his eyes and as he did so, it seemed as though the whole
region was enveloped in flames. The Padishah, unable to endure the sight, ran
back. To the dragon he seemed no larger than a flea, and consequently not
worth troubling about.

The Padishah returned to the dragon-mother and related his terrifying experience.
Said she, ‘‘I forgot to tell you that I am called the Black Dragon, my
brother, the Red Dragon. Go back and say that the Black Dragon sends greeting.
As my name is known to no one, my brother will recognize that I have sent
you. Then he will turn his back towards you, and you can approach him without
danger; but beware of getting in front of him, or you will become a victim of
the fiery glances of his eyes.’’

Now the Padishah set out to return to the Red Dragon, and when he had
reached the spot he cried with a loud voice, ‘‘Thy sister, the Black Dragon,
sends thee greeting!’’ On this the beast turned his back towards him. Approaching
the dragon, the Padishah made known his wish to go to the Hyacinth Kiosk.
The dragon took a whip from his girdle and smote the earth with it so mightily
that the mountain seemed rent in twain. In a little while the Padishah saw
approaching a rather large dragon, and as he came near he felt the heat that
glowed from his great eyes. This dragon also turned his back toward the
Padishah. ‘‘My son, if thou wouldst enter the Hyacinth Kiosk,’’ said the Red
Dragon, ‘‘cry before thou enterest, ‘The Red Dragon has sent me!’ On this an
Arab will appear: this is the very peri that has robbed thee of thy children.
When he asks what thou wilt, tell him that the great dragon demands possession
of the largest of the stolen children. If he refuses, ask for the smallest. If again
he refuses, tell him the Red Dragon demands himself. Say no more, but return
here in peace.’’

The Padishah now mounted the back of the dragon which the Red Dragon
had summoned and set off. Seeing the Hyacinth Kiosk in the distance the
Padishah shouted, ‘‘Greeting from the Red Dragon!’’ So mighty was the shout
that earth and sky seemed to be shaken. Immediately a swarthy Arab with fan
shaped lips appeared, grasping an enormous club in his hand. Stepping out into
the open air, he inquired what was the matter.

‘‘The Red Dragon,’’ said the Padishah, ‘‘demands the largest of the stolen

‘‘The largest is ill,’’ answered the peri.

‘‘Then send the smallest to him,’’ rejoined the Padishah.

‘‘He has gone to fetch water,’’ replied the Arab.

‘‘If that is so,’’ continued the Padishah, ‘‘the Red Dragon demands thyself.’’

‘‘I am going into the kiosk,’’ said the Arab, and disappeared. The Padishah
returned to the Red Dragon, to whom he related how he had fulfilled his

Meanwhile the Arab came forth, in each hand a great club, wooden shoes
three yards long on his feet, and on his head a cap as high as a minaret.
Seeing him, the Red Dragon said, ‘‘So-ho! My dear Hyacinther; thou hast
the children of this Padishah; be good enough to deliver them up.’’

‘‘I have a request to make,’’ replied the Arab, ‘‘and if the Padishah will grant
it I will gladly give him his children back again. Ten years ago I stole the son of
a certain Padishah, and when he was twelve years old he was stolen away from
me by a Dew-woman named Porsuk. Every day she sends the boy to the spring
for water, gives him an ashcake to eat, and compels him to drink a glass of
human blood. If I can but regain possession of this youth, I desire nothing more,
for never in the whole world have I seen such a handsome lad. This Porsuk has
a son who loves me, and evil has been done me because I will not adopt him in
place of the stolen boy. I am aware that the children of this Padishah are brave
and handsome, and I stole them to mitigate my sufferings. Let him but fulfill my
wish, and I will fulfill thine.’’

Having uttered this speech the Arab went away.

The Red Dragon reflected a little, then spoke as follows, ‘‘My son, fear not.
This Porsuk is not particularly valiant, though skilled in sorcery. She cannot be
vanquished by magic; but it is her custom on one day in the year to work no
magic, therefore on that day she may be overcome. One month must thou wait,
during which I will discover the exact day and inform thee thereof,’’

The Padishah agreeing to this, the Red Dragon dispatched his sons to discover
the precise day on which the Dew worked no magic. As soon as they
returned with the desired information it was duly imparted to the Padishah, with
the additional fact that on that day the Dew always slept. ‘‘When thou arrivest,’’
the Red Dragon counseled the Padishah, ‘‘the youth she retains will come to fetch
water from the spring. Take his cap off his head and set it on thine own: thus he
will be unable to stir from the spot, and thou canst do what thou wilt with him.’’

The Red Dragon then sent for his sons, instructing them to escort the
Padishah to the Porsuk-Dew’s spring, wait there until he had accomplished his
object, and then accompany both back in safety. Arrived at the spring, all hid
themselves until the youth came for water. While he was filling his bottle the
Padishah sprang forth suddenly, whisked off the youth’s cap, set it on his own
head, and instantly disappeared into his hiding-place. The youth looked around,
and seeing no one, could not think what had happened. Then the young dragons
swooped down upon him, captured him, and with the Padishah led him a
prisoner to the Red Dragon.

Striking the earth with his whip, the Red Dragon brought the Hyacinth
Arab on the scene, and as soon as he caught sight of the boy he sprang towards
him, embraced and kissed him, expressing his deep gratitude to the friends who
had restored him.

Now he in his turn clapped his hands and stamped his feet on the ground
and immediately forty birds flew up twittering merrily. Taking a flask from his
girdle, the Arab sprinkled them with the liquid it contained, and lo! The birds
were transformed into forty lovely maidens and handsome youths, who drew up
in line and stood at attention. ‘‘Now, my Shah,’’ said the Arab, ‘‘behold thy
children! Take them and be happy, and pardon me the suffering I have caused

Had anyone begged the Padishah’s costliest treasure at that moment it
would have been given him, so overwhelmed with joy was the monarch at
recovering his children. He freely pardoned the Hyacinth Arab and would even
have rewarded him had there been anything he desired.

The Padishah now bade good-bye to the Red Dragon. At the moment of
parting the Red Dragon pulled out a hair from behind his ear and, giving it to
the Padishah, said:

‘‘Take this, and when in trouble of any sort break it in two and I will hasten
to thy aid.’’

Thus the Padishah and his children set out, and in due course arrived at the
abode of the Black Dragon. She also took a hair from behind her ear and presented
it to the Padishah with the following advice, ‘‘Marry thy children at
once, and if on their wedding day thou wilt fumigate them with this hair, they
will be for ever delivered from the power of the Porsuk-Dew.’’

The Padishah expressed his thanks, bade the Black Dragon a hearty goodbye,
and all proceeded on their way.

During the journey the Padishah entertained his children by relating his
adventures, and then he listened to those of his sons and daughters. Suddenly a
fearful storm arose. None of the party knew what their fate would be, yet all
waited in trembling expectancy. At length one of the maidens exclaimed, ‘‘Dear
father and Shah, I have heard the Arab say that whenever the Porsuk-Dew
passes she is accompanied by a storm such as this. I believe it is she who is now
passing, and no other.’’ Collecting his courage, the Padishah drew forth the hair
of the Red Dragon and broke it in two. The Porsuk Dew at once fell down from
the sky with a crash, and at the same moment the Red Dragon came up swinging
and cracking his whip. The Dew was found to have broken her arms and
smashed her nose, so that she was quite incapable of inflicting further mischief.

The Padishah was exceedingly afraid lest he should lose one of his children
again, but the Red Dragon reassured him. ‘‘Fear not, my Shah,’’ said he; ‘‘take
this whip.’’ The Padishah accepted it, and as he cracked it he felt the sensation
of being lifted into the air.

Descending to earth again, he found himself just outside the gates of his
own capital city. ‘‘Now thou art quite safe,’’ said the Red Dragon as he disappeared.
At sight of the domes and minarets and familiar walls of their birthplace
they all cast themselves on their knees and wept for joy. Since the Padishah had
left his palace continual lamentation and gloom had reigned supreme, and now
all the pashas and beys came out joyfully to meet their returning master and his
children. The Sultana went down the whole line embracing and kissing her
beautiful sons and daughters, and the delighted Padishah ordered seven days and
seven nights of merrymaking in honor of the glad event.

These festivities were scarcely over when wives for the Padishah’s sons and
husbands for his daughters were sought and found, and then commenced forty
days and forty nights of revelry in celebration of the grand wedding.

Unfortunately, on the wedding day the Padishah forgot to fumigate them
all with the Black Dragon’s hair, with the result that as soon as the ceremony
was over rain began to fall in a deluging torrent, and the wind blew so fiercely
that nothing could withstand it. At first the Padishah thought it was merely a
great storm, but later he remembered the Porsuk-Dew, and cried out in his fear.
Hearing the clamor, the inmates of the serai, including the newly wedded princes
and princesses, came in to see what was the matter. The frightened
Padishah gave the Black Dragon’s hair to the Vezir and commanded him to
burn it immediately. No one understood the order, and all thought the
Padishah must have lost his wits; nevertheless his wish was obeyed and the hair
burnt. Immediately a fearful howling was heard in the garden outside, and the
Porsuk-Dew cried with a loud voice, ‘‘Thou hast burnt me, O Padishah! Henceforth
in thy garden shall no blade of grass grow.’’ Next morning it was seen that
every tree and flower in the garden was scorched, as though a conflagration had
raged over the scene.

The Padishah, however, did not allow this loss to trouble him; he had his
children again with him, and that joy eclipsed any ordinary misfortunes that
might befall him. He explained everything to his suite, who could hardly believe
what they heard, it was all so astonishing. No further danger was to be feared,
and thus the Padishah and his family, with their husbands and wives, lived happily
together until their lives’ end.

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