The Story of the Merchant and
Stories of Arabian Nights -
One thousand one Arabian Nights
<< Index of stories of Arabian nights
Sire, there was once upon a time a merchant who
possessed great wealth in land and merchandise, as well as in ready money. He
was obliged from time to time to take journeys to arrange his affairs. One day,
having to go a long way from home, he mounted his horse, taking with him a small
wallet in which he had put a few biscuits and dates, because he had to pass
through the desert where no food was to be had. He arrived without any mishap,
and, having finished his business, set out on his return. On the fourth day of
his journey, the heat of the sun being very great, he turned out of his road to
rest under some trees. He found at the foot of a large walnut-tree a fountain of
clear and running water. He dismounted, fastened his horse to a branch of the
tree, and sat by the fountain, after having taken from his wallet some of his
dates and biscuits. When he had finished this frugal meal he washed his face and
hands in the fountain. When he was thus employed he saw an enormous genie, white
with rage, coming towards him, with a scimitar in his hand.
"Arise," he cried in a terrible voice, "and let me kill you as you have killed
As he uttered these words he gave a frightful yell. The merchant, quite as much
terrified at the hideous face of the monster as at his words, answered him
tremblingly, "Alas, good sir, what can I have done to you to deserve death?"
"I shall kill you," repeated the genie, "as you have killed my son."
"But," said the merchant, "How can I have killed your son? I do not know him,
and I have never even seen him."
"When you arrived here did you not sit down on the ground?" asked the genie,
"and did you not take some dates from your wallet, and whilst eating them did
not you throw the stones about?"
"Yes," said the merchant, "I certainly did so."
"Then," said the genie, "I tell you you have killed my son, for whilst you were
throwing about the stones, my son passed by, and one of them struck him in the
eye and killed him. So I shall kill you."
"Ah, sir, forgive me!" cried the merchant.
"I will have no mercy on you," answered the genie.
"But I killed your son quite unintentionally, so I implore you to spare my
"No," said the genie, "I shall kill you as you killed my son," and so saying, he
seized the merchant by the arm, threw him on the ground, and lifted his sabre to
cut off his head.
The merchant, protesting his innocence, cried for his wife and children, and
tried pitifully to avert his fate. The genie, with his raised scimitar, waited
till he had finished, but was not in the least touched.
* * *
Scheherazade, at this point, seeing that it was day, and knowing that the Sultan
always rose very early to attend the council, stopped speaking.
"Indeed, sister," said Dinarzade, "this is a wonderful story."
"The rest is still more wonderful," replied Scheherazade, "and you would say so,
if the sultan would allow me to live another day, and would give me leave to
tell it to you the next night."
Schahriar, who had been listening to Scheherazade with pleasure, said to
himself, "I will wait till tomorrow; I can always have her killed when I have
heard the end of her story."
All this time the grand vizier was in a terrible state of anxiety. But he was
much delighted when he saw the Sultan enter the council-chamber without giving
the terrible command that he was expecting.
The next morning, before the day broke, Dinarzade said to her sister, "Dear
sister, if you are awake I pray you to go on with your story."
The Sultan did not wait for Scheherazade to ask his leave. "Finish," said he,
"the story of the genie and the merchant. I am curious to hear the end."
So Scheherazade went on with the story. This happened every morning. The Sultana
told a story, and the Sultan let her live to finish it.
* * *
When the merchant saw that the genie was determined to cut off his head, he
said: "One word more, I entreat you. Grant me a little delay; just a short time
to go home and bid my wife and children farewell, and to make my will. When I
have done this I will come back here, and you shall kill me."
"But," said the genie, "if I grant you the delay you ask, I am afraid that you
will not come back."
"I give you my word of honor," answered the merchant, "that I will come back
"How long do you require?" asked the genie.
"I ask you for a year's grace," replied the merchant. "I promise you that
tomorrow twelvemonth, I shall be waiting under these trees to give myself up to
On this the genie left him near the fountain and disappeared. The merchant,
having recovered from his fright, mounted his horse and went on his road.
When he arrived home his wife and children received him with the greatest joy.
But instead of embracing them he began to weep so bitterly that they soon
guessed that something terrible was the matter. "Tell us, I pray you," said his
wife, "what has happened."
"Alas!" answered her husband, "I have only a year to live."
Then he told them what had passed between him and the genie, and how he had
given his word to return at the end of a year to be killed. When they heard this
sad news they were in despair, and wept much.
The next day the merchant began to settle his affairs, and first of all to pay
his debts. He gave presents to his friends, and large alms to the poor. He set
his slaves at liberty, and provided for his wife and children. The year soon
passed away, and he was obliged to depart. When he tried to say good-bye he was
quite overcome with grief, and with difficulty tore himself away. At length he
reached the place where he had first seen the genie, on the very day that he had
appointed. He dismounted, and sat down at the edge of the fountain, where he
awaited the genie in terrible suspense.
Whilst he was thus waiting an old man leading a hind came towards him. They
greeted one another, and then the old man said to him, "May I ask, brother, what
brought you to this desert place, where there are so many evil genii about? To
see these beautiful tress one would imagine it was inhabited, but it is a
dangerous place to stop long in."
The merchant told the old man why he was obliged to come there. He listened in
"This is a most marvellous affair. I should like to be a witness of your
interview with the genie." So saying he sat down by the merchant.
While they were talking another old man came up, followed by two black dogs. He
greeted them, and asked what they were doing in this place. The old man who was
leading the hind told him the adventure of the merchant and the genie. The
second old many had not sooner heard the story than he, too, decided to stay
there to see what would happen. He sat down by the others, and was talking, when
a third old man arrived. He asked why the merchant who was with them looked so
sad. They told him the story, and he also resolved to see what would pass
between the genie and the merchant, so waited with the rest. They soon saw in
the distance a thick smoke, like a cloud of dust. This smoke came nearer and
nearer, and then, all at once, it vanished, and they saw the genie, who, without
speaking to them, approached the merchant, sword in hand, and, taking him by the
arm, said, "Get up and let me kill you as you killed my son."
The merchant and the three old men began to weep and groan. Then the old man
leading the hind threw himself at the monster's feet and said, "O Prince of the
Genii, I beg of you to stay your fury and to listen to me. I am going to tell
you my story and that of the hind I have with me, and if you find it more
marvellous than that of the merchant whom you are about to kill, I hope that you
will do away with a third part of his punishment?"
The genie considered some time, and then he said, "Very well, I agree to this."
Index of stories of Arabian nights