Stories of Arabian Nights -
One thousand one Arabian Nights
The Story of the Young King of the Black Isles
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You must know, sire, that my father was Mahmoud,
the king of this country, the Black Isles, so called from the four little
mountains which were once islands, while the capital was the place where now the
great lake lies. My story will tell you how these changes came about.
My father died when he was sixty-six, and I succeeded him. I married my cousin,
whom I loved tenderly, and I thought she loved me too.
But one afternoon, when I was half asleep, and was being fanned by two of her
maids, I heard one say to the other, "What a pity it is that our mistress no
longer loves our master! I believe she would like to kill him if she could, for
she is an enchantress."
I soon found by watching that they were right, and when I mortally wounded a
favourite slave of hers for a great crime, she begged that she might build a
palace in the garden, where she wept and bewailed him for two years.
At last I begged her to cease grieving for him, for although he could not speak
or move, by her enchantments she just kept him alive. She turned upon me in a
rage, and said over me some magic words, and I instantly became as you see me
now, half man and half marble.
Then this wicked enchantress changed the capital, which was a very populous and
flourishing city, into the lake and desert plain you saw. The fish of four
colours which are in it are the different races who lived in the town; the four
hills are the four islands which give the name to my kingdom. All this the
enchantress told me to add to my troubles. And this is not all. Every day she
comes and beats me with a whip of buffalo hide.
When the young king had finished his sad story he burst once more into tears,
and the Sultan was much moved.
"Tell me," he cried, "where is this wicked woman, and where is the miserable
object of her affection, whom she just manages to keep alive?"
"Where she lives I do not know," answered the unhappy prince, "but she goes
every day at sunrise to see if the slave can yet speak to her, after she has
"Unfortunate king," said the Sultan, "I will do what I can to avenge you."
So he consulted with the young king over the best way to bring this about, and
they agreed their plan should be put in effect the next day. The Sultan then
rested, and the young king gave himself up to happy hopes of release. The next
day the Sultan arose, and then went to the palace in the garden where the black
slave was. He drew his sword and destroyed the little life that remained in him,
and then threw the body down a well. He then lay down on the couch where the
slave had been, and waited for the enchantress.
She went first to the young king, whom she beat with a hundred blows.
Then she came to the room where she thought her wounded slave was, but where the
Sultan really lay.
She came near his couch and said, "Are you better to-day, my dear slave? Speak
but one word to me."
"How can I be better," answered the Sultan, imitating the language of the
Ethiopians, "when I can never sleep for the cries and groans of your husband?"
"What joy to hear you speak!" answered the queen. "Do you wish him to regain his
"Yes," said the Sultan; "hasten to set him at liberty, so that I may no longer
hear his cries."
The queen at once went out and took a cup of water, and said over it some words
that made it boil as if it were on the fire. Then she threw it over the prince,
who at once regained his own form. He was filled with joy, but the enchantress
said, "Hasten away from this place and never come back, lest I kill you."
So he hid himself to see the end of the Sultan's plan.
The enchantress went back to the Palace of Tears and said, "Now I have done what
"What you have done," said the Sultan, "is not enough to cure me. Every day at
midnight all the people whom you have changed into fish lift their heads out of
the lake and cry for vengeance. Go quickly, and give them their proper shape."
The enchantress hurried away and said some words over the lake.
The fish then became men, women, and children, and the houses and shops were
once more filled. The Sultan's suite, who had encamped by the lake, were not a
little astonished to see themselves in the middle of a large and beautiful town.
As soon as she had disenchanted it the queen went back to the palace.
"Are you quite well now?" she said.
"Come near," said the Sultan. "Nearer still."
She obeyed. Then he sprang up, and with one blow of his sword he cut her in two.
Then he went and found the prince.
"Rejoice," he said, "your cruel enemy is dead."
The prince thanked him again and again.
"And now," said the Sultan. "I will go back to my capital, which I am glad to
find is so near yours."
"So near mine!" said the King of the Black Isles.
"Do you know it is a whole year's journey from here? You came here in a few
hours because it was enchanted. But I will accompany you on your journey."
"It will give me much pleasure if you will escort me," said the Sultan, "and as
I have no children, I will make you my heir."
The Sultan and the prince set out together, the Sultan laden with rich presents
from the King of the Black Isles.
The day after he reached his capital the Sultan assembled his court and told
them all that had befallen him, and told them how he intended to adopt the young
king as his heir.
Then he gave each man presents in proportion to his rank.
As for the fisherman, as he was the first cause of the deliverance of the young
prince, the Sultan gave him much money, and made him and his family happy for
the rest of their days.
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