The next day, therefore, the sailor took on board the old man and a black slave, and for three months they sailed, until they once more reached the island of pearls. There they made fast the ship on the shore, and taking sacks, they ascended to the top of the mountain. Once arrived there, the old man made the same request to Abu’l Fawaris as before, namely, that he should go down into the pits and send up pearls.
The sailor replied that he was unacquainted with the place, and preferred that the old man should go down first, in order to prove that there was no danger. He answered that there was surely no danger; he had never in his life harmed even an ant, and he would of a certainty never send Abu’l Fawaris down into the pits if he knew any peril lay there. But the sailor was obstinate, saying that until he knew how to carry it out, he could not undertake the task.
So many pearls
Very reluctantly, therefore, the old man allowed himself to be low
Full of terror the sailor swam till he reached the other side of the mountain. There he met an old man who greeted him, and, after hearing his adventure, fed him and took him to his house. But soon, to his horror, Abu’l Fawaris found that this old man also was an ogre. With great cunning he told the ogre’s wife that he could make many useful implements for her house, and she persuaded her husband to save him. After many days in the house, he was sent away to the care of a shepherd, and put to guard sheep. Day by day he planned to escape, but there was only one way across the mountain and that was guarded.
Bring home some of the honey
One day, as he wandered in a wood, he found in the hollow trunk of a tree a store of honey, of which he told the shepherd’s wife when he went home. The next day, therefore, the woman sent her husband with Abu’l Fawaris, telling him to bring home some of the honey; but, on the way, the sailor leaped upon him and bound him to
But at the sound of his footsteps they raised their heads and called out “Who are you?” He told them that the shepherd had brought him and offered him hospitality. A great cry arose from them as they heard this. “Here,” they said, “is another unfortunate who has fallen, like ourselves, into the clutch of this monster. He is a vile creature, who in the guise of a shepherd goes about and seizes men and devours them. We are all merchants whom adverse winds have brought here. That div has seized us and keeps us in this fashion.”
With a groan the sailor thought that now at last he was undone. At that moment he saw the shepherd coming, saw him let the sheep into the garden, and then close the gateway with the stone before entering the kiosk. He was carrying a bag full of almonds, dates, and pistachio nuts, with which he approached, and, giving it to the sailor, he told him to share it with the others. Abu’l Fawaris could say nothing, but
With great mourning the wife and family of Abu’l Fawaris celebrated his loss; but he, after sleeping soundly in the archway and giving thanks to his Maker for preserving him alive, made his way again to the summit of the mountain. As he advanced across the plain he saw black smoke arising from it, and also in the plain were rivers, of which he passed nine. He was like to die of hunger and weariness, when suddenly he perceived on one side a meadow, in which flocks of sheep were grazing.
Count yourself fortunate
In great joy he thought that he was at last reaching human habitation, and as he came towards the sheep, he saw with them a youth, tall in stature as a mountain, and covered with a tattered cloak of red felt, though his head and body were clad in mail. The sailor greeted him, and received greeting in reply, and also the question “Whence come you?” Abu’l Fawaris answered that he was a man upon whom catastrophe had fallen, and so related his advent
In great terror the sailors saw their ship being carried like the wind against the mountain. Soon it was caught in the whirlpool, where the wrecks of ten thousand ancient ships were being carried around in the swirling current. The sailors and merchants in the ship crowded to Abu’l Fawaris, begging him to tell them what they could do. He cried out to them to prepare all the ropes which they had in the ship; he would then swim out of the whirlpool and on to the shore at the foot of the mountain, where he would make fast to some stout tree. Then they were to cast their ropes to him and so he would rescue them from their peril. By great good fortune the current cast him out upon the shore, and he made the rope of his ship fast to a stout tree.
Then, as soon as was possible, the sailor climbed to the top of the mountain in search of food, for neither he nor his shipmates had eaten for some days. When he reached the summit he found a pleasant plain stretching away in front of
Full of trouble and despondency, he sat down at the water’s brink, wondering what he was to do. As he gazed at the sea there came into view a ship, and he saw that it was filled with men. At sight of it the sailor leaped from his place; snatching his turban from his head, he waved it with all his might in the air, and shouted at the top of his voice. But as they approached he decided not to tell his rescuers the truth of his presence there; therefore when they landed and asked how he came to be on the island he told them that his ship had been wrecked at sea, that he had clung to a plank and been washed to the shore.
They praised his good fortune at his escape, and in reply to his ques-tions with regard to the place of their origin, told him that they had sailed from Abyssinia, and were then on their way to Hindustan. At this, Abu’l Fawaris hesitated, saying that he had no business in Hin-dustan. They assured him, however, that they would meet ships going to Basrah, an
I desire you to go down into this pit and send up sufficient pearls to fill these sacks. Half I will give to you, and we shall be able to spend the rest of our lives in luxury.” The sailor there-upon asked how the pearls had found their way into these pits, to which the old man replied that there was a passage connecting the pits with the sea. Along this passage oysters swam, and settled in the pits, where by chance he had come upon them. He explained further that he had only brought the sailor because he needed help; but he desired not to disclose the matter to any one else.
With great eagerness then the sailor descended into the pit, and there found oysters in great numbers. The old man let down a basket to him, which he filled again and again, until at last the merchant cried out that the oysters were useless, for they contained no pearls. Abu’l Fawaris therefore left that pit, and descended into another, where he found pearls in great number. By the time night fell
The author of the following story is unknown. It was gathered with others in Persia, brought to England and presented to the Bodleian Library.
The Story of The Sailor and the Pearl Merchant is a splendid example of the Persian story-teller’s fantastic and magical art.
The present version is from a translation by Reuben Levy, M.A., of MS. Ouseley 231, Bodleian Library. Copyright, 1923, by Oxford University Press, by whose permission it is here reprinted.
The Sailor and The Pearl Merchant
It is related that in the city of Basrah there was a man, Abu’l Fawaris, who was the chief of the sailors of the town, for in the great ocean there was no port at which he had not landed. One day, as he sat on the seashore, with his sailors round him, an old man arrived in a ship, landed where Abu’l Fawaris was sitting, and said: “Friend, I desire you to give me your ship for six months, and I will pay you whatever you desire.” “I demand a thousan