Sunday, July 21, 2019

STORY OF THE KING WHO LOST KINGDOM, WIFE, AND WEALTH. - from ''Thousand Nights and a Night'' adapted and translated by RICHARD F. BURTON

In the “Indian Antiquary” for June 1886 the Rev. J. Hinton Knowles gives a translation of what he terms a Kashmírí Tale, under the title of “Pride Abased,” which, he says, was told him by “a Brahman named Mukund Báyú, who resides at Suthú, Srínagar,” and which is an interesting variant of the Wazír Er-Rahwan’s second story of the King who lost his Realm and Wealth:


There was once a king who was noted throughout his dominions for daily boasting of his power and riches. His ministers at length became weary of this self-glorification, and one day when he demanded of them, as usual, whether there existed in the whole world another king as powerful as he, they plainly told him that there was such another potentate; upon which he assembled his troops and rode forth at their head, challenging the neighbouring kings to fight with him. Ere long he met with more than his match, for another king came with a great army and utterly defeated him, and took possession of his kingdom. Disguising himself, the humbled king escaped with his wife and two boys, and arriving at the sea shore, found a ship about to sail. The master agreed to take him and his family and land them at the port for which he was bound. But when he beheld the beauty of the queen, he became enamoured of her, and determined to make her his own. The queen was the first to go on board the ship, and the king and his two sons were about to follow, when they were seized by a party of ruffians, hired by the shipmaster, and held back until the vessel had got fairly under way. The queen was distracted on seeing her husband and children left behind, and refused to listen to the master’s suit, who, after having tried to win her love for several days without success, resolved to sell her as a slave. Among the passengers was a merchant, who, seeing that the lady would not accept the shipmaster for her husband, thought that if he bought her, he might in time gain her affection. Accordingly he purchased her of the master for a large sum of money, and then told her that he had done so with a view of making her his wife. The lady replied that, although the shipman had no right thus to dispose of her, yet she would consent to marry him at the end of two years, if she did not during that period meet with her husband and their two sons; and to this condition the merchant agreed. In the meanwhile the king, having sorrowfully watched the vessel till it was out of sight, turned back with his two boys, who wept and lamented as they ran beside him. After walking a great distance, he came to a shallow but rapid river, which he wished to cross, and, as there was no boat or bridge, he was obliged to wade through the water. Taking up one of his sons he contrived to reach the other side in safety, and was returning for the other when the force of the current overcame him and he was drowned.

When the two boys noticed that their father had perished, they wept bitterly. Their separation, too, was a further cause for grief. There they stood, one on either side of the river, with no means of reaching each other. They shouted, and ran about hither and thither in their grief, till they had almost wearied themselves into sleep, when a fisherman came past, who, seeing the great distress of the boys, took them into his boat, and asked them who they were, and who were their parents; and they told him all that had happened. When he had heard their story, he said, “You have not a father or mother, and I have not a child. Evidently God has sent you to me. Will you be my own children and learn to fish, and live in my house?” Of course, the poor boys were only too glad to find a friend and shelter. “Come,” said the fisherman kindly, leading them out of the boat to a house close by, “I will look after you.” The boys followed most happily, and went into the fisherman’s house; and when they saw his wife they were still better pleased, for she was very kind to them, and treated them as if they had been her own children. The two boys went to school, and when they had learned all that the master could teach them, they began to help their adoptive father, and in a little while became most expert and diligent young fishermen.

Thus time was passing with them, when it happened that a great fish threw itself on to the bank of the river and could not get back again into the water. Everybody in the village went to see the monstrous fish, and cut a slice of its flesh and took it home. A few people also went from the neighbouring villages, and amongst them was a maker of earthenware. His wife had heard of the great fish and urged him to go and get some of the flesh. So he went, although the hour was late. On his arrival he found that all the people had returned to their homes. The potter had taken an axe with him, thinking that the bones would be so great and strong as to require its use in breaking them. When he struck the first blow a voice came out of the fish, like that of some one in pain, at which the potter was greatly surprised. “Perhaps,” thought he, “the fish is possessed by a bhút. I’ll try again;” whereupon he struck another blow with his axe. Again the voice came forth from the fish, saying, “Woe is me! woe is me!” On hearing this, the potter thought, “Well, this is evidently not a bhút, but the voice of an ordinary man. I’ll cut the flesh carefully. May be that I shall find some poor distressed person.” So he began to cut away the flesh carefully, and presently he perceived a man’s foot, then the legs appeared, and then the entire body. “Praise be to God,” he cried, “the soul is yet in him.” He carried the man to his house as fast as he could, and on arriving there did everything in his power to recover him. A large fire was soon got ready, and tea and soup given the man, and great was the joy of the potter and his wife when they saw him reviving. For some months the stranger lived with those good people, and learnt how to make pots and pans and other articles, and thereby helped them considerably. Now it happened that the king of that country died, and it was the custom of the people to take for their sovereign whomsoever the late king’s elephant and hawk should select. And so on the death of the king the royal elephant was driven all over the country, and the hawk was made to fly about, in search of a successor, and it came to pass that the person before whom the elephant saluted and on whom the hawk alighted was considered as the divinely chosen one. Accordingly the elephant and the hawk went about the country, and in the course of their wanderings came by the house of the potter who had so kindly succoured the poor man whom he found in the belly of the monstrous fish; and it chanced that as they 346passed the place the stranger was standing by the door, and behold, no sooner did the elephant and hawk see him than the one bowed down before him and the other perched on his hand. “Let him be king! let him be king!” shouted the people who were in attendance on the elephant, and they prostrated themselves before the stranger and begged him to accompany them to the palace.

The ministers were glad when they heard the news, and most respectfully welcomed their new king. As soon as the rites and ceremonies necessary for the installation of a king had been observed, his majesty entered on his duties. The first thing he did was to send for the potter and his wife and grant them some land and money. In this and other ways, such as just judgments, proper laws, and kindly notices of all who were clever and good, he won for himself the good opinion and affection of his subjects and prospered in consequence thereof. After a few months, however, his health was impaired, and his physicians advised him to take out-door exercise. Accordingly, he alternately rode, hunted, and fished. He was especially fond of fishing, and whenever he indulged in this amusement, he was attended by two sons of a fisherman, who were clever and handsome youths.

About this time the merchant who bought the wife of the poor king that was carried away by the rapid river visited that country for purposes of trade. He obtained an interview with the king, and displayed before him all his precious stones and stuffs. The king was much pleased to see such treasures, and asked many questions about them and the countries whence they had been brought. The merchant satisfied the king’s curiosity, and then begged permission to trade in that country, under his majesty’s protection, which the king readily granted, and ordered that some soldiers should be placed on guard in the merchant’s courtyard, and sent the fisherman’s two sons to sleep in the premises.

One night those two youths not being able to sleep, the younger asked his brother to tell him a story to pass the time, so he replied, “I will tell you one out of our own experience: Once upon a time there lived a great and wealthy king, who was very proud, and his pride led him to utter ruin and caused him the sorest afflictions. One day when going about with his army, challenging other kings to fight with him, a great and powerful king appeared and conquered him. He escaped with his wife and two sons to the sea, hoping to find a vessel, by which he and his family might reach a foreign land. After walking several miles they reached the sea-shore and found a ship ready to sail. The master of the vessel took the queen, but the king and his two sons were held back by some men, who had been hired by the master for this purpose, until the ship was under way. The poor king after this walked long and far till he came to a rapid river. As there was no bridge or boat near, he was obliged to wade across. He took one of his boys and got over safely, and was returning for the other when he stumbled over a stone, lost his footing, and was carried down the stream; and he has not been heard of since. A fisherman came along, and, seeing the two boys crying, took them into his boat, and afterwards to his house, and became very fond of them, as did also his wife, and they were like father and mother to them. All this happened a few years ago, and the two boys are generally believed to be the fisherman’s own sons. O brother, we are these two boys! And there you have my story.”

The tale was so interesting and its conclusion so wonderful that the younger brother was more awake than before. It had also attracted the attention of another. The merchant’s promised wife, who happened to be lying awake at the time, and whose room was separated from the warehouse by a very thin partition, overheard all that had been said, and she thought within herself, “Surely these two boys must be my own sons.” Presently she was sitting beside them and asking them many questions. Two years or more had made a great difference in the persons of both the boys, but there were certain signs which a hundred years could not efface from a mother’s memory. These, together with the answers which she elicited from them, assured her that she had found her own sons again. Tears streamed down her face as she embraced them, and revealed to them that she was the queen, their mother, about whom they had just been speaking. She then told them all that had happened to her since she had been parted from them and their poor father, the king; after which she explained that although the merchant was a good man and very wealthy yet she did not like him well enough to become his wife, and proposed a plan for her getting rid of him. “My device,” said she, “is to pretend to the merchant that you attempted my honour. I shall affect to be very angry and not give him any peace until he goes to the king and complains against you. Then will the king send for you in great wrath and inquire into this matter. In reply you must say it is all a mistake, for you regard me as your own mother, and in proof of this you will beg the king to summon me into his presence, that I may corroborate what you say. Then I will declare that you are really my own sons, and beseech the king to free me from the merchant and allow me to live with you in any place I may choose for the rest of my days.”

The sons agreed to this proposal, and next night, when the merchant was also sleeping in the house, the woman raised a great cry, so that everybody was awakened by the noise. The merchant came and asked the cause of the outcry, and she answered, “The two youths who look after your warehouse have attempted to violate me, so I screamed in order to make them desist.” On hearing this the merchant was enraged. He immediately bound the two youths, and, as soon as there was any chance of seeing the king, took them before him and preferred his complaint. “What have you to say in your defence?” said the king, addressing the youths; “because, if what this merchant charges against you be true, I will have you at once put to death. Is this the gratitude you manifest for all my kindness and condescension towards you? Say quickly what you have to say.” “O king, our benefactor,” replied the elder brother, “we are not affrighted by your words and looks, for we are true servants. We have not betrayed your trust in us, but have always tried to fulfil your wishes to the utmost of our power. The charges brought against us by this merchant are unfounded. We have not attempted to dishonour his wife; we have rather always regarded her as our own mother. May it please your majesty to send for the woman and inquire further into this matter.”

The king consented, and the woman was brought before him. “Is it true,” he asked her, “what the merchant, your affianced husband, witnesses against these two youths?” “O king,” she replied, “the youths whom you gave to help the merchant have most carefully tried to carry out your wishes. But the night before last I heard their conversation. The elder was telling the younger a tale, from his own experience, he said. It was a story of a conceited king who had been defeated by another more powerful than he, and obliged to fly with his wife and two children to the sea. There, through the vile trickery of the master of a vessel, the wife was stolen and taken away to far distant lands, where she became engaged to a wealthy trader; while the exiled king and his two sons wandered in another direction, till they came to a river, in which the king was drowned. The two boys were found by a fisherman and brought up as his own sons. These two boys, O king, are before you, and I am their mother, who was taken away and sold to the trader, and who after two days must be married to him. For I promised that if within a certain period I should not meet with my husband and two sons I would be his wife. But I entreat your majesty to free me from this man. I do not wish to marry again, now that I have found my two sons. In order to obtain an audience of your majesty, this trick was arranged with the two youths.”

By the time the woman had finished her story the king’s face was suffused with tears, and he was trembling visibly. When he had somewhat recovered he rose from the throne, and going up to the woman and the two youths embraced them long and fervently. “You are my own dear wife and children,” he cried. “God has sent you back to me. I, the king, your husband, your father, was not drowned as you supposed; but was swallowed by a great fish and nourished by it for some time, and then the monster threw itself upon the river’s bank and I was extricated. A potter and his wife had pity on me and taught me their trade, and I was just beginning to earn my living by making earthen vessels when the late king of this country died, and I was chosen king by the royal elephant and hawk, I who am now standing here.” Then his majesty ordered the queen and her two sons to be taken into the inner apartments of the palace, and explained his conduct to the people assembled. The merchant was politely dismissed from the country. And as soon as the two princes were old enough to govern the kingdom, the king committed to them the charge of all affairs, while he retired with his wife to a sequestered spot and passed the rest of his days in peace.


The tale of Sarwar and Nír, “as told by a celebrated Bard from Baraut, in the Merath district,” in vol. iii. of Captain R. C. Temple’s “Legends of the Panjáb” (pp. 97–125), though differing in form somewhat from the Kashmírí version, yet possesses the leading incidents in common with it, as will be seen from the following abstract:


Amba the rájá of Púná had a beautiful wife named Amlí and two young sons, Sarwar and Nír. There came to his court one day a fakír. The rájá promised to give him whatsoever he should desire. The fakír required Ambá to give up to him all he possessed, or lose his virtue, and the rájá gave him all, save his wife and two children, receiving in return the blessings of the fakír. Then the rájá and the rání went away; he carrying Sarwar in his bosom, and she with Nír in her lap. For a time they lived on the fruits and roots of the forest. At length the raní gave her husband her (jewelled) bodice to sell in the bázár, in order to procure food. He offered it to Kundan the merchant, who made him sit down, and asked him where he had left the raní, and why he did not bring her with him. Ambá told him that he had left her with their two boys under the banyan tree. Then Kundan, leaving Ambá in the shop, went and got a litter, and proceeding to the banyan-tree showed the rání the bodice, and said, “Thy husband wishes thee to come to him.” Nothing doubting, the rání entered the litter, and the merchant sent it off to his own house. Leaving the boys in the forest, he returned to Ambá, and said to him that he had not enough money to pay the price of the bodice, so the rájá must take it back. Ambá took the bodice, and coming to the boys, learned from Sarwar how their mother had been carried away in a litter, and he was sorely grieved in his heart, but consoled the children, saying that their mother had gone to her brother’s house, and that he would take them to her at once. Placing the two boys on his shoulders he walked along till he came to a river. He set down Nír, and carried Sarwar safely across, but as he was going back for the other, behold, an alligator seized him. It was the will of God: what remedy is there against the writing of Fate? The two boys, separated by the river, sat down and wept in their sorrow. In the early morning a washerman was up and spreading his clothes. He heard the two boys weeping and came to see. He had pity on them and brought them together. Then he took them to his house, and washed their faces and gave them food. He put them into a separate house and a Bráhman cooked for them and gave them water. He caused the brothers to be taught all kinds of learning, and at the end of twelve years they both set out together to seek their living. They went to the city of Ujjain, and told the rájá their history, how they had left their home and kingdom. The rájá gave them arms and suitable clothing, and appointed them guards over the female apartments. One day a fisherman caught an alligator in his net. When he cut open its body, he found in it Rájá Ambá, alive. So he took him to the rájá of Ujjain, and told how he had found him in the stomach of an alligator. Ambá related his whole history to the rájá; how he gave up all his wealth and his kingdom to a fakír; how his wife had been stolen from him; and how after safely carrying one of his young sons over the river in returning for the other he had been swallowed by an alligator. On hearing of all these misfortunes the rájá of Ujjain pitied him and loved him in his heart: he adopted Ambá as his son; and they lived together for twenty years, when the rájá died and Ambá obtained the throne.

Meanwhile the beautiful Rání Amlí, the wife of Ambá had continued to refuse the merchant Kundan’s reiterated profers of love. At length he said to her, “Many days have passed over thee, live now in my house as my wife.” And she replied, “Let me bathe in the Ganges, and then I will dwell in thy house.” So he took elephants and horses and lákhs of coin, and set the ráni in a litter and started on the journey. When he reached the city of Ujjain, he made a halt and pitched his tents. Then he went before Rájá Ambá and said, “Give me a guard, for the nights are dark. Hitherto I have had much trouble and no ease at nights. I am going to bathe in the Ganges, to give alms and much food to Bráhmans. I am come, rájá, to salute thee, bringing many things from my house.”

The rájá sent Sarwar and Nír as guards. They watched the tents, and while the rain was falling the two brothers began talking over their sorrows, saying “What can our mother be doing? Whither hath our father gone?” Their mother overheard them talking, and by the will of God she recognised the princes; then she tore open the tent, and cried aloud, “All my property is gone! Who brought this thief to my tent?” The rání had both Sarwar and Nír seized, and brought before Rájá Ambá on the charge of having stolen her property. The rájá held a court, and began to ask questions, saying, “Tell me what hath passed during the night. How much of thy property hath gone, my friend? I will do thee justice, according to thy desire: my heart is grieved that thy goods are gone.” Then said the rání, “Be careful of the young elephant! The lightning flashes and the heavy rain is falling. Said Nír, ‘Hear, brother Sarwar, who knows whither our mother hath gone?’ And I recognised my sons; so I made all this disturbance, rájá [in order to get access to thee]. ”Hearing this, Rájá Ambá rose up and took her to his breast, Amlí and Ambá met again through the mercy of God. The rájá gave orders to have Kundan hanged, saying, “Do it at once; he is a scoundrel; undo him that he may not live.” They quickly fetched the executioners and put on the noose; and then was Kundan strangled. The rání dwelt in the palace and all her troubles passed far away. She fulfilled all her obligations, and obtained great happiness through her virtue.

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