Saturday, April 26, 2014

Arabian Nights: The Parrot and the Ogress

As you begin this story about the husband and the parrot, remember just how we got here: this is a story about a man and his parrot... who are characters in a story that the Greek king is telling to his vizir... who are characters in a story being told by a fisherman to the genie... who are characters in a story being told by Scheherazade to her husband the sultan... who are characters in the Arabian Nights!

Then, after the king finishes the story about the parrot, his vizir will tell a counter-story, a story about an ogress. While the king had hoped that the story about the parrot would allay the vizir's suspicions about the physician, the jealous vizir instead wants to bend the king to his will by means of a story.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Arabian Nights unit. Story source: The Arabian Nights' Entertainments by Andrew Lang and illustrated by H. J. Ford (1898).


The Story of the Parrot

A good man had a beautiful wife whom he loved passionately, and never left if possible. One day, when he was obliged by important business to go away from her, he went to a place where all kinds of birds are sold and bought a parrot. This parrot not only spoke well, but it had the gift of telling all that had been done before it. He brought it home in a cage, and asked his wife to put it in her room, and take great care of it while he was away. Then he departed. On his return he asked the parrot what had happened during his absence, and the parrot told him some things which made him scold his wife.

She thought that one of her slaves must have been telling tales of her, but they told her it was the parrot, and she resolved to revenge herself on him.

When her husband next went away for one day, she told on slave to turn under the bird's cage a hand-mill; another to throw water down from above the cage, and a third to take a mirror and turn it in front of its eyes, from left to right by the light of a candle. The slaves did this for part of the night, and did it very well.

The next day when the husband came back he asked the parrot what he had seen. The bird replied, "My good master, the lightning, thunder and rain disturbed me so much all night long, that I cannot tell you what I have suffered."

The husband, who knew that it had neither rained nor thundered in the night, was convinced that the parrot was not speaking the truth, so he took him out of the cage and threw him so roughly on the ground that he killed him. Nevertheless he was sorry afterwards, for he found that the parrot had spoken the truth.

"When the Greek king," said the fisherman to the genius, "had finished the story of the parrot, he added to the vizir:

"And so, vizir, I shall not listen to you, and I shall take care of the physician, in case I repent as the husband did when he had killed the parrot."

But the vizir was determined. "Sire," he replied, "the death of the parrot was nothing. But when it is a question of the life of a king it is better to sacrifice the innocent than save the guilty. It is no uncertain thing, however. The physician, Douban, wishes to assassinate you. My zeal prompts me to disclose this to your Majesty. If I am wrong, I deserve to be punished as a vizir was once punished."

"What had the vizir done," said the Greek king, "to merit the punishment?"



The Story of the Ogress
[LIBRIVOX AUDIO]

"I will tell your Majesty, if you will do me the honour to listen," answered the vizir:

There was once upon a time a king who had a son who was very fond of hunting. He often allowed him to indulge in this pastime, but he had ordered his grand-vizir always to go with him and never to lose sight of him.

One day the huntsman roused a stag, and the prince, thinking that the vizir was behind, gave chase and rode so hard that he found himself alone. He stopped, and having lost sight of it, he turned to rejoin the vizir, who had not been careful enough to follow him. But he lost his way.

Whilst he was trying to find it, he saw on the side of the road a beautiful lady who was crying bitterly.


He drew his horse's rein, and asked her who she was and what she was doing in this place, and if she needed help. "I am the daughter of an Indian king," she answered, "and whilst riding in the country I fell asleep and tumbled off. My horse has run away, and I do not know what has become of him."

The young prince had pity on her and offered to take her behind him, which he did. As they passed by a ruined building the lady dismounted and went in. The prince also dismounted and followed her.

To his great surprise, he heard her saying to some one inside, "Rejoice my children; I am bringing you a nice fat youth."

And other voices replied, "Where is he, Mamma, that we may eat him at once, as we are very hungry?"

The prince at once saw the danger he was in. He now knew that the lady who said she was the daughter of an Indian king was an ogress who lived in desolate places and who by a thousand wiles surprised and devoured passers-by. He was terrified, and threw himself on his horse.

The pretended princess appeared at this moment and, seeing that she had lost her prey, she said to him, "Do not be afraid. What do you want?"

"I am lost," he answered, "and I am looking for the road."

"Keep straight on," said the ogress, "and you will find it."

The prince could hardly believe his ears, and rode off as hard as he could. He found his way, and arrived safe and sound at his father's house, where he told him of the danger he had run because of the grand-vizir's carelessness. The king was very angry, and had him strangled immediately.

"Sire," went on the vizir to the Greek king, "to return to the physician Douban.




(900 words)















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