Persian Tales: The City of Nothing-in-the-World

In this fantastical and surreal story, you will read about what happened to a girl on the way to the bazar. It starts when she reaches into her pocked and finds a jinnu, a coin of very little value with which she buys . . . a minaret made out of a needle. One strange event leads to another, or so she says, but she does finally make her way home to tell the tale.

Explore: For another story where the drama takes place on a very small scale, see Susku and Mushu. For another surreal story, see The Hemp-Smoker's Dream.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Persian Tales unit. Story source: Persian Talestranslated by D.L.R. Lorimer and E.O. Lorimer and illustrated by Hilda Roberts (1919).

The City of Nothing-in-the-World




Once upon a time there was a time when there was no one but God.

In the town of Hich a Hich, the city of Nothing-in-the-World, there was a girl who had fallen and scraped her shin very badly. After a few days, when the wound was a little better, she went to her aunt to get some cooling ointment for it.

The old woman said: "I'm sorry I haven't any," but she gave her niece two eggs to take to the drug-seller in the bazar, to see if he would give her some cooling ointment in exchange.

When the girl came back from the bazar this is what she told her aunt:

"I went to the bazar, and on the way I lost the two eggs. I was very much upset, but I put my hand in my pocket and there I found a jinnu. I wanted to get my eggs back again, so I gave the jinnu to some people in the bazar, who made me a minaret out of a needle.

"I climbed and climbed right up to the top of the minaret, and I looked in every direction all round the town and saw that one of my eggs had turned into a hen and was in an old woman's house, and the other had turned into a cock and was threshing corn far away in a village.

"So I said to myself: "First, I'll go and get the cock," and I went out to the village and said to the peasants: "Give me back my cock, and his wages too, for he's been working for you." After a lot of bargaining we agreed that they should give me half a cow-load of their crop, which was rice. When they had weighed the crop my share was 25 manns, but I had no loading bags to put it in. So I killed a flea and skinned it and made myself a loading-bag out of the skin. Then I put my rice into it, and loaded it on my cock's back and started off, for I wanted to bring my rice to market.

"We were very far away from town, and when we got to the second-last halting-place, two days' march out, the cock was sore-backed. I asked the people there: "What's to be done? Is there any remedy for this?" They said: "Burn the kernel of a walnut and rub it on his back and it will get well." So I half-burnt a walnut and put it on.

"When I woke in the morning a large walnut tree had shot up and was growing from the cock's back. The village children had gathered round the tree and were throwing stones and clods of earth at it. I climbed a branch and saw that the clods had accumulated and covered about 100 qasab. I got a clod-breaker to come and make the ground level, and I saw that it would be a good soil to plant muskmelons and watermelons in, so I sowed both kinds of melons.

"Next morning I saw that the earth had produced very large melons. I broke a big watermelon, but when I was cutting it my knife got lost. I put a bathing-cloth round my waist and went into the hollow of the half-melon to hunt for my knife.

"I saw there was a town there, and it was very big and full of crowds and noise and traffic. I went to the door of a cook-shop and gave them a jinnu and bought a little halim for myself and began to eat it. It tasted so very good that when I had eaten it all up I licked the bottom of the bowl so hard that it nearly broke.

"I saw a hair at the bottom of the bowl and tried to catch hold of it to throw it away, but at the end of the hair there appeared a camel's leading-rope, and behind the rope there came seven strings of seven camels, all in a row, one behind the other, and each complete with all its gear.

"They came out one after the other, and my knife was tied on to the tail of the last camel."

And now my story has come to an end, but the sparrow never got home.


(700 words)



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