Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Persian Tales: The Merchant and the Saffron

Saffron, the spice that plays an important role in this story, is a very precious item, and the word saffron actually comes to English from Persian. For more about saffron and its Persian origin, see Wikipedia.

Explore: For another story about Luck that can be awake or asleep, see The Man Who Went to Wake His Luck. For another story of "rags to riches," see Shah Abbas and the Poor Mother.

[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 Merchant and the Saffron




There was a wealthy merchant whose name was Malik Ahmad, and he possessed one hundred karurs of qrans, or silver coins, that is, fifty million qrans, in cash, apart from landed property, and he had business in every city in which trade was carried on.

One day he noticed a hundred loaded camels coming in with a jingling of bells, and he said to his servants: "Go and see who these people are, and what they have and what the camel-loads are."

A servant went off and inquired of the man in charge, who replied: "The loads are saffron. My master said to me: 'Go, and wherever people will purchase, sell them, and come back again.'"

The messenger returned and told Malik Ahmad, who said: "Go and call him to come here," and two men went off and brought him up.

Then Malik Ahmad said: "Unload the camels, and just put the saffron down in the mud for the present - we'll build a caravanserai for it later; and now load up the camels with jewels in payment, and let them go." So they threw down the saffron in the mud and began to build a caravanserai for it, and soon completed it.

When some years had passed after this, evil luck befell Malik Ahmad. All the property he possessed in every place was carried away by the wind of annihilation. All his trading agents failed and became bankrupt at one and the same time, and his affairs reached such a pass that he was utterly destitute, and had not a breath left to carry on even a trade in sighs.

At this point he thought to himself: "How can I endure to stay on in this country? I had my own share of dignity and consideration, but now I have neither honour nor wealth. It is best that I should go away." So he set out with his back to the town and his face to the desert, and started on his way.

As it chanced, he came to the town in which lived the owner of the saffron. Night overtook him, and he saw that there was no place for him to put up in, for he was a stranger in the land. "God is kind," he said to himself, and presently he saw a man coming towards him.

The man looked at him and said to himself: "Whether I say so or no, this is the very same merchant who unloaded the saffron into the mud and paid for it with loads of jewels." Aloud he said: "Uncle, who are you?"

"I am a stranger in this country," said Malik Ahmad.

"You are my guest," said the man. "Come, let us go along."

Then he hastened to his master and said: "This is the merchant who bought the saffron and put it down in the mud, and paid for it with loads of jewels. I saw him here and invited him to be my guest."

"Go quickly," said his master, "and bring him here, and let us see whether it is really he or not."

The servant went out and brought in Malik Ahmad, and the Saffron Merchant thought to himself: "What sort of a man is this who is so extremely wealthy that he throws down saffron in the mud and wet and can afford to pay for it with loads of jewels, and whose affairs have now come to such a pass that he abandons his home and takes to wandering?" Then he said: "Whatever you may say, all has its origin in a man's Luck, be it good or ill."

He treated Malik Ahmad with great respect and offered him water and the qalian, and showed him kindness. After supper he went in to him himself and made him many complimentary speeches, and said: "O Sir, are you not the merchant who unloaded the saffron into the mud and sent loads of jewels in exchange?"

"Yes," replied Malik Ahmad.

"Then how have you come to be in such a pitiable plight as this?"

"By bad luck. In one year all the wealth I possessed in every place was borne away on the wind of annihilation. I do not know how my wealth came, and I do not know how it went."

"Very good," said his host. "Do you just stay here until your Luck wakes up again. Then I shall make preparations for you to travel, and you can go away again. In the meantime, send a hundred tumans every year at my charge to your wife and family for them to carry on with, till I see how things turn out."

That year he bought one hundred sheep on his account to be Malik Ahmad's own, but when winter came they all died. The news was brought that all these sheep had died, and his host said: "Well, I'll buy sheep again for you this year."

That year he spent two hundred tumans and gave the sheep to Malik Ahmad, but when winter came they all died, not one of them survived.

The next year he bought three hundred sheep on Malik Ahmad's behalf, and this year at last all had young ones, each ewe two lambs. When they brought the news that each ewe had two lambs, the Saffron Merchant said: "Good, his Luck has wakened up. Now I may make preparations for him to go."

So he went to Malik Ahmad and said: "Do you know that your Luck has wakened up? I shall now give you five hundred tumans; spend them and buy goods, and take them away with you and sell them in your own country."

"Very good," said Malik Ahmad, and he took the five hundred tumans and bought goods, and took them with him and set out for his own country. After some days he reached his home, and the news went about that a merchant had arrived with some loads of merchandise. Next morning he sold all the goods in such a way that his five hundred tumans became two thousand tumans.

Little by little he carried on business, and again ascended to the top of the staircase of prosperity of former days and became a wealthy man.

The story is ended.


(1100 words)
















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