Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Persian Tales: Shah Abbas and the Poor Mother

The Persian word "shah" means king, so this is a story about a king, King Abbas, who goes in disguise among his people as a holy beggar, a dervish. Also, in this story you will meet once again the Persian ash, or soup: Wikipedia.

Explore: For another story about a king who goes about in disguise, see The Praying Baker. For another story in which justice is finally done, see The Baker and the Grateful Fish.

[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).


Shah Abbas and the Poor Mother




One night Shah Abbas went out roaming, and he wandered about everywhere till he came to some ruins. There he became aware of a sound of children crying. They were saying: "O Mother, we are dying of hunger. Have pity on our hunger!" And the mother was weeping with them, saying: "May God slay your mother, she has no food for you. What is she to do?"

The Shah listened. Now he had on a derwish's clothes, and a begging bowll full of ash was slung over his shoulder. He advanced, and the woman saw, as she thought, a derwish coming up. She rose to receive him, and he sat down and took off the begging bowl with the ash in it and set it before them, and they ate their fill.

Then, when he was about to go away, he took a ring off his finger and gave it to the woman, and said: "Take this and hand it in at the baker's shop, and then you can always go and get bread there till your children are grown up." Then he rose and went away.

The woman gladly took the ring and went to the baker's shop, and took it out and gave it to him, saying: "Master Baker, take this ring, and in exchange give me bread every night for my children."

The Baker took it and examined it, and saw that it was a wonderful ring and worth a thousand tumans, and he said: "Woman, who gave you this ring?"

"No one, it is my own."

"No, you have stolen it," said he, and he seized her and carried her before the darogha, or chief of the police, and said: "O Darogha, last night this woman came and stole a box of mine in which I had a ring, and now she has brought the ring and given it to me as if it were her own, and I have arrested her and brought her here before you. If you are indeed Darogha of this district, then deal with her as you think best."

The Darogha said to his men: "Very well, arrest her," and they seized the poor woman, and the Darogha gave orders and they cut off her ears.

"Now be off with you," said he, and she returned to her children and began to bewail herself, saying: "O God, grant not pardon to that Derwish. All other nights we were better off than this, for tonight not only are we hungry, but I have had my ears cut off. I know not whence he stole the ring which he gave me and told me to take to the Baker, but he must have known it belonged to the Baker. Wretch! When you knew you had stolen it, why did you tell me to take it back? O Lord, may this Derwish find no happiness during the rest of his existence since he has brought this misery into our lives!"

Now Shah Abbas came along, as on the preceding night, to see how they fared, and again he heard them sighing and lamenting, but their lamentation was greater than before. He went on and entered the house, and all the children screamed out together, "O Mother, the Derwish of last night has come again!" and the woman said: "O Derwish, God grant that you may enjoy no happiness while you live!"

"Sister," said he, "why?"

Then she told him all the story, and he said: "Good, get up and come along to my house." She got up, and they took the children on their shoulders and came to the door of the Shah's palace, and they entered the royal court. But the woman said: "Where is he taking us to?" and she was afraid.

Then he took them and handed them over to the eunuch in charge of the harem, saying: "Take good care of these people, and apply a salve to this woman's ears."

Then he went away, but he lay awake till daybreak and could not sleep, but kept saying: "O God, what am I to do about the wrong I have done to these children and to this woman who has had her ears cut off?"

Meanwhile the eunuch of the harem came and applied a salve to her wounds and she was relieved of her pain.

In the morning Shah Abbas dressed himself in crimson robes, and said: "Go and bring before me such and such a baker and the Darogha of the bazar."

They brought them into his presence, and the Shah said: "O Baker, did you possess that ring? If the ring is yours, produce its fellow. But if you cannot do this and if I have the fellow of it, then it is mine." The Baker produced the ring, and the Shah brought out another ring exactly like it.

And the people present exclaimed: "The two rings are exactly alike; there is no difference between them. They are both the Shah's."

"Good," said the Shah. "Darogha, you are the Chief Police Officer of this district, why do you not ascertain the true facts of a case before you punish people?" and he gave orders, and they crucified both the Baker and the Darogha, and the Shah seized all the wealth and property they possessed and bestowed it on the children and their mother.

The story is ended.


(1000 words)















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