Tales of a Parrot: The Merchant whose Daughter Was Lost

This story is part of the Tales of a Parrot unit. Story source: The Tooti Nameh or Tales of a Parrot, by Ziya'al-Din Nakhshabi (1801).

The Merchant whose Daughter Was Lost

When the sun went into the west and the moon appeared in the east, Khojisteh repaired to the parrot and sat down, contemplative.

The parrot asked, "Alas, my mistress! Why art thou thoughtful tonight?"

Khojisteh said, "Last night these reflections came into my mind – whether my lover is wise or simple, learned or ignorant. If he is silly, his society will resemble death." 

The parrot said, "My mistress, go this time to the house of your lover and relate to him the story of the merchant's daughter in order to try his understanding. If he gives you a proper answer, you may esteem him wise."

Khojisteh asked, "What is the nature of the story?"

The parrot began:


In Cabul was an opulent merchant, who had a beautiful daughter, named Zerah (or Venus). Wealthy persons of every city courted her, but the girl did not approve of anyone of them but said to her father, "I will marry one who is either completely wise, or very skilful."

This declaration was rumoured throughout all countries. In one city dwelt three youths, each of whom possessed a valuable art. These three young men went to Cabul and said to the merchant, "If your daughter requires a man of skill, either of us three can assert that character."

One said, "My art is this: whenever any thing is lost, I know where it is, and have also a foreknowledge of future events."

The second said, "I can make such a horse of wood such that whosoever mounts it, floats in the air, like the throne of Solomon."

The third person said, "I am an archer and can pierce any object at which I point my arrow."

The merchant communicated to his daughter the several pretensions of these three youths.

The daughter said, "I will deliberate the matter in my own mind and tell you tomorrow which of them I shall prefer."

At night, the daughter disappeared from the house. In the morning all search was ineffectual; it could not be discovered whither she was gone.

The merchant went to the young man who knew all circumstances relative to anything lost and said, "Inform me where my daughter is."

After an hour's consideration, the man replied, "A fairy has carried your daughter to the summit of a mountain, inaccessible to men."

The merchant then addressed the second youth, saying, "Make you a wooden horse and give it to the young archer that he may mount it and ascend the mountain and, after having killed the fairy with his arrow, bring back the girl."

He made a wooden horse, the young archer mounted, ascended the mountain and, having transfixed the fairy with his shaft, brought away the young virgin.

Each of the three claimed her as his right, and disputation commenced.

When the parrot had brought Khojisteh to this part of the story, he said, "Carry this tale to your lover and ask him to which of the three youths the young woman ought to have been given. If he returns you a proper answer, be satisfied in regard to his understanding."

Khojisteh said, "I must beg you will first tell me to whom the girl justly belonged."

The parrot answered, "To the person who killed the fairy and brought back the merchant's daughter because the others merely exhibited their skill whilst this repaired to the place of danger and exposed himself to great difficulties, regardless of his own life."

The parrot, having finished the story, said to Khojisteh, "Be expeditious, and go to your lover."

She got up and wanted to have gone; the cock crowed, morning appeared, and her visit was deferred.


(600 words)






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