This story introduces you to the Middle Eastern concept of "kismet," sometimes translated as "fate" in English. The word is comes to English from Turkish, and the Turkish word is in turn from an Arabic root (gasama), which means "to divide, to allot." Compare the English notion of a "lottery," where something is allotted to you by chance... or is it fate? That's kismet!
You will also meet the Turkish word "bey," which is a title referring to a prince or other high-ranking nobleman.
[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Turkish Fairy Tales unit. Story source: Forty-four Turkish Fairy Tales by Ignacz Kunos, with illustrations by Willy Pogany (1913).
Patience-Stone and Patience-Knife
One day as the maiden was at work by the window, a little bird flew in and said: "Oh my poor maiden, your kismet is with a dead person," and immediately flew off again.
The girl's mind was now completely disturbed, and when her mother came home in the evening, she told her what the bird had said.
"Always be sure to fasten the door and window while you are at work," advised her mother.
Next day the girl secured the door and window and commenced her work, when suddenly, purr! — and the bird perched itself on her embroidery table. "Oh my poor maiden, your kismet is with a dead person," it said as before, and flew away. The girl was more frightened than ever and told her mother when she came home.
"Tomorrow," advised her mother, "fasten door and window, creep into the cupboard, and work by candlelight there."
As soon as her mother had taken her departure next morning, the girl fastened up the house, crept into the cupboard, lit a candle, and began her work. She had only made a few stitches when purr! — and the bird was before her. "Oh my poor maiden, your kismet is with a dead person," it repeated, and flew away.
Henceforth neither mother nor daughter quitted the house, but waited constantly lest the bird should return. One day some girls belonging to the neighbourhood came on a visit and requested the woman to let her daughter go out with them to enjoy herself and try to forget her sorrow. The mother was afraid to let her daughter go, but as they promised not to let her out of their sight for a moment, she eventually consented.
The party went into the meadows, and danced and made merry till sunset. On their way home, they stopped at a spring to quench their thirst. The poor woman's daughter also went to the spring, and while she was drinking, a wall rose up by magic and cut her off from her companions. Such a wall had never been seen before; it was so high that none could scale it, and so broad that none could cross it. All the girls were terror-stricken; they moaned and wept and ran about in confusion uttering cries of despair — what would become of the poor maiden and of her poor mother!
"I told you," said one, "that we must not take her with us."
"What are we to say to her mother?" asked another. "How can we face her?"
"It's your fault — you proposed it," said a third, and thus they disputed while gazing helplessly at the gigantic wall.
The mother, standing at the door, was anxiously awaiting her daughter's return. The girls came weeping loudly and could hardly find the courage to tell the poor woman what had happened. When she understood, however, she ran to the wall, and there the air was filled with lamentations — from the mother on the one side and the daughter on the other.
Exhausted with weeping, the maiden fell asleep, and when she awoke next day, she espied a large door in the wall. Opening the door she saw a splendid serai [palace], more beautiful than she had ever dreamt of. She entered the antechamber and saw forty keys hanging up on the wall. She took them down, and opening each room in turn, she saw in one silver, in another gold, in another diamonds, in a fourth emeralds — in each room a different kind of precious stone till her eyes were aching with their brilliance.
When she came to the fortieth room she saw there a handsome Bey on a bier, a pearl fan beside him; on his breast was a document which read: "Whoever for forty days will fan me and pray by me shall find her kismet."
The maiden now remembered what the little bird had said: that in a dead person she should find her kismet.