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225 225 Prose Narrative: Four Stories by al-Tanūkhī Al-Faraj baʿd al-shiddah (Relief after Distress or All’s Well That Ends Well) is a collection of stories with happy endings, compiled by Abū ʿAlī al-Muḥassin ibn ʿAlī al-Tanūkhī (329/940–384/994), a judge from Baghdad. I. The Girl of al-Ramlah623 Like all stories told by al-Tanūkhī, this tale is presented as fact (but see Hamori , “Folklore in Tanūkhī: The Collector of Ramlah”). It is part of section eight,“On escaping from being killed,” which is appropriate (see the end of the story); but one could hardly call it a story with a happy ending. Al-Ṣafadī summarizes the story in a passage where he argues that courage in women is to be condemned.624 Abū l-Mughīrah Muḥammad ibn Yaʿqūb ibn Yūsuf, the poet from Basra,625 said: I was told by Abū Mūsā ibn ʿAbd Allāh al-Baghdādī: A friend of mine related to me: I was on my way to al-Ramlah,626 by myself, a town I had never visited before. I reached it after people had gone to sleep when night had fallen, so I went to the cemetery and entered one of the domes built over the graves. I laid down a leather shield I had with me and rested on it. Holding my sword close to my body, I lay down to sleep, intending to enter the town in the morning. I felt uneasy about the place and I could not sleep. When I had been awake for a while I heard627 some movement. I said to myself, they are robbers passing by; if I show myself I won’t be safe. Perhaps there’s a whole band of them. So I remained where I was and did not move. Then, very fearfully, I stuck my head out of one of the doors of the dome, and I saw an animal like a wolf,628 moving about. It was heading toward a dome opposite me, turned and circled around it for some time, and then went inside. I had misgivings about it and I didn’t much like what I saw. But I was curious to find out what it was doing. It entered the dome, came out again after a short while, then began to look around, then entered and came quickly out again. Finally it entered, my eyes be- 226 226 226 226 Prose ing fixed upon it, and it struck the earth of a grave in the dome with its paw, scattering it about. Surely a grave robber, I said to myself. I watched it digging with its paw629 and I noticed that in its paw it held an iron implement with which it was digging. I let it be until it felt safe. It kept digging a great deal for a long while. Then I took my sword and my shield and went on tiptoe and entered the dome. It noticed me and stood upright, like a human being, and advanced toward me. It moved as if to hit me with its paw so I struck the paw with my sword, severing it so that it flew into the air. It cried out, “Ah! You’ve killed me! God curse you!” He ran away from me and I pursued him—it was a moonlit night—until he entered the town. I stayed behind, but without overtaking him, staying where I could see him. He went through many streets. All the while I was marking the road so as not to lose my way. Finally he arrived at a door, pushed it open and went in; I heard him lock the door. I marked the door and retraced my steps by means of the marks I hade made. I reached the dome where the grave robber had been. I searched for the hand, found it, brought it into the light of the moon and with some effort I extricated the severed hand from the iron implement, which turned out to be like a glove, in the shape of a hand, with the fingers inserted into its fingers. And behold, it was a hand adorned with henna tracings and two gold rings! So I knew it was a woman’s hand. When I realized that the creature was a woman I was sad. I looked at the hand, and it was...


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