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318 318 A Fairytale: The Tale of the Forty Girls1072 This tale (Ḥadīth al-arbaʿīn al-jāriyah) is taken from an anonymous manuscript dating from the thirteenth or fourteenth century, featuring “Wonderful Tales and Strange Stories” that are akin to those in the Thousand and One Nights. The story, about a prince who plays Goldilocks to forty girls, eating from their plates and sleeping in their beds (though not alone), is not known from other sources, although its various motifs are well known in Middle Eastern and European folktales. The tale (which I confess I find rather silly and which suffers from a surfeit of girls) resembles several stories of the Thousand and One Nights: in “The Third Qalandar’s Tale” (embedded in the story of “The Porter and the Three Ladies”) a man lives in a castle belonging to an Amazon community, opens a forbidden door, and is carried off by a flying horse (trans. Lyons, I:101–5); in “The Man Who Never Laughed During the Rest of His Days” (part of the cycle “The Craft and Malice of Women”) a man also marries an Amazon-like girl and opens a forbidden door (trans. Lyons, II:575); and the same is found in the story of “Hasan of Basra” (trans. Lyons, III:161–69).1073 The language of the story often deviates from standard grammar (such as using masculine plural forms where feminine forms are required, or plural instead of dual forms) and the style is simple, with only occasionally a florid passage in sajʿ (imitated in the translation in most cases). The Tale of the Forty Girls and What Happened to Them with the King; with a Happy Ending. It is told—but God knows best, He who is the greatest and loftiest, the mightiest and most bountiful, the kindest and most merciful—that in times of yore there was a mighty king of Persia who reigned over a huge realm. He had three sons and he lived a life of opulence until he was eighty years old. Then, one day, he thought about his kingdom and who would succeed him after his death.1074 He called for his eldest son, who was called Bahrām, and said to him, “Know that last night I dreamed that I was riding a black horse. I was carrying a sword in its scabbard and I was wearing a black turban and a robe of black brocade. I was riding in an empty 319 319 319 319 A Fairytale desert, without water or pasture. Eventually I reached a turbulent river.1075 Being terrified of that desert I flung myself, just as I was, into that sea, on my horse, crossed it, and reached the other side. How do you think, my son, one should interpret this dream?” He replied, “Father, the horse is might, the sword is power, the black color is the many years you will live, and the river is life—more than a hundred years in lasting rule and might that is here to stay.” The king was glad with his son’s interpretation of the dream. He said, “My dear boy, rejoice and be of good cheer! For you will be my successor and inherit my kingdom after my death.” When the eldest son left the presence of his father the king called for the middle son and said to him, “My son, I dreamed . . .” And he told him exactly what he had told his brother about what he had seen in his dream. The son answered, “Father, you will rule over a mighty kingdom and you will increase in power, from this country of yours as far as the Sea of Darknesses .1076 Perhaps you will advance into the Darknesses one day’s march or more, since you plunged into that black river with your horse.” The king was pleased and said, “Dear son, you will be my partner in my kingdom and the inheritor of my riches.” The son left and the king called for his youngest son, saying to him, “My son, I dreamed …” And he told him what had told his brothers. At that the son’s face grew pale and he said, “Sire, I seek refuge with God from this dream, for the black color means great trouble. Perhaps another king will oppose you, whom you cannot repel. Perhaps it will be one of your sons! It could be me!” The storyteller continues: When the king heard this...


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