Story From Arabian Nights - The Merchant And The Jinn

 The Merchant And The Jinn

Long long ago there lived a merchant in a certain town. He was honest and he was prosperous. One day, on his way to a distant city he sat down under a tree for rest. There were some date fruits in his bag. He ate them. As he did so, he hurled their stones in this direction or that. Suddenly he heard a roaring sound. He saw a small coil of smoke before him. The smoke grew dark. A fearful form began to emerge from it. As the merchant feared, soon there stood a jinn before him. "I'll kill you!" the jinn roared forth. "Why, good jinn, can't we be friends?" asked the merchant gathering courage. "You struck my infant son dead by your date stone!" said the jinn. "I'm awfully sorry, jinn, but I did not do such a thing knowingly. You jinns generally remain invisible to human beings. I would have never aimed my stone at your son," explained the merchant. 

"No excuse would satisfy me. I'll be satisfied only by killing you," said the jinn. The merchant understood that the jinn was in no mood to listen to him. He said, "If you must kill me, then just allow me a few days to settle my things at home. I promise to return this day next week." The jinn felt that the merchant did not mean to deceive him. He agreed to his proposal. The merchant paid up his loans, told his son how to take proper care of his business, and fixed his daughter's marriage. Then he took leave of his family and his relatives. In his town, there was not a soul who did not weep for him. Alone the merchant walked into the meadow and sat down under the tree waiting for the jinn. A moment later an old man who passed by, carrying a deer with him, saw him. "Why do you look so sad?" asked the old man. The merchant sighed and told him how he was waiting for his death. "I do not know another man who, true to his word, would have come back to be killed by the jinn," observed the old man. He decided to wait there for the jinn's arrival. Soon there reached another old man coming from another direction, two dogs following him. Sitting down for rest, he too heard the merchant's story and felt so deeply moved that he could not go away. There was a roaring sound and, out of a puff of smoke that grew dark and dense, appeared the jinn. "Come out and get killed," the jinn told the merchant. 

"O good jinn, will you not spare the life of this truthful merchant?" said the first old man. "Only if you knew what he has done to me!" retorted the jinn angrily. "Good jinn, whatever the merchant did, he did unwittingly. But there are people who do wicked things in full awareness of the nature of their deeds. I have suffered such wickedness. Do you see this deer with me? Well, if I tell you the story behind it and if you find the story interesting enough, will you spare the merchant's life?" asked the first old man. "I can spare half of his life," promised the jinn. The old man told his story: I married for a second time as my first wife did not bear me any child. A son was born to my second wife, and a bonny boy it was. I had to be away from my home for a full year when my son was in his teens. On my return, I did not see him or his mother. My first wife, shedding tears, told me that my second wife had died and my son had left home without telling her where he was going. I looked for my son here and there but in vain. However hard I tried to forget my anxiety, I could not. Days passed.

Came the new year's day. My wife said that we should have a feast. She showed me a cow and proposed that it be killed. I had no objection to it. But the cow gave out such heart-rending lows that I told my servant not to kill it. But my wife insisted that it be killed. So it was. But something in my mind forbade me to eat its flesh. I gave it away to my neighbors. The cow had left a handsome and healthy calf behind. My wife now proposed that it be killed. But when it was being dragged out of the cowshed, it broke away from the servant's hold and, coming to me, nudged me affectionately with its tender head and licked my hand. "I cannot stand the sight of it being killed. Lead it away to your home and kill it there," I told my servant. In the evening the servant met me. He was excited. He requested me to follow him which I did. The calf was inside his room. His daughter was fondling it. "Who do you think this calf is?" asked my servant. I was intrigued by his question. He explained, "Sir, this is none but your lost son! Your first wife, this boy's stepmother, did this to your boy when you were away, thanks to her knowledge of black magic. It has so happened that my daughter knows the same science and she could recognize your son in this!" I stood stunned. Surprise and joy kept me speechless for a long time. "My child, can you change this calf into my son? If you can, I'll make you his wife!" "I can. I should also be happy to marry your son. But you must allow me to change your first wife into an animal. If I don't, she will do even greater mischief to me!" said the girl.  

I agreed to the condition. She brought a little water and, muttering certain magic formula, sprinkled it on the calf. Lo and behold, the calf changed into my son. I embraced him and wept with joy. "Where is your mother?" I asked him. "O, father! who do you think was killed while you looked on yourself? That cow was my mother!" he said. You can imagine my agony. However, I controlled myself and got the girl married to my son. Then I led them home. At the sight of my son, my first wife shrieked. Instantly my daughter-in-law cast her charm on her and she was reduced to this deer. Years have passed. Although this woman has caused me great pain, I still have compassion for her and I let her accompany me wherever I go. When the old man finished his story, the jinn said, "Your story is very interesting. As promised, I spare half of the life of the merchant." Said the second old man, "O jinn, will you spare the other half of the merchant's life if you find my story interesting enough?" "I will," said the jinn.

The second old man who had been followed by two dogs told his story: We were three brothers. With the money our father left for us, we opened three separate shops. My two elder brothers were wayward youths. They squandered away their wealth looking for vain pleasures. Soon they were no better than beggars. I gave them shelter and also a share each in my business. They did not work sincerely, but I did not mind that. Years passed. They proposed that we go out for trading in lands beyond the sea. I was not willing, but as they repeatedly pleaded with me, I agreed to try it.

They had not saved a pie. I spent half of my savings on buying merchandise and hiring a ship. I promised to share my profit with them. We sailed to a couple of ports and did very good business. The day we would set sail for our native town, a woman met me. She was in tattered clothes, but she was beautiful. "O merchant! she spoke to me. "I have no one in this world. Will you please take me with you? I assure you that you won't have regret for your kindness." Her look and her conduct and her words charmed me. I not only agreed to take her with me but also proposed to marry her. She consented and we married. My brothers grew terribly jealous of me. One night suddenly I woke up and found myself sinking in the sea! But the next moment I felt someone drawing me and soon I was on an island. "They had thrown you into the sea while you were asleep!" my wife who sat by my side informed me. "Is that so?" I could not say a thing more. "Yes, I jumped into the water and drew you up here," she said.

"Is it not surprising that a frail woman like you should swim so well? I felt as if I was flying while you were drawing me. Since I cannot see the ship, this island must be situated far from the ship. How could you come over the waves so smoothly?" I asked her. "My husband! I am no human being, but a female jinn. I had a desire to lead a human life for a short time. I could see that you are a good man. That is why I married you. Do you regret marrying me?" she asked me. "Regret? But for you, I had drowned!" I said gratefully. "I will raise a storm and sink that ship. Your brothers deserve to die," she said. "Please don't do any such thing. I won't be happy if they die," I said. "In that case, they ought to be punished in some other fashion," said my wife. "They shall be under a curse for ten years." She turned into an eagle and, over the sea and the hills and the towns and villages, flew me, carrying me on her back, to my home. It was still night and nobody knew how I landed!. She became a woman again.

A week or so later she told me that my brothers were waiting outside the door. She also thanked me for having accepted her as my wife. Then, turning into a bird, she flew away through my window. I opened the door to meet my brothers. But where were they? I heard a mild barking and saw these two dogs. They moaned and in many ways showed that they indeed were my brothers, changed into dogs. I remembered my wife saying that they will remain under a curse for ten years. I have looked after them well. I keep them always with me lest others would misbehave with them taking them to be nothing more than dogs. The period of their curse would soon be over. They will become human beings again, better human beings, I hope. The jinn heard the story with amazement. Then he said. "Your story is as interesting as the other one's. I spare the second half of the merchant's life too!." Thus the two old men saved the merchant from death. The merchant thanked the old men and thanked the jinn and returned home, to the great joy of his family and friends.   

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