Fifth Voyage

: The Arabian Nights Entertainments

Not even all that I had gone through could make me contented with a

quiet life. I soon wearied of its pleasures, and longed for change and

adventure. Therefore I set out once more, but this time in a ship of

my own, which I built and fitted out at the nearest seaport. I wished

to be able to call at whatever port I chose, taking my own time; but as

I did not intend carrying enough goods for a full cargo, I invited

eral merchants of different nations to join me. We set sail with

the first favourable wind, and after a long voyage upon the open seas

we landed upon an unknown island which proved to be uninhabited. We

determined, however, to explore it, but had not gone far when we found

a roc's egg, as large as the one I had seen before and evidently very

nearly hatched, for the beak of the young bird had already pierced the

shell. In spite of all I could say to deter them, the merchants who

were with me fell upon it with their hatchets, breaking the shell, and

killing the young roc. Then lighting a fire upon the ground they

hacked morsels from the bird, and proceeded to roast them while I stood

by aghast.

Scarcely had they finished their ill-omened repast, when the air above

us was darkened by two mighty shadows. The captain of my ship, knowing

by experience what this meant, cried out to us that the parent birds

were coming, and urged us to get on board with all speed. This we did,

and the sails were hoisted, but before we had made any way the rocs

reached their despoiled nest and hovered about it, uttering frightful

cries when they discovered the mangled remains of their young one. For

a moment we lost sight of them, and were flattering ourselves that we

had escaped, when they reappeared and soared into the air directly over

our vessel, and we saw that each held in its claws an immense rock

ready to crush us. There was a moment of breathless suspense, then one

bird loosed its hold and the huge block of stone hurtled through the

air, but thanks to the presence of mind of the helmsman, who turned our

ship violently in another direction, it fell into the sea close beside

us, cleaving it asunder till we could nearly see the bottom. We had

hardly time to draw a breath of relief before the other rock fell with

a mighty crash right in the midst of our luckless vessel, smashing it

into a thousand fragments, and crushing, or hurling into the sea,

passengers and crew. I myself went down with the rest, but had the

good fortune to rise unhurt, and by holding on to a piece of driftwood

with one hand and swimming with the other I kept myself afloat and was

presently washed up by the tide on to an island. Its shores were steep

and rocky, but I scrambled up safely and threw myself down to rest upon

the green turf.

When I had somewhat recovered I began to examine the spot in which I

found myself, and truly it seemed to me that I had reached a garden of

delights. There were trees everywhere, and they were laden with

flowers and fruit, while a crystal stream wandered in and out under

their shadow. When night came I slept sweetly in a cosy nook, though

the remembrance that I was alone in a strange land made me sometimes

start up and look around me in alarm, and then I wished heartily that I

had stayed at home at ease. However, the morning sunlight restored my

courage, and I once more wandered among the trees, but always with some

anxiety as to what I might see next. I had penetrated some distance

into the island when I saw an old man bent and feeble sitting upon the

river bank, and at first I took him to be some ship-wrecked mariner

like myself. Going up to him I greeted him in a friendly way, but he

only nodded his head at me in reply. I then asked what he did there,

and he made signs to me that he wished to get across the river to

gather some fruit, and seemed to beg me to carry him on my back.

Pitying his age and feebleness, I took him up, and wading across the

stream I bent down that he might more easily reach the bank, and bade

him get down. But instead of allowing himself to be set upon his feet

(even now it makes me laugh to think of it!), this creature who had

seemed to me so decrepit leaped nimbly upon my shoulders, and hooking

his legs round my neck gripped me so tightly that I was well-nigh

choked, and so overcome with terror that I fell insensible to the

ground. When I recovered my enemy was still in his place, though he

had released his hold enough to allow me breathing space, and seeing me

revive he prodded me adroitly first with one foot and then with the

other, until I was forced to get up and stagger about with him under

the trees while he gathered and ate the choicest fruits. This went on

all day, and even at night, when I threw myself down half dead with

weariness, the terrible old man held on tight to my neck, nor did he

fail to greet the first glimmer of morning light by drumming upon me

with his heels, until I perforce awoke and resumed my dreary march with

rage and bitterness in my heart.

It happened one day that I passed a tree under which lay several dry

gourds, and catching one up I amused myself with scooping out its

contents and pressing into it the juice of several bunches of grapes

which hung from every bush. When it was full I left it propped in the

fork of a tree, and a few days later, carrying the hateful old man that

way, I snatched at my gourd as I passed it and had the satisfaction of

a draught of excellent wine so good and refreshing that I even forgot

my detestable burden, and began to sing and caper.

The old monster was not slow to perceive the effect which my draught

had produced and that I carried him more lightly than usual, so he

stretched out his skinny hand and seizing the gourd first tasted its

contents cautiously, then drained them to the very last drop. The wine

was strong and the gourd capacious, so he also began to sing after a

fashion, and soon I had the delight of feeling the iron grip of his

goblin legs unclasp, and with one vigorous effort I threw him to the

ground, from which he never moved again. I was so rejoiced to have at

last got rid of this uncanny old man that I ran leaping and bounding

down to the sea shore, where, by the greatest good luck, I met with

some mariners who had anchored off the island to enjoy the delicious

fruits, and to renew their supply of water.

They heard the story of my escape with amazement, saying, "You fell

into the hands of the Old Man of the Sea, and it is a mercy that he did

not strangle you as he has everyone else upon whose shoulders he has

managed to perch himself. This island is well known as the scene of

his evil deeds, and no merchant or sailor who lands upon it cares to

stray far away from his comrades." After we had talked for a while

they took me back with them on board their ship, where the captain

received me kindly, and we soon set sail, and after several days

reached a large and prosperous-looking town where all the houses were

built of stone. Here we anchored, and one of the merchants, who had

been very friendly to me on the way, took me ashore with him and showed

me a lodging set apart for strange merchants. He then provided me with

a large sack, and pointed out to me a party of others equipped in like


"Go with them," said he, "and do as they do, but beware of losing sight

of them, for if you strayed your life would be in danger."

With that he supplied me with provisions, and bade me farewell, and I

set out with my new companions. I soon learnt that the object of our

expedition was to fill our sacks with cocoanuts, but when at length I

saw the trees and noted their immense height and the slippery

smoothness of their slender trunks, I did not at all understand how we

were to do it. The crowns of the cocoa-palms were all alive with

monkeys, big and little, which skipped from one to the other with

surprising agility, seeming to be curious about us and disturbed at our

appearance, and I was at first surprised when my companions after

collecting stones began to throw them at the lively creatures, which

seemed to me quite harmless. But very soon I saw the reason of it and

joined them heartily, for the monkeys, annoyed and wishing to pay us

back in our own coin, began to tear the nuts from the trees and cast

them at us with angry and spiteful gestures, so that after very little

labour our sacks were filled with the fruit which we could not

otherwise have obtained.

As soon as we had as many as we could carry we went back to the town,

where my friend bought my share and advised me to continue the same

occupation until I had earned money enough to carry me to my own

country. This I did, and before long had amassed a considerable sum.

Just then I heard that there was a trading ship ready to sail, and

taking leave of my friend I went on board, carrying with me a goodly

store of cocoanuts; and we sailed first to the islands where pepper

grows, then to Comari where the best aloes wood is found, and where men

drink no wine by an unalterable law. Here I exchanged my nuts for

pepper and good aloes wood, and went a-fishing for pearls with some of

the other merchants, and my divers were so lucky that very soon I had

an immense number, and those very large and perfect. With all these

treasures I came joyfully back to Bagdad, where I disposed of them for

large sums of money, of which I did not fail as before to give the

tenth part to the poor, and after that I rested from my labours and

comforted myself with all the pleasures that my riches could give me.

Having thus ended his story, Sindbad ordered that one hundred sequins

should be given to Hindbad, and the guests then withdrew; but after the

next day's feast he began the account of his sixth voyage as follows.