The Story Of The Envious Man And Of Him Who Was Envied
: The Arabian Nights Entertainments
In a town of moderate size, two men lived in neighbouring houses; but
they had not been there very long before one man took such a hatred of
the other, and envied him so bitterly, that the poor man determined to
find another home, hoping that when they no longer met every day his
enemy would forget all about him. So he sold his house and the little
furniture it contained, and moved into the capital of the country,
h was luckily at no great distance. About half a mile from this
city he bought a nice little place, with a large garden and a
fair-sized court, in the centre of which stood an old well.
In order to live a quieter life, the good man put on the robe of a
dervish, and divided his house into a quantity of small cells, where he
soon established a number of other dervishes. The fame of his virtue
gradually spread abroad, and many people, including several of the
highest quality, came to visit him and ask his prayers.
Of course it was not long before his reputation reached the ears of the
man who envied him, and this wicked wretch resolved never to rest till
he had in some way worked ill to the dervish whom he hated. So he left
his house and his business to look after themselves, and betook himself
to the new dervish monastery, where he was welcomed by the founder with
all the warmth imaginable. The excuse he gave for his appearance was
that he had come to consult the chief of the dervishes on a private
matter of great importance. "What I have to say must not be
overheard," he whispered; "command, I beg of you, that your dervishes
retire into their cells, as night is approaching, and meet me in the
The dervish did as he was asked without delay, and directly they were
alone together the envious man began to tell a long story, edging, as
they walked to and fro, always nearer to the well, and when they were
quite close, he seized the dervish and dropped him in. He then ran off
triumphantly, without having been seen by anyone, and congratulating
himself that the object of his hatred was dead, and would trouble him
But in this he was mistaken! The old well had long been inhabited
(unknown to mere human beings) by a set of fairies and genii, who
caught the dervish as he fell, so that he received no hurt. The
dervish himself could see nothing, but he took for granted that
something strange had happened, or he must certainly have been dashed
against the side of the well and been killed. He lay quite still, and
in a moment he heard a voice saying, "Can you guess whom this man is
that we have saved from death?"
"No," replied several other voices.
And the first speaker answered, "I will tell you. This man, from pure
goodness of heart, forsook the town where he lived and came to dwell
here, in the hope of curing one of his neighbours of the envy he felt
towards him. But his character soon won him the esteem of all, and the
envious man's hatred grew, till he came here with the deliberate
intention of causing his death. And this he would have done, without
our help, the very day before the Sultan has arranged to visit this
holy dervish, and to entreat his prayers for the princess, his
"But what is the matter with the princess that she needs the dervish's
prayers?" asked another voice.
"She has fallen into the power of the genius Maimoum, the son of
Dimdim," replied the first voice. "But it would be quite simple for
this holy chief of the dervishes to cure her if he only knew! In his
convent there is a black cat which has a tiny white tip to its tail.
Now to cure the princess the dervish must pull out seven of these white
hairs, burn three, and with their smoke perfume the head of the
princess. This will deliver her so completely that Maimoum, the son of
Dimdim, will never dare to approach her again."
The fairies and genii ceased talking, but the dervish did not forget a
word of all they had said; and when morning came he perceived a place
in the side of the well which was broken, and where he could easily
The dervishes, who could not imagine what had become of him, were
enchanted at his reappearance. He told them of the attempt on his life
made by his guest of the previous day, and then retired into his cell.
He was soon joined here by the black cat of which the voice had spoken,
who came as usual to say good-morning to his master. He took him on
his knee and seized the opportunity to pull seven white hairs out of
his tail, and put them on one side till they were needed.
The sun had not long risen before the Sultan, who was anxious to leave
nothing undone that might deliver the princess, arrived with a large
suite at the gate of the monastery, and was received by the dervishes
with profound respect. The Sultan lost no time in declaring the object
of his visit, and leading the chief of the dervishes aside, he said to
him, "Noble scheik, you have guessed perhaps what I have come to ask
"Yes, sire," answered the dervish; "if I am not mistaken, it is the
illness of the princess which has procured me this honour."
"You are right," returned the Sultan, "and you will give me fresh life
if you can by your prayers deliver my daughter from the strange malady
that has taken possession of her."
"Let your highness command her to come here, and I will see what I can
The Sultan, full of hope, sent orders at once that the princess was to
set out as soon as possible, accompanied by her usual staff of
attendants. When she arrived, she was so thickly veiled that the
dervish could not see her face, but he desired a brazier to be held
over her head, and laid the seven hairs on the burning coals. The
instant they were consumed, terrific cries were heard, but no one could
tell from whom they proceeded. Only the dervish guessed that they were
uttered by Maimoum the son of Dimdim, who felt the princess escaping
All this time she had seemed unconscious of what she was doing, but now
she raised her hand to her veil and uncovered her face. "Where am I?"
she said in a bewildered manner; "and how did I get here?"
The Sultan was so delighted to hear these words that he not only
embraced his daughter, but kissed the hand of the dervish. Then,
turning to his attendants who stood round, he said to them, "What
reward shall I give to the man who has restored me my daughter?"
They all replied with one accord that he deserved the hand of the
"That is my own opinion," said he, "and from this moment I declare him
to be my son-in-law."
Shortly after these events, the grand-vizir died, and his post was
given to the dervish. But he did not hold it for long, for the Sultan
fell a victim to an attack of illness, and as he had no sons, the
soldiers and priests declared the dervish heir to the throne, to the
great joy of all the people.
One day, when the dervish, who had now become Sultan, was making a
royal progress with his court, he perceived the envious man standing in
the crowd. He made a sign to one of his vizirs, and whispered in his
ear, "Fetch me that man who is standing out there, but take great care
not to frighten him." The vizir obeyed, and when the envious man was
brought before the Sultan, the monarch said to him, "My friend, I am
delighted to see you again." Then turning to an officer, he added,
"Give him a thousand pieces of gold out of my treasury, and twenty
waggon-loads of merchandise out of my private stores, and let an escort
of soldiers accompany him home." He then took leave of the envious
man, and went on his way.
Now when I had ended my story, I proceeded to show the genius how to
apply it to himself. "O genius," I said, "you see that this Sultan was
not content with merely forgiving the envious man for the attempt on
his life; he heaped rewards and riches upon him."
But the genius had made up his mind, and could not be softened. "Do
not imagine that you are going to escape so easily," he said. "All I
can do is to give you bare life; you will have to learn what happens to
people who interfere with me."
As he spoke he seized me violently by the arm; the roof of the palace
opened to make way for us, and we mounted up so high into the air that
the earth looked like a little cloud. Then, as before, he came down
with the swiftness of lightning, and we touched the ground on a
Then he stooped and gathered a handful of earth, and murmured some
words over it, after which he threw the earth in my face, saying as he
did so, "Quit the form of a man, and assume that of a monkey." This
done, he vanished, and I was in the likeness of an ape, and in a
country I had never seen before.
However there was no use in stopping where I was, so I came down the
mountain and found myself in a flat plain which was bounded by the sea.
I travelled towards it, and was pleased to see a vessel moored about
half a mile from shore. There were no waves, so I broke off the branch
of a tree, and dragging it down to the water's edge, sat across it,
while, using two sticks for oars, I rowed myself towards the ship.
The deck was full of people, who watched my progress with interest, but
when I seized a rope and swung myself on board, I found that I had only
escaped death at the hands of the genius to perish by those of the
sailors, lest I should bring ill-luck to the vessel and the merchants.
"Throw him into the sea!" cried one. "Knock him on the head with a
hammer," exclaimed another. "Let me shoot him with an arrow," said a
third; and certainly somebody would have had his way if I had not flung
myself at the captain's feet and grasped tight hold of his dress. He
appeared touched by my action and patted my head, and declared that he
would take me under his protection, and that no one should do me any
At the end of about fifty days we cast anchor before a large town, and
the ship was immediately surrounded by a multitude of small boats
filled with people, who had come either to meet their friends or from
simple curiosity. Among others, one boat contained several officials,
who asked to see the merchants on board, and informed them that they
had been sent by the Sultan in token of welcome, and to beg them each
to write a few lines on a roll of paper. "In order to explain this
strange request," continued the officers, "it is necessary that you
should know that the grand-vizir, lately dead, was celebrated for his
beautiful handwriting, and the Sultan is anxious to find a similar
talent in his successor. Hitherto the search has been a failure, but
his Highness has not yet given up hope."
One after another the merchants set down a few lines upon the roll, and
when they had all finished, I came forward, and snatched the paper from
the man who held it. At first they all thought I was going to throw it
into the sea, but they were quieted when they saw I held it with great
care, and great was their surprise when I made signs that I too wished
to write something.
"Let him do it if he wants to," said the captain. "If he only makes a
mess of the paper, you may be sure I will punish him for it. But if,
as I hope, he really can write, for he is the cleverest monkey I ever
saw, I will adopt him as my son. The one I lost had not nearly so much
No more was said, and I took the pen and wrote the six sorts of writing
in use among the Arabs, and each sort contained an original verse or
couplet, in praise of the Sultan. And not only did my handwriting
completely eclipse that of the merchants, but it is hardly too much to
say that none so beautiful had ever before been seen in that country.
When I had ended the officials took the roll and returned to the Sultan.
As soon as the monarch saw my writing he did not so much as look at the
samples of the merchants, but desired his officials to take the finest
and most richly caparisoned horse in his stables, together with the
most magnificent dress they could procure, and to put it on the person
who had written those lines, and bring him to court.
The officials began to laugh when they heard the Sultan's command, but
as soon as they could speak they said, "Deign, your highness, to excuse
our mirth, but those lines were not written by a man but by a monkey."
"A monkey!" exclaimed the Sultan.
"Yes, sire," answered the officials. "They were written by a monkey in
"Then bring me the monkey," he replied, "as fast as you can."
The Sultan's officials returned to the ship and showed the royal order
to the captain.
"He is the master," said the good man, and desired that I should be
Then they put on me the gorgeous robe and rowed me to land, where I was
placed on the horse and led to the palace. Here the Sultan was
awaiting me in great state surrounded by his court.
All the way along the streets I had been the object of curiosity to a
vast crowd, which had filled every doorway and every window, and it was
amidst their shouts and cheers that I was ushered into the presence of
I approached the throne on which he was seated and made him three low
bows, then prostrated myself at his feet to the surprise of everyone,
who could not understand how it was possible that a monkey should be
able to distinguish a Sultan from other people, and to pay him the
respect due to his rank. However, excepting the usual speech, I
omitted none of the common forms attending a royal audience.
When it was over the Sultan dismissed all the court, keeping with him
only the chief of the eunuchs and a little slave. He then passed into
another room and ordered food to be brought, making signs to me to sit
at table with him and eat. I rose from my seat, kissed the ground, and
took my place at the table, eating, as you may suppose, with care and
Before the dishes were removed I made signs that writing materials,
which stood in one corner of the room, should be laid in front of me.
I then took a peach and wrote on it some verses in praise of the
Sultan, who was speechless with astonishment; but when I did the same
thing on a glass from which I had drunk he murmured to himself, "Why, a
man who could do as much would be cleverer than any other man, and this
is only a monkey!"
Supper being over chessmen were brought, and the Sultan signed to me to
know if I would play with him. I kissed the ground and laid my hand on
my head to show that I was ready to show myself worthy of the honour.
He beat me the first game, but I won the second and third, and seeing
that this did not quite please I dashed off a verse by way of
The Sultan was so enchanted with all the talents of which I had given
proof that he wished me to exhibit some of them to other people. So
turning to the chief of the eunuchs he said, "Go and beg my daughter,
Queen of Beauty, to come here. I will show her something she has never
The chief of the eunuchs bowed and left the room, ushering in a few
moments later the princess, Queen of Beauty. Her face was uncovered,
but the moment she set foot in the room she threw her veil over her
head. "Sire," she said to her father, "what can you be thinking of to
summon me like this into the presence of a man?"
"I do not understand you," replied the Sultan. "There is nobody here
but the eunuch, who is your own servant, the little slave, and myself,
yet you cover yourself with your veil and reproach me for having sent
for you, as if I had committed a crime."
"Sire," answered the princess, "I am right and you are wrong. This
monkey is really no monkey at all, but a young prince who has been
turned into a monkey by the wicked spells of a genius, son of the
daughter of Eblis."
As will be imagined, these words took the Sultan by surprise, and he
looked at me to see how I should take the statement of the princess.
As I was unable to speak, I placed my hand on my head to show that it
"But how do you know this, my daughter?" asked he.
"Sire," replied Queen of Beauty, "the old lady who took care of me in
my childhood was an accomplished magician, and she taught me seventy
rules of her art, by means of which I could, in the twinkling of an
eye, transplant your capital into the middle of the ocean. Her art
likewise teaches me to recognise at first sight all persons who are
enchanted, and tells me by whom the spell was wrought."
"My daughter," said the Sultan, "I really had no idea you were so
"Sire," replied the princess, "there are many out-of-the-way things it
is as well to know, but one should never boast of them."
"Well," asked the Sultan, "can you tell me what must be done to
disenchant the young prince?"
"Certainly; and I can do it."
"Then restore him to his former shape," cried the Sultan. "You could
give me no greater pleasure, for I wish to make him my grand-vizir, and
to give him to you for your husband."
"As your Highness pleases," replied the princess.
Queen of Beauty rose and went to her chamber, from which she fetched a
knife with some Hebrew words engraven on the blade. She then desired
the Sultan, the chief of the eunuchs, the little slave, and myself to
descend into a secret court of the palace, and placed us beneath a
gallery which ran all round, she herself standing in the centre of the
court. Here she traced a large circle and in it wrote several words in
When the circle and the writing were finished she stood in the middle
of it and repeated some verses from the Koran. Slowly the air grew
dark, and we felt as if the earth was about to crumble away, and our
fright was by no means diminished at seeing the genius, son of the
daughter of Eblis, suddenly appear under the form of a colossal lion.
"Dog," cried the princess when she first caught sight of him, "you
think to strike terror into me by daring to present yourself before me
in this hideous shape."
"And you," retorted the lion, "have not feared to break our treaty that
engaged solemnly we should never interfere with each other."
"Accursed genius!" exclaimed the princess, "it is you by whom that
treaty was first broken."
"I will teach you how to give me so much trouble," said the lion, and
opening his huge mouth he advanced to swallow her. But the princess
expected something of the sort and was on her guard. She bounded on
one side, and seizing one of the hairs of his mane repeated two or
three words over it. In an instant it became a sword, and with a sharp
blow she cut the lion's body into two pieces. These pieces vanished no
one knew where, and only the lion's head remained, which was at once
changed into a scorpion. Quick as thought the princess assumed the
form of a serpent and gave battle to the scorpion, who, finding he was
getting the worst of it, turned himself into an eagle and took flight.
But in a moment the serpent had become an eagle more powerful still,
who soared up in the air and after him, and then we lost sight of them
We all remained where we were quaking with anxiety, when the ground
opened in front of us and a black and white cat leapt out, its hair
standing on end, and miauing frightfully. At its heels was a wolf, who
had almost seized it, when the cat changed itself into a worm, and,
piercing the skin of a pomegranate which had tumbled from a tree, hid
itself in the fruit. The pomegranate swelled till it grew as large as
a pumpkin, and raised itself on to the roof of the gallery, from which
it fell into the court and was broken into bits. While this was taking
place the wolf, who had transformed himself into a cock, began to
swallow the seed of the pomegranate as fast as he could. When all were
gone he flew towards us, flapping his wings as if to ask if we saw any
more, when suddenly his eye fell on one which lay on the bank of the
little canal that flowed through the court; he hastened towards it, but
before he could touch it the seed rolled into the canal and became a
fish. The cock flung himself in after the fish and took the shape of a
pike, and for two hours they chased each other up and down under the
water, uttering horrible cries, but we could see nothing. At length
they rose from the water in their proper forms, but darting such flames
of fire from their mouths that we dreaded lest the palace should catch
fire. Soon, however, we had much greater cause for alarm, as the
genius, having shaken off the princess, flew towards us. Our fate
would have been sealed if the princess, seeing our danger, had not
attracted the attention of the genius to herself. As it was, the
Sultan's beard was singed and his face scorched, the chief of the
eunuchs was burned to a cinder, while a spark deprived me of the sight
of one eye. Both I and the Sultan had given up all hope of a rescue,
when there was a shout of "Victory, victory!" from the princess, and
the genius lay at her feet a great heap of ashes.
Exhausted though she was, the princess at once ordered the little
slave, who alone was uninjured, to bring her a cup of water, which she
took in her hand. First repeating some magic words over it, she dashed
it into my face saying, "If you are only a monkey by enchantment,
resume the form of the man you were before." In an instant I stood
before her the same man I had formerly been, though having lost the
sight of one eye.
I was about to fall on my knees and thank the princess but she did not
give me time. Turning to the Sultan, her father, she said, "Sire, I
have gained the battle, but it has cost me dear. The fire has
penetrated to my heart, and I have only a few moments to live. This
would not have happened if I had only noticed the last pomegranate seed
and eaten it like the rest. It was the last struggle of the genius,
and up to that time I was quite safe. But having let this chance slip
I was forced to resort to fire, and in spite of all his experience I
showed the genius that I knew more than he did. He is dead and in
ashes, but my own death is approaching fast." "My daughter," cried the
Sultan, "how sad is my condition! I am only surprised I am alive at
all! The eunuch is consumed by the flames, and the prince whom you
have delivered has lost the sight of one eye." He could say no more,
for sobs choked his voice, and we all wept together.
Suddenly the princess shrieked, "I burn, I burn!" and death came to
free her from her torments.
I have no words, madam, to tell you of my feelings at this terrible
sight. I would rather have remained a monkey all my life than let my
benefactress perish in this shocking manner. As for the Sultan, he was
quite inconsolable, and his subjects, who had dearly loved the
princess, shared his grief. For seven days the whole nation mourned,
and then the ashes of the princess were buried with great pomp, and a
superb tomb was raised over her.
As soon as the Sultan recovered from the severe illness which had
seized him after the death of the princess he sent for me and plainly,
though politely, informed me that my presence would always remind him
of his loss, and he begged that I would instantly quit his kingdom, and
on pain of death never return to it. I was, of course, bound to obey,
and not knowing what was to become of me I shaved my beard and eyebrows
and put on the dress of a calender. After wandering aimlessly through
several countries, I resolved to come to Bagdad and request an audience
of the Commander of the Faithful.
And that, madam, is my story.
The other Calender then told his story.