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

no more.

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

climb out.

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

mountain top.

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

our presence."

"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

sent for.

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

the Sultan.

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

in moderation.

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

seen before."

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

was true.

"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

Arab characters.

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.