The Story Of The Young King Of The Black Isles

: The Arabian Nights Entertainments

You must know, sire, that my father was Mahmoud, the king of this

country, the Black Isles, so called from the four little mountains

which were once islands, while the capital was the place where now the

great lake lies. My story will tell you how these changes came about.

My father died when he was sixty-six, and I succeeded him. I married

my cousin, whom I loved tenderly, and I thought she loved me too.


But one afternoon, when I was half asleep, and was being fanned by two

of her maids, I heard one say to the other, "What a pity it is that our

mistress no longer loves our master! I believe she would like to kill

him if she could, for she is an enchantress."

I soon found by watching that they were right, and when I mortally

wounded a favourite slave of hers for a great crime, she begged that

she might build a palace in the garden, where she wept and bewailed him

for two years.

At last I begged her to cease grieving for him, for although he could

not speak or move, by her enchantments she just kept him alive. She

turned upon me in a rage, and said over me some magic words, and I

instantly became as you see me now, half man and half marble.

Then this wicked enchantress changed the capital, which was a very

populous and flourishing city, into the lake and desert plain you saw.

The fish of four colours which are in it are the different races who

lived in the town; the four hills are the four islands which give the

name to my kingdom. All this the enchantress told me to add to my

troubles. And this is not all. Every day she comes and beats me with

a whip of buffalo hide.

When the young king had finished his sad story he burst once more into

tears, and the Sultan was much moved.

"Tell me," he cried, "where is this wicked woman, and where is the

miserable object of her affection, whom she just manages to keep alive?"

"Where she lives I do not know," answered the unhappy prince, "but she

goes every day at sunrise to see if the slave can yet speak to her,

after she has beaten me."

"Unfortunate king," said the Sultan, "I will do what I can to avenge


So he consulted with the young king over the best way to bring this

about, and they agreed their plan should be put in effect the next day.

The Sultan then rested, and the young king gave himself up to happy

hopes of release. The next day the Sultan arose, and then went to the

palace in the garden where the black slave was. He drew his sword and

destroyed the little life that remained in him, and then threw the body

down a well. He then lay down on the couch where the slave had been,

and waited for the enchantress.

She went first to the young king, whom she beat with a hundred blows.

Then she came to the room where she thought her wounded slave was, but

where the Sultan really lay.

She came near his couch and said, "Are you better to-day, my dear

slave? Speak but one word to me."

"How can I be better," answered the Sultan, imitating the language of

the Ethiopians, "when I can never sleep for the cries and groans of

your husband?"

"What joy to hear you speak!" answered the queen. "Do you wish him to

regain his proper shape?"

"Yes," said the Sultan; "hasten to set him at liberty, so that I may no

longer hear his cries."

The queen at once went out and took a cup of water, and said over it

some words that made it boil as if it were on the fire. Then she threw

it over the prince, who at once regained his own form. He was filled

with joy, but the enchantress said, "Hasten away from this place and

never come back, lest I kill you."

So he hid himself to see the end of the Sultan's plan.

The enchantress went back to the Palace of Tears and said, "Now I have

done what you wished."

"What you have done," said the Sultan, "is not enough to cure me.

Every day at midnight all the people whom you have changed into fish

lift their heads out of the lake and cry for vengeance. Go quickly,

and give them their proper shape."

The enchantress hurried away and said some words over the lake.

The fish then became men, women, and children, and the houses and shops

were once more filled. The Sultan's suite, who had encamped by the

lake, were not a little astonished to see themselves in the middle of a

large and beautiful town.

As soon as she had disenchanted it the queen went back to the palace.

"Are you quite well now?" she said.

"Come near," said the Sultan. "Nearer still."

She obeyed. Then he sprang up, and with one blow of his sword he cut

her in two.

Then he went and found the prince.

"Rejoice," he said, "your cruel enemy is dead."

The prince thanked him again and again.

"And now," said the Sultan. "I will go back to my capital, which I am

glad to find is so near yours."

"So near mine!" said the King of the Black Isles.

"Do you know it is a whole year's journey from here? You came here in

a few hours because it was enchanted. But I will accompany you on your


"It will give me much pleasure if you will escort me," said the Sultan,

"and as I have no children, I will make you my heir."

The Sultan and the prince set out together, the Sultan laden with rich

presents from the King of the Black Isles.

The day after he reached his capital the Sultan assembled his court and

told them all that had befallen him, and told them how he intended to

adopt the young king as his heir.

Then he gave each man presents in proportion to his rank.

As for the fisherman, as he was the first cause of the deliverance of

the young prince, the Sultan gave him much money, and made him and his

family happy for the rest of their days.