Friday, December 30, 2005

The Tale of King Shahryar

Read the beginning first, as this is a continuation:

Let us travel back in time. The King Shahryar is a generous and kind man, loved by his subjects, content and satisfied with fate. He adores his wife (who is a model of beauty...and symmetry and perfect loveliness), and if there is any shortcoming in his life, it is the absence of his younger brother Shahzaman, who lives in distant Samarkand and who he longs to see. He decides to invite Shahzaman to come and visit him.

But when Shahzaman arrives, it becomes apparent that he is deeply unhappy and upset. Shahryar is troubled, but Shahzaman refuses to divulge what makes him so miserable. What is the secret that Shahzaman is hiding, and which Shahryar does not know?

I will tell you this now...

The Tale of King Shahzaman

King Shahzaman was very pleased to receive the invitation from his brother, and decided to set out for his kingdom at once. But in the middle of the night, only a little way outside his own city, he realised that he had left something behind and immediately rode back alone to his palace to retrieve it. He entered his bed chambers and found his wife sleeping in the embrace of a dirty foul-smelling servant.

He thought: If such case happen while I am yet within sight of the city, what will be the doings of this damned whore during my long absence at my brother's court?. He drew his sword and killed them both.

But both the infidelity and murders continued to pray on his mind, and when he reached Shahryar's court, he was still a troubled man.

* * *

So Shahzaman mopes, while Shahryar tries to cheer him up. He organises a hunting expedition for his brother's amusement, but Shahzaman chooses to stay behind and sulk. With the whole court including his brother off on expedition, Shahzaman is free to wander alone around the palace. He comes across a window looking out into a hidden garden full of fountains and flowers. Looking out, he sees lying on the grass ten couples, ten pairs of handsome young men and women, uncovered, fornicating enthusiastically. And alone in the centre of the garden is his brother's shapely and beautiful wife, and she is also without clothing.

Shahzaman hides and watches. The queen's lover arrives - a large, rough looking black man. He embraces the queen, touching her all over, and takes her on the spot. This exercise of lust continues for hours until everyone is exhausted. Then the men finally depart, and the queen is left with her ten hand-maidens.

Shahzaman is amazed. My brother, he speculates, is greater than me in every other respect. But even his wife makes a fool out of him and cheats on him with another man. He laughs and feels much better.

When Shahryar returns from hunting, he finds his brother in excellent humour, eating with relish and full of laughter. Shahryar is very pleased to see this.


Shahryar was less pleased though to discover his wife's treachery. In fact he was distraught. He said to his brother Let us leave our kingdoms and wander through the world, and let us if such a terrible fate has befallen any others

And so the two brothers left their kingdom without telling a soul, and wandered alone across the earth, until they came across the genie and the fair maiden.

The Genie and the Fair Maiden

The genie was big and fierce and fast asleep, his head resting on the maiden's lap. The two brothers tried to hide, but she spotted them. She called out Come here and be with me, or I will wake the Genie and he will surely kill you

Fearful, then obeyed. She undressed, and lay with them both. When she was finished, she said, Give me the ring from your finger. She then told them her story.

This loathesome Genie kidnapped me on my wedding day. Like other men, he is extremely jealous and possessive, and would not have me lie with anyone but him. So when he has to leave me, he keeps me trapped in a box inside a box, locked seven times over, and placed at the bottom of the sea. But when he is asleep, I still lie with as many men as I please. I take from each man a ring as a memory. I had five hundred and seventy two rings earlier, and now I have two more.

Shahryar and Shahzaman marvelled to hear this. Truly, they said, no man should be fool enough to have faith in a woman! Praising God, they each thanked the woman and returned to their kingdom. Shahryar ordered his wife's execution for adultery, and the next day he ordered that a virgin bride be found for him. She too was executed the next day.

No wife of his, Shahryar had decided, was going to cheat on him. And thus began the madness of King Shahryar.