Did you know that Edgar Allen Poe wrote a story called "The Thousand and Second Night" where Shaharazad commits suicide
? THE ARABIAN NIGHTS (Are in the public domain! *rejoices*)
Title: The Jeweler and the Man from Mosul
Book: The Arabian Nights, trans. Hussain Haddaway
Note: BLOCK PARAGRAPHS OF DEATH, other forms of tediousness.
Note2: Written as an actual Night, so I guess it's more orignal fiction than fanfiction.
I heard, O happy king, that there once lived in Damascus a man who traded in jewelry and whose faults were as many as his appetites. He was dishonest, greedy, grasping, duplicitous, and mean-spirited, so that although he made money from the sales of necklaces and rings, bangles and ornamental daggers, he was not well liked, and had few friends and no confidants. Of those friends he did have, many were of a similarly odious character, and would only keep company with him when he supplied them with food, wine, and entertainment. Because of this, he was always throwing parties and spending all his money. When he had run out of money, he used to cheat travelers entering his shop who, being new to the city, were unaware of his bad reputation. He would give them a fine piece of jewelry to examine, such as a gold ring inlaid with rubies and pearls or a dagger whose hilt was decorated with silver thread and all kinds of jewels, quoting a very reasonable price; but after the item had been purchased he would substitute another item of inferior quality. He only pulled this trick on strangers dressed for a journey; the switch was performed when he wrapped their purchases for travel, so that it would not be discovered until the purchaser was safely out of the city. In this way, he hoped to avoid detection and punishment by the caliph -- but God sees the truth and knows best what men do.
It so happened that one day a handsome young man entered his shop dressed for a journey. The shopkeeper had drunk all of his profit from the week before and, noticing that the man wore a an intricately embroidered linen shirt under a sash edged with gold, and at his waist was a sword decorated with topaz, opal, and mother-of-pearl, he thought, “This man looks rich.” Then he showed him the most expensive item in his shop, a solid gold bracelet as wide as a manacle, studded with rubies and diamonds, and when the man purchased it immediately, not even bothering to examine it, the shopkeeper thought, “This man has more money than sense,” and was excited, thinking that he would be easily tricked. As the shopkeeper was wrapping the purchase, he turned his back to the young man and, out of his sight, exchanged it for a cheap bracelet made from iron with gold paint and red and white glass stones. But when he handed the wrapped bundle to him, the young man immediately flung it back into his face, saying, “This is not the bracelet I bought."
The shopkeeper, pretending confusion, said, “There must be some mistake,” and although the young man repeated his statement he continued to protest his innocence. News of their confrontation spread throughout the shopper’s district, and various people began to gather in front of the shop. The shopkeeper became worried that the young man would lose his temper, draw his sword, and kill him. But at that moment a captain of the city guard, hearing the commotion, arrived and arrested both of them and took them to the palace and presented them to the caliph. But morning overtook Shaharazad, and she lapsed into silence.
The following night Shaharazad said:
The caliph at that time was a fair and just ruler who was known for his benevolence, compassion, and generosity, and also for beheading all those who lied or tried to cheat others. When the two men were brought before him and questioned, the young man told him what had happened, while the shopkeeper, fearing for his life, lied and said, “O wise and generous king, the bracelet I sold to this young man was indeed an inferior one, but he bought it without even examining it and now he is claiming that there was another bracelet.” Turning to the young man, the caliph asked, “Is it true that you bought the bracelet without examining it?” The young man assented, saying, “It is true.” Then the caliph sent for the bracelets to be brought before him and for witnesses, but neither the gold bracelet nor any witnesses could be found, for the shopkeeper had cleverly hidden the evidence. The caliph told the young man, “Explain how it is that you were able to distinguish between two bracelets without examining them, or I will have you executed for bearing false witness. On the other hand, if you succeed in convincing me that such a thing is possible, I will have the shopkeeper executed for fraud.” The young man said, “Very well, I will tell you. I know because I am from Mosul, and therefore familiar with these kinds of tricks.”
"When I lived in that city, the king of Mosul had no vizier, but only a court magician paid to perform amazing and entertaining feats. However the king's magician was a very old man, of meager skill, whose reason had almost left him, and he used to do the same tricks over and over. The king would have replaced him, but for the fact that he had been magician to the king's father, and had been promised a place at court by his grandfather, for whom he had once performed a great service. Eventually, however, the king became so tired and bored that he ordered the magician to perform a feat more amazing and miraculous than his previous feats, or else be executed. He was given until that evening to prepare. The magician was terrified and, dressing himself in a heavy cloak so that he would not be recognized, he left the palace for the marketplace, where he used to purchase the special oils and smokes with which he dazzled the court – for the man could do no true magic, but only a certain kind of sleight-of-hand.
The magician met with a man who sold smokes, oils, and incense and explained his predicament. The man told him, “I can give you want you need, but you'll have to pay 500 dinars for it.” The magician was appalled by this price, for it was far beyond what he was used to paying, and replied, “By God, I will not.” He and the man began to argue, and as they argued they grew louder and louder, until everyone who was keeping a stall in the marketplace knew that the king's magician had come to buy a miracle. They continued to argue in this way for a long time, and then the magician said, “Very well, I will pay 500 dinars for I have no choice, as you know. May God punish your greed.” Then he paid 500 dinars and took away a large wooden crate tied with rope, which he hired a porter to carry back to the palace.
For the rest of the day, every time a loaf of bread was sold, or a fish, or some spiced wine in an earthen pot, the owner of the stall would say, as the porter was loading the purchase, “Did you hear about the king's magician?” Then the man would had just purchased the loaf of bread or fish or wine would say, “No, what is the story?” and in this way many people came to learn about the magician who bought a miracle for 500 dinars. One of the people who learned of it in this way was Hisshan ibn-Haram, a wealthy Muslim trader who bought and sold patterned cloth. But morning overtook Shaharazad, and she lapsed into silence.
The following night Shaharazad said:
When Hisshan al-Din Hasam heard the story of the magician, he was outraged. He turned to his companion, who was also his cousin, and said, “Isn't it unfair that I work hard, buying and selling and living honestly, while people like the king's magician lie and cheat to live comfortable lives?” His cousin said, “It's unfair,” because he wanted to ask for money from Hisshan al-Din Hasam and didn't want to upset him. Hisshan al-Din often complained that this or that person's life was easier than his, although was married to a rich and beautiful woman and his life was far from hard. Then Hisshan al-Din Hasam said, “Of all the people who lie and cheat and live easy lives, this one is the worst, because he claims that God is the source of his magic, which makes him a blasphemer as well as a cheat.” His cousin said, “I agree with you.” Hisshan al-Din continued to complain in this fashion, and his cousin continued to agree with him, until finally Hisshan al-Din Hasan said, “I must tell the king the truth about his magician. Only then will justice be done.” His cousin nodded, saying, “You're right, you must.”
But Hisshan al-Din Hasam was not satisfied with that, and said, “I have a better idea. Rather than simply tell the king, it would be more advantageous to show him an even better kind of magic, so that I might take the magician's place.” This response confused his cousin, who had never known him to perform any kind of magic. He asked, “But how will you do it?” to which Hisshan al-Din Hasam replied, “Wait and see.”
Then Hisshan al-Din Hasam found the seller of oils and incense whom the magician had paid 500 dinars, and he bought a miracle for 1,000 dinars which the seller promised was twice as miraculous. That night, the king threw a great feast, and both Hisshan al-Din Hasam and the magician were present. They ate many fine foods, such as roast lamb with sage and thyme, Syrian cheese, and almond pastries with cloves and honey. The food was served on silver dishes, and water and fruit juices were served in crystal goblets, and everyone ate at a carved wooden table that was thirty feet long and seated forty people, in a great vaulted room that was large enough for twenty such tables. After they had eaten their fill, the king motioned that the magician was to perform his magic. The magician stood up, and with the king's guests and vassals and singing girls and slaves and guards and Mamluks looking on... But morning overtook Shaharazad, and she lapsed into silence.
The following night Shaharazad said:
I heard, O happy king, that the magician rose and began to chant in an incomprehensible language and to make strange gestures – but this was all an act, for he could no more perform magic than fly, or change his beard from white to black. At once the chamber began to fill with a strange, multicolored smoke. From all directions came the sounds of flutes and tambourines, and the strong smell of wisteria and musk, until the whole room was filled with smoke and noise and incense. Then the smoke cleared, and on the table in front of the king was a wooden box. It was made of aloe wood with inlaid gold and mother-of-pearl, and it was covered in rubies and all kinds of gems, which formed complicated patterns on the lid and sides. Inside, it was lined with red silk. Clapping his hands, the king said, “Indeed, this is a wondrous and miraculous thing.”
Then Hasshin al-Din Hasam stood up and said, “O great king, this miracle is nothing to the miracle I shall perform for you,” and the king, interested, said, “Go ahead.” Hasshin al-Din Hasam began to chant and form mystical signs with his fingers, and once again the room with filled with colored smoke, music and incense. When the smoke cleared, another wooden box sat on the table before the king, identical to the first. Hasshin al-Din Hasam began to curse to himself, ruing his greed, for he had allowed the incense seller to make all of the arrangements, and now he would not be able to expose the trickery of the magician without also exposing himself. Then the king opened the box, and inside were pieces of coral, ambergris, and myrrh, packages of saffron, and rosewater in crystal bottles stopped with gold. Seeing this, Hasshin al-Din was relieved, and said, “O great king, isn't this better and more amazing than the magic of your own magician?”
The king replied, “A full box is indeed preferable to an empty one.” Then Hasshin al-Din Hasan said, “Your slave only wishes to serve you; if you made me your magician, I would serve you even better than this.” The king, thinking that he was bound by the promise his grandfather had made to the old magician, shook his head and said, “Alas, it cannot be. Although a filled box is better than an empty one, both come from the same kind of magic and so neither is more miraculous than the other.” Hassin al-Din did not despair, but said, “O great king, if I perform a magical feat more miraculous than your magician's, will you agree to take me on in his place?” To this, the king agreed. Then Hasshin al-Din Hasan went back to see the incense seller and... But morning overtook Shaharazad, and she lapsed into silence.
The following night Shaharazad said:
Hasshin al-Din Hasan bargained with the incense seller for a miracle that would be ten times more miraculous than the box had been, and eventually a deal was struck and a price agreed upon. The incense seller mentioned that he would need a month to gather together the materials, so Hasshin al-Din had a contract drawn up and signed by four witnesses, then paid him 10,000 dinars and went on his way. This greatly upset his cousin, who had wanted a loan of10,000 dinars so that he could set himself up in business. After a month had passed, Hassin al-Din confirmed that the preparations had all been completed, and then arranged to once again dine with the king. This time, the company ate such things as skewered chicken with tamarind and orange slices, and cream pudding with pistachio nuts, and after they had eaten their fill Hassin al-Din stood and said, “Behold, a feat more amazing than any previously seen,” and he waved his hand and began to chant nonsense.
As before, the chamber filled with smoke, noise, and incense. There was the sound of flutes and also of harps, and the smell was of sandalwood mixed with the fragrances of an entire field of lilies and dahlias. When the smoke had cleared, the music died down, and the scents faded, eight naked slave girls were standing in the room, each as beautiful as a moon. They had full lips, honeyed eyes, waists as slender as boughs, heavy hips, and delicate ankles, and their skin was smooth and had no blemishes, except for one, lovelier than the rest, who had a small well-formed mole on her upper lip. When the king saw them, he was pleased and enchanted, and he said, “This is indeed a more amazing and miraculous sight than any I have witnessed.”
Then the magician stood up, and he too began to chant and the room began to fill with smoke, and the sound of pipes, and the smell of roses and sweet herbs. Again the smoke began to clear and the music to fade.
When the smoke had cleared completely, the king saw that another eight slave girls had appeared, each as beautiful as the moon or as Hasshin al-Din Hasam's slave girls. But rather than being naked, they were clothed each in thin silk robes dyed in deep reds, purples, and blue-greens, and there were gold coins braided into their hair and gold anklets encircling their delicate ankles, as well as gold rings on their elegant fingers and gold sashes bound around their slender waists.
When he saw them, the king was even more delighted, saying, “To be naked requires only for clothing to be taken away, while to be clothed in such finery as this requires great taste and sensibility. This is truly the most amazing and miraculous thing I have ever witnessed.” Hearing this, Hasshin al-Din Hasam was heartbroken. He vowed that he would spare no expense, but would present the king with a miracle so amazing, so miraculous, that it would never be equaled by any other magician. Returning to the incense seller, he did not bargain but paid whatever price the man asked of him, even at the ruin of his business. He used all of his ready money, and also sold all of his merchandise, and when that was not enough he sold his house and he and his wife moved in with his cousin. Expense piled on expense until he no longer knew the sum of what he had spent. After three months of this, he again arranged to dine with the king. But morning overtook Shaharazad, and she lapsed into silence.
The following night Shaharazad said:
I heard, O King, that the young man from Mosul told the caliph:
After everyone had eaten his fill, Hassin al-Din Hasam began to rise, but before he could get to his feet the magician said, “O lord, please allow your servant to perform a small act for you, in recognition of your generosity and wisdom.” Then the king, who had been hoping for another night like the one in which he had received the slave girls, was flattered and pleased and said, “By all means.” So the magician stood and began to chant, and the room was filled with smoke, and incense, and a great thundering filled the air, as if every man in the king’s army were striking a drum. Then the smoke cleared and the king saw that whole room had been filled with fine Arabian horses, each as black as night, and he realized that the thunder had been caused by their hooves striking against the stone floor. He was delighted and ordered the horses put into lines, so that he could count them, and when his Mamluks had managed to pull the horses into two parallel lines they extended from one end of the room to the other, and out the door, and the king saw that there were exactly forty horses.
The king was pleased with the magician and ordered that he be given fine robes and other gifts, the total cost of which Hasshin al-Din Hasam estimated as less than the cost of purchasing and importing forty fine Arabian horses. But as the king, who believed the feat to have been magic, considered his gifts generous. As for his own trick, Hasshin al-Din Hasam was confident that he had bought it with more money than the magician possessed, and that it had cost more than forty fine Arabian horses. He stood and said, “O king, I would like to attempt a feat even more miraculous feat than this one. Do I have your permission?” The king was pleased and said, “By all means.”
Hasshin al-Din Hasam began to chant and wave his hands, and a cloud of smoke thicker than all the others descended, obscuring the last of the forty horses as it was being lead away by the king’s Mamluks. The room was filled with the heavy scent of musk and ambergris, and echoed with a thundering loud enough to split the heavens. When the smoke had cleared, a hundred and forty horses filled the room, the hall, the courtyard, and the square in front of the palace. Each was black and handsome, with sleek flanks, a long neck, flowing mane, and strong legs. Each had hooves painted with gold, and a gold bridle, and a saddle of the finest leather lined with red silk and set with rubies and all kinds of precious jewels. When the king saw this, he clapped his hands in delight, and said, “This is the most amazing and miraculous thing I have ever seen.” But morning overtook Shaharazad, and she lapsed into silence.
The following night Shaharazad said:
The young man from Mosul said, “Hasshin al-Din Hasam repeated his entreaty of four months ago, saying, “This is but a small part of my magic. If you made me your magician, I could serve you even better than this.” The king was torn and didn't know what to do, for though he longed to see even greater feats of magic, he suspected that it was because the magician knew about Hasshin al-Din, and Hasshin al-Din knew about the magician, that each had been spurred to greater and more miraculous feats in competition with the other. And so, wanting to keep things as they were, he said, “Although one hundred and forty gaudily saddled Arabian horses are indeed more miraculous than forty unsaddled Arabian horses, both acts are great feats of magic involving horses and so neither is conclusively a miracle while the other is not. If you can perform an unparalleled act of magic that no one can copy, then I will take you on as my magician.” This pronouncement naturally caused Hasshin al-Din Hasam great distress, for he had already spent all he had.
This is the end of my story, for as for what happened next between Hassin al-Din Hasam, the magician, and the king, I do not know. I was the incense seller, who cleverly spread the story of the miracles for hire, and I became so rich from supplying both the king's magician and the Muslim cloth merchant with the same miracles that I was able to retire and to travel, and am now on my way to Baghdad where I plan to live a long life of comfortable ease and no work. As for how I was able to tell the bracelets had been switched: being well versed in trickery and sleight-of-hand, I of course noticed immediately that this man had placed the bracelet I bought on a shelf, and had picked up another bracelet, which he wrapped in cloth and handed to me.”
After hearing his story, the king was amazed and convinced and he allowed the young man to go free without executing him.
The ending is sketchy. Actually, the whole thing is sketchy.