EIGHTEEN -- The Amir sets out
for Greece, and contracts a marriage with Nahid Maryam, a charming beauty.
The expedition to chastise the supposedly rebellious kings was beset
with difficulties. The worst of these was the faithless Qarin, who
tried by every means to cause Hamzah’s death. Early in the trip he
promised to show them a shortcut, which then turned out to lead through
a bone-dry desert. After guiding the party into the desert until
they were almost dying of thirst, Qarin offered Hamzah some water--which
he had poisoned. But since there was not enough for everyone, Hamzah
refused to drink alone. Nor would Landhaur, nor ‘Adi, nor Muqbil,
and so they all escaped. ‘Amar, with Khizr’s help, found a stream
from which they could drink.
The adorners of composition clothe the brides
of Meaning in jewels of language, and decorate the beauty of expression
in various new ways: When the beloved one Victory showed her radiant
glory in the mirror of the Amir’s heart, the Amir entered the fort of #Aleppo
and ordered a week of celebration. Writing all about the tribute
and submission of the five lands, and the story of Qarin, and other happenings,
he sent a letter with Muqbil to be presented to Naushervan, and himself
set out for Greece. After some days, he crossed the border into Greece
and encamped there.
Later, Qarin tried poisoning a whole river, but the suspicious appearance
of the water gave the plan away, and Hamzah’s party dug their own ponds.
Qarin tried to incite all the kings along their line of march to kill Hamzah.
At his instigation one king, a pretended convert to Islam, built a bath-house
which was designed to collapse on Hamzah and kill him, but ‘Amar caused
it to collapse prematurely on the villain himself. After a series
of such narrow escapes, Hamzah and his party captured Qarin. Hoping
to save his life, Qarin presented Hamzah with many valuables, including
an armband set with twelve huge night-glowing rubies. But his gifts
were in vain; ‘Amar later killed him in captivity. After a time Hamzah
and his party arrived in Greece.
King *Faredun, the king of Greece, already
knew about the Amir’s doings from the reports of his news-writers.
As soon as he heard of the Amir’s coming, he set out from Greece with substantial
offerings, taking his brothers along. On the road he met the Amir,
presented his offerings, and with a sincere heart paid reverence to him.
With pure intentions he recited the profession of faith and, along with
his brothers, was ennobled by Islam. The Amir was entirely happy
with his merit and worthiness, and dignified him and his brothers with
resplendent robes of honor, and arranged a celebration. For some
days, in this rustic setting, the revels continued.
One day King Faredun, finding his opportunity,
petitioned, “Oh Amir, I am faced with three grave difficulties, and I am
hard put to solve any of them--or rather, they are completely impossible
and beyond my capacity. If Your Excellency will make these difficulties
easy, it will be the greatest kindness toward your slave.” The Amir
said, “What are the difficulties? Describe them, and tell me something
King Faredun submitted, “The first difficulty
is that for some years a serpent has been living in this territory, and
because of it all the inhabited places within many days’ journey are lying
desolate. I have to spend hundreds of thousands of rupees as a result.
The second difficulty is that a number of miles from this fort there is
a tall mountain on which a black-faced Moor/1/
has built himself a fortress to live in. Once a year he goes on a
rampage: thousands of men have lost their lives at his hands. The
third difficulty I will mention after these two have been concluded, and
will ask you alone to help me remedy it.”
The Amir said, “First I’ll finish off the
serpent, and only then will I come to sleep as your guest in your fort.
Come with me in the morning and point out the serpent’s lair, and all you
people can stand at a distance and watch the show.” Landhaur said
to the Amir, “Why should Your Excellency go to attack the black-faced Moor?
If I am ordered, I’ll make short work of him! If God Most High wills,
I’ll bring the head of that high-headed one into Your Excellency’s presence.”
The Amir said, “Tomorrow, if God Most High wills, I’ll go kill the serpent.
You go to destroy and obliterate that black-faced one, and sent that brute
to the depths of Hell.”
When the Moor of the Night had been defeated
by the King of the Day, and the King of the East had put to flight the
army of the stars, the Sahib-qiran, taking King Faredun with him, set out
to kill the serpent; various ones among his faithful and devoted servants
also went along. And the King of Hind, taking along with his army
Asif, the brother of King Faredun, went forth against the Moor.
When they came within nine miles of the serpent’s
lair, King Faredun got down from his horse and begged, “Just look around--except
for burnt stumps, there’s not the slightest sign of a tree to be seen anywhere.
The whole mountain and forest have become black ash. When that foul
creature awakes from its stupor and blows out its breath and hisses, the
flames of fire reach all the way here! Right now it’s sleeping contentedly.
Otherwise even animals and birds, not to speak of men, couldn’t possibly
stay in this place; a bird couldn’t even stir a feather.” The Amir
also got down; taking ‘Amar with him, he advanced toward the serpent.
King Faredun too accompanied them.
When they drew near, they saw something like
a small black hill. When they went nearer, they realized that this
was the serpent. The Amir said, “To kill a sleeper is no act of courage!
This is only a foul worm.” Giving a battle-cry, he woke it.
When it saw the Amir, it raised a neck the size of a palm tree and, hissing,
advanced on him. The half-dead trees ahead of it were dried out and
burnt by the flames from its mouth; some of them were seared into charcoal.
When the Amir, fitting a double-headed arrow
into his bow, released it, both the creature’s eyes became nests for the
arrowhead-birds, and it began to bang its head on the ground. The
Amir, going in close to its side, struck a blow with the serpent-killing
sword, and made the hill into two hills; then it could no longer move.
King Faredun ran to kiss the Amir’s hand and arm; he repeatedly walked
around the Amir and made the #gesture of warding off evil from the Amir
The Amir mounted and rode to the fort.
He had just entered it when Landhaur arrived, bearing the head of the blacked-faced
Moor, and offered the treasure which he had brought from that fortress
in the Amir’s service. King Faredun gave away the gold and jewels
in charity for the sake of the Amir and Landhaur, and arranged for festivities
to be held. A lively, luxurious, joyous party took place.
When the night was almost at an end, and their
enjoyment was at its height, King Faredun petitioned the Amir, “Two difficulties
have, through the grace of Your Excellency’s footsteps, become easy; very
heavy oppressions have been removed from my head. My third plea is
that you would graciously accept this slave’s daughter in your service,
and make her the handmaid of your ladies who dwell in the tent of purity,
so that I may be honored among my peers, and my enemies may be warned and
intimidated.” The Sahib-qiran said, “This problem is sorely difficult,
I cannot resolve it. It is an impossible notion. I have promised
Princess Mihr Nigar, ‘Until I marry you, I will not even look at another
woman, even one as dazzling as the sun.’”
King Faredun felt chastened and humiliated,
and said privately to his brother Asif, “If only I hadn’t begged the Amir
to marry my daughter, it would have been better. Then I wouldn’t
have been publicly shamed and humiliated to such an extent! It will
become well known in the whole world: ‘The Amir, thinking King Faredun
unworthy, did not marry his daughter, and would not agree to the nuptial
ties.’ Death is better than such a life--I’d rather abandon this
vale of humiliation!”
With these words, he tried to thrust a dagger
into his stomach and take the path of obliteration, but Asif seized his
hand and said, “Such matters are brought to fruition by care and prudence.
I take full responsibility: *Nahid Maryam will be married to the
Amir, and you will not be shamed and humiliated. Success will be
assured. Just send for ‘Amar.”
King Faredun, sending for ‘Amar, seated him
near the throne with great honor and respect, and presented him with five
thousand gold pieces, and said, “Khvajah, my honor is in your hands!
For the Lord’s sake, somehow or other get my daughter married to the Sahib-qiran,
and solve this difficulty. After the marriage I will make you an
offering of ten thousand more gold pieces. Otherwise, I won’t be
able to show my face among my peers--I’ll have no choice but to take poison
or stab myself!”
‘Amar, giving him many reassurances, said,
“Why, this is a small matter! The wedding ceremony will be held this
very day. I take full responsibility, don’t you be anxious.
Please quietly prepare for the wedding.” With these words, he took
the gold pieces and went to his own quarters.
In private, he praised Nahid Maryam’s beauty
and loveliness to the Amir, and thus made him desirous. The Amir
said, “Khvajah, I would marry the daughter of King Faredun right now, but
what excuse could I give to the princess? For I have sworn to her,
‘Until I marry you, even if I’m face-to-face with a Pari I’ll consider
her a witch!”/2/
‘Amar said, “Oh Sahib-qiran, are you in your
right mind? Are men ever truthful in such matters? They make
even stronger vows to women, and then always break their word! And
then, that individual who is a Sahib-qiran, a master of crown and throne,
a taker of tribute--he can’t keep his trousers fastened merely for Mihr
Nigar’s sake! You go ahead and marry Nahid Maryam with a good will,
and enjoy yourself properly. As for Princess Mihr Nigar, that’s her
business and mine. If she should say anything to you, just mention
my name--I’ll quiet her down. I take full responsibility for it.”
At length, due to ‘Amar’s persuasion, the
Amir agreed to the marriage, on this condition: “I will marry her,
but I will not share a bed with her until after my marriage to Mihr Nigar.”
King Faredun willingly and happily accepted this condition, and was most
grateful to ‘Amar. In short, that very day Nahid Maryam was rubbed
with oil, and preparations were made for the marriage. King Faredun
gave ‘Amar, in addition to the ten thousand gold pieces, a valuable robe
of honor with costly jewels on it, and said, “Khvajah, I’m at your service;
I’ll always keep giving you gifts of one sort or another!”
‘Amar was a greedy fellow, after all; he gave
King Faredun a great deal of encouragement! Afterwards he praised
Nahid Maryam’s beauty so lavishly that the Amir grew impassioned.
The next night was the night to put on the henna; after performing the
henna-ceremony the Amir married Nahid Maryam, and for two weeks remained
absorbed in enjoyment and pleasure with her. Celebrations went on
continually. On the sixteenth day, having given Nahid Maryam one
of those twelve rubies which he had obtained from Qarin, he came out of
Those who were longing for a fortunate glimpse
of him, and who for so many days had not been ennobled by attending upon
him, were boundlessly happy. Taking tribute from King Faredun, and
adding the wealth of Shankavah the Moor, he sent it with Landhaur in Naushervan’s
service. He sent ‘Amar too along with Landhaur. And he ordered
his vanguard to set out for Egypt.
term used is [zangii], which should strictly mean a native of Zanzibar
[zangbaar] but is loosely used for any black person.
Indic folk tradition, a witch [chu;Rail] is a female ghost or demon of
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