Sleeping Beauty by Herbert Cole

Fairy Tales; Their Origin and Meaning by John Thackray Bunce

Jack and the Beanstalk by John Hassall

Fairy Tales; Their Origin and Meaning
by John Thackray Bunce

Introductory Note

Chapter 1:
Origin of Fairy Stories

Chapter 2:
Kindred Tales From Divers Lands: Eros and Psyche

Chapter 3:
Dwellers in Fairyland: Stories From the East

Chapter 4: Dwellers in Fairyland: Teutonic and Scandinavian

Chapter 5:
Dwellers in Fairyland: West Highland Stories

Chapter 6:
Conclusion: Some Popular Tales Explained

SurLaLune Fairy Tales Main Page


Chapter 3:
Dwellers in Fairyland:
Stories From the East

WE have said something about the people and the countries which gave birth to our Fairy Stories, and about the meaning of such tales generally when they were first thought of. Then they were clearly understood, and those who told them and heard them knew what they meant; but, as time went on, and as the Aryan race became scattered in various countries, the old stories changed a great deal, and their meaning was lost, and all kinds of wild legends, and strange fables and fanciful tales, were made out of them. The earliest stories were about clouds, and winds, and the sun, and the waters, and the earth, which were turned into Gods and other beings of a heavenly kind. By degrees, as the first meanings of the legends were lost, these beings gave place to a multitude of others: some of them beautiful, and good, and kind and friendly to mankind; and some of them terrible, and bad, and malignant, and always trying to do harm; and there were so many of both kinds that all the world was supposed to be full of them. There were Spirits of the water, and the air, and the earth, forest and mountain demons, creatures who dwelt in darkness and in fire, and others who lived in the sunshine, or loved to come out only in the moonlight. There were some, again-Dwarfs, and other creatures of that kind-who made their homes in caves and underground places, and heaped up treasures of gold and silver, and gems, and made wonderful works in metals of all descriptions; and there were giants, some of them with two heads, who could lift mountains, and walk through rivers and seas, and who picked up great rocks and threw them about like pebbles. Then there were Ogres, with shining rows of terrible teeth, who caught up men and women and children, and strung them together like larks, and carried them home, and cooked them for supper. Then, also, there were Good Spirits, of the kind the Arabs call Peris, and we call Fairies, who made it their business to defend deserving people against the wicked monsters; and there were Magicians, and other wise or cunning people, who had power over the spirits, whether good or bad, as you read in the story of Aladdin and his Ring, and his Wonderful Lamp, and in other tales in the "Arabian Nights," and collections of that kind. Many of these beings-all of whom, for our purpose, may be called Dwellers in Fairyland-had the power of taking any shape they pleased, like the Ogre in the story of "Puss in Boots," who changed himself first into a lion, and then into an elephant, and then into a mouse, when he got eaten up; and they could also change human beings into different forms, or turn them into stone, or carry them about in the air from place to place, and put them under the spells of enchantment, as they liked.

Some of the most wonderful creatures of Fairyland are to be found in Eastern stories, the tales of India, and Arabia, and Persia. Here we have the Divs, and Jinns, and Peris, and Rakshas-who were the originals of our own Ogres-and terrible giants, and strange mis-shapen dwarfs, and vampires and monsters of various kinds. Many others, also very wonderful, are to be found in what is called the Mythology-that is, the fables and stories-of ancient Greece, such as the giant Atlas, who bore the world upon his shoulders; and Polyphemus, the one-eyed giant, who caught Odysseus and his companions, and shut them up in his cave; and Kirke, the beautiful sorceress, who turned men into swine; and the Centaurs, creatures half men and half horses; and the Gorgon Medusa, whose head, with its hair of serpents, turned into stone all who beheld it; and the great dragon, the Python, whom Phoebus killed, and who resembles the dragon Vritra, in Hindu legend-the dragon slain by Indra, the god of the Sun, because he shut up the rain, and so scorched the earth-and who also resembles Fafnir, the dragon of Scandinavian legend, killed by Sigurd; and the fabled dragon with whom St. George fought; and also, the dragon of Wantley, whom our old English legends describe as being killed by More of More Hall. In the stories of the North lands of Europe, as we are told in the Eddas and Sagas (the songs and records), there are likewise many wonderful beings-the Trolls, the Frost Giants, curious dwarfs, elves, nisses, mermen and mermaids, and swan-maidens and the like. The folk-lore-that is, the common traditionary stories-of Germany are full of such wonders. Here, again, we have giants and dwarfs and kobolds; and birds and beasts and fishes who can talk; and good fairies, who come in and help their friends just when they are wanted; and evil fairies, and witches; and the wild huntsman, who sweeps across the sky with his ghostly train; and men and women who turn themselves into wolves, and go about in the night devouring sheep and killing human beings, In Russian tales we find many creatures of the same kind, and also in those of Italy, and Spain, and France. And in our own islands we have them too, for the traditions of English giants, and ogres, and dwarfs still linger in the tales of Jack the Giant-killer and Jack and the Bean-stalk, and Hop o' my Thumb; and we have also the elves whom Shakspeare draws for us so delightfully in "Midsummer Night's Dream" and in "The Merry Wives of Windsor"; and there are the Devonshire pixies; and the Scottish fairies and the brownies-the spirits who do the work of the house or the farm-and the Irish "good people;" and the Pooka, which comes in the form of a wild colt; and the Leprechaun, a dwarf who makes himself look like a little old man, mending shoes; and the Banshee, which cries and moans when great people are going to die.

To all these, and more, whom there is no room to mention, we must add other dwellers in Fairyland-forms, in one shape or other, of the great Sun-myths of the ancient Aryan race-such as Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Vivien and Merlin, and Queen Morgan le hay, and Ogier the Dane, and the story of Roland, and the Great Norse poems which tell of Sigurd, and Brynhilt, and Gudrun, and the Niblung folk. And to these, again, there are to be added many of the heroes and heroines who figure in the Thousand-and-one Nights-such, for example, as Aladdin, and Sindbad, and Ali Baba, and the Forty Thieves, and the Enchanted Horse, and the Fairy Peri Banou, with her wonderful tent that would cover an army, and her brother Schaibar, the dwarf, with his beard thirty feet long, and his great bar of iron with which he could sweep down a city. Even yet we have not got to the end of the long list of Fairy Folk, for there are still to be reckoned the well-known characters who figure in our modern Fairy Tales, such as Cinderella, and the Yellow Dwarf, and the White Cat, and Fortunatus, and Beauty and the Beast, and Riquet with the Tuft, and the Invisible Prince, and many more whom children know by heart, and whom all of us, however old we may be, still cherish with fond remembrance, because they give us glimpses into the beautiful and wondrous land, the true Fairyland whither good King Arthur went-

"The island-valley of Avilion,
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns,
And bowery hollows crowned with summer sea."

Now it is plain that we cannot speak of all these dwellers in Fairyland; but we can only pick out a few here and there, and those of you who want to know more must go to the books that tell of them. As to me, who have undertaken to tell something of these wonders, I feel very much like the poor boy in the little German story of "The Golden Key." Do you know the story? If you don't, I will tell it you. "One winter, when a deep snow was lying on the ground, a poor boy had to go out in a sledge to fetch wood. When he had got enough he thought he would make a fire to warm himself, for his limbs were quite frozen. So he swept the snow away and made a clear space, and there he found a golden key. Then he began to think that where there was a key there must also be a lock; and digging in the earth he found a small iron chest. 'I hope the key will fit,' lie said to himself, 'for there must certainly be great treasures in this box.' After looking all round the box he found a little keyhole, and to his great joy, the golden key fitted it exactly. Then he turned the key once round"-and now we must wait till he has quite unlocked it and lifted the lid up, and then we shall learn what wonderful treasures were in the chest. This is all that this book can do for you. It can give you the golden key, and show you where the chest is to be found, and then you must unlock it for yourselves.

Where shall we begin our hasty journey into Wonderland? Suppose we take a glance at those famous Hindu demons, the Rakshas, who are the originals of all the ogres and giants of our nursery tales? Now the Rakshas were very terrible creatures indeed, and in the minds of many people in India are so still, for they are believed in even now. Their natural form, so the stories say, is that of huge, unshapely giants, like clouds, with hair and beard of the colour of the red lightning; but they can take any form they please, to deceive those whom they wish to devour, for their great delight, like that of the ogres, is to kill all they meet, and to eat the flesh of those whom they kill. Often they appear as hunters, of monstrous size, with tusks instead of teeth, and with horns on their heads, and all kinds of grotesque and frightful weapons and ornaments. They are very strong, and make themselves stronger by various arts of magic; and they are strongest of all at nightfall, when they are supposed to roam about the jungles, to enter the tombs, and even to make their way into the cities, and carry off their victims. But the Rakshas are not alone like ogres in their cruelty, but also in their fondness for money, and for precious stones, which they get together in great quantities and conceal in their palaces; for some of them are kings of their species, and have thousands upon thousands of inferior Rakshas under their command. But while they are so numerous and so powerful, the Rakshas, like all the ogres and giants in Fairyland, are also very stupid, and are easily outwitted by clever people. There are many Hindu stories which are told to show this. I will tell you one of them.[7] Two little Princesses were badly treated at home, and so they ran away into a great forest, where they found a palace belonging to a Rakshas, who had gone out. So they went into the house and feasted, and swept the rooms, and made everything neat and tidy. Just as they had done this, the Rakshas and his wife came home, and the two Princesses ran up to the top of the house, and hid themselves on the flat roof. When the Rakshas got indoors he said to his wife: "Somebody has been making everything clean and tidy. Wife, did you do this?" "No," she said; "I don't know who can have done it." "Some one has been sweeping the court-yard," said the Rakshas. "Wife, did you sweep the court-yard?" "No," she answered; "I did not do it." Then the Rakshas walked round and round several times, with his nose up in the air, saying, "Some one is here now; I smell flesh and blood. Where can they be?" "Stuff and nonsense!" cried the Rakshas' wife. "You smell flesh and blood, indeed! Why, you have just been killing and eating a hundred thousand people. I should wonder if you didn't still smell flesh and blood!" They went on disputing, till at last the Rakshas gave it up. "Never mind," lie said; "I don't know how it is-I am very thirsty: let's come and drink some water." So they went to the well, and began letting down jars into it, and drawing them up, and drinking the water. Then the elder of the two Princesses, who was very bold and wise, said to her sister, "I will do something that will be very good for us both." So she ran quickly down stairs, and crept close behind the Rakshas and his wife, as they stood on tip-toe more than half over the side of the well, and catching hold of one of the Rakshas' heels, and one of his wife's, she gave each a little push, and down they both tumbled into the well, and were drowned-the Rakshas and the Rakshas' wife. The Princess then went back to her sister, and said, "I have killed the Rakshas!" "What, both?" cried her sister. "Yes, both," she said. "Won't they come back?" said her sister. "No, never," answered she.

This, you see, is something like the story of the Little Girl and the Three Bears, so well known amongst our Nursery Tales.

Another story will show you how stupid a Rakshas is, and how easily he can be outwitted.[8]

Once upon a time a Blind Man and a Deaf Man made an agreement. The Blind Man was to hear for the Deaf Man; and the Deaf Man was to see for the Blind Man; and so they were to go about on their travels together. One day they went to a nautch-that is, a singing and dancing exhibition. The Deaf Man said, "The dancing is very good; but the music is not worth listening to." "I do not agree with you," the Blind Man said; "I think the music is very good; but the dancing is not worth looking at." So they went away for a walk in the jungle. On the way they found a donkey, belonging to a dhobee, or washerman, and a big chattee, or iron pot, which the washerman used to boil clothes in. "Brother," said the Deaf Man, "here is a donkey and a chattee; let us take them with us, they may be useful." So they took them, and went on. Presently they came to an ants' nest. "Here," said the Deaf Man, "are a number of very fine black ants; let us take some of them to show our friends." "Yes," said the Blind Man, "they will do as presents to our friends." So the Deaf Man took out a silver box from his pocket, and put several of the black ants into it. After a time a terrible storm came on. "Oh dear!" cried the Deaf Man, "how dreadful this lightning is! let us get to some place of shelter." "I don't see that it's dreadful at all," said the Blind Man, "but the thunder is terrible; let us get under shelter." So they went up to a building that looked like a temple, and went in, and took the donkey and the big pot and the black ants with them. But it was not a temple, it was the house of a powerful Rakshas, and the Rakshas came home as soon as they had got inside and had fastened the door. Finding that he couldn't get in, he began to make a great noise, louder than the thunder, and he beat upon the door with his great fists. Now the Deaf Man looked through a chink, and saw him, and was very frightened, for the Rakshas was dreadful to look at. But the Blind Man, as he couldn't see, was very brave; and he went to the door and called out, "Who are you? and what do you mean by coming here and battering at the door in this way, and at this time of night?" "I'm a Rakshas," he answered, in a rage; "and this is my house, and if you don't let me in I will kill you." Then the Blind Man called out in reply, "Oh! you're a Rakshas, are you? Well, if you're Rakshas, I'm Bakshas, and Bakshas is as good as Rakshas." "What nonsense is this?" cried the monster; "there is no such creature as a Bakshas." "Go away," replied the Blind Man, "if you make any further disturbance I'll punish you; for know that I am Bakshas, and Bakshas is Rakshas' father." "Heavens and earth!" cried the Rakshas, "I never heard such an extraordinary thing in my life. But if you are my father, let me see your face,"-for he began to get puzzled and frightened, as the person inside was so very positive. Now the Blind Man and the Deaf Man didn't quite know what to do; but at last they opened the door just a little, and poked the donkey's nose out. "Bless me," thought the Rakshas, "what a terribly ugly face my father Bakshas has got." Then he called out again "O! father Bakshas, you have a very big fierce face, but people have sometimes very big heads and very little bodies; let me see you, body and head, before I go away." Then the Blind Man and the Deaf Man rolled the great iron pot across the floor with a thundering noise; and the Rakshas, who watched the chink of the door very carefully, said to himself, "He has got a great body as well, so I had better go away." But he was still doubtful; so he said, "Before I go away let me hear you scream," for all the tribe of the Rakshas scream dreadfully. Then the Blind Man and the Deaf Man took two of the black ants out of the box, and put one into each of the donkey's ears, and the ants bit the donkey, and the donkey began to bray and to bellow as loud as he could; and then the Rakshas ran away quite frightened.

In the morning the Blind Man and the Deaf Man found that the floor of the house was covered with heaps of gold, and silver, and precious stones; and they made four great bundles of the treasure, and took one each, and put the other two on the donkey, and off they went, But the Rakshas was waiting some distance off to see what his father Bakshas was like by daylight; and he was very angry when he saw only a Deaf Man, and a Blind Man, and a big iron pot, and a donkey, all loaded with his gold and silver. So he ran off and fetched six of his friends to help him, and each of the six had hair a yard long, and tusks like an elephant. When the Blind Man and the Deaf Man saw them coming they went and hid the treasure in the bushes, and then they got up into a lofty betel palm and waited-the Deaf Man, because he could see, getting up first, to be furthest out of harm's way. Now the seven Rakshas were not able to reach them, and so they said, "Let us get on each other's shoulders and pull them down." So one Rakshas stooped down, and the second got on his shoulders, and the third on his, and the fourth on his, and the fifth on his, and the sixth on his, and the seventh-the one who had invited the others-was just climbing up, when the Deaf Man got frightened and caught hold of the Blind Man's arm, and as he was sitting quite at ease, not knowing that they were so close, the Blind Man was upset, and tumbled down on the neck of the seventh Rakshas. The Blind Man thought he had fallen into the branches of another tree, and stretching out his hands for something to take hold of, he seized the Rakshas' two great ears and pinched them very hard. This frightened the Rakshas, who lost his balance and fell down to the ground, upsetting the other six of his friends; the Blind Man all the while pinching harder than ever, and the Deaf Man crying out from the top of the tree-"You're all right, brother, hold on tight, I'm coming down to help you"-though he really didn't mean to do anything of the kind. Well, the noise, and the pinching, and all the confusion, so frightened the six Rakshas that they thought they had had enough of helping their friend, and so they ran away; and the seventh Rakshas, thinking that because they ran there must be great danger, shook off the Blind Man and ran away too. And then the Deaf Man came down from the tree and embraced the Blind Man, and said, "I could not have done better myself." Then the Deaf Man divided the treasure; one great heap for himself, and one little heap for the Blind Man. But the Blind Man felt his heap and then felt the other, and then, being angry at the cheat, he gave the Deaf Man a box on the ear, so tremendous that it made the Deaf Man hear. And the Deaf Man, also being angry, gave the other such a blow in the face that it made the Blind Man see. So they became good friends directly, and divided the treasure into equal shares, and went home laughing at the stupid Rakshas.

From the legends of India we now go on to Persia and Arabia, to learn something about the Divs and the Peris, and the Jinns. When the ancient Persians separated from the Aryan race from which they sprang, they altered their religion as well as changed their country. They came to believe in two principal gods, Ormuzd, the spirit of goodness, who sits enthroned in the Realms of Light, with great numbers of angels around him; and Ahriman, the spirit of evil, who reigns in the Realms of Darkness and Fire, and round whose throne are the great six arch-Divs, and vast numbers of inferior Divs, or evil beings; and these two powers are always at war with each other, and are always trying to obtain the government of the world. From Ormuzd and Ahriman there came in time, according to popular fancy, the two races of the Divs and the Peris, creatures who were like mankind in some things, but who had great powers of magic; which made them visible and invisible at pleasure, enabled them to change their shapes when they pleased, and to move about on the earth or in the air. They dwelt in the land of Jinnestan, in the mountains of Kaf. These mountains were supposed to go round the earth like a ring; they were thousands of miles in height, and they were made of the precious stone called chrysolite, which is of a green colour, and this colour, so the Persian poets say, is reflected in the green which we sometimes see in the sky at sunset. In this land of Jinnestan there are many cities. The Peris have for their abode the kingdom of Shad-u-Kan, that is, of Pleasure and Delight, with its capital Juber-a-bad, or the Jewel City; and the Divs have for their dwelling Ahermambad, or Ahriman's city, in which there are enchanted castles and palaces, guarded by terrible monsters and powerful magicians. The Peris are very beautiful beings, usually represented as women with wings, and charming robes of all colours. The Divs are painted as demons of the most frightful kind. One of them, a very famous one named Berkhyas, is described as being a mountain in size, his face black, his body covered with hair, his neck like that of a dragon; two boar's tusks proceed from his mouth, his eyes are wells of blood, his hair bristles like needles, and is so thick and long that pigeons make their nests in it. Between the Peris and the Divs there was always war; but the Divs were too powerful for the Peris, and used to capture them and hang them in iron cages from the tree-tops, where their companions came and fed them with perfumes, of which the Peris are very fond, and which the Divs very much dislike, so that the smell kept the evil spirits away. Sometimes the Peris used to call in the help of men against the Divs; and in the older Persian stories there are many tales of the wonders done by these heroes who fought against the Divs. The most famous of these were called Tamuras and Rustem. Tamuras conquered so many of the evil spirits that he was called the Div-binder. He began his fights in this way. He was a great king, whose help both sides wished to get. So the Peris sent a splendid embassy to him, and so did the Divs. Tamuras did not know what to do; so he went to consult a wonderful bird, called the Simurg, who speaks all tongues, and who knows everything that has happened, or that will happen. The Simurg told him to fight for the Peris. Then the Simurg gave him three feathers from her own breast, and also the magic shield of Jan-ibn-Jan, the Suleiman or King of the Jinns, and then she carried him on her back into the country of Jinnestan, where he fought with and conquered the king of the Divs. The account of this battle is given at great length in the Persian romance poems. Then Tamuras conquered another Div, named Demrush, who lived in a gloomy cavern, where he kept in prison the Peri Merjan, or the Pearl, a beautiful fairy, whom Tamuras set free. Rustem, however, is the great hero of Persian romance, and the greatest defender of the Peris. His adventures, as told by the Persian poets, would make a very large book, so that we cannot attempt to describe them. But there are two stories of him which may be told. One night, while he lay sleeping under a rock, a Div, named Asdiv, took the form of a dragon, and came upon him suddenly. Rustem's horse, Reksh, who had magic powers, knew the Div in this disguise, and awakened his master twice, at which Rustem was angry, and tried to kill the horse for disturbing him. Reksh, however, awakened him the third time, and then Rustem saw the Div, and slew him after a fearful combat. The other story is this. There came a wild ass of enormous size, with a skin like the sun, and a black stripe along his back, and this creature got amongst the king's horses and killed them. Now the wild ass was no other than a very powerful Div, named Akvan, who haunted a particular fountain or spring. So Rustem, mounted on his horse Reksh, went to look for him there. Three days he waited, but saw nothing. On the fourth day the Div appeared, and Rustem tried to throw a noose over his head, but the Div suddenly vanished. Then he reappeared, and Rustem shot an arrow at him, but he vanished again. Rustem then turned his horse to graze, and laid himself down by the spring to sleep. This was what the cunning Akvan wanted, and while Rustem was asleep, Akvan seized him, and flew high up into the air with him. Then Rustem awoke, and the Div gave him his choice of being dropped from the sky into the sea, or upon the mountains. Rustem knew that if he fell upon the mountains he would be dashed in pieces, so he secretly chose to fall into the sea; but he did not say so to the Div. On the contrary, he pretended not to know what to do, but he said he feared the sea, because those who were drowned could not enter into Paradise. On hearing this, the Div at once dropped Rustern into the sea-which was what he wanted-and then went back to his fountain. But when he got there, he found that Rustem had got ashore, and was also at the fountain, and then they fought again and the Div was killed. After this Rustem had a son named Zohrab, about whom many wonderful things are told; and it so happened that Rustem and his son Zohrab came to fight each other without knowing one another; and Rustem was killed, and while dying he slew his son. Now all these stories mean the same thing: they are only the old Aryan Sun-myths put into another form by the poets and story-tellers: the Peris are the rays of the sun, or the morning or evening Aurora; the Divs are the black clouds of night; the hero is the sun who conquers them, and binds them in the realms of darkness; and the death of Rustem is the sunset-Zohrab, his son, being either the moon or the rising sun.

But now we must leave the Peris and the Divs, and look at the jinns, of the Arabian stories. These also dwell in the mysterious country of Jinnestan, and in the wonderful mountains of Kaf; but they likewise spread themselves all through the earth, and they specially liked to live in ruined houses, or in tombs; on the sea shore, by the banks of rivers, and at the meeting of cross-roads. Sometimes, too, they were found in deep forests, and many travellers are supposed to find them in desolate mountain places. Even to this day they are firmly believed in by Arabs, and also by people in different parts of Persia and India. In outward form, in their natural shape, they resembled the Peris and the Divs of the ancient Persians, and they were divided into good and bad: the good ones very beautiful and shining; the bad ones deformed, black, and ugly, and sometimes as big as giants. They did not, however, always appear in their own forms, for they could take the shape of any animal, especially of serpents, and cats and dogs. They were governed by chief spirits or kings; and over all, good and bad alike, there were set a succession of powerful monarchs, named Suleiman, or Solomon, seventy-two in number-the last of whom, and the greatest, Jan-ibn-Jan, is said by Arabian story-tellers to have built the pyramids of Egypt. There is an old tradition that the shield of Jan-ibn-Jan, which was a talisman of magic power, was brought from Egypt to King Solomon the Wise, the son of King David, and that it gave him power over all the tribes of the Jinns, and this is why, in the common stories about them, the Jinns are made to call upon the name of Solomon.

The Jinns, according to Arabian tradition, lived upon the earth thousands of years before man was created. They were made, the Koran says, of "the smokeless fire," that is, the hot breath of the desert wind, Simoon. But they became disobedient, and prophets were sent to warn them. They would not obey the prophets, and angels were then sent to punish them. The angels drove them out of Jinnestan into the islands of the seas, killed some, and shut some of them up in prison. Among the prisoners was a young Jinns, named Iblees, whose name means Despair; and when Adam was created, God commanded the angels and the Jinns to do him reverence, and they all obeyed but Iblees, who was then turned into a Shaitan, or devil, and became the father of all the Shaitan tribe, the mortal enemies of mankind. Since their dispersion the Jinns are not immortal; they are to live longer than man, but they must die before the general resurrection. Some of them are killed by other Jinns, some can be slain by man, and some are destroyed by shooting stars sent from heaven. When they receive a mortal wound, the fire which burns in their veins breaks forth and burns them into ashes.

Such are the Arab fancies about the Jinns. The meaning of them is clear, for the Jinns are the winds, derived plainly from the Ribhus and the Maruts of the ancient Aryan myths; and they still survive in European folk-lore in the train of Woden, or the Wild Huntsman, who sweeps at midnight over the German forests.

Some of the stories of the Jinns are to be found in the book of the Thousand and One Nights.

One of these stories is that of "the Fisherman and the Genie." A poor fisherman, you remember, goes out to cast his nets; but he draws no fish, but only, at the third cast, a vase of yellow copper, sealed with a seal of lead. He cuts open the seal, and then there issues from the vase a thick cloud of smoke, which rises to the sky, and spreads itself over land and sea. Presently the smoke gathers itself together, and becomes a solid body, taking the form of a Genie, twice as big as any of the giants; and the Genie cries out, with a terrible voice, "Solomon, Solomon, great prophet of Allah! Pardon! I will never more oppose thy will, but will obey all thy commands." At first the fisherman is very much frightened; but he grows bolder, and tells the Genie that Solomon has been dead these eighteen hundred years, to which the Genie answers that he means to kill the fisherman, and tells him why. I told you just now that the Jinns rebelled, and were punished. The Genie tells the fisherman that he is one of these rebellious spirits, that he was taken prisoner, and brought up for judgment before Solomon himself, and that Solomon confined him in the copper vase, and ordered him to be thrown into the sea, and that upon the leaden cover of the vase he put the impression of the royal seal, upon which the name of God is engraved.

When he was thrown into the sea the Genie made three vows-each in a period of a hundred years. I swore, he says, that "if any man delivered me within the first hundred years, I would make him rich, even after his death. In the second hundred years I swore that if any one set me free I would discover to him all the treasures of the earth; still no help came. In the third period, I swore to make my deliverer a most powerful monarch, to be always at his command, and to grant him every day any three requests he chose to make. Then, being still a prisoner, I swore that I would without mercy kill any man who set me free, and that the only favour I would grant him should be the manner of his death." And so the Genie proposed to kill the fisherman. Now the fisherman did not like the idea of being killed; and he and the Genie had a long discourse about it; but the Genie would have his own way, and the poor fisherman was going to be killed, when he thought of a trick he might play upon the Genie. He knew two things-first that the Jinns are obliged to answer questions put to them in the name of Allah, or God; and also that though very powerful, they are very stupid, and do not see when they are being led into a pitfall. So he said, "I consent to die; but before I choose the manner of my death, I conjure thee, by the great name of Allah, which is graven upon the seal of the prophet Solomon, the son of David, to answer me truly a question I am going to put to thee."

Then the Genie trembled, and said, "Ask, but make haste."

Now when he knew that the Genie would speak the truth, the Fisherman said, "Darest thou swear by the great name of Allah that thou really wert in that vase?"

"I swear it, by the great name of Allah," said the Genie.

But the Fisherman said he would not believe it, unless he saw it with his own eyes. Then, being too stupid to perceive the meaning of the Fisherman, the Genie fell into the trap. Immediately the form of the Genie began to change into smoke, and to spread itself as before over the shore and the sea, and then gathering itself together, it began to enter the vase, and continued to do so, with a slow and even motion, until nothing remained outside. Then, out of the vase there issued the voice of the Genie, saying, "Now, thou unbeliever, art thou convinced that I am in the vase?"

But instead of answering, the Fisherman quickly took up the leaden cover, and put it on the vase; and then he cried out, "O, Genie! it is now thy turn to ask pardon, and to choose the sort of death thou wilt have; or I will again cast thee into the sea, and I will build upon the shore a house where I will live, to warn all fishermen against a Genie so wicked as thou art."

At this the Genie was very angry. First he tried to get out of the vase; but the seal of Solomon kept him fast shut up. Then he pretended that he was but making a jest of the Fisherman when he threatened to kill him. Then he begged and prayed to be released; but the Fisherman only mocked him. Next he promised that if set at liberty, he would make the Fisherman rich. To this the Fisherman replied by telling him a long story of how a physician who cured a king was murdered instead of being rewarded, and of how he revenged himself. And then he preached a little sermon to the Genie on the sin of ingratitude, which only caused the Genie to cry out all the more to be set free. But still the Fisherman would not consent, and so to induce him the Genie offered to tell him a story, to which the Fisherman was quite ready to listen; but the Genie said, "Dost thou think I am in the humour, shut up in this narrow prison, to tell stories? I will tell thee as many as thou wilt if thou wilt let me out." But the Fisherman only answered, "No, I will cast thee into the sea."

At last they struck a bargain, the Genie swearing by Allah that he would make the Fisherman rich, and then the Fisherman cut the seal again, and the Genie came out of the vase. The first thing he did when he got out was to kick the vase into the sea, which frightened the Fisherman, who began to beg and pray for his life. But the Genie kept his word; and took him past the city, over a mountain and over a vast plain, to a little lake between four hills, where he caught four little fish, of different colours-white, red, blue, and yellow-which the Genie bade him carry to the Sultan, who would give him more money than he had ever seen in his life. And then, the story says, he struck his foot against the ground, which opened, and he disappeared, the earth closing over him.

Another story is that of the Genie Maimoun, the son of Dimdim, who took prisoner a young Prince, and conveyed him to an enchanted palace, and changed him into the form of an ape, and the ape got on board a ship, and was carried to the country of a great Sultan, and when the Sultan heard that there was an ape who could write beautiful poems, he sent for him to the palace, and they had dinner together, and they played at chess afterwards, the ape behaving in all respects like a man, excepting that he could not speak. Then the Sultan sent for his daughter, the Queen of Beauty, to see this great wonder. But when the Queen of Beauty came into the room she was very angry with her father for showing her to a man, for the Princess was a great magician, and thus she knew that it was a man turned into an ape, and she told her father that the change had been made by a powerful Genie, the son of the daughter of Eblis. So the Sultan ordered the Queen of Beauty to disenchant the Prince, and then she should have him for her husband. On this the Queen of Beauty went to her chamber, and came back with a knife, with Hebrew characters engraved upon the blade. And then she went into the middle of the court and drew a large circle in it, and in the centre she traced several words in Arabic letters, and others in Egyptian letters. Then putting herself in the middle of the circle, she repeated several verses of the Koran. By degrees the air was darkened, as if night were coming on, and the whole world seemed to be vanishing. And in the midst of the darkness the Genie, the son of the daughter of Eblis, appeared in the shape of a huge, terrible lion, which ran at the Princess as if to devour her. But she sprang back, and plucked out a hair from her head, and then, pronouncing two or three words, she changed the hair into a sharp scythe, and with the scythe she cut the lion into two pieces through the middle. The body of the lion now vanished, and only the head remained. This changed itself into a large scorpion. The Princess changed herself into a serpent and attacked the scorpion, which then changed into an eagle, and flew away; and the serpent changed itself into a fierce black eagle, larger and more powerful and flew after it. Soon after the eagles had vanished the earth opened, and a great black and white cat appeared, mewing and crying out terribly, and with its hairs standing straight on end. A black wolf followed the cat, and attacked it. Then the cat changed into a worm, which buried itself in a pomegranate that had fallen from a tree over-hanging the tank in the court, and the pomegranate began to swell until it became as large as a gourd, which then rose into the air, rolled backwards and forwards several times, and then fell into the court and broke into a thousand pieces. The wolf now transformed itself into a cock, and ran as fast as possible, and ate up the pomegranate seeds. But one of them fell into the tank and changed into a little fish. On this the cock changed itself into a pike, darted into the water, and pursued the little fish. Then comes the end of the story, which is told by the Prince transformed into the Ape:-"They were both hid hours under water, and we knew not what was become of them, when suddenly we heard horrible cries that made us tremble. Then we saw the Princess and the Genie all on fire. They darted flames against each other with their breath, and at last came to a close attack. Then the fire increased, and all was hidden in smoke and cloud, which rose to a great height. We had other cause for terror. The Genie, breaking away from the Princess, came towards us, and blew his flames all over us." The Princess followed him; but she could not prevent the Sultan from having his beard singed and his face scorched; a spark flew into the right eye of the Ape-Prince and blinded him, and the chief of the eunuchs was killed on the spot. Then they heard the cry of "Victory! victory!" and the Princess appeared in her own form, and the Genie was reduced to a heap of ashes. Unhappily the Princess herself was also fatally hurt. If she had swallowed all the pomegranate seeds she would have conquered the Genie without harm to herself; but one seed being lost, she was obliged to fight with flames between earth and heaven, and she had only just time enough to disenchant the ape and to turn him back again into his human form, when she, too, fell to the earth, burnt to ashes.

This story is repeated in various forms in the Fairy Tales of other lands. The hair which the Princess changed into a scythe is like the sword of sharpness which appears in Scandinavian legends and in the tale of Jack the Giant Killer; the transformation of the magician reminds us of the changes of the Ogre in Puss in Boots; and the death of the Princess by fire because she failed to eat up the last of the pomegranate seeds, brings to mind the Greek myth of Persephone, who ate pomegranate seeds, and so fell into the power of Aidoneus, the God of the lower regions, and was carried down into Hades to live with him as his wife; and in many German and Russian tales are to be found incidents like those of the terrible battle between the Princess and the Genie Maimoun.


[7] Old Deccan Days. Miss and Sir Bartle Frere.
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[8] Old Deccan Days.
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Bunce, John Thackray. Fairy Tales; Their Origin and Meaning with Some Account of Dwellers in Fairyland. London: Macmillan and Co., 1878.

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