The magic turban, the magic sword and the magic carpet
There were once two brothers, the sons of a rich merchant, and when he died he left all his estate to be divided between them equally. This was done, and the elder at once set about trading and improving his condition, so that very soon he became twice as rich as he had been.
But the younger son had no luck. Everything he undertook failed. Moreover, he never had the heart to say no to a friend in need. So before long he was left with not a penny in his purse or a roof over his head.
In his distress he went to his elder brother and asked help of him.
“How is this?” said the elder. “Our father left the same to both of us, and I have prospered in the world and have now become a rich man, but you have not even a roof to shelter your head or a bite to eat.”
“Well, that’s a long tale,” said the younger, “and what is done is done. But give me another chance, and it may be that this time I will succeed in the world.”
After they had talked a long time the elder brother consented to give him fifty dollars, but if he wasted that the way he had the rest of his property, he was not to come back again.
The younger brother took the money and went off with it, but it was not long before it had slipped through his fingers just the way his other money had. Before long he was back at his brother’s door, asking for help again.
The older brother scolded and reproached him. He was a spendthrift and a waster. But in the end he gave him another fifty dollars, and bade him be off, and not dare to return again.
The younger brother went off with the fifty dollars and this time he was sure he would succeed with it. But his luck was still no better than it had been before. Soon it was all gone, and back he came to his brother’s house.
So it went on. The older brother could not rid himself of him. At last the elder brother, seeing there would be no peace for him as long as he remained where he was, made up his mind to sell all his possessions and take the money and journey to a far land without telling his younger brother anything about it.
This he did, but somehow or other the younger one got wind of it. He found what ship his brother was to sail on, and then he crawled aboard at night, when nobody was watching, and hid himself among the cargo.
The next day the ship set sail. Soon they were out at sea. Then the elder brother came out on deck and strutted up and down, and he rejoiced at heart that he had shaken off the younger lad and with good luck might never see him again.
But just as he thought this, whom should he see but the lad coming across the deck to meet him and give him greeting.
The elder was a sick and sorry man. It seemed there was no ridding himself of his brother. At the first port they touched he left the ship, and his brother got off with him, for he had no idea of being left behind.
The elder brother stood there on the shore and looked about him. Then he said, “Listen, now! It is a long way to the town. Do you stay here while I go on farther, beyond yon spit of land, and see whether I can find a dwelling where I can buy us a couple of horses; for I have no wish to journey on foot.”
The younger brother was for going along too, but to this the elder would not consent. No, no; the lad was to stay there and watch a box that the elder brother had brought along. (The box had nothing in it, but this the younger brother did not know.)
So the elder brother set out and soon was out of sight, and the younger one sat on the box and kicked his heels and waited, and waited and waited and waited; but his brother never did come back.
Then the lad knew the older one had made a fool of him. He looked in the box and found it empty. So off he set to see whether he could make his own way in the world and no thanks to any one.
He journeyed on a short way and a long way, and so he came to a place where three men were quarreling together fiercely, and the things they were quarreling over were an old turban, a piece of carpet, and a sword.
As soon as they saw the lad they stopped quarreling and ran and caught hold of him. “You shall decide! You shall decide!” they shouted all together.
“What is it you wish me to decide?” asked the lad.
Then the men told him they were three brothers, and that when their father died he had left them these three things,–the turban, the carpet, and the sword. Whoever placed the turban on his head would at once become invisible. Whoever sat on the carpet had only to wish himself wherever he would be, and the carpet would carry him there in a twinkling, and the sword would cut through anything, and no magic could stand against it.
“These things should belong to me, because I am the eldest,” cried one of the men.
“No, I should have them because I am the strongest and stoutest,” said the second.
“But I am the youngest and weakest and need them most,” cried the third. They then began to quarrel again and even came to blows.
“Stop, stop,” cried the lad. “You said that I should decide this matter for you, so why quarrel about it? But before I decide I must try the things and see whether what you have told me is really so.”
To this the brothers agreed. First they gave him the sword, and the lad took it in his hand and aimed a blow at a rock near by, and the sword cut through the rock as smoothly and easily as though it had been a piece of cheese.
“Now give me the turban,” said the lad.
The brothers gave him the turban, and he placed it upon his head and at once became invisible!
“Now the carpet.”
The brothers spread out the carpet on the ground, and the lad seated himself upon it with the turban still upon his head and the sword in his hand! Then he wished himself far away in some place where the brothers would never find him.
Immediately he found himself in the outskirts of a large city. He stepped from the carpet and rolled it up and took the turban from his head and looked about him. He had no idea of going back to return the things to the brothers, and if they waited for him they waited a long time. “It will teach them not to quarrel but to live at peace with each other,” said the lad to himself. Then he made his way to the nearest house, for he was hungry and meant to ask for a bite to eat.
He knocked, and an old woman opened the door, and she was so old that her chin and her nose met.
“Good day, mother,” said the lad.
“Good day to you,” answered the crone.
“Will you give me a bite to eat, for the love of charity?”
Yes, the crone would do that. She gave him a bite and a sup and a bit over, and while he was eating and drinking she sat and talked with him.
“What is the news here in the city?” asked the lad.
“Oh the same news as ever.”
“And what is that? For I am a stranger here and know no more of yesterday or the week before than of to-day.”
“Then I will tell you. Over yonder lies the castle, and the King lives there. He has only one daughter, and she is a beauty, you may believe. Every night the Princess disappears from the castle, and where she goes no one can tell but herself, and she will not. So the King has offered a reward to any one who will find out. The half of his kingdom he offers and the hand of the Princess as well, if only any one can tell him where she goes.”
“That is a good hearing,” said the lad. “I have a mind to try for that prize myself.”
“No, but wait a bit,” said the old woman. “There is another side to the story, for if you try and fail your head will be lifted from your shoulders with a sharp sword, and you are too fine a young man to lose your life in that way.”
But the lad was determined to try. In vain the old woman warned and entreated him. He thanked her for the meal he had eaten, and then off he set for the palace. There he told the errand that had brought him and after that it did not take long for him to get to see the King.
“So you think you can find out where the Princess goes at night,” said the King.
Yes, the lad thought he could.
Very well, then, he might have a try at it, but he must remember that if he tried and failed his head would be cut from his shoulders with a sharp sword.
Yes, the lad understood that, and he was ready to take the risk.
So that night he was taken to the door of a room in a high tower, and the room was of iron and had only one door and one window. Into this room the Princess was put every night, and it would be the duty of the lad to watch at the door and see either that she did not leave it, or where she went.
Presently the Princess came upstairs and passed by the lad without so much as a glance, but his heart leaped within him, she was so beautiful.
She opened the door to go in, and the lad put on his turban of darkness and slipped in after her, but the Princess did not know that because he was invisible. She closed the door tight and sighed three times, and then a great black demon stood before her, and he was terrible to look upon, he was so huge and ugly.
“Oh, my dear Lala,” said the Princess, “let us be off at once. I do not know why, but I feel so frightened, just as though some misfortune were about to come upon me.”
“That is nonsense,” said the demon. “But do you seat yourself upon my head, and we will be off at once.”
The demon wore a buckler upon his head, and now he stooped, and she seated herself upon it, but the lad was quick and sprang up and took his place beside her.
“Ai! Ai!” cried the demon, “but you are heavy to-day, Princess.”[Illustration: Then the demon flew out through the window and away through the night.]
“I do not know what you mean,” answered the Princess. “I am no heavier and no lighter than I was last night.”
Then the demon flew out through the window and away through the night so fast that the lad had much ado to keep from falling off.
After a while they came to a garden the like of which the lad had never seen before and never expected to see again, for the leaves of the trees were of silver, and the branches were of gold, and the fruits were emeralds and rubies.
As they passed through it the lad stretched out his hand and broke off a twig and put it in his bosom. Then all the trees in the garden began to sigh and moan.
“Child of man! Child of man! why do you break and torture us?”
The Princess shuddered. “Some one besides ourselves is here in the garden,” she cried.
“That cannot be, or we would see him,” answered the demon, but he was frightened and flew on faster than before.
Presently they came to another garden and it was even more wonderful than the first, for here the trees were of diamonds, and the fruits of every kind of precious stones you can think of.
As they passed through it the lad stretched out his hand and broke off a twig. Then all the trees began to sigh and moan.
“Child of man! Child of man! Why do you break and torture us?” they cried.
“Oh, my dear Lala, what did I tell you?” asked the Princess. “I am afraid”; and she trembled all over her body.
The demon answered nothing, but he flew on even faster than ever.
Soon after they came to a magnificent palace, and the demon flew in through a window and alighted. Then the Princess and the lad leaped down from the buckler, and the demon was glad to have the weight off him. After that he vanished.
The Princess opened a door and went into another room, with the lad close behind her, and there was the King of all the demons, and he was so huge and black that the demon Lala was nothing to him.
“My dearest dear one, why are you so late to-night?” asked he of the Princess.
“I do not know what was the matter,” answered the fair one, “but something is terribly wrong”; and she told him all that had happened.
The Demon laughed at her. “You are nervous,” said he. “But come! You have not kissed me yet.”
He came close to the Princess to kiss her, but the lad stepped between them and gave the Demon such a push that he almost fell over; at the same time he himself gave the Princess a kiss upon the cheek.
“Why do you push me away?” cried the Demon, and he was very angry.
The Princess began to tremble again. “I did not push you,” said she. “Moreover, some one kissed me on the cheek. I am sure somebody is in the room with us.”
The King Demon looked all around, but he could see nobody. Then he called a slave to bring the Princess the jeweled slippers she always wore when she came to his palace.
The slave brought the slippers on a golden cushion, and they were crusted over with pearls and precious stones. He knelt before the Princess, and she took one and put it on, but at the same time the lad took the other and slipped it in his bosom. The Princess and the Demon did not know what had become of it. They hunted everywhere, but they could not find it.
“There, now! See how careless you are,” said the Demon; and he bade the slave bring another pair of slippers.
This the slave did, but it was the same with this pair as with the others. While the Princess was putting on one slipper the lad took the other and hid it in his bosom. The Princess and the Demon and the slave all looked for it, but they could not find it.
At that the Princess flew into a passion and threw both the slippers away from her.
“I do not care,” said she; “and now I will not wear any slippers at all.”
“Never mind!” answered the Demon. “We will have a sherbet together, and after that we will eat.”
He clapped his hands, and another slave appeared, bearing two crystal goblets full of sherbet. The Princess took one goblet and the Demon the other. Just as they were about to drink the lad smote the crystal goblet from the Princess’s hand so that it fell upon the marble floor and was shattered, and all the sherbet was spilled.
The lad picked up a splinter of the crystal and hid it in his bosom with the golden twig, the diamond twig, and the two slippers. But the Princess shook and trembled until she could hardly stand, and even the Demon was troubled.
“Why did you cast the goblet on the floor?” he asked.
“I did not,” answered the Princess, “but some one struck it from my hand”; and she began to weep.
The Demon comforted her and bade other slaves bring in the feast that had been prepared for him and the Princess.
Quickly the slaves brought it and placed it before them. The lad had never seen such a feast. All the dishes were of gold and were carved to represent scenes in demon life, and the handles were set thick with precious stones and enamelled in strange colors. There were all sorts of delicious things to eat, so that the lad’s mouth watered at the smell of them.
The Demon and the Princess sat down to eat, but it was small good the Princess got of the feast, for every time the Demon put anything on her plate the lad snatched it away and ate it, and the Princess was left hungry. The lad also took one of the golden forks and one of the golden spoons and hid them in his bosom.
“What did I tell you,” cried the Princess. “Something is wrong! Something is _terribly_ wrong.”
“Yes, I can see that myself,” said the King Demon. “You had better go on home again, for we will get no pleasure out of this night, and that I can easily see.”
Lala was called, the Princess mounted the buckler in haste, and away the Demon flew with her. But this time the lad did not fly with them.
He waited until they were gone, and then he drew the Sword of Sharpness and smote the King Demon’s head from his shoulders.
At once a clap of thunder sounded; the castle rocked, and the walls crumbled about him. The trees in the gardens were withered, and a thick darkness fell, while all about him sounded cries and groans.
But the lad seated himself upon the carpet and wished himself back at the door of the room in the tower, and there he was in a twinkling, long before Lala had flown in through the window with the Princess, even though he flew as swiftly as the wind.
The lad took off the Turban of Darkness, and rolled up the carpet, and lay down and closed his eyes as though he were asleep.
Presently the Princess opened the door and peered out. There lay the lad, snoring and with his eyes closed. The Princess drew a sharp needle and ran it into the lad’s heel, but he never flinched, so she felt sure he was asleep.
“Thou fool!” said she scornfully. “Sleep on, and to-morrow thou shalt pay the penalty.”
Then she went back into the room and closed the door.
The next day the Princess called the guards and bade them carry the lad away and cut the head from his shoulders.
“Wait a bit,” said the lad. “Do not be in such a hurry. First we must appear before thy father the King; he must decide in this case, and it may be I have something to tell him that will be worth the hearing.”
The Princess could not refuse this, so she and the lad were brought before the King, and the lad began to tell his story. When he came to the part where the great black Demon had come and flown away with the Princess she turned first as red as blood and then as pale as death.
“It is not true!” she cried, but the King bade her be silent.
Then the lad told how they had flown through the gardens. “It is all a wicked lie,” moaned the Princess, but the lad drew forth the twigs he had broken from the trees and showed them to the King as proof of his truth.
After that the lad told of how they had entered the castle, and how the King Demon had tried to kiss the Princess, and of the shattered goblet and the uneaten feast, and he had the splinter of crystal and the spoon and fork to show, so the King knew it was all true, and the Princess looked as though she wished she were dead.
Last of all he told how the Princess had returned on the Demon’s buckler, and how he had remained behind and cut off the King Demon’s head, and how the castle had fallen and the gardens had withered, and all had become darkness and confusion.
When the Princess heard this she gave a shriek of joy. “Then you have saved me!” she cried. “Never again need I fly forth at night at the will of the Demon nor be his slave!”
Then it was her turn to tell her story. She told how one time the King Demon had seen her walking in the palace gardens and had fallen in love with her, and how he had used his magic to gain power over her. She told how she hated him and feared him, but how against her will he had forced her to come to visit him every night in his castle and had sent the demon Lala to fetch her. But now that the King Demon was dead, she was free, and it was the lad who had saved her.
When the King, her father, heard this, he marveled greatly. Glad was he that such a brave lad was to be his son-in-law, for that was his promise. The lad and the Princess were betrothed then and there, and the King gave orders that a grand wedding feast should be prepared, for they were to be married as soon as possible. All the good folks far and near were invited to come to the feast.
The lad’s elder brother was invited with the rest, but he never dreamed that the brave lad who was to marry the Princess was his own younger brother.
He came to the palace on the feast day and took his place at the table with the other guests, and then he looked up at the three thrones where the King and the Princess and the lad were sitting, and there it was his own younger brother who sat there.
When the man saw that he was afraid, for he remembered how he had deserted the lad on the seashore to live or die as fate willed, and he feared he might be punished for it.
But the younger brother bore him no grudge, but was grateful to him for what he had done. As soon as he saw the elder one there among the guests, he sent a servant for him and placed him in the seat of honor and called him brother.
So all was happiness and rejoicing. Everybody was happy, but the lad and the Princess were happiest of all, because they loved each other and had just been married.
Collected and edited by Katharine Pyle.