Alfred John Church.

Stories of the magicians; Thalaba and the magicians of the Domdaniel, Rustem and the genii, Kehama and his sorceries online

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and the mighty horse, and the lasso hanging
from the saddle. But Hedjir answered : " Why
should I hide the truth from you ? If I do not
tell you the name of this warrior from China, it
is because I do not know it."

" But," said Sohrab, " where is Rustem ? Not
a word have you said of him ; and yet so great
a hero could not remain concealed in the middle
of a camp. You told me that he is the chief of
the army and the guardian of the provinces.*
Why, then, is he nowhere to be seen ? "

Hedjir answered : " Perhaps he is gone to
Zabulistan. It is now that they hold their feasts
in the rose-gardens of that land."

" This is idle," said Sohrab. " Rustem is one


who will always be found in the front of the
battle. Now, listen to me. If you will tell me
which is Rustem, I will put you above all the
people and load you with treasure. But if you
hide from me what I want to know, I will cut
your head from your body. Now choose be-
tween the two."

" Prince," said the other, " when you are tired
of life, go out and fight with Rustem, who can
kill two hundred men with one blow of his

Nevertheless he thought to himself: "If I
show Rustem to this young lion he will rush on
him and slay him, for all his strength and vigour.
After this there is not a Persian who will dare
to fight with him, and he will become King
of Persia. No ; I will hide the truth, and if I
die, I die." Then, turning to Sohrab, he said :
" Why are you so angry, and why do you
threaten to kill me because I do not point out
Rustem to you ? But after all, are you not
hiding your real thought ? You want to meet
Rustem in battle ; but I say to you, Avoid him,
for surely he will bring you to nought."

Sohrab, in a rage, struck him from his horse


to the ground. Then, going back to the fort,
he armed himself for battle, and went out. First
he charged the King's tent, and not one of the
warriors of Persia dared to stand before him.
He cried out to the King and said : " Noble
King, what are you doing here on the field
of battle ? How dare you take the lance of
Kaolis, you who never dare to fight among the
warriors in the battle. Listen to me. The
night that Zendeh was slain I swore a great
oath that I would not leave a man, little or
great, alive in Persia, and that I would hang
the King of Persia alive on a gallows. Come,
now, if you have a champion who dares to meet
me, let him come forth ! "

Not a man among the Persians took up this
challenge; and the King, in great trouble, sent
to Rustem, saying : " The faces of my warriors
grow pale before this young Tartar, and there
is not one who dares meet him in battle."

Rustem said to the messenger : " When other
kings have called me, it has been sometimes to
the battle and sometimes to the banquet ; but
King Kaotis never calls me except to fight for


Nevertheless he bade his people saddle his
horse Raksh, and he put on his circlet of
leopard-skin and his royal girdle, and mounted,
and set out for the battle, with his standard
carried before him.

When he saw Sohrab, and observed how
tall and stalwart he was, he cried out to him :
" Come out from the line of your army, and
I will come out from mine."

Sohrab rubbed his hands in delight, and
rushed out, saying: "We are warriors, you
and I. Do not call to your side any of the
men of Persia, and there shall be no Tartar
with me. You and I will fight alone. But
listen : you cannot stand against me. You are
tall of stature, and you have stalwart arms ; but
the weight of years is on you."

Rustem looked at the young man, and said :
" Young man, the earth is dry and cold, but
the air is sweet and warm. I have fought in
many a battle ; many an army have I put to
flight ; many a warrior and many a genius have
I slain, and never yet have I been beaten.
But I should be grieved to do you any harm.
Leave these Tartars and come to us. I know


not a man in the whole land of Persia who has
arms and shoulders such as yours."

When Rustem thus spake, the heart of Sohrab
went out to him, and he said : " Come, now ;
I will ask you a question, and I beseech you
to answer me truly. Tell me frankly who you
are. Surely you are Rustem, the son of Zal ? "

Rustem answered: " It is false; I am not
Rustem ; I am but a common man ; I have
neither throne, nor palace, nor crown."

When Sohrab heard this his heart was filled
with despair, and he addressed himself to the

The two champions chose a narrow place,
and attacked each other with short spears. And
when their spears had no more iron left on
them so fierce were their blows they drew
their Indian swords, and fell to work again.
And when their swords were broken they used
their clubs. Terrible blows they dealt each
other ! The armour of their horses was broken
in pieces ; their coats of mail were shattered.
At last neither the warriors nor their horses
moved more, so fierce had been their struggle.
Surely this was a strange and marvellous thing!


The beasts know their own young ; but man in
his fury cannot distinguish between his son and
his enemy !

Rustem said to himself: "The battle with
the White Genius was but child's play to this.
Never yet have I been conquered, and now my
heart fails me before this man without a name."

When the two combatants had rested awhile
they renewed the battle. Rustem seized Sohrab
by the belt, hoping to drag him from his saddle;
but he could not move him an inch from his
place. Then Sohrab took up again his great
club from where it hung by the side of the
saddle, and dealt Rustem a mighty blow that
bruised his shoulder. The hero writhed under
the agony, but was strong enough to swallow
down the pain. But Sohrab saw that he had
struck a timely stroke, and smiled, saying :
" Warrior, you are not one who can stand
against the blows of the strong. But it is
your age that disables you ; it is folly for the
aged to match themselves with the young."

After this the two combatants parted, and
Rustem chased the army of the Tartars, as a
tiger rushes on his prey. When Sohrab saw


this he fell, in his turn, upon the Persians, and
scattered them like a flock of sheep before him.

Rustem was filled with fury at the sight, and
cried : " Man of blood, why have you fallen
on the Persians, like a wolf on the fold ? "

Sohrab answered : " The army of the Tartars
had not joined in the battle, and yet you charged

Rustem said : " We will fight again to-morrow,
and God shall decide who of us two shall
remain the conqueror."

After this they rode back each to his own
army. Rustem sought the presence of the
King, and told him what a mighty champion
this Sohrab was. " We tried all our arms
against each other," he said ; " the arrow, the
sword, the mace, and the lasso, but it was all
in vain. At last I caught him by the girdle,
hoping to lift him from his saddle, as I have
done many a warrior before ; but the wind might
as well try to drag a mountain from its place
as I drag this young warrior from his seat.
Nevertheless, I will meet him again to-morrow,
and then we will see what is the will of God,
whether he is to prevail or I."


SOHRAB (continued}.

THAT night Rustem said to his brother, " If I
fall to-morrow in the conflict, let all my army-
depart from the field of battle and return to
Zabulistan, to the old man Zal. Console my
mother in her sorrow. Let her not bind her
heart for ever to the dead. I have no cause
to complain of fate. Many a lion, many a
warrior, many a Genius have I slain, many a
fortress have I taken, and I have never been
overcome. And say to Zal, my father, ' Be
faithful to the King, and obey his commands.'
As for me, let him remember that old and
young must die."

Sohrab passed the night feasting. He said
to one of his followers : " My heart goes out
to that brave warrior with whom I have fought



to-day. I see in him all the signs by which my
mother told me I was to recognize my father,
and my heart trembles. I must not fight
against my father."

The man to whom he spoke said : " I have
seen Rustem in battle, and his horse Raksh
also I have seen ; nor is the horse of this
warrior unlike him. Nevertheless, he does not
strike the earth with so heavy a tread."

The next day at dawn Sohrab put on his
cuirass and his helmet and armed himself, and,
mounting his horse, rode into the space between
the two armies. And Rustem, on the other
hand, rode out to meet him.

Sohrab spoke to Rustem with a smile upon
his lips. One would have thought that they
had spent the night together as friends at a
feast. " How have you slept ? " he said. " How
do you fare to-day? Why is your heart bent
on battle ? Put down your club and your sword.
Let us sit together on the ground, and drive
away our cares with the wine-cup. Wait till
some one else shall come to do battle with you,
but with me make a covenant of friendship,
and tell me your name and your family. Surely


you are Rustem, lord of Zabulistan, son of the
white-haired Zal.

Rustem answered : " Young man, we are met
here to fight ; I will not listen to your deceitful
words. No, we will do our best, you and I ; and
the issue is with God."

Sohrab said : " Old man, I have spoken in
vain. I would have you die in your bed when
your time shall come, and when these whom you
have behind you shall prepare for your burial.
But since you put your life in my hands, let us
accomplish the purposes of God.'*

The two warriors then dismounted, and tying
their chargers to the rocks, rushed upon each
.other. Many a blow they struck, till they were
both covered with blood and sweat. And so
they fought, without advantage to one or the
other, from morning till noonday, and from
noonday till the shadows began to lengthen
upon the sand. At last Sohrab, leaping like a
lion, seized Rustem by the girdle, lifted him
from the ground, and threw him down, his face
and mouth covered with dust ; and he couched
upon him, as a lion couches on a wild ass that
he has caught. Then he drew his dagger, and
was about to cut his enemy's head from .the body.


Rustem bethought him of a device by which
he might save his life. " Young man," he
said, " truly you know well how to manage the
lasso and the club, the sword and the bow.
But listen to me. Our customs of war are not
as yours. If a warrior fights with another, and
throws him, he does not cut his head from the
body the first time ; but if he throw him a
second time, then he has right to do so. This
is our custom of war."

The young man believed what the old
warrior said, for he was of a generous heart ;
and also fate would have it so. So he let
Rustem go free.

After a while came one of the Tartar
warriors, and asked him how he had fared in
the conflict. When Sohrab told him what had
happened, and what Rustem had said, the man
cried: " Alas ! young man, are you weary of
your life ? You have let the lion, whom you
had caught in your snare, escape. Beware of
what will happen. It was a wise man who said,
' Despise no enemy, be he ever so weak/ and
think what an enemy is this ! "

Sohrab was sorry to hear these words, but


said : " Trouble not yourself; I shall fight again
to-morrow, and you shall see the yoke upon his
neck once more." So saying he returned to the

Rustem, on the other hand, when he rose
from the ground, washed his face in a stream,
and prayed to God to give him the victory, not
knowing for what he prayed. It is said that
Rustem's strength had once been such that
when he put his feet upon a rock they would
sink into it, and that he had prayed to God that
a part of this strength might be taken from
him. But now that he found himself in such
danger, and was full of the fear of Sohrab, he
prayed once more that his strength might be
restored to him as it was before. And again he
did not know for what he prayed.

When he had washed off the dust in the
stream, he came back to the place of combat,
and Sohrab also, seeing him return, left the
camp. But when they met, and, laying hold of
each other's belts, wrestled as before, then it
seemed as if Sohrab had in a moment lost all
his strength. Rustem seized him by the head
and arm and bent him back, and so threw him


on the ground. No thought had he of waiting
till he should have thrown the young man a
second time, but, knowing that he would not
long remain where he lay, drew his sword from
its scabbard, and plunged it into his breast.

Sohrab knew that he had received his death-
blow. He said to Rustem : " This is my own
doing, and it is chance that has put in your hand
the key of my fate. My mother told me the
signs by which I should know my father, and
my love for him has led me to my death. I
sought to see his face, and I have sought in
vain. I shall never see it ; and now I die.
But as for you, were you to become a fish in
the sea, or a star in the sky, my father will take
vengeance on you when he shall hear that I am

Rustem's heart sank in him when he heard
these words. "Tell me," he cried, "what
marks you have of Rustem. If this that you
say be true, may his name perish for ever ! "
And he threw himself on the ground, and tore
his hair with loud cries.

Sohrab said : " If it be so, if indeed you are
Rustem, then it is of your own evil soul that


you have killed me. Did I not seek by every
means to make peace between us ? And did I
find one movement of tenderness in you ? But
open my cuirass, and look at what you will see.
When my mother heard the sound of my
trumpets at the gate, she ran to meet me, her
cheeks red with weeping*, and fastened a bracelet
of onyx to ,my arm, and said, ' Keep this, it
is a remembrance of your father ; and use it
when the time is come.' But alas ! the time is
come too late. We have fought together, and
the son is dying before the father's eyes."

When Rustem had opened the cuirass, and
saw the bracelet of onyx, he tore his garments
and cried out in despair, and threw dust upon
his head.

But Sohrab said: "There is no remedy. It
was to be, and it is. What profits this grief ? "

After a while he said again : " Now that I
am about to die, the Tartars are in an evil
case. Show, I pray you, your love for me, by
hindering the King from marching against
them. It was because they trusted in me,
that they have invaded the land of Persia.
Let them, therefore, return to their own coun-


try in peace. And there is a prisoner in the
camp ; I asked him about you, and he lied to
me, denying the signs which I knew in my
heart to be yours. Nevertheless, see that he
comes to no harm. And as for me, I came
like the thunder, and I go as the wind ; per-
haps I shall meet you in heaven."

Rustem rode back to the army. The Per-
sians were glad to see him return alive ; but
when they perceived that his garments were
torn and his head covered with dust, they
asked him the cause. " I have slain," he said,
"the noblest of sons."

Thus Sohrab died by the hand of his father.



GUSTASP, King of Persia (he reigned second
after Kaolis), had a son whose name was
Isfendiar, a very brave hero, who, among
other exploits, had killed one of the great
birds that are called Simorgs. Isfendiar was
so proud of his victories that he conceived the
idea of demanding the throne of Persia from
his father. Accordingly he went to the King
and said : " See what I have done : I have
conquered the Tartars ; I have brought their
treasures into your palace ; you promised that
if I came back, having achieved so much, and
came back in safety, you would deliver to me
the throne and the royal crown. I pray you,
therefore, to fulfil your promise.",

Gustasp answered : " There is yet one enemy


to be subdued Rustem, the son of Zal. This
Rustem in former days was obedient to the
Kings of Persia, now he holds himself to be
their superior. Go, therefore, and conquer
him, be it by stratagem or by force, and bring
him bound before me, and I swear that I will
surrender to you the throne."

His son said : " Ask anything else of me
that I should make war against the King of
China, or against any other ruler under the
sun ; but do not ask me to go against this old
champion Rustem, the man who has defended
for so long this realm of Persia."

The King said again : " Rustem has forgotten
his duty to God and the King ; go, then, bind
his hands, and bring him entangled in your
lasso before me."

His son answered : " Sire, it is not of Rustem
that you are thinking. What you desire is to
rid yourself of Isfendiar."

Nevertheless he set out on this errand with
a great army, and sent his eldest son before
him with a message of friendship to the
champion. Rustem, at the first, was indis-
posed to accept the Prince's friendship ; but

7%? Death of a Simorg,


listened when his father said, " Let us go and
meet the Prince. Have we not always paid
our duty to his house. Let us go and offer
him such entertainment as becomes his birth."

Accordingly Rustem went to meet Isfendiar,
and when he approached his camp, dismounted
from his horse, and went on foot to pay him his
respects. After the two had embraced, Rustem
said, " I pray you to come to my house. We
will entertain you according to the best of our

The Prince answered : "The King my father
has forbidden me to enter any house in this
country. But let me put the irons on your
feet, and suffer me to take you bound to the
King. You shall suffer no harm ; indeed the
irons shall not remain till night. If you will
consent to this, when the crown shall come to
me, I will put the whole world under your

Rustem answered : " It would be a lasting
shame to me if a Prince such as you are should
refuse to come under my roof. As for the irons,
I cannot suffer them ; but everything else that
you command I will do."


The Prince said : " I cannot disobey the com-
mands of the King my father by coming under
your roof. But come and feast with me. Let
us enjoy the present. Why need we think of
the future ? "

So Rustem departed to put on such a dress
as was suitable for a banquet. But when he
was gone the Prince said to himself, " Why
should I seek friendship with this man ? I
will not invite him."

Rustem waited long for the invitation, and
was grievously offended that it did not come.
At last he said, " I will go and talk to this
courteous Prince, and tell him my mind."

When he arrived at the Prince's tent, he
said, "Young man, these are strange customs
that you introduce. W T as not, then, your guest
worth so much as a message ? "

The Prince excused himself by saying, "The
day was hot, and the way was long, and I was
unwilling to trouble you. But now as you
came, sit down by my side and drink a cup of
wine with me."

So saying, he offered Rustem a place at his
left hand. But Rustem said, " I have never


sat but at the right hand of kings." So they
gave him a place at the Prince's right hand.

The Prince then said : " I have heard that
your father Zal, when he was born, was of so
unsightly an appearance that his father could
not bear to look on him ; and that even the
Simorg, when he was exposed on the moun-
tain, would not carry him as food for her

Rustem answered : " Why do you use such
injurious words ? " And he proceeded to
describe the greatness of his family, and to
enumerate his own achievements. And the
Prince, on the other hand, boasted of his own
race and of what he had himself accomplished.

When they had thus talked together for a
time, Isfendiar said: "We have boasted enough.
I am hungry and thirsty ; let us eat and drink.
To-morrow we will try each other's strength on
the field of battle."

Isfendiar ordered meat and drink to be
brought, and they sat down to table. All
were astonished to see Rustem's appetite.
Joint after joint of roasted lamb did he eat,
till the Prince could scarcely believe his eyes.


At last he said : " Bring us wine ; let it be
new wine, not old. We will see how Rustem
will behave himself when he has well drunk."

The cupbearer brought a goblet so great
that no one could have believed it possible
that a man could empty it; but Rustem drained
every drop, drinking to the health of the King
of Kings. The cupbearer brought it again
full ; but the hero said : " This wine wants no
water ; water does but spoil it."

So the Prince said : " Bring another cup
without water."

But Rustem astonished him more and more.

When the time of departure was come,
Rustem said : " Prince, I pray you to come
under my roof, though it be but for a few
hours. Listen to the. voice of reason, and let
us be at peace."

Isfendiar answered : " As for coming under
your roof, I have spoken already. But listen
to me. Suffer me to bind you and bring you
before the King. Believe me that, if you will
consent, he will think more highly of you than

" I cannot endure the disgrace of being


bound," said Rustem. " Did I suffer it, I
should lose all the glory that I have gained.
Why are you so bent on strife ? Believe me,
it will turn out ill both for your life and for

The Prince answered : " Say no more ; my
purpose is fixed. To-morrow, on the field of
battle, we will see who is the better man."

But when Rustem was departing, Isfendiar
said to his brother : " I am astonished at this
hero, so strong is he, so noble in countenance.
Nevertheless the orders of the King must be
obeyed, and to-morrow I will darken for him
the light of the sun."

His brother answered : "Listen to me. Go
to-morrow without escort to the hero's palace.
I am sure that his heart is full of loyalty to the
King and to you. Speak peaceably to him,
and banish this unreasonable anger from your

The Prince made no reply ; he was bent on
his own fall.

On the other hand, the old man Zal urgently
entreated his son that he should not fight with
the Prince. "If you fall," he said, "by the


hand of this young man, the glory of our house
is departed. If you kill him, you kill the son
of a king, and you cover yourself with disgrace.
Go and submit yourself to him ; if you will not
do that, ransom yourself with all your treasures.
Whatever you do, do not fight with the Prince.''

Rustem said : " I spoke peaceably to him,
but he would not hear me. Nevertheless,
have no fear for his life ; I will not wound
him. No ; I will snatch him from his saddle
and carry him off a prisoner. Then he shall
be my guest ; and when we are friends I will
take and set him on the throne of Persia."

Zal smiled to hear such talk from his son.

" These are foolish words," he said. " Do
you talk of carrying off the son of the King
and bringing him to my palace ? This is not
such a thing as you should say."

And he bowed his head to the ground and
prayed : " O Judge and Master of the World,
deliver us from our troubles."

The next day, as soon as it was light,
Rustem armed himself for battle, and went out
to meet Isfendiar, who also armed himself, and
leapt on the back of his charger, as a leopard


leaps on to the back of a wild ass. So the two
met together, the old warrior and the young.

But, first, Rustem again attempted to turn
Isfendiar from, his purpose.

"If you are bent," said he, " on battle, why
not bid your Persians advance ? I, on my part,
will command my warriors of Zabulistan to
charge. We can sit here in peace, and see
others fight till we are satisfied."

"This is folly," answered Isfendiar ; " what
quarrel is there between Persia and Zabulistan?
Let our armies remain in peace. We two will
fight, and will see whether Isfendiar's charger
will return riderless to his stable, or Raksh go
back without his master to the palace of Zal."

Then the two champions delayed no longer,
but fell upon each other. First they fought
with their spears, and when these were broken
they drew their swords, and when their swords
were shivered to pieces they seized their clubs,
and when the handles of the clubs were broken
by the violence of their blows, they threw their
lassos ; each caught the other round the body ;
each used all his strength to drag his adversary

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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchStories of the magicians; Thalaba and the magicians of the Domdaniel, Rustem and the genii, Kehama and his sorceries → online text (page 10 of 13)