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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nest, built of trunks of ebony and sandal-wood,
interlaced with branches of aloes. Walking
round the edge of this nest was a young man
of tall stature, and San saw that the young
man was like himself; but he could find no way


up to the nest. Then, bowing his head to the
ground, he cried, " I implore forgiveness for
my sins. If this child be not the child of a
demon, but of my own race, be merciful to
me, and help me to climb to this nest." God
heard his prayer and granted it.

When the Simorg saw San and his followers
he said to Zal, " I have been as a mother to
you ; but now your father, the hero San, has
come for you, and I must give you up to him
safe and sound."

The young man was sorry to hear this, and
said (he had never seen the face of man, but
the Simorg had taught him to speak) : " Are
you tired of my company ? Your nest is as
good as a throne to me."

The Simorg said, " When you have seen a
real throne, it may be that my nest will no
longer seem all that you can desire. It is not
for want of love that I send you away ; indeed
I could have wished for nothing better than
that you should have remained here ; but your
lot in life is otherwise ordered. Take one of
my feathers with you, and if ever you find
yourself in a strait, throw it into the fire, and I


will come to your help. And do not forget
me, for the love that I have for you breaks my
very heart."

Thus speaking he took him up, and carried
him to his father. When San saw his son, he
perceived that he was worthy of a throne. He
was as strong as a lion ; his eyelashes were
black, his eyes dark brown, his lips like coral,,
his cheeks red as blood. The one fault in him
was his hair. San blessed his son, and clothed
him as became his birth, and gave him a
war-horse to ride, and called his name Zal.

Then the father and the son journeyed
together to pay their court to the great King
Minuchehr, and told him the story. The
King consulted the wise men, who told him
that Zal would become a great hero, both
prudent and brave. These prophecies so
delighted him that he gave San the richest
presents that can be imagined Arab horses
with trappings of gold, Indian swords in gold
scabbards, rubies, pages clothed in brocades of
gold, embroidered with jewels, and, among
other splendid gifts, a throne adorned with
turquoises, and finally a charter that invested


him with the dominion of India and the

After this San made an expedition against
the Kingdom of Mazenderan, the country of the
Demons, leaving his kingdom in the charge of
Zal, and Zal, having learnt all that he could
from the wise men of the land, resolved to visit
various parts of his dominions. Accordingly,
he came to Cabul, which was a province
tributary to his father, and was received with
great honour by Mihrab, prince of that coun-
try. Mihrab would gladly have entertained
him, but Zal said, /'It is impossible; what
would my people say if they heard that I drank
wine and was the guest of an idolater ? Ask
me anything else, and you shall have it."

Now Zal's companions had described to him
Rudabeh, the daughter of Mihrab, as being the
very greatest beauty in the world ; and it so
happened that Mihrab himself said in his
daughter's presence that there was no hero
under the sun that could be compared to Zal.
Thus the two cafne to love each other ; and
their love so increased, that it passed all limits
of reason. But there was this hindrance to


their marriage, that the lady came of an evil
stock, the race of King Zohak, the cruellest
tyrant that ever had lived upon the earth.

Zal put the matter before his father, and his
father again asked the advice of his wise men.
The wise men consulted the stars, and gave
him this answer : " Great King, we have good
news for you. The marriage of Zal and the
daughter of Mihrab will be fortunate above
all others. They shall have a son who shall be
unmatched for strength and valour, who shall
root out the wicked from the earth. He
shall subdue the Tartars, and raise the. king-
dom of the Persians to the heavens."

When he heard this, he sent back the messen-
ger whom Zal had sent to him with this answer :
" This is a foolish passion of thine, my son ;
nevertheless, I will not hinder. Only we must
see what King Minuchehr will say."

King Minuchehr assembled his wise men,
and said to them, " My fathers broke down the
power of the tyrant Zohak ; and we must not
let the foolish passion of Zal raise it up again.
Mix these races together, and it will be like
mixing a poison with some precious drug ; and,


indeed, if the child of these two should be like
his mother rather than his father, there will
be great troubles for Persia. Tell me what I
should do."

But the wise men had no answer to give.
Then the King sent for Prince San, who was
now returning victorious from his expedition.
The Prince came and related to him his ad-
ventures ; but when he would have gone on
to speak of his son and the Princess Rudabeh,
the King interrupted him.

" Go," he cried, " and burn with fire the city
of Mihrab. And as for Mihrab, and his family,
let not one of them live. His nobles, his ser-
vants kill them all."

He spoke with such fury that San dared
not answer a single word. He bowed his
head to the ground and departed, setting out
that very day with his army for the land of

Zal heard that he was coming, and went to
meet him. When he came into his father's
presence, he kissed the ground at his feet, and
said, " Sire, your justice and goodness make all
men happy except your son. When I was a


new-born child, you left me to die upon the
mountains ; and now what are you intending
to do ? I went to dwell in Cabul by your
orders ; it was for your pleasure that I performed
the journey hither. And now you have brought
an army to lay waste the country which I
inhabit, and to slay the Prince who has wel-
comed me. This is the justice that you do
to your son. See, I am in your hands ; do
with me as you will ; cut me in pieces if it is
your pleasure. But know that all the harm
you do to Cabul, you do to me."

San answered : " You are right ; you say
nothing but what is just and right. But wait
and see whether I cannot help you. I will
write a letter to the King, and you shall carry
it to him yourself."

San wrote a letter in which he pleaded the
cause of his son. " I behaved very ill to him
once," he said, " and I promised that I would
never again refuse him a request ; and now
he has set his heart on marriage. For myself
I have asked neither provinces nor honours ;
and for him, great King, I ask only that you
should deal with him after your wisdom."


Zal carried the letter to the King, who re-
ceived him with all honour and kindness.
" You have brought up again," he said, " an
old sorrow ; your father's letter troubles me ;
but he and you shall have your desire. Wait
a while till I can consult my wise men."

The wise men spent three whole days and
nights in searching into the secrets of the
heavens. Then they came to the King and
said, " We have inquired into the movements
of the stars, and they tell us this the child
that shall be born to the son of San and the
daughter of Mihrab shall be a great hero. He
shall have long life, courage, strength, and
glory. No man shall be his match in the
battle or at the banquet. He shall catch lions
in his hunting nets, and roast a wild ass whole
for his meal."

The King said, " Keep secret what you have
told me. I will put the young man's wit to the
proof. Ask him questions that shall try him."

The first sage said to him : " I saw twelve
trees, fair and tall. Each puts forth thirty
branches ; and they neither increase nor



The second said : " I saw two noble horses,
one black as a sea of pitch, the other bright as
crystal. They are always running at full speed,
and cannot gain one on the other."

The third said: "I saw thirty knights passing
before the King ; I counted them and I found
one wanting ; I counted them again, and there
were thirty."

The fourth said : " I saw a garden filled with
green things, and abounding with water. A
strong man came into it, carrying a sharp
scythe. He cut down the green and the dry
alike. If you cried to him for pity he would
not listen."

Zal reflected a while on these questions, and
then answered : " The twelve fair trees that
have each thirty branches and neither increase
nor diminish are the twelve months, each of
which has thirty days, neither more nor less.
The two noble horses, of which one is black,
the other white, that are always pursuing each
other, are night and day. They fly like a wild
beast before a dog, and neither gains upon the
other. As for the thirty knights, whose number
seems to want one, but is complete if you count


it again, it is in this : in every month there is
one moon that is hidden from our eyes, but
when you look again it is there. And the man
with the scythe, who cuts down the green and
the dry alike, who listens to no complainings,
he is time, and we are the grass which he cuts."

The King and all his nobles greatly ap-
plauded the wisdom of Zal. Then the King
would try his strength. He bade some of his
greatest warriors arm themselves, and Zal, on
the other hand, armed himself. Zal looked
among his adversaries for him who was the
most famous and skilful of them all; he burst
out of the cloud of dust in which he was
hidden like a leopard, seized his opponent by
the girdle, and lifted him out of his saddle so
lightly that the King and all his people were
astonished. They cried with one voice, " There
was never the equal of Zal!" and the King said,
" Happy the father of such a son ! Unhappy
the mother of him who shall meet him in
battle ! "

So Zal, having proved his wisdom and his
courage to the satisfaction of the King, had his
will, and married the daughter of Mihrab. In


due time his wife bare him a son ; but before
the birth she was so near to death that Zal was
in despair. In the midst of his grief he be-
thought him of the feather which the Simorg
had given him. This he took, and put it on
the coals of a brazier ; before it was consumed
the Simorg appeared.

" Do not vex yourself," said the wise Bird ;
" so mighty a child cannot come into the world
without great trouble. Give the mother this
nut which I have brought with me, having first
pounded it in milk and musk. And give her
also strong drink that she may forget her

Zal did as the Simorg told him ; after this
all went well with the mother. When she
awoke they brought her the child. He was
but a day old, and yet he seemed to have been
born a whole year ; and he was as fair as a
nosegay of lilies and tulips. When his mother
saw him, she smiled upon him, and said, " He
shall be called Rustem." Now Rustem means



THERE was never in the world such a child as
Rustem, the son of Zal. He was fed with the
milk of ten nurses, and when he was weaned,
his food was bread and meat, and he ate as
much as five men. As for his strength and
stature, they were such as never had been seen
before or will be seen again.

One day he was sleeping in his chamber
when he heard outside his door a great cry that
the King's white elephant had broken its chain
and was at liberty, and that the inhabitants of
the palace were in great danger. In a moment
he rushed to seize his grandfather's club, and
prepared to go out. The attendants tried to
stop him. " We dare not incur your father's
rage," they said, " by opening the door. The


night is dark ; the elephant has broken his
chain ; and yet you are going out. What foliy
is this ! " Rustem was greatly enraged to be
so hindered, and struck the man who spoke so
terrible a blow between the head and the nape
of the neck, that his head fell off like a ball
with which children play. When he turned to
the others they soon made way for him. Then
he struck the door with his club, and burst the
bolts and bars with a single blow. This done,
he laid the club upon his shoulder, and hastened
after the elephant. As for his warriors, they
were all as frightened of the beast as a lamb is
frightened of a wolf. When the furious beast
saw him, it rushed at him, lifting its trunk to
strike him. Rustem gave it one blow, for only
one was wanted ; its legs failed under it and it
fell ; you had said, so vast was it, that a moun-
tain had fallen. Rustem returned to his
chamber and finished his sleep.

The next day Zal, hearing what his son had
done, sent for him, and covered him with
praises. " My son," he said, "you are yet but
a child, and yet there is no one to match you in
courage and stature. I have an enterprise for


you to conduct. Many years ago my grand-
father was sent by the King to take an en-
chanted fortress which is situated upon Mount
Sipend, and was killed by a rock that was
thrown upon his head by one of the besieged,
after he had attacked it in vain for a whole
year. After this my father San assembled an
army, and marched against the place. But he
could never find the way which led to the place.
It is indeed so well provided that no one need
ever leave it to get anything from without.
San indeed wandered for years over the deserts,
looking for the fortress, but was obliged at last
to return without having avenged his father's
death. Now, my son, it is your turn. Go in
disguise ; the keepers of the fort will not know
you ; and when you have made your way into
the fortress, destroy the wretches root and

" I will do it," said Rustem.

Zal went on : " Disguise yourself as a camel-
driver. Pretend that you are coming in from
the desert, and that you have a cargo of salt
with you. There is nothing in that country
that they value more than salt. Let them once


hear that this is what you are bringing, and
great and small will welcome you."

Rustem gladly undertook this business. He
hid the great club with which he had slain the
white elephant in a load of salt, and he chose a
number of companions who were as prudent as
they were brave. Their arms also were hidden in
loads of salt, and so they approached the fortress.

The keeper of the gate saw them from a
distance, and ran to the Prince, saying, " A
caravan with a number of camel-drivers has
arrived. If you ask me for what purpose they
have come, I should say that, in my opinion,
they have salt to sell."

Accordingly the Prince sent a messenger to
the master of the caravan, to ask him what his
packages contained.

Rustem said, " Go back, and tell your
master that I have salt in my packages."

The Prince, on receiving this message, in
great joy ordered the gate to be thrown open,
and Rustem with his camels and their drivers,
and the packages which they had with them,
all entered the fortress. Rustem was cour-
teously greeted by the Prince, and greeted him


courteously in return. Then he made his way
to the Bazaar, taking his camel-drivers with
him. The people crowded round him, some
with clothing, others with gold and silver ; all
were eager for his merchandise ; and there
was not a thought of fear or suspicion in the
heart of any one of them. When the night
came on Rustem executed his plan of attack.
First, he fell upon the Prince and levelled him
to the ground with a single blow of his club.
There was not a chief in the whole fortress that
could stand before him. Some he struck down
with his club, and some with his sword. When
the morning came there was not a single man
of all the defenders of the fortress that was not
either dead or disabled.

In the middle of the fortress there was a
building of stone with a gate of iron. Rustem
gave a blow of his club to the gate, and it flew
open before him. Within there was a great
vaulted hall, full of gold pieces and pearls.
There never was such a sight in the world.

Rustem sent a message to his father, to tell
him of his victory, and to ask him what he
should do.


Zal wrote back to this effect: " I send you
herewith two thousand camels to carry away
your booty. Load them with all that is
precious, and then burn the place with fire."

This Rustem did. He loaded the camels
with precious stones, and gold, and costly
swords, chains and girdles, pearls and jewels
worthy of a king, and Chinese brocades richly
embroidered with figures. This done, he set
fire to the fortress, and so departed.

All this Rustem did while he was yet a



WHILE Rustem was growing to manhood, Persia
suffered great troubles. First the good King
Minuchehr died, and his successor, his son
Newder, exercised his power very ill. When
the news of this change came to the King of
the Tartars, he conceived the idea of conquering
the country for himself and avenging the
Tartars, for all that they had ever suffered at
the hands of the Persians. Accordingly he
sent for his son Afrasiab, who was next to him-
self in the kingdom, and asked his advice.
Afrasiab gave his voice for war, and though his
younger brother counselled peace, he prevailed.
So when the plains were covered with the green
freshness of spring, the army of the Tartars set


It was an unlucky hour for Persia, for the
great hero San was just dead, and Zal, the
white-haired, his son, was busy with his burial,
and Rustem was sick. Nevertheless, King
Newder raised as great an army as he could,
and came to meet the invaders. On the first
day of the battle, a Tartar champion, Barman
by name, rode forth and challenged all the
Persians to single combat. There was no one
to answer except Kobad, who was the oldest
warrior in the army. The old Kobad was
killed, and afterwards the two armies fought
together till the darkness separated them.

That night the two armies rested on the field
of battle, and the next morning they renewed
the conflict. A terrible struggle it was, and
nothing in it was more dreadful than when King
Newder himself charged out of his army to meet
Afrasiab. They threw javelins at each other ;
they met with their lances ; they even closed
with each other like two serpents. At last, as.
night was coming on, Afrasiab began to prevail,
and the king could scarcely escape. That day
the Persians suffered far more loss than did
their enemies ; and when the darkness put an


end for a while to the battle, they were greatly

The king sent for two of his sons, and
said to them " My sons, the evil which my
father prophesied has come upon us. He said :
' An army of Tartars will invade Persia, and
you will be defeated.' Go to Mount Alburz,
and there gather such as are still faithful to our
house ; but go in secret, lest the army be dis-
couraged. I know not whether I shall see you
again ; I shall try my fortune once more. Be
brave, be prudent ; and if ye hear bad news of
me, know that it has been the will of heaven to
afflict me." So saying, he embraced his sons
and sent them away.

For two days the armies rested. Early in
the morning of the third the battle began again.
From morning till evening it raged so fiercely
that the ground could not be seen for the dead.
In the end the Persians suffered a great defeat ;
and indeed, before many days were past, King
Newder himself fell into the hands of Afrasiab,
who slew him in a fit of rage on hearing that
some of his bravest warriors had been killed by
the Persians.


Some time after these things had happened,
certain Persian nobles came to Zal and said -
" The people are without a king ; the Tartars
oppress us, and you do not help us out of our

Zal said : " All my days I have feared
nothing but old age ; now it has come upon
me, my back is bowed ; I cannot wield the
sword. But, thanks to God, the stump has
put forth a noble shoot. My son Rustem will
do all that you desire. But first I must find
him a war-horse ; the Arab horses are not
strong enough for him."

Zal then called Rustem to him, and said :
" My son, you are not yet come to the age of a
soldier " for he was yet but a boy " can you
meet the Tartar nobles on the field of battle ?
What say you ? "

" My father," said Rustem, " have you for-
gotten how I took the fortress of Mount Sipend,
and killed the white elephant ? It would be a
great disgrace if I were to be afraid of Afrasiab
and his Tartars."

Still Zal was in doubt. " I remember, my
son, what you have done ; and yet I cannot


help trembling 1 . At your -years you should be
delighting yourself with music and song ; you
are not yet ready for battle."

Rustem answered " I am not one to find
any pleasure in peace. Give me the field of
battle, and ,you shall see what I can do. But I
must have a horse as strong as a mountain,
which none but I shall be able to bridle ; and I
must have a club such as none but I shall be
able to wield."

Zal was delighted with this answer, and sent
immediately to Zabulistan and Cabul for all the
finest horses that could be found in them.
They were all made to pass before Rustem, to
whom the attendants explained the royal marks
which were upon them. But every horse that
Rustem took hold of, and put his hand upon its
back, bent under the weight of his arm, till its
belly touched the ground. At last came a
herd of horses from Cabul, and in it was a grey
mare. She was as strong as a lioness ; but her
height was but small. She was followed by a
foal larger than herself. Its eyes were black and
bright one could have seen them a mile away
at night its tail was arched, its hoofs were like


steel. Its colour was saffron, with red spots-
It was as strong as an elephant, as tall as a
camel, and as vigorous as a lion. As soon as
Rustem saw the colt, he made a knot in his
lasso, and prepared to separate it from the rest
of the herd. The keeper said to him

" Noble sir, do not take that animal ; that
belongs to another."

Rustem said, " To whom, then, does this
horse belong ? I see no mark on his quarter."

" There is no need to look for a mark," said
the old herdsman ; " the horse is famous enough.
He is as light as water, and as swift as fire.
We call him ' Raksh ' ' Rustem's Raksh,' but we
do not know who is his master. It is three
years since he has been able to bear a saddle,
and many nobles have desired to have him.
But as soon as his mother sees a man's lasso,
she runs up like a lioness to fight him. We do
not know what secret is hidden under all this ;
but take care, young man, to have nothing to
do with this savage beast ; she will tear the
heart out of a lion, and the skin off a leopard's

No sooner had Rustem heard this, than he


threw his lasso, and caught the spotted colt.
The mare ran at him like a wild elephant, and
would have seized his head in her teeth ; but
Rustem roared at her with so terrible a voice,
that she stood still in astonishment. And as
she stood, he dealt her a great blow on the
head with his fist, so that she rolled in the dust.
When she got up again, she sprang away and
hid herself in the herd. Rustem tightened the
knot of the lasso, and then pressed one of his
hands with all his might on the colt's back.
Raksh did not bend under it ; one would have
said, indeed, that he did not feel it. Rustem
said to himself

" That is my place; there I shall do great

He jumped on the colt's back, and said to
the herdsman

" Tell me what is the price of this horse."

" If you are Rustem," answered the herds-
man, " mount him, and redress the wrongs of
your country. His price is the land of Persia."

It was thus that Rustem got his great horse
Raksh ; never was there one that was swifter,
or more sagacious, or more tractable,






ZAL marched with his army against the Tartars,
Rustem leading the way. When he was within
a few miles of the enemy, he assembled the
veteran chiefs, and said

" We have a great army ; we have brave
soldiers and wise counsellors ; but we want

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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 6 of 13)