Reading in Progress: Arabian Nights, Part Two of the Story

Arabian Nights: The Marvels and Wonders of The Thousand and One Nights - Anonymous, Richard Francis Burton, Jack Zipes

This won't make much sense without reading Part One. Also everything in quote marks is again directly from the Zipes translation.


Last episode was mostly sex farce. This stays at that level for a bit and then goes into further...well, extreme joking? I guess? Frankly it's a great example of how Old Jokes Sometimes Don't Translate/Hold Up Well. Also this goes into many more WTF areas than I'd thought it would.


The Tale of Nur al-Din Ali and His Son, Part Two

Quotes from Arabian Nights, adapted from Richard F. Burton's Unexpurgated Translation by Jack Zipes


We last left Hasan at the gates of Damascus wearing only half the normal amount of clothing and the people in the street admiring his...legs. And pretty much the same thing happens to him as happened to his father (in the early part of the story I didn't go into in Part One) - Hasan wanders around a new town, bumps into a nice guy who takes him in and makes him family.

Which is how Hasan ends up owning a cooking shop in Damascus.

Meanwhile back in Cairo, Lady of Beauty wakes up and doesn't find Hasan, but assumes he's in the toilet/privy and "expected him to return in an hour or so" (p 304). Her dad (also vizier of Cairo, whom I'll call LoB Dad) stops by to chat - and remember, this is the man who thinks she's wed the Hunchback because the Sultan forced them to accept it. Dad had wanted Lady married to her long lost cousin. (Spoiler, that's Hasan.)

LoB Dad: (to himself) "I'll slay this daughter of mine if she yielded to that lump of a groom of her own free will." (p 304)

Lady of Beauty: (looking terribly pleased) Here I am, father!

LoB Dad: "You should be cursed for rejoicing after having slept with that horse groom!" (304)

LoB: Don't even joke about it, I had enough of that all day yesterday when everyone was laughing at me because of it! "My lord, never in my life have I spent a night so sweet as last night. So, don't mock me by reminding me of the gobbo!" (304)

LoB Dad: He's the one you just slept with!

LoB: Dad, please stop joking with me! You're the one that paid the Hunchback to pretend to be the groom in order to keep off the evil eye! Then afterwards I was introduced to my real bridegroom, the one who was handing out money earlier in the evening. "And I spent the night on the breast of this lovely man, a most lively darling with his black eyes and full eyebrows." (304)

LoB Dad: "You whore! What's this you're telling me? Where are your brains?"

LoB: "Father,'re breaking my heart. Why are you being so hard on me? Indeed my husband, who took my virginity, has just gone to the privy, and I feel that he's made me pregnant." (305)

LoB's Dad goes to the privy looking for Hasan - and finds the Hunchback, who we left stuffed headfirst in the privy in Part One. Comedy ensues because the Hunchback at first believes LoB's Dad is the jinnee come to kill him.

Hunchback: Enough, I'm done with this. "Couldn't you have married me to someone else instead of the lady love of buffaloes and the beloved of jinnees?" (305)

Exit Hunchback and end of his story.

Meanwhile no one can find Hasan - but LoB and her Dad do find his clothes. The turban is the type worn only by viziers (Hasan's previous job) and the bag of gold indicates he's not poor. They find the convenient document (from Part One) sewn into Hasan's skullcap that explains who he is: LoB's cousin, and LoB's Dad's nephew. But this doesn't change the fact that they still have no idea where Hasan is.

Nine months later LoB has a son, who they name Ajib. He grows up and is sent to school and...he becomes a snotty little bully to the other children. (For the curious, the translation uses the word bully multiple times for this bit of the story.)

Ajib: "Who among you is like me? ...I'm the son of the vizier of Egypt!" (308)

Up to this point Ajib's grown up thinking that his grandfather was his father.


The other children complain to the assistant head of the school who tells them to bully Ajib right back by only allowing kids who announce their father's name to play games. And that's how Ajib learns that he doesn't know who his real dad is. The assistant head tells him that everyone's going to assume he's a bastard unless he goes home and figures this out. So Ajib comes home crying buckets, and soon LoB is doing the same.

LoB's Dad: Well, I'm just going to have to explain the whole story to the Sultan, take a leave of absence, and we'll set off on an adventure to find Ajib's father, Hasan.

Flash-forward to Damascus, where LoB and family have stopped to rest. Ajib and his Eunuch Babysitter have gone out to look at the town.

Remember back in Part One where everyone couldn't get over how Amazingly Handsome Hasan was? A similar thing happens to Ajib, which shouldn't be a surprise. But it has the effect of multiple people coming near to sit and gaze upon his beauty, wherever Ajib goes, and following him around.

Of course Ajib stops at Hasan's cooking shop, where Hasan has just finished making a "conserve of pomegranate grains with sugar" (310). Hasan sees the boy and if effects him oddly: "with a throbbing heart was drawn to him through blood and natural affection." (310)

Hasan: (to Ajib) "My lord, you've overwhelmed my heart, and I would feel honored if you would grace my house and ease my soul by joining me in a repast of meat." (310) (And Hasan sheds tears, thinking of his past.)

Ajib: (to his Eunuch)" good guard, my heart goes out to this cook. He is like one that has a son far away from him. So let us enter and warm his heart by accepting his hospitality. Perhaps, if we do so, Allah may reunite me with my father." (311)

Eunuch Babysitter (from now on EB): You're the son of a vizier - you can't just go into the home of strange commoners! I've been having to keep random people in the street off of you with my staff just because they tried to oogle you. We are NOT going in that shop!

Hasan: (hears this and tears run down his face)

Ajib: I can't help it, I strangely love this cook.

EB: Nope, still not letting you in there.

Hasan: (Butters EB up with short speech about how discreet and polite EB is)

EB: Well, ok, let's go in.

They all eat pomegranate grains, while Ajib tells Hasan of the search for his father. When they're finished Ajib and EB leave the shop, but Hasan locks up his shop and follows them.

EB: Why are you following us?!

Hasan: "When you left seemed as though my soul had gone with you" (312) and I had business in this direction anyway.

EB: (angry) This is the kind of thing I was trying to avoid by not going into the shop in the first place!

Ajib: (also angry) Let him walk the road, but if he follows us to our tents I'll send him off. I don't want to have to tell my grandfather about this.

Hasan follows them all the way to their tents.

Ajib "...found his [Hasan's] eyes fixed on his own, for the father had become a body without a soul, and it seemed to Ajib that his eyes were treacherous or that he was some lewd fellow. (312)

So Ajib angrily throws a rock at Hasan, which hits him in the face. Hasan swoons, and Ajib and EB go into the tents.

Hasan: (after he comes to) "I shouldn't have shut my shop and followed the boy! It wasn't right. Now he probably thinks that I'm some evil-minded fellow." (312)

Pretty much, yes.

Meanwhile LoB's Dad finds Hasan's mother, tells her the story of Hasan and LoB and their quest to find Hasan. Which Hasan's mom is completely happy about, because she's spent all this time crying over the loss of Hasan, who she assumed was dead since he'd disappeared without a trace. So Hasan's mom joins the group, and back they all trek to Damascus, because it's on the way back to Egypt.

Ajib and EB they go to the bazaar again, and of course they go to the cook's shop. (Even after the creepiness.)

Ajib: I really want to see if that cook is ok, because he was kind to us.

EB: "As you wish." (314) (Not in the text but I'm sure he sighed and rolled his eyes while saying this.)

Ajib: (to Hasan) "Peace be with you! I want you to know my heart goes out to you!" (415)

Hasan: "Heal my broken heart and eat some of my sweetmeats. By Allah, I cannot look at you without  my heart fluttering. Indeed I should not have followed you that other time, but I could not control myself." (315)


[Hasan has NO idea that he's the kid's dad. He's not even aware that he has a kid at all. And yet he can't help but follow and stare at this kid. Because heart flutterings.]

Ajib: But last time you followed us home. "...So now we won't eat here unless you promise not to go out and trail us like a dog." (315)

Hasan: I promise.

Hasan feeds them both - pomegranate grains again - but he keeps staring fixedly at Ajib's face. (Which, judging from the way this is described/written, is as creepy then as it would be now.)

Ajib: Stop staring at me!

After feeding them as much of the pomegranate grains as they can eat Hasan brings them "sherbet flavored with rose water, scented with musk, and cooled in the snow." (315)

After all this food Ajib and EB return to their tents and the family gathers for a meal. Ajib and EB are completely full, but try to eat out of politeness.

Ajib: (dips bread into pomegranate conserve) Ugh, this stuff is too sweet - it's awful!

Hasan's Mom (Ajib's grandmother): Don't you like my cooking?! No one else can make this except for me and my son, Hasan.

Ajib: It's awful - when you compare it to the cook who makes it in Damascus!

Hasan's Mom: (To EB) How dare you take my grandson to eat in common shops!

And here a long bit where EB swears they didn't go to such a shop and Ajib says they did. (Guess who gets beaten for it?) But after that:

Hasan's Mom: I refuse to believe anyone's pomegranate grains are better than mine! Bring me a sample of what this cook is selling and we shall judge whose is better!

EB: (is sent to the shop, says to Hasan): I need some of your best pomegranate grains, because there's a dispute over who makes them best!

Hasan: "By Allah, no one can prepare this dish as it should be prepared except for me and my mother, and she's in a country quite far from here." (318)

EB delivers the dish, Hasan's Mom tastes the grains, screams and faints. (Because in this story people are serious and emotional over pomegranate grains.)

Hasan's Mom: (awake again) My son and no one else could have made this dish!

LoB Dad: I'm finally to be reunited with my nephew! (to his servants) Fifty of you go to the cook's shop and tear it down. Then tie the hands of the cook behind him with his turban and drag him here by force! Oh but don't hurt him.

Hassan: (dragged into the room by servants, crying) What have I done to be treated this way?!

LoB Dad: Are you the one who prepared the pomegranate grains?

Hasan: Yes - what is my crime?! I can't believe that this is all about the pomegranate grains!

LoB Dad: I'll tell you later. (to his servants) Put him in the chest!

Hasan is put into a large padlocked chest, the tents are packed up and everyone travels to Cairo. (They did have a stop to sleep during which Hasan was taken out of the chest - but the next morning they put him back in and continued on their way.) Hasan is also asked a few more times if he really made the pomegranate grains, and answers yes.


[It amazes me that he never wonders aloud why he's been kidnapped by pomegranate-grain-fixated crazy-people.]

LoB's Dad: (to his servants) Let him out of the chest. And bring me a carpenter - I want him to make a cross of wood for this man.

Hasan: (who's heard that bit) Wait, what for?

LoB's Dad: Oh I'm going to crucify you on it."...I'm going to have you nailed to the cross and paraded all about the city!" (320)

Hasan: WHY???!!!

LoB's Dad: Because your cooking is THAT bad. The pomegranate grains lacked pepper.

Hasan: This is all because I didn't add pepper?!!!! For that you destroy my shop, keep me in a chest and only feed me once a day?!

LoB's Dad: The punishment fits the crime. We'll crucify you tomorrow.

Hasan: If you had any degree of sense you'd not treat me this way. "May Allah damn all conserves of pomegranate grains and curse the hour when I cooked it!" (320)

When it's night LoB's Dad has Hasan locked in the trunk again. Then he has the chest taken to his mansion.

LoB's Dad: (to LoB) Quickly arrange everything the way it was the night of your wedding! Place all your husband's clothes where he left them! And when he enters the room tell him this (whispers punch line). I'll talk to him in the morning.

Hasan is taken from the chest, still asleep, and put into the fine shirt he was wearing on the wedding night.

[Yes, I know, no idea how they had that, he was wearing that in Damascus when the Jinniyah left him there. Also no idea how he'd sleep through the removal from chest part. Er, not that this is the first WTH moment here.]

Hasan: (wakes up in some random vestibule) Um, wait, where am I? This must be a dream...

LoB: (to Hasan) "Oh lord, don't you want to come in? Indeed, you've dallied a long time in the privy!" (321)

Hasan: I'm not sure if I'm having a nightmare or a daydream. How long have I been away?

LoB: You've only been gone an hour. Have you gone crazy?

Hasan: Maybe - I just had a dream that I was a cook in Damascus for ten years. And I met a boy who was a noble's son and...hey wait (feels scar from rock that Ajib threw at him on his forehead) - I still have that scar, so some of that must have happened! Now I feel confused. (Hasan tells her what happened to him.) ...And they were going to nail me to a cross of wood!

LoB: Why were they going to do that?

Hasan: For not using enough pepper in the pomegranate grains. I am SO glad that was all a dream.

Hasan stays awake all night trying to sort out what was dream and what was reality.

LoB's Dad: Good morning!

Hasan: (who never has met his father in law/uncle) Aren't you the same man who had my shop destroyed and was going to have me nailed to a cross?!

LoB's Dad: (laughing) Ah I see the time has come to tell the truth! You are my nephew and all of this was a test to make sure you were the man who made the pomegranate grains, and thus the child of your father. And I've brought your mother here too! (Throws his arms around Hasan and cries over him.) All of this happened because once upon a time your father and I had a quarrel. Oh and Ajib's your son by the way.

Hasan: Ah the kid that threw the stone at me! (Oddly, no mention of heart flutterings here.)

Hasan's mom and Ajib are brought into the room and there's a big festival of hugging and crying.

After the reunion LoB's Dad, a vizier remember, takes Hasan to meet the Sultan in a sort of Take Your Son In Law To Work Day. They have a conversation, which turns into a pop quiz where the Sultan sees how much information Hasan can cough up. Hasan also spouts some of his own poetry, which we haven't heard anything about him composing until just now. Here's an example of the quiz:

Sultan: "...Do you have any knowledge as to the points of excellence in Beauty?" (324)

Hasan: "...Beauty consists in the brightness of face, clearness of complexion, shapeliness of nose, gentleness of eyes, sweetness of mouth, cleverness of speech, slenderness of shape, and seemliness of all attributes. But the acme of beauty is in the hair." (324)


[I'll admit I quoted this bit just because I had to stop and ponder how many cultures would agree that hair is always number one in the whole beauty question. And I don't have any answers for that. It did have me wondering whether the Sultan is the type who'd make up Tumblr quizes. I'm thinking yes.]


Hasan says all the right things and the Sultan gives him a job/position. Hassan then spends the next day writing a long poem for the Sultan, who is greatly impressed and makes him "boon companion" (apparently the best job ever). Hassan and his whole family live happily ever after.


Except, of course, since this is the Arabian Nights, the narrative then goes on into yet another story. But that's the end of Hasan's bit of it anyway.




Now's your turn to assure me that yes, this does seem like a somewhat weird (not to mention disturbing) story to you. It makes me wish I'd kept track of previous weirdness in the book just so I could offer them in comparison.