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TAJIK FOLK TALES

THE PADISHAH'S DAUGHTER AND THE YOUNG SLAVE


 

Retold by Klavdia Ulug-zadeh
Translated by Olga Shartse

 

 

The Padishah had a grownup daughter who was so proud and conceited that she sent away all the matchmakers who came to seek her hand in marriage. Noe of the suitors was good enough for this Princess. then her father held counsel with his viziers and said to them:  

"Is it not time the Princess got married?"
"It is time," replied the viziers. "Only let us ask her what sort of man she wants for a husband."
And the Princess told them: "I'll only marry the strongest and most handsome young man in the world, who alone deserves to be my husband."

 

The viziers tried to find a man like that in their own city, but no one measured up to the Princess's demands. The Padishah himself then set off on a journey to other towns. He rode for a long time and finally came to a wide river. On the bank squatted an old man with a beard that was long and green like sea-weed, he had on a green robe, and had a green staff in his hand. He was writing something with a black pebble on white pebbles which he then threw into the river.

 

The Padishah rode right up to the old man and asked him what he was writing on those pebbles and why he threw them into the water.

 

"I foretell people's future. Whatever I write on a white pebble which I then throw into the river will come to pass."    

"Could you foretell my daughter's future? Who is destined to become her husband?" asked the Padishah, and told the old man about his proud, conceited daughter who refused to marry anyone but the handsomest and strongest young man in the world.

 

The old man smiled, wrote something on a white pebble, threw it into the river, and said:  

"Your daughter will marry neither a pauper not a labourer, she will marry a slave."  

"Oh no! It cannot be!" cried the Padishah in alarm because he remembered that he did have a slave working in his household, he was a young man and the best worker in town, but a slave he was!

 

The Padishah hurried back home, and all the way he was thinking about how to avert that terrible disaster from his daughter. The moment he returned to his palace, he called his viziers together and told them what fate had in store for the Princess.  

"Woe unto us, woe! That wretched slave intends to marry my daughter! What am I to do!"

 

"Chop off his head" replied the viziers promptly.

 

When the poor young slave heard that he was to die, he pleaded and swore that he did not have the slightest desire to marry the Princess.

 

"What, he has the impudence to refuse the Padishah's daughter?" cried the sly viziers. "Off with his head for such impudence!"

 

And the Padishah agreed with them.

 

A very, very old and very, very wise man lived in a small hut not far from the palace. He was so old that he could no longer walk. When he heard about Padishah's cruel order, he begged his neighbours:

 

"Please, put me on a white felt rug, pick it up by the four corners, and carry me to the Padishah."

 

They did so, and when they brought him to the palace the Padishah asked the wise man:

 

"What advise have you come to give me, old sage?" asked the Padishah.

 

"oh Padishah, you are free to do what you will with your servants," replied the old man. "Send your young slave to the end of the world, give him any order you can think of, only don't execute that innocent youth."

 

The Padishah ordered the young slave to be brought into his presence.

 

"Hey you, wretched slave!" he said to the young man. "Go and find for me two precious pearls the size of walnuts with a moonglow inside them. If you find them I'll grant you your life, and give you your freedom besides. If you don't find them, I'll order your head to be chopped off."

 

The poor young slave merely dropped his head in agreement, and set off to find those unheard-of pearls, the size of walnuts and with a moonglow inside them.

 

He wandered about the land for many a day, he suffered cold and hunger, people laughed at him, and he all but collapsed from weariness. And then, one day, he came to the river on the bank of which squatted an old man in a green robe, with a long green beard and a green staff in his hand.

 

The young man bowed to him and asked: "Can you tell me where I can find two precious pearls the size of walnuts with a moonglow inside them?"

 

"You are as trusting as a chile, I see," replied the old man. "I know who sent you and why. Oh well, I've got to help you. Stay here on the bank, and wait for me."

 

Saying this, the old man in the green robe stepped into the river and vanished from sight. Suddenly the green weeds, floating on the surface of the water, parted and out came the old man. He climbed on to the bank and from the skirt of his robe poured a whole heap of large pearls on to the ground. All of them had a moonglow inside them.

 

"Take them and return to the   Padishah," said the old man.

 

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