16. The Ebony Horse

A Persian Sage brings an ebony horse which can fly to King Sabut. In return the King gives one of his daughters but she is reluctant to marry the old and ugly man. Her brother, Kamar al-Akmar, protests at their father, but when he travels on the horse he does not know how to descend. When he eventually does he comes to an unknown palace where he meets a beautiful Princess Shams al-Nahar. After being discovered he threatens the King he will fight him or his army. The next day he flees from the battlefield with his ebony horse. At home he craves for the Princess and takes her from her home. When they are back at Kamar’s palace the Persian Sage abducts her and brings her to the land of the Greeks. Here the Sage is put in jail and the Princess becomes mad of sorrow. Kamar meanwhile finds out where Shams is and pretends he is a master of medicine. He fools the king and escapes with Shams.

Sabut, the rich but generous King of the Persians, has three daughters. He loves sciences and geometry and on a festival-day three wise men, cunning artificers, come to him with three presents. The first has a man of gold with a trumpet. Whenever a man want to take over the city it will blow his clarion against him on which he will fall dead. The second wise man has a basin of silver in which a peacock sits. Every hour it pecks one of its young and cries until twenty-four hours have passed. Then the cescent can be seen in its throat. The third wise man has an ebony horse which can bring its rider anywhere in one day instead of year.

The King wants to give each of the wise men one of his daughters, but one daughter overhears this and sees she must marry an old ugly man. She tells her brother, Kamar al-Akmar. He confronts the King and what this device may be. He is shown the ebony horse and the King asks the Sage to show his son how the horse works. When Kamar ascends he does not know how to go down and disappears. The Sage is imprisoned.

Kamar figures out how to descend and lands on a palace. At night he goes into the palace to find food and drink. There is nobody in the palace but a guard with a bag. He takes the guard’s sword and the bag wherein Kamar finds food and water. When he continuous through the palace he finds a curtain behind which a rich couch stands with four slave girls surrounding it sleeping. On the couch he sees a beautiful lady. She wakes up and thinks he is the said ugly prince that her father wanted her to marry, but she finds Kamar beautiful. The waiting-women tell her he is not the ugly prince. One of them wakes the guard who, after a short conversation with Kamar in which Kamar states he is the King’s son in law, goes to get the King. When the King comes at the Princess’s place the women tell him that there is a modest man with her and the King’s wrath cools down.

Kamar threatens the King that he is a Prince of the sons of the royal Chosroes who could destroy the Kingdom. He gives the King two options, either he fights Kamar now in single combat or Kamar will face his army the next day. The King decides the latter one. When Kamar goes to the battlefield the next day he says he will mount his horse when the fight starts. He asks his horse to be brought from the roof of the palace. When the eunuchs do so and they laugh at the ebony horse when they bring itr down.

When Kamar mounts the horse the King screams to catch him, but his Wazirs and Viceroys say that a man can’t overtake a flying bird. When King informs his daughter that Kamar has left she becomes grieviously ill. Kamar in the meantime arrives home and his parents rejoice. When they are drinking and making merry a singer with a lute makes Kamar think of his lover, Shams al-Nahar, and goes with the ebony horse to the palace. He finds the Princess in tears but when she notices him she wants him to take her with him. He does and when her parents cry out to come back they move on.

At home he places Shams in the royal garden. The Princess must have a grand entrance which he will prepare. When he returns to the garden she is gone. He suspects the Persian Sage who created the horse and one of the guardians confirms the Sage went into the garden. Kamar says he will not rest until the case has been cleared, upon which his father weeps.

The Sage went into the garden and tricked Shams that he was a messenger sent by Kamar to bring her to him. When they took off the Princess was on to him, but she was unable to free herself. They go to the land of the Greeks where they are captured by the slaves of the King of that land. The Sage says Shams is his wife, but Shams tells the King she has been abducted by the Persian. The King imprisons the Sage and Shams is taken into his palace.

Kamar knows where Shams has been taken through travelling merchants. He already went to his parents but they did not know where she was. The merchants also tell him that the Persian has been taken prisoner and know nothing of the ebony horse.

When Kamar reaches the city it is already night and he is taken by some guards to stay for the night. They tell him the story of Shams and the Sage and that he ebony horse is in the treasury. They also relate that the Princess is mad. The Prince also overhears the Sage in prison who regrets his deeds. Kamar forgives him.

When Kamar is brought to the King the next day he tells them he is a man of art especially medicine. He asks for the ebony horse, because it horse is well everything will be fine. He sees the horse in perfect condition. Next he goes to the Princess whom he informs of his decoy. She pretends she is still mad, but calmer. To finish his cure Kamar puts her on the horse wih some distance from the guards and they ascend, making their escape. At home Kamar’s father rejoices but destroys the horse. They inform Shams’s parents and abide in the enjoyment of life till there comes the Destroyer of delights, the Plunderer of palaces and the Caterer for graveyards.

From: The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night — Volume 05

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