26. Ma’aruf the Cobbler and his Wife Fatimah

In Cairo lives a cobbler named Ma’aruf and his wife Fatimah. One day Fatimah wants to have a vermicelli-cake, which Ma’arfu cannot provide. When he finally gets on she is not happy with the kind of honey and she strikes him. Ma’aruf promises a new one the next day. The next day Ma’aruf is arrested because his wife has complained about him. The Kazi feels sorry for the two and gives Fatimah a dinar to buy a cake. Afterwards two more runners come of a different Kazi to which Fatimah has complained as well. When he hears she has complained to the High Court he flees to the Gate of Victory and into a mosque where he meets a Haunter who fulfils his wish to bring him to a place where Fatimah cannot find him. When he is at the new city people laugh when he says he comes from Cairo. He meets an old friend named Ali. Ali has made a fortune by being a merchant. With a lie he borrowed money with which he made himself an established merchant. He wants to do the same with Ma’aruf. He will pretend Ma’aruf is a very rich merchant and he has to answer every question on having  goods with ‘plenty’. He  also has to give a lot of gold to beggars and the poor to show money is no expense to him. He does so, but he overdoes it. He borrows money from merchants which he gives to the poor, claiming his baggage-train will come. He even answers ‘plenty’ to questions from Ali who gets frustrated. The merchant eventually complain to the King that Ma’aruf promises a lot, but his baggage-train does not come. The King wants to have the wealth of this train, but his Wazir says Ma’aruf is an imposter. The King will test him by presenting a jewel. Ma’aruf breaks it, claiming it was only a thousand dinars in worth whereas a real jewel would be far more expensive. The King is satisfied and wants to offer Ma’aruf his daughter Dunya. Ma’aruf at first says he wants to wait until his baggage comes, but the marriage is not delayed. After twenty expensive days the treasurer tells the King the treasury is almost all but spent. The King grows weary if this baggage-train will come. He asks his daughter to find out. She does and Ma’aruf tells her the truth. She says he must flee and when the King has died he should return. He does so and Dunya tells her father the baggage-train was attacked by Arabs and Ma’aruf has gone to make sure things are settled. Ma’aruf meawhile meets a ploughman who gets food for him. Ma’aruf ploughs the land for him while he is away and stumbles upon a slate with a golden ring. It opens a stairs into the ground. Here he founds a treasure and a seal-ring which he rubs. A Jinn appears who will be his servant. Ma’aruf lets the treasure be brought to the surface and be brought to the city. Ma’aruf gives his wealth to the people and especially Dunya. The King and Wazir grow weary, it is strange that a merchant woould give away things instead of making money. The Wazir gives Ma’aruf whine to make him tell the truth, which he does. The Wazir rubs the ring presented to him and orders the Jinn to take Ma’aruf to a place where he may die of hunger and thirst. Next he transports the King to the same place and makes himself Sultan. He then wants to marry he long love Dunya. Dunya tricks him in making him believe she loves him. She takes the ring and sends the Wazir to prison. She lets the Jinn bring back Ma’aruf and her father, she keeps the ring to herself because she is more careful with it. The Wazir is put to death and burned. Ma’aruf is made Wazir and Dunya and he get a boy. Dunya dies five years later. One day Fatimah returns to ask for forgiveness. He promises her to be Queen, but she wants to have revenge and ties to steal the ring. Ma’arufs son however foresees her plot and kills her in her attempt. She is buried. Ma’aruf lives an untroubled life and marries the daughter of the ploughman.

In Cairo there dwells a cobbler named Ma’aruf who has a wife called Fatimah. His wife has the nickname “The Dung” for she is mischievous towards her spouse and he fears her. One day she asks him to bring her this night a vermicelli-cake, a Kunafah, dressed with bees honey Ma’aruf answers he doesn’t have a dirham but Allah will make things easy. However he doesn’t earn a thing that day and comes to the Kunafah-seller who hears his story. He gives him a Kunafah but with drip honey instead of bees honey. He also gives him bread and cheese. The Kunafah-seller says to Ma’aruf he owes him fifteen nusfs, but he has patience. When he comes home Fatimah complains there is no bees honey on the cake and she will not eat it. She hits him and knocks out one of his teeth. He starts screaming and the neighbours try to sooth them. When they are gone Ma’aruf decides he will eat the cake himself after which Fatimah hopes is will poison him. The cobbler promises he will get her a Kunafah with bees honey tomorrow.

When the next day he has hardly sat down two runners of the Kazi coming to get him. Fatimah complains Ma’aruf has beaten her but Ma’aruf says he did not and relates the story. The Kazi is a benevolent man and gives Fatimah a dinar to by a Kunafah with bees honey and asks her to obey her husband and Ma’aruf to treat her kindly.

After each goes their way the runners of the Kazi want money from Ma’aruf. He has to sell his goods to satisfy them. Then two runners come from another Kazi. Ma’aruf says they already made peace with each other but Fatimah says there will never be peace between them. They make peace in front of the Kazi and the cobbler has to pay the runners. He returns to his shop when a man warns him that his wife has complained to the High Court. The cobbler closes his shop and flees to the Gate of Victory. It starts to rain and he seeks refuge in a mosque. Here he wails and a statue comes to life. It says it is a Haunter, a dweller who has dwelled there for two hundred years. He hears the cobbler’s story and pities him. Ma’aruf may wish whatever he wants. He says he wants to go to a place where his wife cannot find him. The Haunter fulfils his wish and takes him away.

When Ma’aruf is at the gate of a new city he says he is from Cairo and left yesterday. The people laugh and think he is mad because it is a full year’s journey. He shows them bread he has just bought in Cairo, some believe him but others think he is a liar. Then a merchant comes and drives the people away. He clads Ma’aruf in clothes making him look like he was consul of merchants.

When the two talk with each other the merchant tells Ma’aruf he is Ali the son of Shaykh Ahmad. Ali was a youth friend of Ma’aruf in Cairo and after the tells his story he asks how Ali came into this country. Ali tells him he wandered from city to city until he came to this one named Ikhtiyan al-Khatan. He said he was a merchant and they believed him. He was assigned lodging. Ali asked for a thousand dinars to borrow. With that money he buys and sells things which makes him rich. Ali tells Ma’aruf he shouldn’t tell people he is from Cairo and a cobbler. He suggests a plan. Ma’aruf should go to the bazar with a black slave. Ali would welcome him and ask after certain goods of some kind and Ma’aruf should answer ‘plenty’. Ali will praise him and invite him into his house together with all the merchants. If comes across a beggar he should bestow him with gold. So the next day Ma’aruf does so. Ali praises him and Ma’araf answer every question if he has goods of a certain kind with ‘plenty’. When he sees a beggar he gives him a bag of gold and to many poor people afterwards. The merchants wander at this. He says to the Consul of Merchants that if he had known there were so many poor people he would have brought more money. The Consul gives him a thousand dinars to give to the poor. He goes to a mosque and again money to believers. He lends another thousand dinars from a merchant to give to the poor. Ali can only watch but do nothing. So at the end of the day Ma’aruf has spent five thousand sequins. The next day he borrows more money from the traders and distributes it to the poor. He continues to do so for twenty days and people start to wander when his goods will arrive. He already borrowed sixty thousand dinars. When Ali confronts him that he doesn’t sell or buy? And Ma’aruf answers when his baggage comes he will pay them in silver or gold. Ali asks him if he has any luggage upon which he answers ‘plenty’. Ali angrily asks if he taught him to lie to him, but Ali keeps saying his baggage will arrive. Ali realises that he praised him and if he blames him now it will backfire to him. But he tells the merchants Ma’aruf is an imposter as Ali lost a thousand dinars as well and they should complain to the King.

When the merchants tell this to the King he wants to have the baggage of Ma’aruf, for he is a covetous man he would like to have everything for himself. His Wazir advises against it for he thinks this Ma’aruf is indeed an imposter. The King says he will prove he speaks the truth. He will treat him with honour and give him a jewel. If he knows the price of the jewel he is a man of worth and wealth. Ma’aruf is called to the King and is shown the jewel. He breaks it between his thumb and forefinger. The cobbler says it was no jewel but a bittock of mineral worth a thousand dinars whereas a jewel would be worth three times that plus ten thousand. But he excuses the King for they are a poor people. He promises the King jewels with no end when his baggage arrives. When he has left the King asks his Wazir to talk to him about Dunya, the King’s daughter. The Wazir does not like this plan because he still thinks he his an imposter. The King however knows that the Wazir wanted to have his daughter as well but she rejected. So he says the Minister has personal reasons for disliking Ma’aruf.

The Wazir afraid of the King’s anger goes to Ma’aruf to do the proposal. He says he will consents when his baggage arrives. When the Wazir tells the King of this he sees it as another sign that Ma’aruf is a good man and he does not delay the marriage, the cobbler is married to Dunya and there is a great feast. Money is given to the poor, the treasurer cannot bring money fast enough from the treasure and the Wazir is enraged yet keeps it to himself. Ali, marvels at this waste of wealth and asks Ma’aruf to stop this, for it was enough to waste the traders’ money. But the cobbler replies his money will come with the baggage. The festivities take forty days and on the forty-first Ma’aruf enters the room of Dunya. He is sad and the princess asks what’s the matter. He says that his baggage has not come yet and he wants her to have the jewels of that baggage. She says that he shouldn’t worry and have pleasure with her. The jewels will come later. When afterwards Ma’aruf sees the Emirs and Wazirs of the land he wants the treasures to robe them with robes of honour.

After twenty days the treasurer tells the King that the treasury is empty after ten days. The King says it shouldn’t take long for the baggage train of Ma’aruf to arrive. The Wazir laughs, claiming gain he is a liar and an imposter. The King asks how they can find out the truth. The Wazir says a man’s secret is told through his wife. So the King asks his daughter to speak to the Wazir. The Wazir asks her to beguile Ma’aruf and find the truth behind his stories and is he has lied he will die a horrible death. After Ma’aruf comes in to the princess she starts caressing him and finally asks him how long he would lie to her father about the promised baggage train. The he tells her there is no baggage train and he is no merchant but a cobbler married to a horrible wife named Fatimah the Dung. Dunya then confesses she had to ask for her father, and she fears for her husband’s life, for she then has to marry another man, which she will never do. She dresses him as a Mameluke and gives him fifty thousand dinars of her own money to flee to a country where they cannot reach him. He should make himself a merchant there and send her a private letter so she knows where he is. When her father has died she will send for him. He leaves in such fashion.

The next morning the King and his Wazir come to princess Dunyah and she tells him a Mameluks richly attired came with the news that the baggage train of Merchant Ma’aruf was attacked. Ma’aruf took concern of this loss of wealth and slaves and went away to hasten his slaves. Dunya also claims that the fault lies not with Ma’aruf but with the Wazir who speaks against her husband.

Ma’aruf in the meantime meets a ploughman ploughing his field. He offers Ma’aruf disguised as a Mameluk of the Sultan a meal and leaves him to get dinner from the village. Ma’aruf takes plough to plough the land for the peasant. He then comes upon a ring of gold attached to a slab of alabaster. When he clears away the slab he comes upon a stairs which he descents. In a richly place he finds a seal-ring in a casket. He rubs it and a Jinn appears. He claims to be Abu ak-Sa’adat, Sultan over seventy-two tribes of Jinn. He will fulfil any wish but when the ring is rubbed twice in succession the Jinni will burn and Ma’aruf will lose him. The cobbler asks the treasure to be brought to the ground which the Jinn with his sons does. Then Ma’aruf asks for mules to carry the treasure which the Jinn takes care of. A pavilion is raised and the Jinn’s sons are disguised as slaves and servants. When the peasant returns with lentil porridge he excuses himself had he known the Sultan would be there he would have killed a couple of chickens. Ma’aruf claims to be the Sultan’s son-in-law and he us vexed with him. He would eat the lentils as it was made without knowing him. He gives the man gild to bring home and asks him to join him to the city where he will treat him with honour. After a feast he sends Abu Sa’adat to his father-in-law in the form of a mortal courier. The Jinn finds the King in discussion with Wazir who still claims Ma’aruf to be a liar. The Jinn says his son-in-law is coming with his baggage-train. Upon which the King says to his Wazir when he will stop claiming he is an imposter. The Wazir defends himself by saying he only said so because of the long delay and his fear for the loss of wealth.

Many decorations were made in the city and when Ma’aruf enters the city he meets Merchant Ali who says “you have played this trick well and it has given you wealth, but you have deserved it.” Then the cobbler goes to princess Dunya and gives her and her slave-girls seven hundred loads to pick the best. The treasury is filled to the full and still there was treasure left. Later he rubs the ring and dresses Dunya in the most beautiful clothes and jewels. She should wear them every day for he has plenty of it. When the King hears of this he asks his Wazir what is the matter. The Wazir says that this is not the dealing of a merchant for he keeps linen by him for years and sells it with profit. How can a merchant give away so many things? He will find out the truth. He would give him a lot of wine to get the truth, for it is dangerous to have a man who gives away wealth that easily, for he could buy the troops as well. Then the grooms and serving-men enter and claim the horses and mules were stolen by the Mamelukes. The King marvels at this but he does not know they were all Ifrits.

The Wazir brings Ma’aruf to a garden where he gives him whine and makes him drunk and Ma’aruf tells him he is neither King nor merchant and his whole story. The Wazir if he may see the ring which Ma’aruf shows. The Wazir rubs it and the Jinn appears. He then other it to bring Ma’aruf to a place in the desert where there is no food nor drink and where he may die of thirst of hunger and no one knows him. He then goes to the King who asks for the ring. But the Wazir lets Abu al-Sa’adar cast the King next to Ma’aruf in the desert. The Wazir then says to all the troops that they should make him Sultan over them or he would throw them with the King and Ma’aruf. The troops support the Wazir in being the Sultan. He then wants princess Dunya to make ready for the night as he will come into her that night. Dunya wants to have a period of mourning but he does not allow that. She then concedes and he holds a feast. When he is in her room she caresses him, but suddenly starts weeping. He asks what’s the matter and she says she think the Jinn is looking from his ring. She makes the Wazir take it off and lie it on a cushion next to her. She then kicks him in stomach. She commands her forty slave-girls to keep hold of him while she rubs the ring. She demands Abu al-Sa’adat to shackle the Wazir and put him into jail. Then she commands him to bring back Ma’aruf and her father. She then says that she will keep the ring safe, as she is more careful with it. The Wazir is killed by the King and burned. Ma’aruf is made Wazir. They live untroubled for five years when the King dies in the sixth Dunya makes Ma’aruf Sultan. She does not give him the ring though.  During this time she also conceives a boy but the dies five years later giving the ring to Ma’aruf.

When the cobbler retires to his room and falls asleep he is awakened by his former wife Fatimah al-Urrah. She tells him she repented after he left and she had to beg for food. Then one day when she wept one asked what is the matter and she told of the loss of her husband Ma’aruf. He said to her he is Sultan in a country and he would bring her there. Ma’aruf then asks her if she forsook him or he her. She says repents and places herself under his protection. Ma’aruf says she does not have to trick him as he is Sultan and has this ring which you need to rub to get a Jinni who will do anything you want. He will kill her if she does something ill but otherwise she will be a Queen. She consents but later on she tries to take his ring. Ma’aruf shares his bed with haidmaidens and he puts his ring on a cushion because of the holy names on it. Fatimah knows this and wants to steal it one night. But when she wants to pick it, Ma’aruf’s son cleaves her neck because he has followed her suspecting mischief. He makes a tomb for her and buries his wife. He then sends for the peasant to make him his Wazir. He happens to have a daughter whom he takes as wife and he lives untroubled until he dies.

From The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night — Volume 10


2 thoughts on “26. Ma’aruf the Cobbler and his Wife Fatimah

  1. Sirajo Sani Tsiga says:

    Ma’aruf the luckiest man ever

  2. SIRAJO TSIGA says:

    I heard this interesting story when I was young during which my father forbade me from hearing this type of stories which are not suitable for younger children.

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