3. The Tale of the Three Apples

A man wrongly kills his wife, cuts her into pieces and throws her into the river Tigris. He did so because a slave tricked the man in believing she was his mistress. The slave had a rare apple which the man had brought to his wife and the slave uses this as proof. The Wazir (Ja’afar) finds out it was one of his slaves but asks the Caliph’s pardon, because it is not as wondrous as one of his tales.

Caliph Harun al-Rashid summons his Wazir Ja’afar and tells him he wants to question the common folk. They meet an old man with a fishing net lamenting over something. The Caliph wants to help him and says he will give the man hundred gold pieces, but during his next catch the Caliph will get what’s in the net. It turns out to be a heavy chest. Its contents is palm-leaves, a carpet, a woman’s mantilla and a woman cut in nineteen pieces. The Caliph demands the murderer to be found. When Ja’azar gets the assignment to find the murderer within three days he cannot fulfil this task because he can never be certain who is the murderer. After three days the Caliph commands Ja’afar to be hanged with forty of his family and companions for not obeying his orders. However, when Ja’afar is about to be hanged a young and an old man claim both they are the one murderer of the lady. When brought before the Caliph they still claim either of them is the murderer. But the younger man gives details of the contents of the chest and the Caliph asks the story behind it.

He tells the Caliph that the woman was his wife. One day she fell ill and she asked for an apple. The man could not find any apples, although he was willing to pay a high sum for them. Then he was informed that the Commander of the Faithful at Bassorah has apples in his Garden. He travelled for fifteen days to get them and brought three apples to his wife. She had grown weaker and could not eat the apples.

Some time later the man saw an ugly slave with an apple, and he asked how he got it. The slave told him he got it from his mistress who told him her husband had brought them. Upon hearing this he cut the throat of his wife, hewed off her head and her limbs in pieces, put it all into a chest and threw it into the river Tigris.

When he went home he found this son crying. He told his father that he took one of apples from his mother and went playing. Then a slave came to him and stole his apple. He cried giving him the details of the story of the apples. Knowing the true content of the slave’s story, the man had mourned for the last five days. Now, he is asking the Caliph to kill him for the unjustly deed. But the Caliph spares his life and asks Ja’afar to find the slave and if he does not find him in three days, again, Ja’afar will be killed. Knowing he cannot fulfil this task Ja’afar waits for three days and awaits his fate. However, when he says farewell to his family he finds an apple with his daughter who tells him Rayhan, their slave, sold it to her for two dinars. On the apple was written the name of the Caliph. When the slave is summoned he tells the whole story (he did not steal it from the Caliph’s Gardens but from a boy). He then takes the slave to the Caliph and tells him the story of the slave. But Ja’afar also says that the story is not as wondrous as the tale of Wazir Nur al-Din Ali of Egypt and his brother Shams al-Din Mohammed. The Caliph asks him to tell the story and will spare his slave if the story is more wondrous than the story of the three apples.

From The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night — Volume 01

One thought on “3. The Tale of the Three Apples

  1. […] “A Thousand and One Nights” that an early forerunner of crime fiction first appears. In “The Three Apples”, a fisherman discovers a locked chest near the Tigris River and sells it to the caliph, Harun […]

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