ONCE upon a time there was a Sultan and his Wazir, and those two men were very rich with much wealth, but neither had a son.
They took counsel together, "How will it be when we die? Who shall we leave all this wealth to and we are without children?"
The Sultan said to the Wazir, "We must go to a far country and look for some wise man who will tell us what to do."
So they went away, and wandered on and on for three years, till at last they met an old woman, bent with the weight of many years.
That woman said to them, "My grandsons, I know what you have come for."
Then she sank down to the bottom of a big lake, and when she came up again out of the water she brought in her hands two charms, which were two slimy roots; one for the Sultan and one for the Wazir. And she said, "Take these, and when you return home you will find that your wish has already been accomplished; but to these charms I give you there are conditions attached. When you arrive in your town, you must tell no man about it, and take heed that in the way you neither chirrup nor look back."
Then she shook her withered hand and said, "It has taken you three years to come; you will return in one month. Farewell."
Then the Sultan and the Wazir set off home.
In the way the Wazir said, "Allah be praised that our wish has been granted." The Sultan, forgetting the old woman's warning, chirruped, as much as to say, "I will believe when I see."
After one month they came to the gate of their town, and as they entered the cannons sounded and the news spread forth, "There is an heir in the palace of the Sultan, and there is an heir in the house of the Wazir."
The Wazir returned to his house swiftly, and there he found a most beautiful boy.
The Sultan came to the palace, and there he found a snake.
When he heard that the Wazir had a lovely child he was very pleased, and he used to go every day to the Wazir's house to see that child, but he told his people to throw that snake out of the palace.
Now there was a slave girl in the palace called Mizi, and when she saw them taking that snake to throw it in the river she said, "Give me that snake, that I may bring him up as my child."
So Mizi took that snake and wore him round her neck till he grew, and then she came to the Sultan and said, "Build me a grass hut, that I may live there with my child, the snake."
So a hut was built for her, and she stayed there by herself with that snake. She took her cooking pots there, and cooked food for herself and the snake. Every day she fed that snake, and it grew and grew, till at last it filled up the whole hut.
Then that snake said to Mizi, "Go and tell the Sultan that his little snake wants a stone house of seven storeys in which to live. He must look for craftsmen who are not afraid, to come and build the house, and what they ask must be given them."
So Mizi came and told those words to the Sultan, and craftsmen who had no fear were sought for. They came and built a house of seven storeys in the space of seven days, and the wages they asked for were given them.
When the house was finished, they said, "Go and tell the little snake that the house is ready."
Then Mizi and the snake moved into that house and lived there. Till one day the snake said to Mizi, "Go and look for a sage who will teach me learning, but he must be master of his heart and unafraid. He must come of his own free will."
So she went and sought a man of learning, but every one she asked to come replied, "I am not going so as to be swallowed whole by that snake."
At last she found a sage who said, "I will go, for I see that Mizi lives with this snake and is not devoured, so why should I be eaten?"
So that professor came and taught the snake learning of every kind, and when he had finished he went to the Sultan and received the pay he asked for.
So the snake and Mizi lived together, till one day that snake said to her, "Now you must go and look for a wife for me; but she must come of her own free will, and what money she wants she must have."
So a wife for the snake was sought for in all the land, but none was found; all said, "Who wants to go and be swallowed whole by a big snake?"
Now in that country was a very poor man who had seven daughters. When the news came to them all refused, till the seventh and youngest was asked, and she replied, "We are very poor; I will go and be eaten by that snake. What matter?"
So that girl was taken and decked out with pearls and precious stones and clothes of silk, and then Mizi was called and told, "This is the wife of your master, the snake. Take her."
So Mizi took her and brought her to the snake, and he said, "Arrange everything for her comfort."
When night had come, Mizi slept with that girl till, when twelve o'clock came, that snake came out from inside his skin. He put on wooden sandals and went to the bathroom and made his ablutions. When he had finished washing he took his prayer mat and spread it out and prayed and read the Koran.
After that he came and sat near that girl and looked at her and said, "My wife is beautiful; she has beautiful eyes, lovely ears and long straight hair. Hhum! Poor me, who am a snake. Sleep, my beautiful wife."
Then he entered his skin again and slept.
Seven days passed in this way, and on the eighth Mizi said to that girl, "I will fasten a thread to your thumb; when I pull it open your eyes and look at him."
That night, at twelve o'clock, the snake came out of his skin, and then Mizi pulled the thread and that girl awoke and opened her eyes and saw a wondrously handsome Arab youth: in all that country there was no youth so handsome as that son of the Sultan.
The snake went to the bathroom and made his ablutions, and then returned and prayed and read the Koran.
At the time of the before dawn breezes he came and looked at his wife and then returned to his skin. When dawn came Mizi and that girl took counsel together, and then Mizi went to the Sultan and said to him, "Give me three tins of oil and ten maunds of firewood."
When she had got them she had them brought to the house.
Then she said to that girl, "Now we must dig a pit here in the other room."
So they dug a pit and put in it the firewood and then poured the oil over it.
That night they watched till after midnight. When the youth went to the bathroom they got up and seized on the skin and tried to drag it into the pit, but it was too heavy for them. So they exerted all their strength, till at last they managed to drag it into the pit. After that they set fire to the wood and the oil.
When its owner in the bathroom heard the skin crackling he ran in and said to Mizi, "What have you done, taking away my clothes to put in the fire?" Then he fell down, and did not regain consciousness till three o'clock next day, for that youth did not know the world outside of his skin.
When he recovered Mizi cooked porridge for him, and when he had eaten it he said to Mizi, "Go to the Sultan and tell him to make offerings, nine shells full of alms; for the day after to-morrow I will go out."
So Mizi went with the news to the Sultan, but he replied, "Go back and get eaten by that snake. We do not want any more of your folly; for you have taken the poor man's daughter and brought her to the snake, and she has already been swallowed up. Now you in your turn will be eaten, and to-day, I suppose, you have come to take leave of us."
Mizi returned and said to that youth, "He will not give the offering."
He replied, "Then leave him; he who has had no luck does not trust to luck. On Friday I will come forth by the power of Allah, alone."
When Friday came he decked his horse with pearls and precious stones and rode off to the mosque to pray amongst all the people; but the Sultan did not know that it was his son.
Then Mizi came forth and trilled and shouted for joy, and told every one in the mosque: "Look at me to-day, for it is to-day that my son, the snake, has come to life."
Many people thought that Mizi had gone mad. When the Sultan had finished praying he came forth, and Mizi said to him, "To-day my child has come forth."
The Sultan said, "Peace be upon you;" and he followed that youth on his horse and knew that it was his son, and rejoiced greatly.
He said to his slaves, "Run to the palace, spread out diamonds and cushions, carpets and mats; do not leave anything of any value, but spread everything out."
Then was the wedding of that girl, the poor man's daughter, and the snake held with great festivity. So that snake and Mizi lived happily, and he loved her as if she had been his own mother. When he became Sultan he gave the kingdom to her, he gave Mizi what spoke and what did not speak; it became her country, because she had nurtured that snake from its infancy until it became a full-grown man of wisdom.
Now this story comes from the Sultan and his Wazir.