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Georgian Folk Tales, by Marjory Wardrop [1894], at

p. 160


The King and the Sage

ONCE upon a time, there reigned in one of the realms of the East a shah named Ali, a man of amiable and merry character. Ali was much beloved by his subjects, and he too loved them with all his heart. The shah played with them as if they had been his children; he gave them festivals, arranged competitions, and gave prizes for the best poetical productions, etc. The shah was skilled in the famous literature of Arabia, and was thought to be a learned man; besides this, he was a wit and a joker, and loved to set his folk merry riddles to guess: prizes were given to the successful. Once the ferashes (or servants) of the shah made known to the people, that Ali had promised three hundred pieces of gold to him who should ask his majesty such a question that the answer must inevitably be: That is Impossible.

This announcement created great excitement, and men, women, and children all alike set themselves to think out such a question. The day of the competition dawned at last, and the vast square before the palace was crowded with a curious throng. At the appointed hour, Shah Ali appeared, surrounded by a brilliant guard, and music filled the air. After greeting his folk, the shah sat down on a throne, opposite the platform on which the candidates were to stand while they asked the shah their questions. Heralds gave out the challenge, and a wit of the town mounted the rostrum and loudly said: 'Shah! a courier has just galloped into the town and told me a most astonishing piece of news, to wit, that at dawn this morning, twenty versts from your capital, the moon fell from the sky

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to the ground, and burned two and twenty villages to ashes.' The shah meditated a moment, and then replied: 'That is possible.' The town wit got down, amid the laughter of the people.

His place was taken by a courtier, the shah's body-surgeon, who shouted: 'Most illustrious Shah! In your harem a most astounding event has just happened--your first wife, your beloved Zuleika, has just given birth to a sucking-pig covered with bristles.' The shah considered, and then replied: 'That is possible.' The doctor fled in shame, and the people laughed more loudly than before.

After the doctor came an astrologer, who said: 'Most noble Shah! In observing the courses of the stars I have discovered a woful piece of news; an awful fate awaits you. O King, you will soon have horns like a goat, and claws like a panther, you will lose the power of speech, and flee from us into the woods, where you will dwell exactly seven years and three months.' To him likewise the shah replied: 'That is possible,' and he too disappeared, amid the jeers of the mob.

The competition lasted throughout the whole of that day and the next, to the delight of the people, until at last they thought of getting a certain Nasr-Eddin, a wit well known throughout the East, to oppose to the shah. 1

On the third, and last, day appeared Nasr-Eddin, tattered and almost naked, dragging with him two great clay jars. Addressing the shah, he said: 'Hail to the commander of the faithful, blessed be thy name! Thou shalt reign yet a hundred years, and the love and confidence of thy subjects

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will increase yearly.' 'That is possible,' said the shah. 'That the confidence your subjects repose in you is unbounded is evident from a fact which I am about to relate; you will doubtless deign to listen.' 'That is possible.' 'Your late father (God rest his soul!) was very friendly with my late father (may the Prophet give him a place in Paradise!) . . .' 'That is possible.' 'Listen to me, O Shah! When your father went forth to war with the unbelievers, he was so poor that he could not raise an army.' . . . 'That is possible.' 'Not only is it possible but true, for, owing to his want of money, he borrowed from my father these two jars full of gold pieces, and promised on his royal word that you, O Shah, would pay your father's debt to me.' Shah Ali burst into laughter, and said: 'That is impossible! Your father was a tatterdemalion like yourself, and never saw two jars of gold even in his dreams. Take your three hundred gold pieces, and the devil take you. You rascal, you have outwitted me.'


161:1 The Mullah Nasr-Eddin is the hero of hundreds of witty tales. A French translation of some of them (from the Turkish) was published, by Decourdemanche, in 1878.

Next: V. The King's Son