Sacred Texts  Asia  Myths/Legends  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at



32 There was in Arabia Rostevan, a king by the grace of God, happy, exalted, generous, modest, lord of many hosts and knights, just and gracious, powerful, far-seeing, himself a peerless warrior, moreover fluent in speech:

33 No other child had the king save one only daughter, the shining light of the world, to be ranked with nought but the sunny group; whoever looked on her, she bereft

p. 7

him of heart, mind and soul. It needs a wise man to praise her, and a very eloquent tongue.

34 Her name is T’hinat’hin; let it be famous! When she had grown up to full womanhood, she contemned even the sun. The king called his viziers, seated himself, proud yet gentle, and, placing them by his side, began to talk graciously to them.

35 He said: "I will declare to you the matter on which we are to take counsel together. When the flower of the rose is dried and withered it falls, and another blooms in the lovely garden. The sun is set for us; we are gazing on a dark, moonless night.

36 "My day is done; old age, most grievous of all ills, weighs on me; if not to-day, then to-morrow I die--this is the way of the world. What light is that on which darkness attends? Let us instate as sovereign my daughter, of whom the sun is not worthy."

37 The viziers said: "O king, why do you speak of your age? Even when the rose fades we must needs give it its due; it still excels all in scent and fair colour. How can a star declare enmity even to the waning moon!

38 "Speak not then thus, O king. Your rose is not yet faded. Even bad counsel from you is better than good counsel from another, It was certainly fitting to speak out what your heart desires. It is better. Give the kingdom to her who prevails against the sun.

39 "Though indeed she be a woman, still as sovereign she is begotten of God. She knows how to rule. We say not this to flatter you; we ourselves, in your absence,

p. 8

often say so. Her deeds, like her radiance, are revealed bright as sunshine. The lion's whelps are equal (alike lions), be they male or female."

40 Avt’handil was general, son of the commander-in-chief. He was more graceful than the cypress; his presence was like sun and moon. Still beardless, he was to be likened to famous crystal and glass. The beauty of T’hinat’hin and of the host of her eyelashes was slaying him.

41 He kept his love hidden in his heart. When he was absent and saw her not, his rose faded; when he saw her, the fires were renewed, his wound smarted more. Love is pitiable; it makes man heart-slain.

42 When the king commanded that his daughter should be enthroned as king, gladness came upon Avt’handil; the extinction (concealment) of that jewel irks him. He said to himself: "Often will it now fall to my lot to gaze upon her crystal face; perchance I may thus find a cure for my pallor."

43 The great sovereign of the Arabs published throughout Arabia an edict: "I, her father, appoint my T’hinat’hin king; she shall illumine all, even as the shining sun. Come and see, all ye who praise and extol!" (or, praise and extol her!).

44 All the Arabians came; the crowd of courtiers increased. The sun-faced Avt’handil, chief of ten thousand times a thousand soldiers, the vizier Sograt, the nearest to the king of all his attendants. When they placed the throne the people said: "Its worth is beyond words!"

45 T’hinat’hin, radiant in countenance, was led in by her sire. He seated her, and with his own hands set the crown on her head; he gave her the sceptre, and clad her

p. 9

in the royal robes. The maiden looks on with understanding, all-seeing, like the sun.

46 The king and his armies retired and did homage. They blessed her and established her as king, many from many places told forth her praises; the trumpets were blown and the cymbals sounded sweetly. The maiden wept, she shed many tears; she drooped her raven eyelashes (the tail feathers of the raven).

47 She deemed herself unworthy to sit on her father's throne; therefore she weeps, filling the rose-garden (of her cheeks) with tears. The king admonishes her: "Every father hath a peer in his child," quoth he. "Until now the raging fire in my bosom has not been extinguished."

48 He said: "Weep not, daughter, but hearken to my counsel: To-day thou art King of Arabia, appointed sovereign by me; henceforth this kingdom is entrusted to thee; mayest thou be discreet in thy doings, be modest and discerning.

49 "Since the sun shines alike on roses and middens, be not thou weary of mercy to great and small. The generous binds the free, and he who is already bound will willingly obey. Scatter liberally, as the seas pour forth again the floods they have received.?

50 "Munificence in kings is like the aloe planted in Eden. All, even the traitor, are obedient to the generous. It is very wholesome to eat and drink, but what profits it to hoard? What thou givest away is thine; what thou keepest is lost."

p. 10

51 The maiden hearkened discreetly to this her father's advice; she lent ear, she heard, she wearied not of instruction. The king drank and sported; he was exceeding joyful. T’hinat’hin contemned the sun, but the sun aped T’hinat’hin.

52 She sent for her faithful, trusty tutor, and said: "Bring hither all my treasure sealed by thee, all the wealth belonging to me as king's daughter." He brought it; she gave without measure, without count, untiringly.

53 That day she gave away all she had gathered since her childhood; she enriched both small folk and great. Then she said: "I do the deed my father taught me; let none keep back any of my hoarded treasure."

54 She said: "Go, open whatever treasure there is! Master of the Horse, lead in the droves of asses, mules, and horses." He brought them. She gave them away without measure; she wearied not of generosity. The soldiers gathered together stuff like pirates.'

55 They pillaged her treasury as ’twere booty from Turks; they carried off her fine, sleek Arab steeds. Her munificence was like a snowstorm whirling down from the sky; none remained empty, neither youth nor maiden.

56 One day passed; there was a banquet, food and drink--a feast of fruit. A great gathering of warriors sat there to make merry. The king hung his head, and his brow was furrowed with sadness. They began to discuss this one with another: "What weighs upon him, and why grieves he?"

57 At the head sat the sun-faced Avt’handil, desirable to them that look upon him, the agile leader of the hosts; like a panther and a lion is he. The old vizier Sograt sat by his side. They said one to the other: "What ails the king, and why has he grown pale?"

p. 11

58 They said: "Some unpleasant thought has come into the king's mind, for nothing has happened here to make him sad." Quoth Avt’handil: "Let us inquire, O Sograt, let him tell us why he is displeased with us; let us venture on some pleasantry; why hath he shamed us?"

59 Sograt and the graceful Avt’handil arose; each filled his winecup, and with meek mien drew nigh. Then with smiling faces they cast themselves on their knees before the king. The vizier sportively spoke thus, with eloquent words:

60 "You look sad, O king; there is no longer a smile on your face. Thou art right, for, lo! your daughter with lavish hand has given away all your rich and costly treasure. Make her not king at all; why bring grief on thyself?"

61 When the king heard him he looked up with a smile. He marvelled how he had ventured thus, how he dared to speak such words! "Well hast thou done!" He thanked his vizier. He confirmed this by what he said: "He who lays avarice to my charge is a lying chatterer.'

62 "That afflicts me not, O vizier. This it is that troubles me: Old age draws nigh; I have spent the days of youth, and nowhere in our dominions is there a man who hath learned from me the knightly arts.

63 "It is true I have a daughter tenderly nurtured, but God has given me no son; I suffer in this fleeting life. There is none to be compared with me in archery or at the game of ball. It is true that Avt’handil resembles me somewhat, thanks to my teaching."

p. 12

64 The proud youth hearkened modestly to these words of the king; with bent head he smiled. Well did a smile befit him; his shining white teeth gleamed like sunshine on a mead. The king asked: "Why smilest thou? or why wert thou shy of me?"

65 Yet again he said: "Why dost thou smile at me? What is laughable in me?" The youth replied: "I shall tell you if you grant me leave to speak. With what I say be not offended; be not wroth, blame me not, call me not bold, ruin me not for this!"

66 He answered: "How can I take aught thou sayst a displeasing?" He took an oath by the sun (i.e., life) of T’hinat’hin, that contemner of the sun. Avt’handil said "Then will I speak boldly; vaunt not yourself of your archery, it is better to speak modestly.

67 "I, Avt’handil, earth under your feet, am an archer before you; let us lay a wager; let your armies attend as witnesses. 'Who is like me in the lists?' said you vain indeed is denial!--that is decided by the ball and the field."

68 "I will not let thee thus dispute with me! Say the word, let us draw the bow; do not shirk. Let us make good men witnesses of our rivalry; then in the field it will be manifest whose praises should be sung."

69 Avt’handil obeyed; they ceased their discourse. They laughed, they sported like children, lovingly and becomingly they behaved. They fixed the wager, and laid down this condition: Whoever shall be beaten, let him go bareheaded for three days.

70 (The king) commanded, moreover: "Let twelve slaves be chosen to attend us, twelve to give me arrows

p. 13

and wait upon me; Shermadin alone is for thee; he is equal to them (my retinue). Let them count the shots and the hits, and give a faithful, unerring report."

71 To the huntsmen he said: "Travel over the plain, beat in many droves, go yourselves to do this, invite the soldiers to look on, (bid them) assemble and close round!" The wassail and banquet broke up; there were we pleasantly merry.

72 Early in the morning he (Avt’handil) came forth like a well-grown lily; he was clad in crimson, his face was of crystal and ruby, over his face was a golden veil, he was fair in huntsman's apparel. He rode upon a white steed; he invited the king to come forth.

73 The king was arrayed, he mounted, they set out for the chase. The people surrounded the field, they made a ring round about it; there was much mirth and excitement; the armies kept the ground. For their wager were they shooting and striving together.

74 The king commanded the twelve slaves: "Come, accompany us, bring us the swift bows, prepare the arrows, compare what is struck and keep count of the shots." Game began to come in from every corner of the plain.

75 Herds of game, innumerable, flocked in: stags, goats, wild-asses, high-leaping chamois. Lord and vassal pursued them; what sight could be fairer! Behold the bow, the arrow, and the untiring arm!

76 The dust from their horses’ tracks cut off the sun's

p. 14

rays. They slew, their arrows sped, blood flowed through the field; as the shafts were shot away the slaves brought more of them. The beasts wounded by them could not take another step.

77 They ran through that field; they drove the herd before them. They slew and exterminated, they made wroth the God of the heavens, the fields were dyed crimson with the blood they shed from the beasts. Those who watched Avt’handil said: "He is like an aloe-tree planted, in Eden."

78 They coursed over the whole of that plain only they had travelled over. There on the farther edge of the plain flows a stream; on the bank of the stream are rocks. The game fled into the wood, where horse could not follow. (Rostevan and Avt’handil) were both fatigued, (yet) how spirited they were! (? They were tired in spite of their strength.)

79 Each laughingly said to the other: "’Tis I that have won!" Merry were they; they sported, hither and thither they frolicked. Then came the slaves who had tarried, and (the king) said: "Tell the truth; we seek not flattery from you."

80 The slaves said: "We shall speak the truth; think not we shall deceive you, O king; we may by no means liken you to him. Slay us at once if you will, it matters not; this cannot help you in any way. We observed the beasts stricken by him; they could not move a forward step.

81 "Together ye have slain in all a hundred score, but Avt’handil killed more by a score; he missed not even one at which he aimed his bow, but of yours we cleaned up many which left blots on the earth."

82 The king heard this with as little concern as (if it had been the result of) a game of backgammon, he rejoiced

p. 15

so at the victory of his foster-son; he loved him as the rose loves the nightingale; smiling he made merry, all grief was gone from his heart.

83 There they both sat to cool themselves at the foot of the trees; the soldiers assembled and stood round them, countless as chaff; near them were the twelve slaves, bravest of the brave. As they sported they gazed at the stream and the edge of the glens.

Next: II. How The King of the Arabians Saw the Knight Clad in the Panther's Skin