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THE FISHERMAN AND THE GENIE
HERE was a very ancient fisherman, so poor, that he could scarcely earn enough to maintain himself, his wife, and three children. He went every day to fish betimes in the morning; and imposed it as a law upon himself, not to cast his nets above four times a day. He went one morning by moon‑light, and coming to the seaside, undressed himself, and cast in his nets. As he drew them towards the shore, he found them very heavy, and thought he had a good draught of fish, at which he rejoiced within himself; but in a moment after perceiving, that, instead of fish, there was nothing in his nets but the carcass of an ass, he was much vexed. When the fisherman, distressed in having made such a sorry draught, had mended his nets, which the carcass of the ass had broken in several places, he threw them in a second time; and when he drew them, found a great deal of resistance, which made him think he had taken abundance of fish; but he found nothing but a basket full of gravel and slime, which grieved him exceedingly. He threw away the basket in a fret, and washing his nets from the slime, cast them in the third time; but brought up nothing, except stone, shells, and mud. Nobody can express his disorder; he was almost beside himself. However, when daylight appeared, he did not forget to say his prayers, like a good Mussulman. The fisherman having finished his prayers, cast his nets the fourth time; and when he thought it was time he drew them as formerly with great difficulty; but instead offish, found nothing in them but a vessel of yellow cop‑per, which by its weight seemed to be full of something; and he observed that it was shut up and sealed with lead, having the impression of a seal upon it. This rejoiced him: ‘I will sell it,’ says he, ‘to the founder, and with the money arising from the produce, buy a measure of corn.’ He examined the vessel on all sides, and shook it, to see if what was within made any noise, but heard nothing. This circumstance, with the impression of the seal upon the leaden cover, made him think there was something precious in it. To try this, he took a knife, and opened it with very little labour. He presently turned the mouth downward, but nothing came out; which surprised him exceedingly. He set it before him, and while he looked upon it attentively, there came out a very thick smoke, which obliged him to retire two or three paces from it. The smoke ascended to the clouds, and extending itself along the sea and upon the shore, formed a great mist which, we may imagine, did mightily astonish the fisherman. When the smoke was all out of the vessel, it reunited itself, and became a solid body, of which there was formed a Genie twice as high as the greatest of giants. At the sight of a monster of such an unsizeable bulk, the fisherman would fain have fled, but was so frightened that he could not go one step. ‘Solomon,’ cried the Genie immediately, ‘Solomon, the great prophet, pardon, pardon; I will never more oppose your will, I will obey all your commands.’
The fisherman, when he heard these words from the Genie, recovered his courage, and said to him, ‘Proud spirit, what is it that you say? It is above eighteen hundred years since the prophet Solomon died, and we are now at the end of time. Tell me your history, and how you came to be shut up in this vessel.’ The Genie turning to the fisherman, with a fierce look, said, ‘you must speak to me with more civility, thou art very bold to call me a proud spirit.’ — ‘Very well,’ replied the fisherman, ‘shall I speak to you with more civility, and call you the owl of good luck?’ — ‘I say,’ answers the Genie, speak to me more civilly, before I kill thee.’ — ‘Ah!’ replies the fisherman, ‘why would you kill me? Did not I just now set you at liberty, and have you already forgotten it?’ — ‘Yes, I remember it,’ says the Genie, ‘but that shall not hinder me from killing thee: I have only one favour to grant thee.’ — ‘And what is that?’ says the fisherman. ‘It is,’ answers the Genie, to give thee thy choice, in what manner thou wouldst have me take thy life.’ — ‘But wherein have I offended you?’ replies the fisherman. ‘Is that your reward for the good services I have done you?’ — ‘I cannot treat you otherwise,’ says the Genie; ‘and that you may be convinced of it, hearken to my story. I am one of those rebellious spirits that opposed Solomon, the great prophet, and submitted not to him. Sacar and I were the only Genii that would never be guilty of a mean thing: and, to avenge himself, that great monarch sent Asaph, the son of Barakhia, his chief minister, to apprehend me. That was accordingly done. Asaph seized my person, and brought me by force before his master’s throne.’
‘Solomon, the son of David, commanded me to quit my way of living, to acknowledge his power, and to submit myself to his command; I bravely refused to obey, and told him, I would rather expose myself to his resentment than swear fealty, and submit to him as he required. To punish me, he shut me up in this copper vessel, and gave it to one of the Genii who submitted to him, with orders to throw me into the sea, which was executed to my sorrow. During the first hundred years’ imprisonment, I swore that if any one would deliver me before the hundred years expired, I would make him rich, even after his death: but that century ran out and nobody did the good office. During the second I made an oath, that I would open all the treasures of the earth to any one that should set me at liberty; but with no better success. In the third, I promised to make my deliverer a potent monarch, to be always near him in spirit, and to grant him every day three requests, of what nature soever they might be: but this century ran out as well as the two former, and I continued in prison. At last, being angry, or rather mad, to find myself a prisoner so long, I swore, that if afterwards any one should deliver me, I would kill him without mercy, and grant him no other favour but to choose what kind of death he would die; and therefore, since you have delivered me to-day, I give you that choice.’ This discourse afflicted the poor fisherman extremely: ‘I am very unfortunate,’ cries he, ‘to come hither to do such a piece of good service to one that is so ungrateful. I beg you to consider your injustice, and revoke such an unreasonable oath: pardon me, and heaven will pardon you; if you grant me my life, heaven will protect you from all attempts against yours.’ — ‘No, thy death is resolved on,’ says the Genie, ‘only choose how you will die.’
Necessity is the mother of invention. The fisherman bethought himself of a stratagem. ‘Since I must die then,’ says he to the Genie, ‘I submit; but before I choose the manner of death, I conjure you to answer me truly the question I am going to ask you.’ The Genie, finding himself obliged to give a positive answer, replied to the fisherman, ‘Ask what thou wilt, but make haste.’ The Genie, having promised to speak the truth, the fisherman says to him, ‘I would know if you were actually in this vessel.’ — ‘Yes,’ replied the Genie, ‘I was, and it is a certain truth.’ — ‘In good faith,’ answered the fisherman, ‘I cannot believe you; the vessel is not capable of holding one of your feet, and how is it possible that your whole body could, lie in it?’ — ‘I declare to thee, notwithstanding,’ replied the Genie, ‘that I was there just as you see me here: is it possible that thou dost not believe me?’ — ‘Truly not I,’ said the fisherman: ‘nor will I believe you, unless you show it me.’ Upon which the body of the Genie was dissolved, and changed itself into smoke, extending itself as formerly upon the sea and shore; and then at last being gathered together, it began to reenter the vessel, which it continued to do successively by a slow and equal motion after a smooth and exact way, till nothing was left out; and immediately a voice came forth, which said to the fisherman, ‘Well now, incredulous fellow, I am all in the vessel, do not you believe me now?’ The fisherman, instead of answering the Genie, took the cover of lead and having speedily shut the vessel, ‘Genie,’ cries he, ‘now it is your turn to beg my favour, and to choose which way I shall put you to death; but not so, it is better that I should throw you into the sea, whence I took you: and then I will build a house upon the bank, where I will dwell, to give notice to all fishermen who come to throw in their nets, to beware of such a wicked Genie as thou art, who hast made an oath to kill him that shall set thee at liberty.’
The Genie, enraged at those expressions, did all he could to get out of the vessel again; but it was not possible for him to do it; so perceiving that the fisherman had got the advantage of him, he thought fit to dissemble his anger; ‘fisherman,’ said he, in a pleasant tone, ‘take heed you do not do what you say, for what I spoke to you before, was only by way of jest, and you are to take it no otherwise.’ — ‘O Genie!’ replies the fisherman, thou who wast but a moment ago the greatest of all Genie, and now art the least of them, thy crafty discourse will signify nothing to thee, but to the sea thou shalt return. If thou hast staid there already so long as thou hast told me, thou mayest very well stay there some time longer. I begged of thee not to take away my life, and thou didst reject my prayers; I am obliged to treat thee in the same manner.’ The Genie omitted nothing that could prevail upon the fisherman; ‘open the vessel,’ says he, ‘give me my liberty, I pray thee, and I promise to satisfy thee to thy own content.’ The fisherman replied, ‘O, Genie! could I have prevailed with thee to grant me the favour I demanded, I should now have had pity upon thee; but since, notwithstanding the extreme obligation thou wast under to me, for having set thee at liberty, thou didst persist in thy design to kill me, I am obliged in my turn, to be as hardhearted to thee.’ — ‘My good friend, fisherman,’ cries the Genie, ‘I conjure thee once more, not to be guilty of such cruelty; consider, that it is not good to avenge one’s self, and that, on the other hand, it is commendable to do good for evil; do not treat me as Imama treated Ateca formerly.’ — ‘And what did Imama to Ateca?’ replies the fisherman. ‘Ho!’ says the Genie, ‘if you have a mind to know it, open the vessel: do you think that I can be in a humour to tell stories in so strait a prison? I will tell you as many as you please, when you let me out.’ — ‘No,’ says the fisherman, I will not let thee out; it is in vain to talk of it; I am just going to throw you into the bottom of the sea.’
‘Hear me one word more,’ cries the Genie; ‘I promise to do thee no hurt: nay, far from that, I will show thee a way how thou mayst become exceeding rich.’
The hope of delivering himself from poverty prevailed with the fisherman. ‘I could listen to thee,’ says he, ‘were there any credit to be given to thy word.’ The Genie promised him faithfully, and the fisherman immediately took off the covering of the vessel. At that very instant the smoke came out, and the Genie having resumed his form, as before, the first thing he did was to kick the vessel into the sea. This action frightened the fisherman. ‘Genie,’ says he, ‘what is the meaning of that? will you not keep the promise you just now made?’ The Genie laughed at the fisherman’s fear, and answered, ‘No, fisherman, be not afraid, I only did it to divert myself, and to see if thou wouldst be alarmed at it; but to persuade thee that I am in earnest, take thy nets and follow me.’ When they came to the side of a pond, the Genie says to the fisherman, ‘Cast in thy nets and catch fish.’ The fisherman did not doubt to catch some, because he saw a great number in the pond; but he was extremely surprised when he found they were of four colours, that is to say, white, red, blue, and yellow. He threw in his nets and brought out one of each colour. Having never seen the like, he could not but admire them, and, judging that he might get a considerable sum for them, he was very joyful. ‘Carry those fish,’ says the Genie to him, ‘and present them to thy sultan; he will give you more money for them than ever you had in your life. You may come every day to fish in this pond; and I give thee warning not to throw in thy nets above once a day, otherwise you will repent it. Take heed and remember my advice; if you follow it exactly, you will find your account in it.’ Having spoken thus, he struck his foot upon the ground, which opened, and shut again, after it had swallowed up the Genie. The fisherman being resolved to follow the Genie’s advice exactly, forbore casting in his nets a second time; and returned to the town very well satisfied with his fish, and making a thousand reflections upon his adventure. He went straight to the sultan’s palace, to present him his fish. The sultan was surprised, when he saw the four fishes which the fisherman presented him. He took them up one after another, and viewed them with attention; and after having admired them a long time, ‘take those fishes,’ said he, to his first vizier, ‘and carry them to the handsome cook-maid, that the emperor of the Greeks has sent me. I cannot but imagine but they must be as good as they are fine.’ The vizier carried them himself to the cook, and delivering them into her hands: ‘Look ye,’ said he, ‘there are four fishes newly brought to the sultan; he orders you to dress them.’ And having said so, he returned to the sultan, his master, who ordered him to give the fisherman four hundred pieces of gold, of the coin of that country, which he did accordingly.
The fisherman, who had never seen so much cash in his lifetime, could scarce believe his own good fortune, but thought it must be a dream, until he found it to he real, when he instantly provided necessaries for his family with it. But, having told you what happened to the now happy fisherman, I must acquaint you next with what befell the sultan’s cook-maid, whom we shall find in great perplexity. As soon as she had gutted the fishes, she put them upon the fire in a fryingpan, with oil; and when she thought them fried enough on one side, she turned them upon the other; but, O monstrous prodigy! scarce were they turned, when the walls of the kitchen opened, and in came a young lady of wonderful beauty and comely size. She was clad in flowered satin, after the Egyptian manner, with pendants in her ears, a necklace of large pearls and bracelets of gold garnished with rubies, with a rod of myrtle in her hand. She came towards the fryingpan, to the great amazement of the cook-maid, who continued immovable at the sight, and striking one of the fishes with the end of the rod, says fish, fish, art thou in thy duty?’ the fish having answered nothing, she repeated these words, and then the four fishes lifted up their heads all together, and said to her, ‘yes, yes; if you reckon, we reckon; if you pay your debts, we pay ours; if you fly, we overcome, and are content.’ As soon as they had finished those words, the lady overturned the fryingpan, and entered again into the open part of the wall, which shut immediately, and became as it was before.’
The cook-maid was mightily frightened at this, and coming a little to herself, went to take up the fishes that fell upon the hearth, but found them blacker than coal, and not fit to be carried to the sultan. She was grievously troubled at it, and fell to weeping most bitterly. ‘Alas!’ says she, ‘what will become of me? If I tell the sultan what I have seen, I am sure he will not believe me, but will be enraged against me.’ While she was thus bewailing herself, in came the grand vizier, and asked her if the fishes were ready? She told him all that had happened, which we may easily imagine astonished him; but, without speaking a word of it to the sultan, he invented an excuse that satisfied him; and sending immediately for the fisherman, bid him bring four more such fish, for a misfortune had befallen the others, that they were not fit to be carried to the sultan. The fisherman, without saying any thing of what the Genie had told him, in order to excuse himself from bringing them that very day, told the vizier he had a great way to go for them, but would certainly bring them to-morrow. Accordingly the fisherman went away by night, and, coming to the pond, threw in his nets betimes next morning, took four such fishes as the former, and brought them to the vizier at the hour appointed. The minister took them himself, carried them to the kitchen, and shutting himself up all alone with the cook-maid, she gutted them, and put them on the fire, as she had done the four others the day before; when they were fried on one side, and she had turned them on the other, the kitchen wall opened, and the same lady came in with the rod in her hand, struck one of the fishes, spoke to it as before, and all four gave her the same answer. After the four fishes had answered the young lady, she overturned the fryingpan with her rod, and retired into the same place of the wall from whence she came out. The grand vizier being witness to what had passed, ‘This is too surprising and extraordinary,’ says he, ‘to be concealed from the sultan; I will inform him of this prodigy:’ which he did accordingly, and gave him a very faithful account of all that had happened.
The sultan, being much surprised, was impatient to see this himself. He sent immediately for the fisherman, and says to him, ‘Friend, cannot you bring me four more such fishes?’ The fisherman replied, ‘If your majesty will be pleased to allow me three days’ time, I will do it.’ Having obtained his time, he went to the pond immediately; and, at the first throwing in of his net, he caught four such fishes, and brought them presently to the sultan, who was so much the more rejoiced at it, as he did not expect them so soon, and ordered him other four hundred pieces of gold. As soon as the sultan had the fish, he ordered them to be carried into the closet, with all that was necessary for frying them; and, having shut himself up there with the vizier, the minister gutted them, put them in the pan upon the fire, and when they were fried on one side, turned them upon the other; then the wall of the closet opened; but instead of the young lady, there came out a black, in the habit of a slave, and of a gigantic stature, with a great green baton in his hand. He advanced towards the pan, and, touching one of the fishes with his baton, said to it, with a terrible voice, ‘Fish, art thou in thy duty?’ At these words, the fishes raised up their heads, and answered, ‘Yes, yes, we are; if you reckon, we reckon; if you pay your debts, we pay ours; if you fly, we overcome, and are content.’ The fishes had no sooner finished these words, but the black threw the pan into the middle of the closet, and reduced the fishes to a coal. Having done this, he retired fiercely, and entering again into the hole in the wall, it shut, and appeared just as it did before. The sultan was very much surprised at what he had seen; and as he was a brave man, he resolved to know what it all meant, by going himself to inquire; therefore, he got the direction to the place from the fisherman, dressed himself in a suit of fur, and, with a cimeter in his hand, sallied forth alone upon the adventure. I cannot tell you all the wonderful escapes he had from the power of the magician; but will merely say, he succeeded in discovering his palace, from which he released a very amiable young prince, who had been there confined a long time: he found that the fishes were formerly the servants belonging to this prince, and had been changed into fishes for endeavouring to release their master: they now regained their proper form; the palace of the magician was destroyed; the prince married the sultan’s beautiful daughter; and the fisherman, who had been the cause of these happy events, was made a nobleman. Thus you see the Genie was as good as his word, in making his fortune.