The Arabian Nights Entertainments
The Story of the First Old Man and of
I am now going to begin my story (said the old man), so please attend.
This hind that you see with me is my wife. We have no children of our own,
therefore I adopted the son of a favorite slave, and determined to make him my
My wife, however, took a great dislike to both mother and child, which she
concealed from me till too late. When my adopted son was about ten years old I
was obliged to go on a journey. Before I went I entrusted to my wife's keeping
both the mother and child, and begged her to take care of them during my
absence, which lasted a whole year. During this time she studied magic in order
to carry out her wicked scheme. When she had learnt enough she took my son
into a distant place and changed him into a calf. Then she gave him to my
steward, and told him to look after a calf she had bought. She also changed the
slave into a cow, which she sent to my steward.
When I returned I inquired after my slave and the child. "Your slave is dead," she
said, "and as for your son, I have not seen him for two months, and I do not know
where he is."
I was grieved to hear of my slave's death, but as my son had only disappeared, I
thought I should soon find him. Eight months, however, passed, and still no
tidings of him; then the feast of Bairam came.
To celebrate it I ordered my steward to bring me a very fat cow to sacrifice. He
did so. The cow that he brought was my unfortunate slave. I bound her, but just
as I was about to kill her she began to low most piteously, and I saw that her
eyes were streaming with tears. It seemed to me most extraordinary, and, feeling
a movement of pity, I ordered the steward to lead her away and bring another.
My wife, who was present, scoffed at my compassion, which made her malice of