The Crimson Fairy Book
The Story Of The Sham Prince, Or The Ambitious Tailor
Once upon a time there lived a respectable young tailor called Labakan, who worked for
a clever master in Alexandria. No one could call Labakan either stupid or lazy, for he
could work extremely well and quickly--when he chose; but there was something not
altogether right about him. Sometimes he would stitch away as fast as if he had a red-hot
needle and a burning thread, and at other times he would sit lost in thought, and with such
a queer look about him that his fellow-workmen used to say, 'Labakan has got on his
aristocratic face today.'
On Fridays he would put on his fine robe which he had bought with the money he had
managed to save up, and go to the mosque. As he came back, after prayers, if he met any
friend who said 'Good-day,' or 'How are you, friend Labakan?' he would wave his hand
graciously or nod in a condescending way; and if his master happened to say to him, as
he sometimes did, 'Really, Labakan, you look like a prince,' he was delighted, and would
answer, 'Have you noticed it too?' or 'Well, so I have long thought.'
Things went on like this for some time, and the master put up with Labakan's absurdities
because he was, on the whole, a good fellow and a clever workman.
One day, the sultan's brother happened to be passing through Alexandria, and wanted to
have one of his state robes altered, so he sent for the master tailor, who handed the robe
over to Labakan as his best workman.
In the evening, when every one had left the workshop and gone home, a great longing
drove Labakan back to the place where the royal robe hung. He stood a long time gazing
at it, admiring the rich material and the splendid embroidery in it. At last he could hold
out no longer. He felt he must try it on, and lo! and behold, it fitted as though it had been
made for him.
'Am not I as good a prince as any other?' he asked himself, as he proudly paced up and
down the room. 'Has not the master often said that I seemed born to be a prince?'
It seemed to him that he must be the son of some unknown monarch, and at last he
determined to set out at once and travel in search of his proper rank.
He felt as if the splendid robe had been sent him by some kind fairy, and he took care not
to neglect such a precious gift. He collected all his savings, and, concealed by the
darkness of the night, he passed through the gates of Alexandria.
The new prince excited a good deal of curiosity where ever he went, for his splendid robe
and majestic manner did not seem quite suitable to a person travelling on foot. If anyone