The Arabian Nights Entertainments HTML version

The Arabian Nights
In the chronicles of the ancient dynasty of the Sassanidae, who reigned for about
four hundred years, from Persia to the borders of China, beyond the great river
Ganges itself, we read the praises of one of the kings of this race, who was said
to be the best monarch of his time. His subjects loved him, and his neighbors
feared him, and when he died he left his kingdom in a more prosperous and
powerful condition than any king had done before him.
The two sons who survived him loved each other tenderly, and it was a real grief
to the elder, Schahriar, that the laws of the empire forbade him to share his
dominions with his brother Schahzeman. Indeed, after ten years, during which
this state of things had not ceased to trouble him, Schahriar cut off the country of
Great Tartary from the Persian Empire and made his brother king.
Now the Sultan Schahriar had a wife whom he loved more than all the world, and
his greatest happiness was to surround her with splendour, and to give her the
finest dresses and the most beautiful jewels. It was therefore with the deepest
shame and sorrow that he accidentally discovered, after several years, that she
had deceived him completely, and her whole conduct turned out to have been so
bad, that he felt himself obliged to carry out the law of the land, and order the
grand-vizir to put her to death. The blow was so heavy that his mind almost gave
way, and he declared that he was quite sure that at bottom all women were as
wicked as the sultana, if you could only find them out, and that the fewer the
world contained the better. So every evening he married a fresh wife and had her
strangled the following morning before the grand-vizir, whose duty it was to
provide these unhappy brides for the Sultan. The poor man fulfilled his task with
reluctance, but there was no escape, and every day saw a girl married and a wife
This behaviour caused the greatest horror in the town, where nothing was heard
but cries and lamentations. In one house was a father weeping for the loss of his
daughter, in another perhaps a mother trembling for the fate of her child; and