Europa's Fairy Book [European Folk and Fairy Tales] | Annotated Tale

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Day Dreaming

NOW there was once a man at Bagdad who had seven sons, and when he died he left to each of them one hundred dirhems; and his fifth son, called Alnaschar the Babbler, invested all this money in some glassware, and, putting it in a big tray, from which to show and sell it, he sat down on a raised bench, at the foot of a wall, against which he leant back, placing the tray on the ground in front of him. As he sat he began day-dreaming and said to himself: "I have laid out a hundred dirhems on this glass. Now I will surely sell it for two hundred, and with it I will buy more glass and sell that for four hundred; nor will I cease to buy and sell till I become master of much wealth. With this I will buy all kinds of merchandise and jewels and perfumes and gain great profit on them till, God willing, I will make my capital a hundred thousand dinars or two million dirhems. Then I will buy a handsome house, together with slaves and horses and trappings of gold, and eat and drink, nor will there be a singing girl in the city but I will have her to sing to me." This he said looking at the tray before him with glassware worth a hundred dirhems. Then he continued: "When I have amassed a hundred thousand dinars I will send out marriage-brokers to demand for me in marriage the hand of the Vizier's daughter, for I hear that she is perfect in beauty and of surpassing grace. I will give her a dowry of a thousand dinars, and if her father consent, 'tis well; if not, I will take her by force, in spite of him. When I return home, I will buy ten little slaves and clothes for myself such as are worn by kings and sultans and get a saddle of gold, set thick with precious jewels. Then I will mount and parade the city, with slaves before and behind me, while the people will salute me and call down blessings upon me: after which I will go to the Vizier, the girl's father, with slaves behind and before me, as well as on either hand. When the Vizier sees me, he will rise and seating me in his own place, sit down below me, because I am his son-in-law. Now I will have with me two slaves with purses, in each a thousand dinars, and I will give him the thousand dinars of the dowry and make him a present of another thousand dinars so that he may recognize my nobility and generosity and greatness of mind and the littleness of the world in my eyes; and for every ten words he will say to me, I will answer him only two. Then I will return to my house, and if any one come to me on the bride's part, I will make him a present of money and clothe him in a robe of honour; but if he bring me a present I will return it to him and will not accept it so that they may know how great of soul I am." After a while Alnaschar continued: "Then I will command them to bring the Vizier's daughter to me in state and will get ready my house in fine condition to receive her. When the time of the unveiling of the bride is come, I will put on my richest clothes and sit down on a couch of brocaded silk, leaning on a cushion and turning my eyes neither to the right nor to the left, to show the haughtiness of my mind and the seriousness of my character. My bride shall stand before me like the full moon, in her robes and ornaments, and I, out of my pride and my disdain, will not look at her, till all who are present shall say to me: 'O my lord, thy wife and thy handmaid stands before thee; deign to look upon her, for standing is irksome to her.' And they will kiss the earth before me many times, whereupon I will lift my eyes and give one glance at her, then bend down my head again. Then they will carry her to the bride-chamber, and meanwhile I will rise and change my clothes for a richer suit. When they bring in the bride for the second time, I will not look at her till they have implored me several times, when I will glance at her and bow down my head; nor will I cease doing thus, till they have made an end of parading and displaying her. Then I will order one of my slaves to fetch a purse, and, giving it to the tire-women, command them to lead her to the bride-chamber. When they leave me alone with the bride, I will not look at her or speak to her, but will sit by her with averted face, that she may say I am high of soul. Presently her mother will come to me and kiss my head and hands and say to me: 'O my lord, look on thy handmaid, for she longs for thy favour, and heal her spirit,' But I will give her no answer; and when she sees this, she will come and kiss my feet and say, 'O my lord, verily my daughter is a beautiful girl, who has never seen man; and if thou show her this aversion, her heart will break; so do thou be gracious to her and speak to her.' Then she will rise and fetch a cup of wine, and her daughter will take it and come to me; but I will leave her standing before me, while I recline upon a cushion of cloth of gold, and will not look at her to show the haughtiness of my heart, so that she will think me to be a Sultan of exceeding dignity and will say to me: 'O my lord, for God's sake, do not refuse to take the cup from thy servant's hand, for indeed I am thy handmaid.' But I will not speak to her, and she will press me, saying: 'Needs must thou drink it,' and put it to my lips. Then I will shake my fist in her face and spurn her with my foot thus." So saying, he gave a kick with his foot and knocked over the tray of glass, which fell over to the ground, and all that was in it was broken.


I have given the story of the barber's fifth brother from the Arabian Nights as another example of the rare instances of tales that have become current among the folk, but which can be definitely traced to literary sources, though possibly, in the far-off past, it was a folk tale arising in the East. The various stages by which the story came into Europe have been traced by Benfey in the introduction to his edition of Pantschatantra, § 209, and after him by Max Mueller in his essay "On the Migration of Fables" (Chips from a German Workshop, iv., 145-209; it was thus a chip from another German's workshop). It came to Europe before the Arabian Nights and became popular in La Fontaine's fable of Perrette who counted her chickens before they were hatched, as the popular phrase puts it. In such a case one can only give a reproduction of the literary source, and it is a problem which of the various forms which appear in the folk books should be chosen. I have selected that from the Thousand and One Nights because I have given elsewhere the story of Perrette (Jacobs, Æsop's Fables, No. 45), and did not care to repeat it in this place. I have made my version a sort of composite from those of Mr. Payne and Sir Richard Burton, and have made the few changes necessary to fit the tale to youthful minds. It is from the quasi-literary spread of stories like this that the claim for an Oriental origin of all folk tales has received its chief strength, and it was necessary, therefore, to include one or two of them in Europa's Fairy Book (Androcles is another). But the mode of transmission is quite different and definitely traceable and, for the most part, the tales remain entirely unchanged; whereas, in the true folk tale, the popular story-tellers exercised their choice, modifying incidents and giving local colour.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Day Dreaming
Tale Author/Editor: Jacobs, Joseph
Book Title: Europa's Fairy Book [European Folk and Fairy Tales]
Book Author/Editor: Jacobs, Jopseh
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1916
Country of Origin: Europe
Classification: ATU 1430: The Man and His Wife Build Air Castles

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