Told in the Coffee House: Turkish Tales | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in July 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Merciful Khan, The

THERE lived once near Ispahan a tailor, a hard-working man, who was very poor. So poor was he that his workshop and house together consisted of a wooden cottage of but one room.

               But poverty is no protection against thieves, and so it happened that one night a thief entered the hut of the tailor. The tailor had driven nails in various places in the walls on which to hang the garments that were brought to him to mend. It chanced that in groping about for plunder, the thief struck against one of these nails and put out his eye.

               The next morning the thief appeared before the Khan (Judge) and demanded justice. The Khan accordingly sent for the tailor, stated the complaint of the thief, and said that in accordance with the law, 'an eye for an eye,' it would be necessary to put out one of the tailor's eyes. As usual, however, the tailor was allowed to plead in his own defence, whereupon he thus addressed the court:

               "Oh great and mighty Khan, it is true that the law says an eye for an eye, but it does not say my eye. Now I am a poor man, and a tailor. If the Khan puts out one of my eyes, I will not be able to carry on my trade, and so I shall starve. Now it happens that there lives near me a gunsmith. He uses but one eye with which he squints along the barrel of his guns. Take his other eye, oh Khan, and let the law be satisfied."

               The Khan was favorably impressed with this idea, and accordingly sent for the gunsmith. He recited to the gunsmith the complaint of the thief and the statement of the tailor, whereupon the gunsmith said:

               "Oh great and mighty Khan, this tailor knows not whereof he talks. I need both of my eyes; for while it is true that I squint one eye along one side of the barrel of the gun, to see if it is straight, I must use the other eye for the other side. If, therefore, you put out one of my eyes you will take away from me the means of livelihood. It happens, however, that there lives not far from me a flute-player. Now I have noticed that whenever he plays the flute he closes both of his eyes. Take out one of his eyes, oh Khan, and let the law be satisfied."

               Accordingly, the Khan sent for the flute-player, and after reciting to him the complaint of the thief, and the words of the gunsmith, he ordered him to play upon his flute. This the flute-player did, and though he endeavored to control himself, he did not succeed, but, as the result of long habit, closed both of his eyes. When the Khan saw this, he ordered that one of the flute-player's eyes be put out, which being done, the Khan spoke as follows:

               "Oh flute-player, I saw that when playing upon your flute you closed both of your eyes. It was thus clear to me that neither was necessary for your livelihood, and I had intended to have them both put out, but I have decided to put out only one in order that you may tell among men how merciful are the Khans."

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Merciful Khan, The
Tale Author/Editor: Adler, Cyrus & Ramsay, Allan
Book Title: Told in the Coffee House: Turkish Tales
Book Author/Editor: Adler, Cyrus & Ramsay, Allan
Publisher: Macmillan & Co.
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1898
Country of Origin: Turkey
Classification: unclassified

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