Told in the Coffee House: Turkish Tales | Annotated Tale

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Old Men Made Young

IN PSAMATIA, an ancient Armenian village situated near the Seven Towers, there lived a certain smith, whose custom it was, in contradiction to prescribed rules, to curse the devil and his works regularly five times a day instead of praying to God. He argued that it is the devil's fault that man had need to pray. The devil was angered at being thus persistently cursed, and decided to punish the smith, or at least prevent his causing further trouble.

               Taking the form of a young man he went to the smith and engaged himself as an apprentice. After a time the devil told the smith that he had a very poor and mean way of earning a living, and that he would show him how money was to be made. The smith asked what he, a young apprentice, could do. Thereupon the devil told him that he was endowed with a great gift: the power to make old men young again. Though incredulous, after continued assurance the smith allowed a sign to be put above his door, stating that aged people could here be restored to youth. This extraordinary sign attracted a great many, but the devil asked such high prices that most went away, preferring age to parting with so much money.

               At last one old man agreed to pay the sum demanded by the devil, whereupon he was promptly cast into the furnace, the master-smith blowing the bellows for a small remuneration. After a time of vigorous blowing the devil raked out a young man. The fame of the smith extended far and wide, and many were the aged that came to regain their youth. This lucrative business went on for some time, and at last the smith, thinking to himself that it was not a difficult thing to throw a man into the furnace and rake him out from the ashes restored to youth, decided to do away with his apprentice's services, but kept the sign above the door.

               It happened that the captain of the Janissaries, who was a very aged man, came to him, and after bargaining for a much more modest sum than his apprentice would have asked, the smith thrust him into the furnace as the devil, his apprentice, used to do, and worked at the bellows. He afterwards raked in the fire for the young man but he only raked out cinders and ashes. Great was his consternation, but what could he do?

               The devil in the meantime went to the head of the Janissaries and the police, and informed them of what had taken place. The poor smith was arrested, tried, and condemned to be bowstrung, as it was proved that the Janissary was last seen to enter his shop.

               Just as the smith was about to be executed, the devil again appeared before him in the form of the discharged apprentice, and asked him if he wished to be saved; if so, that he could save him, but on one condition only,--that he ceased from cursing the devil five times a day and pray as other Mussulmans prayed. He agreed. Thereupon the apprentice called in a loud voice to those who were about to execute him: "What will you of this man? He has not killed the Janissary; he is not dead, for I have just seen him entering his home." This was found to be true, and the smith was liberated, learning the truth of the proverb, 'Curse not even the devil.'

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Old Men Made Young
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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