Black Tales for White Children | Annotated Tale

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Ali of the Crooked Arm

LONG ago in olden days there was a country, and the Sultan of that country had seven wives and the Wazir also had seven wives.

               And the seven wives of the Sultan had seven children, and the seven wives of the Wazir had seven children, all boys.

               The seventh child of the Sultan had only one eye, but the seventh child of the Wazir was wondrously beautiful. They called him Ali; but oh, misfortune, one arm was crooked.

               Now all these fourteen children were brought up together till, by the power of Allah, they grew up into youths.

               That seventh child of the Sultan, his companion was always Ali, the seventh child of the Wazir.

               So those children grew up, and they were sent to school until they finished learning.

               The Wazir's seventh child said to his father, "Buy me a white horse;" and the Sultan's seventh son said to his father, "Buy me a white horse."

               So each one had a white horse given him with fine trappings.

               Then one day the crier was sent forth to beat his horn and proclaim, "On Friday there is a meeting at the Sultan's. Every one must bring his horse. There will be racing between the Sultan's son and the Wazir's son."

               So people came with their horses, and the Wazir's son said, "I will go first," and the Sultan's son said, "I will go first," till grown-up men said, "Do not contend one against another like that."

               So the Sultan's son went first, and the Wazir's son followed behind him. Then all who were present followed, every man on his horse, but the horses of the Wazir's son and the Sultan's son leaped and soared like kites, higher and higher.

               At half-past six o'clock they all returned safely.

               Next day Ali said to the Sultan's son, "Let us first go to the plantation, and remain in the garden till four o'clock, and then let us both go and play on horseback."

               So they went into the garden at noon and gathered pomegranates and ate.

               The Sultan's son said, "Let each one of us pluck a pomegranate and put it in his pocket."

               So they each picked a pomegranate, but behold, in that one which Ali took was living the Jin of Jehan, who carries off children from year to year.

               After this they returned to the palace and found their horses already saddled.

               They mounted, and the Wazir's son struck his horse with his whip, and it soared over the clouds like a kite. And the Sultan's son followed his companion, his horse leaping. He saw his friend soaring and flying away in front till, as six o'clock struck, he saw him no more, so he returned weeping and in great distress.

               Ali flew away on his horse till he found himself in the Jin's house, and he lifted up his voice and cried, "Alas, I am already lost."

               That Jin sought a house, and told Ali, "Put your horse in here and fasten it apart."

               On the second day he said to him, "Ali, do you see this big cooking-pot? Your work will be to keep up the fire under it."

               On the third day the Jin gave into his hands all the keys of his house, seven in all, and he said to him, "You may open this one room, but these other six you may not open."

               The demon then set out to go and walk about, saying to Ali as he left, "To-day I am going out to walk, and to-morrow I will return. You are to look after this pot, but you must not lift the lid to see what is in it."

               When the demon had gone Ali lifted up the lid to see what was in the pot, and he saw human flesh stewing.

               Then Ali said to himself, "Ah! My father, the demon, eats human flesh." Then he thought, "I, too, will be eaten. Whatever God wishes is best." As he thought he played with a knife in his hand and cut his finger.

               In the evening the old demon returned and called out, "Hi, Ali!" and he answered him, "Here, father."

               When he came to him the demon said, "Oh dog, what have you done to your finger?"

               Ali said, "Father, why are you angry and speaking fiercely to me? I am afraid."

               So the Jin said to him, "Come now, undo your finger that I may see." Then he touched it and healed it up.

               They slept that night, and in the morning the Jin said to him, "Ali, I am going out to walk about for the space of fourteen days, and then I will return."

               Ali said to him, "Very good, father."

               When the Jin had gone Ali sat and thought out different plans, and he said to himself, "My father, the demon, said that I must not open all the rooms, but to-day I will open them and see what is in them."

               So he went and opened the first room, and saw an enormous horse, most wondrously beautiful.

               When the horse saw Ali he neighed, and said to him, "What plan have you? Father said good-bye to you like that, saying that he would return on the fourteenth day, to deceive you. He will come back to eat you on the eighth day."

               Then he said, "Go and open all the rooms, and then return here that I may advise you."

               Ali went and opened the second room, and saw seven maidens, sitting each one in a box and reading a Koran. Their hair was long and very beautiful.

               Ali asked them, "How now?"

               Those maidens answered him, "We have been put here so that we may be eaten together with you. We have been lost to our parents many years."

               He locked that room and went and opened the third. There he found swords with jewelled hilts fighting in the air by themselves, and he was very astonished.

               Ali locked up the third room again, and now there were three rooms he had not yet opened.

               He opened the fourth room, and found it filled from top to bottom with precious stones. Then he opened the fifth room, and found it full of grain; this was the horse's food.

               He then went and unlocked the sixth room, and there he found the horse's saddle and bridle, adorned with jewels, and he found seven bottles; the first was full of sun, the second of rain, the third of needles, the fourth of hail, the fifth of thorns, the sixth of mud, and the seventh of sea.

               Then he returned to the horse's room, and when he saw Ali he neighed and shook his head.

               The horse said to Ali, "We who are in this house are as if we were already dead; we will all be eaten alike."

               Then he said, "Open the wheat store quickly, that I may eat, for the time is nearly spent when that evil-disposed Jin will return."

               Ali went and brought a sack of grain and opened it, and the horse ate and said, "Bring me a second sack, for I am not yet satisfied."

               He brought a second, and the horse ate and finished it, and said, "Bring a third, for I am not yet full."

               So he ate a third sack, and then he said, "Bring a bucket of water, stir it up with sugar, for that is the kind of water that I drink, and mix me up another bucket with bhang."

               Then he said, "Now I am satisfied. Bring my saddle and the seven bottles, and take bags and fill them with precious stones and fasten them on quickly, that we may go."

               So Ali put all the valuables in the house in bags, and he took those seven maidens and placed them in bags, and he saddled the horse and fastened those bags on to him.

               Then the horse said, "Strap me up tight and with all your strength."

               So Ali strapped him up as tight as he could, till the horse said, "Stop now; mount me for a little to try me."

               So Ali mounted and smacked him, and he soared up over the clouds. Then he returned and said, "Now bring out another sack of grain, that I may eat and be satisfied."

               So he gave him another sack, and then he said, "Now fasten another sack of grain on to me, lest I grow hungry in the way."

               So Ali fastened on a sack of grain, and then the horse said, "Take a crow-bar and dig there in the floor of the house."

               So Ali dug there and found more precious stones, and he put them in bags, and brought them and fastened them to the saddle.

               Then the horse said, "Come on, Ali, mount me. We are going now, and this advice I give you before we go. In the way we will meet with great strife, so listen well, and do as I tell you."

               Then Ali mounted and smacked him, and the horse soared up over the clouds, higher and higher.

               When they had gone a little way they met the Jin and a host of his fellow demons, whom he had brought to feast on those eight people in his house. One was taking an axe to chop up the meat, others carried firewood and pots and water with which to cook the flesh.

               When those demons saw them they called out, "Look, there is the flesh going off."

               The horse said to Ali, "Take the bottle of sun and break it." So Ali broke it, and the sun shone on the demons and scorched them.

               But they pursued them, crying, "Our meat is going away, our meat is going away."

               They ran after them, and as they came near the horse said, "Break the bottle of rain." So Ali broke the bottle and rain poured on them, but still they pursued.

               Ali looked round and said, "They are coming." So the horse said, "Break the bottle of needles."

               Ali broke the bottle, and many got needles in their feet and could not run quickly, but many escaped and came on swiftly, crying, "Hi there! Hi there! our meat is escaping."

               Then the horse said, "Break the bottle of hail." So Ali broke the bottle, and the hail poured down on them, and knocked many of them over, but they got up again and ran on.

               The horse said, "Break the bottle of thorns." So Ali broke the bottle, and the thorns got in their feet and delayed many of them, but the rest came on. Ali called out, "There they come," and the horse said, "Break the bottle of mud."

               So he broke the bottle, and the demons went slipping and falling about in the mud till they got across it, and still pursued them.

               Then the horse said, "Break the bottle of sea." So Ali broke the bottle, and the demons rushed into the sea, where many were drowned, and the rest were unable to cross and turned back.

               The horse flew across to the opposite side and alighted, and said to Ali, "Let us rest here now that we have crossed safely."

               Then he said, "Take out the sack of grain, for hunger is paining me."

               So Ali gave him the grain, and he ate till he could eat no more, and he did not finish it, because he was so tired.

               Then he said, "When we have nearly arrived, stand in the midst of the way, that I may give you advice."

               Ali replied to him, "Very good, father."

               After that they went on till they were nearly at their journey's end, and then Ali stood still in the middle of the way, and the horse stood still and said to Ali, "The first counsel I give you, that you must take it to heart, is that when you arrive home you must speak to no one for the space of seven days. If you want to do anything, first ask me, that I may advise you whether to do it or not; and if you want to marry a wife and place her in your house, you must first ask me.

               "And if, when you arrive home, you want to walk abroad, you must first ask me, for I know all things great and small. If you walk out without telling me, that Jin of Jehan will take you; you will return home no more."

               Ali replied, "It is well, father; I have heard."

               Then they journeyed on and went their way.

               At three o'clock the people of that town saw a dust coming.

               There in the Wazir's house the Wazir himself was on the roof looking out, and his middle son was there with him upstairs; he and his father were looking out at that road by which Ali had been lost to them.

               That Wazir, his hair covered his face, as he had not cut it, and he could not see for weeping for his son.

               Then the people of that town saw a wondrously  big horse soaring and soaring like a kite.

               Ali entered the town, but he spoke to no one.

               The door of his house had been left open since the day he had set out, and he passed in, he and the horse, but he spoke to no one, and there were great rejoicings at his return.

               Ali stayed for the space of seven days, neither speaking to any one, nor drinking water, nor bathing, for fear of being bewitched by that Jin. If he wanted food it was the horse who brought it to him, and if he wanted water it was the horse who gave it to him.

               When the eighth day came there was a big festival at the Wazir's and at the Sultan's, for the child who had been dead was alive, he who had been lost to sight was restored to view.

               If Ali wanted to walk out it was necessary for him first to take counsel of the horse. On the tenth day Ali brought all his riches downstairs and filled ninety-nine store-rooms full.

               So Ali lived, he did not marry nor did he want a wife, and those seven sisters of his, whom he had brought away from amongst the Jins, they did not marry, but they read their Korans night and day.

               He built a house of seven storeys, and, in this house he put his seven sisters who had come with him from the Jins.

               This is the end of the fable.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Ali of the Crooked Arm
Tale Author/Editor: Stigand, C. H. & Stigand, Nancy Yulee
Book Title: Black Tales for White Children
Book Author/Editor: Stigand, C. H. & Stigand, Nancy Yulee
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1914
Country of Origin: Africa
Classification: ATU 314: Goldener

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