One day Sultan Mahmud wandered away from his retinue, and saw a boy seated on the bank of a river with a fishing-rod. He had a pale and haggard look.

“Why so pale and sad, little one?” asked Mahmud.

“Sir,” said the boy, “we are seven children. Our father is dead and our mother infirm and bed-ridden. She has not a penny to buy food for us. During the day I try to catch fish, and that forms our meal in the evening.”

The king asked for the rod, and offered to give half the spoil to him. The boy consented. Princely fortune now favoured the orphan. They had a haul of a hundred fish that day. The boy wondered what the reason for such extraordinary good luck could be and offered the king half the share of the fish. He, however, bade the lad keep the whole. The next day he sent for the boy and said, “Come now, yesterday we were partners in the fishing enterprise; now I want you to be a partner in my kingdom.”

No sooner said than done. Mahmud made over half his territories to the lad. An old acquaintance asked the boy how he had managed to attain that position. “My grief was turned into joy,” said he, “because a fortunate man happened to pass by me.”

Another bird then submitted that he was very weak, whereas the road was far away and full of obstacles. “In the very first stage of the journey I shall succumb,” he said. “Where the most gallant and valiant souls have fallen and are lying in eternal sleep, I can only raise a little dust and shall be for ever lost.”

“Know thou,” said the Hoopoe, “this world is a den of impurities. Why set your heart on it? Why fear death? Each one of us has to die some day. So long as a man is not completely dead to his own self and to the world, his soul does not enter the realms of purity. Therefore, do not, like a woman, bring fresh excuses. Once divine love penetrates the heart of a man, it makes him as brave as a lion, even though he may be as feeble as an ant. How can one who takes a leap into the ocean of adventure accept any drink but the blood of his heart?”

Another bird said, “I am a sinner. Who would admit such an unworthy creature into the presence of the Simurg?”

“Oh benighted one,” replied the Hoopoe, “do not despair. Lower your head in penitence. Pray for divine mercy. If you repent with a sincere heart, you will obtain a thousand keys to open the gate to that path of Divinity. The grace of providence transcends our comprehension.”*

“I am a creature of a vacillating disposition,” observed another bird, “at times saintly in thought, at times sinful. Sometimes, I am beside myself in a tavern; sometimes lost in prayer and meditation. At times Satan drags me away from the path of righteousness; at times angels guide and restore me to that path. Such is my pitiful condition.”

“Listen to me, you perplexed creature,” said the Hoopoe. “Such is the condition of all in creation. If one would not trip, one would not lower his head in penitence. If all were godly, would there be any room for the prophets?”

Another bird submitted: “My passion is my enemy. This dog of passion never cares for my inclinations and instructions. I know not how to make him subservient to my will.”

“This world abounds in millions of slaves of this dog,” said the Hoopoe. “He leads them all by the nose. Thousands of these slaves die in disgrace, but this infidel of a dog never dies. Listen to this story”.