No. XXVIII—p. 170.

IT is a peculiarity of Fairyland that there are certain rooms which the fortunate mortal who has entered the enchanted palace is expressly forbidden to enter, or doors which he must on no account open, or cabinets which he must not unlock, if he would continue in his present state of felicity. This story of the Young Man who was taken to the Land of Women bears a very close resemblance to that of the Third Royal Mendicant in the Thousand and One Nights, but it is perhaps better told, at least in some texts of the Seven Vazīrs. Both may be compared with the Story of Saktideva in the Kathá Sarit Ságara (vol. i, p. 223 of Tawney's translation, now in course of publication at Calcutta): Saktideva is conveyed by a monstrous bird—one of the race of Garūda, the bird of Vishnū, and the prototype of the “Roc” of the Arabian Tales—to the Golden City, the residence of female Vidyádharas (a species of fairies), the queen of whom welcomes him as her husband. Having occasion to leave him for a time, the queen gives him strict charge not to ascend to the middle terrace of the palace. But, impelled by curiosity, he goes there, and sees much to marvel at, and coming to a lake discovers by the side of it a horse with a jewelled saddle. Saktideva ap­proaches to mount him, but the steed kicks him into the lake, and on his rising to the surface he finds himself standing in the middle of a garden pond in his native city.

Fairyland has, among its numerous marvels, subaqueous halls of dazzling light, as we find from the following tale in the Hito-padésa , in which there is also a forbidden thing to tempt curiosity (ch. ii, fab. 6—Johnson's translation):

The Queen of the Fairies.

One day, as I was in the pleasure-garden, I heard from a voyaging merchant that, on the fourteenth day of the month, in the midst of the sea which was near, beneath what had the appearance of a kalpa-tree, there was to be seen, seated on a couch variegated with the lustre of strings of jewels, a certain damsel, as it were the goddess Lakshmī, bedecked with all kinds of ornaments, and playing on a lute. I therefore took the voyaging merchant, and, having embarked in a ship, went to the place specified. On reaching the spot, I saw her exactly as she had been described; and, allured by her exquisite beauty, I leaped after her into the sea. In an instant I reached a golden city; where, in a palace of gold, I saw her reclining on a couch, and waited upon by youthful sylphs. When she perceived me at a distance, she sent a female friend, who addressed me courteously. On my inquiry, her friend said: “That is Ratna-manjarī, the daughter of Kandarpakeli, king of the Vidyádharas. She has made a vow to this effect: ‘Whosoever shall come and see the city of gold with his own eyes shall marry me.’” Accord­ingly I married her by that form of marriage called Gandharva: after the conclusion of which I remained there a long while delighted with her. One day she said to me in private: “My beloved husband, all these things may be freely enjoyed; but that picture of the fairy Swarnarekhā must never be touched.” Some time afterwards, my curiosity being excited, I touched Swarnarekhā with my hand. For so doing, I was spurned by her although only a picture, with her foot beautiful as the lotus, and found myself alighted in my own country. Since then I have been a miserable wanderer over the earth.

Subaqueous halls and forbidden rooms, doors, or other objects are common to the popular fictions of almost every country of Europe and Asia. Those gifted ones who can discover “a rich truth in a tale's pretence” may perhaps be disposed to regard stories of forbidden rooms as distorted versions of the Fall of Man: it is just possible, however, that their conception is due to hashish, or some other narcotic which constitutes the Paradise of Fools!