No. XXXI—p. 192.

NOTHING is more common in Oriental romance than for a beau­tiful, spoiled, and self-willed princess to impose certain hard conditions on her suitors: they must solve dark riddles; or answer knotty questions; or undertake a perilous journey to the confines of the earth—nay, even into jinnistān, the land of the jinn, or genii—in order to procure some wonderful talisman upon which the lady has set her heart.

The present story calls to mind the classical legend of Atalanta, who would marry only him that should outstrip her in a foot­race, but all of her competitors whom she overtook were to be killed on the spot by the dart with which she had armed herself; and who was ultimately vanquished by Hippomenes, who threw in the course, at some distance from each other, three golden apples from the gardens of the Hesperides, which Atalanta stopped to pick up, and thus enabled Hippomenes to reach the goal before her.—This tale is reproduced in Berni's Orlando Innamorato, where the daughter of the King of the Distant Isles makes the same condition with two suitors, Ordauro and Folderico; the latter, an old man, wins the race by the device of the golden apples.

Morier, in his Second Journey to Persia, relates a similar tradi­tion, the conclusion of which is, however, tragical (he does not seem to have observed its affinity to the classical story of Ata­lanta): In former days a king of Persia promised his daughter in marriage to any one who would run before his horse all the way from Shīrāz to Ispahān. One of his running-footmen nearly accomplished the feat, having reached to the eminence now marked by the Shatir's Tower, when the king, fearful that he should be obliged to keep his promise, dropped his whip. The ligatures which encompassed the footman's body were such that, in the state he then was, he knew for certain that if he stooped to the ground to pick up the whip his death would immediately follow; therefore he contrived to take up the whip with his foot, carried it to his hand, and presented it to the king. This trick having failed, the king then dropped his ring, upon which the footman, who saw that his fate was decided, exclaimed: “O king, you have broken your word; but I will show you my submission to the last,” so saying, he stooped, picked up the ring, and died.—The Shatir's Tower was, it is said, afterwards erected on the spot where the footman fell dead, to commemorate his exploit and his fidelity to the king.

Amazon princesses are favourite characters in old romances. In the Nibelungenlied, Queen Brunhilda did battle with all her suitors, and was finally conquered only by the aid of magical power. In Berni's burlesque Innamorato, Marphisia, a young Indian queen, made a vow never to lay aside her armour till she had taken three kings captive, namely, Charlemagne, Gradasso, and Agrican. In the Arabian story of 'Omar Bin Nu'man, a princess wrestles with the hero, and throws him, more by the weakening power of her fully-developed charms than by her personal strength and skill, though she possessed both these necessary qualifications of an athlete. The same lady after­wards, disguised as a knight, and armed cap-à-pie, encounters her lover in single combat—an incident which seems imitated from an episode of the Arabian romance of 'Antar:

Story of Jaida and Khālid.*

Muhārib and Zāhir, the fathers respectively of Khālid and Jaida, were brothers. Muhārib was chief of the tribe of Zebīd, and Zāhir was his counsellor. The brothers quarrelled, and Zāhir struck his tents, and cast his lot with the kindred tribe of Sa'd. Zāhir's wife becoming pregnant, he said to her that if a son were born, he would be most welcome; but if a girl, she was to conceal the fact, and let it appear to the world that they had a male child, in order that his brother should not exult over him. In due course a daughter was born, and was called in private Jaida, but Jūdar in public, that it might appear she was a boy. About the same time Muhārib had a son born to him, whom he called Khālid. The daughter of Zāhir was brought up as a boy, and taught to ride on horseback; and she soon became famous in all the exercises befitting a noble warrior, accompanying her father to battle, in which she ever took a prominent part. Khālid was also one of the most illustrious horsemen of the age, universally acknowledged as an intrepid warrior and a valiant hero.

The fame of his cousin Jaida (Jūdar) having reached him, Khālid, after his father's death, visited his uncle, and spent ten days in jousting with the horsemen of the family. Jaida became deeply enamoured of him, and her mother, on learning this, revealed the secret of her sex to Khālid's mother, and suggested that their children should be united in marriage. But when Khālid was told by his mother that his cousin was a woman, he was greatly chagrined, slighted her love for him, and hastened back to his own tribe.

Jaida, enraged at finding herself thus scorned, resolved to be revenged on her cousin, and, disguising herself, set out for the land of Zebīd. Arrived there, she entered a tent of public enter­tainment, close-visored, like a horseman of the Hijāz. After proving her superiority to the best cavaliers in the course, she encountered Khālid for three days in succession, without either of them obtaining any advantage, when she discovered herself to her cousin, whose hatred was now suddenly converted into love. But Jaida rejected him, and returned home.

Khālid hastened to his uncle and demanded Jaida in marriage. His cousin at length consented, on the condition that he should provide for slaughter at her wedding feast a thousand camels belonging to Ghashm, son of Malik, surnamed the Brandisher of Spears. These Khālid procured by plundering the tribe of 'Āmir; but on his return Jaida imposed a further condition— that her camel should be led by the captive daughter of a prince. Khālid again set out with his horsemen, and, assailing the family tribe of Mu'āwiyya, son of Nizal, took captive his daughter Amīma; and his marriage with Jaida was immedi­ately celebrated, when the daughter of Mu'āwiyya held the bridle of her camel, “and the glory of Jaida was exalted among women and among men.”

In another Arabian romance, Delhama, of which Lane has given an account in his Modern Egyptians, two amazons figure prominently. One of these is a woman called Esh-Shumsta, or the Grizzle, “whom the heroes of her time held in great fear on account of her prowess and strength.” The Emīr Dārim resolved to attack her. She mounted her horse in haste, on hearing of his approach, and went forth to meet him and his party. For a whole hour she contended with them; killed the greater number, and put the rest to flight, excepting the Emīr Dārim, whom she took prisoner, and led in bonds, disgraced and despised, to her fortress. His ten sons, hearing of his mis­fortune, set forth with their attendants to rescue the Emīr, but they are taken prisoners and most of their followers are slain by Esh-Shumsta, who, however, is in the end overthrown and put to death by El-Gūndūba, the adopted son of the Emīr. After­wards El-Gūndūba in the course of his adventures encounters in single combat another amazon, called Kattalet esh Shugān, or the Slayer of Heroes.

Richardson, in the Dissertation prefixed to his Arabic and Persian Dictionary, relates some curious historical anecdotes of the bravery of Arabian women in turning the tide of battle against the Greeks.—There can be no doubt that Europe has owed much of its institutions of chivalry to the Arabs, and an interesting chapter on this subject might be complied from authentic Arabian history, as well as from their romancists and poets.