No. XXII—p. 106.

NONE of the other texts of the Book of Sindibād represented in our Comparative Table has this widely-diffused tale, and the version here given differs remarkably from all others with which I am acquainted, although the fundamental outline is identical in them all. One of the oldest extant forms of it must, I think, be that found in the collection of stories, in Sanskrit, entitled Vetála Panchavinsati, or Twenty-five Tales of a Demon, a work which, though originally distinct and still existing in separate form in most of the vernacular languages of India, is now in­cluded in the grand collection (so often referred to in these notes) entitled Kathá Sarit Ságara. This is how the Vetála story is related in the last-mentioned work, according to Professor Tawney's translation:

Somaprabhā and her Three Suitors.

In Ujjayni there lived an excellent Bráhman, the dear de­pendent and minister of King Punyasena, and his name was Harisvāmin. That householder had by his wife, who was his equal in birth, an excellent son like himself, Devasāmin by name. And he also had born to him a daughter, famed for her matchless beauty, rightly named Somaprabhā (i.e. Moonlight). When the time came for that girl to be given away in marriage, as she was proud of her exceeding beauty, she made her mother give the following message to her father and brother: “I am to be given in marriage to a man possessed of heroism, or know­ledge, or magic power; you must not give me in marriage to any other, if you value your life.” When her father Harisvāmin heard this, he was full of anxiety, trying to find for her a hus­band coming under one of these three categories. And while so engaged he was sent as ambassador by King Punyasena to negotiate a treaty with the King of the Dekkan, who had come to invade him. And when he had accomplished the object for which he was sent, a noble Bráhman, who had heard of the great beauty of his daughter, came and asked him for her hand. Harisvāmin said to the Bráhman suitor: “My daughter will not marry any husband who does not possess either valour, or knowledge, or magic power; so tell me which of the three you possess.” He answered: “I possess magic power.” There­upon Harisvāmin rejoined: “Then show me your magic power.” So he immediately prepared by his skill a chariot that would fly through the air. And in a moment he took up Harisvāmin in that magic chariot, and showed him heaven and all the worlds. And he brought him back delighted to that very camp of the King of the Dekkan, to which he had been sent on business. Then Harisvāmin promised his daughter to that man possessed of supernatural power, and fixed the marriage for the seventh day from that time.

And in the meanwhile another Bráhman, in Ujjayni, came and asked Harisvāmin's son Devasāmin for the hand of his sister. Devasāmin answered: “She does not wish to have a husband who is not possessed of either knowledge, or magic power, or heroism.” Thereupon he declared himself to be a hero. And when the hero displayed his skill in the use of missiles and hand-to-hand weapons, Devasāmin promised to give him his sister, who was younger than himself. And by the advice of the astrologers he told him, as his father had told the other suitor, that the marriage should take place on that very same seventh day, and this decision he came to without the knowledge of his mother.

At that very time a third person came to his mother, wife of Harisvāmin, and asked her privately for the hand of her daughter. She said to him: “Our daughter requires a husband who possesses either knowledge, or magic power, or heroism;” and he answered: “Mother, I possess knowledge.” And she, after questioning him about the past and the future, promised to give the hand of her daughter to that possessor of super­natural knowledge on that same seventh day. The next day Harisvāmin returned home, and told his wife and his son the agreement he had made to give away his daughter in marriage; and they told him separately the promises that they had made; and that made him feel anxious, as three bridegrooms had been invited.

Then on the wedding-day three bridegrooms arrived in Haris-vāmin's house—the man of knowledge, the man of magic power, and the man of valour. And at that moment a strange thing took place: the intended bride, the maiden Somaprabhā, was found to have disappeared in some inexplicable manner, and, though searched for, was not found. Then Harisvāmin said eagerly to the possessor of knowledge: “Man of knowledge, now tell me quickly where my daughter is gone.” He answered: “The Rākshasa Dhūmrasikha has carried her off to his own habitation in the Vindhya forest.” At this Harisvāmin was terrified, and said: “Alas, alas! how are we to get her back, and how is she to be married?” When the possessor of magic power heard that, he said: “Be of good cheer! I will take you in a moment to the place where she is.” He then prepared, as before, a chariot that would fly through the air, provided all kinds of weapons, and made Harisvāmin, the man of know­ledge, and the brave man get into it, and in a moment he carried them to the habitation of the Rākshasa in the Vindhya forest, which had been described by the man of knowledge. The Rākshasa, when he saw what had happened, rushed out in a passion, and then the hero, who was put forward by Haris-vāmin, challenged him to fight. Then a wonderful fight took place between the man and the Rākshasa, who were contending for a woman, with various kinds of weapons, like Rāma and Rāvana.* And in a short time the hero cut off the head of that Rākshasa with a crescent-headed arrow, though he was a doughty champion. Then they carried off Somaprabhā, whom they found in his house, and they all returned in the magic chariot.

And when they had reached Harisvāmin's house, the marriage did not go forward, though the auspicious moment had arrived, but a great dispute arose between the man of knowledge, the man of magic power, and the man of valour. The man of knowledge said: “If I had not known where this maiden was, how would she have been discovered when concealed?—So she ought to be given to me.” But the man of magic power said: “If I had not made the chariot that can fly through the air, how could you all have gone and returned in a moment like the gods? And how could you, without a chariot, have fought with a Rākshasa, who possessed a chariot?—So you ought to give her to me, for I have secured her by my skill this auspicious moment.” The brave man said: “If I had not slain the Rāk-shasa in fight, who would have brought this maiden back here in spite of all your exertions?—So she must be given to me.” While they went on wrangling in this style, Harisvāmin remained silent, being perplexed in mind.

A variant is found in the Tūtī Nāma (34th night of the India Office MS. No. 2573, and the 22nd of Kāderī's abridgment), to the following effect: A rich merchant of Kabūl had a beautiful daughter, named Zohra (or Venus), who had many wealthy suitors, but declared that she would marry only a man who was completely wise, or very skilful. Three young men present them­selves before the merchant, saying that if his daughter requires a man of skill for her husband, each of them was eligible. The first youth said that his art was to discover the whereabouts of any­thing, or anybody, that was lost, and to predict future events. The second could make a horse of wood, which, whoever might mount it, would soar in the air, like Solomon's throne.* The third was an archer, who could pierce any object at which he might point his arrow. The merchant having reported to his daughter the wonderful acquirements of her three new suitors, she promised to give her decision next morning. But the same night she disappeared, and the unhappy merchant sent for the three youths, desiring them to recover his daughter, by the exercise of their respective talents. The first youth discovered that a perī had carried the damsel to the summit of a mountain which was inaccessible to man. The second made a wooden horse, and gave it to the third (the archer), who mounted it, and very soon reached the mountain, killed the perī, and brought away the maiden. “Each of the three claimed her as his own by right, and the dispute continued.”

The story must be familiar to all readers of the common English translation of the Arabian Nights, in the tale of Prince Ahmed and the Peri Banou: Three princes are in love with their cousin, who is to be given to him that should bring the most wonderful thing. One of them procures a magic carpet, another an ivory telescope, and the third an apple that could cure the person who smelled at it, even if at the point of death. The youth with the tube discovers that the princess is dying; the magic carpet carries them all to the princess; and the apple restores her to health.

The Tartar version, in the Relations of Siddhí Kúr,* is very peculiar in all its details: Six persons—a rich youth, a calcu­lator, a mechanic, a physician, and a smith—set out together to seek their fortunes. Arriving at the mouth of a great river, each of them planted a tree of life and then separated, having agreed to meet at the same place again. The rich youth, in the course of his wanderings, marries a beautiful maiden; but the khān takes her from him, and afterwards causes him to be put to death, and his body to be covered with a huge rock. At the time agreed upon the five other wanderers return to the spot where they had planted their trees of life, and, seeing that the youth's tree was withered,* the calculator by his art discovered that he was lying dead beneath a certain rock. The smith with his hammer smote the rock and broke it, and drew forth the body. Then the physician gave the dead youth a draught, and he became alive again. The revived youth having told his com­panions how his beautiful wife had been taken from him, and himself been slain, by the khān, they resolved by all means to recover such a pearl of beauty. Accordingly the mechanic con­structed a wooden Garūda, which went in any direction, as it was guided from within. The painter then decorated the wooden bird with various colours, so that it was wondrous to behold. Then the youth seated himself within the wooden Garūda, which immediately flew through the air, and hovered above the khān's palace. When the khān discovered the strange bird, he bade the wife of the youth go upon the roof and offer food to it, which she did; and the bird descended, and the youth seated her beside him, and they flew away. Having returned to his five companions, the youth and his wife stepped forth from the Garūda, and on their beholding her beauty they began to quarrel among themselves, each claiming her as his wife, because of his share in her recovery, till at length they drew their knives and slew one another.

Such is the outline of the Tartar version of this old-world tale. The wooden Garūda here performs the part of the Enchanted Horse of the Thousand and One Nights, which, however, had reached Europe long before that entertaining work was com­posed. The contrivance in the Tartar tale was, in fact, borrowed from Hindū fiction: in a story in the Kathá Sarit Ságara, the hero, in love with a princess, personates Vishnū, and rides on a wooden representation of Garūda (the bird of Vishnū), guided by a pin and moving by magic—the prototype of

The wondrous steed of brass
On which the Tartar king did ride,

in Chaucer's “half-told tale of Cambuscan bold,” and of all other self-moving machines so famed in romance.* —Of European variants, the best is perhaps the well-known German fairy tale of the Four Clever Youths who rescued from a dragon the king's daughter, and were all amply recompensed for their pains.