MAN has been variously described as a laughing, a cooking, and a clothes-wearing animal, for no other animal laughs, or cooks, or wears clothes. Perhaps another definition might be added, namely, that he is a story-telling animal. From bleak Greenland to the sunny islands that be-gem the South Pacific, there seems to be no race so low in the scale of humanity as not to possess a store of legends and tales, which take their colouring from the ways of life and the habits of the people among whom they are found domiciled. But notwithstanding the very considerable number of popular tales that have been collected from various parts of the world, their origin and general diffusion are still involved in obscurity. The germs from which some of them sprang may have originated soon after men became sentient beings. It is possible, though not very probable, that the ideas on which are based the more simple fictions which are found to be similar—mutatis mutandis—among Non-Aryan as well as Aryan races were independently conceived; but this concession does not apply to tales and stories of more elaborate construction, where the incidents and their very sequence are almost identical—in such cases there must have been deliberate appropriation by one people from another. And assuredly not a few of the tales which became orally current in Europe during the middle ages through the preaching monks and the merry minstrels were directly imported from the East. But even when a tale has been traced through different countries till it is discovered in a book, the date of which is known to be at least 200 B.C., it does not follow, of course, that the author of the book where it occurs was the actual inventor of it. Men are much more imitative than inventive, and there is every reason to believe that the Buddhists and the Bráhmans alike simply adapted for their own purposes stories and apologues which had for ages upon ages been common to the whole world. All that is now maintained by the so-called “Benfey school” is that many of the Western popular tales current orally, as well as existing in a literary form, during the mediæval times which are found in old Indian books reached Europe from Syria, having travelled thither from India through Persia and Arabia, and that this importation of Eastern fictions had been going on long before the first crusades.

Whatever our modern European authors may do in the production of their novels (the novel has no existence in the East), it is certain that Asiatic writers do not attempt the invention of new “situations” and incidents. They have all along been content to use such materials as came ready to hand, both by taking stories out of other books, and dressing them up according to their own taste and fancy, and by writing down tales which they had heard publicly or privately recited.* Indeed they usually mention quite frankly in the prefaces to their books from whence they derived their materials. Thus, Somadeva tells us that his Kathá Sarit Ságara (Ocean of the Streams of Story), of the 11th century, is wholly derived from a very much older Sanskrit work, of the 6th century, the Vrihat Kathá (Great Story), of Gunadhya; and Nakhshabí states that his Tútí Náma (Parrot Book) is chiefly an abridg­ment, in more elegant language, of an older Persian work composed in a prolix style, which was translated from a book “originally written in the Indian tongue.” So we need not expect to find much originality in later Eastern collections,* though they are of special interest to students of the genealogy of popular tales in so far as they contain incidents, and even entire stories and fables, out of ancient books now lost, which have their parallels and analogues in European folk­lore.

The first two romances in the present work form the third báb, or chapter, of a Persian collection of moral tales and anecdotes entitled Mahbúb ul-Kalúb, or the Delight of Hearts, written by Barkhurdár bin Mahmúd Turkman Faráhí, surnamed Mumtáz, concerning whom all that is known is given by himself in what Dr. Rieu terms “a diffuse preface, written in a stilted and am­bitious style.” In early life* he quitted his native place, Faráh, for Marv Sháhiján, where he entered the service of the governor, Aslán Khán, and two years afterwards he proceeded to Ispahán and became sec­retary to Hasan Kulí Khán Shámlú: both amírs flourished during the reign of Sháh Sultán Husain, A.H. 1105–1135 (A.D. 1693–1722). At Ispahán he heard in an assembly a pleasing tale, which, at the request of his friends, he “adorned with the flowers of rhetoric,” under the title of Hikáyát-i Ra'ná ú Zíbá. In course of time he added other stories, until he had made a large collection, comprising no fewer than four hundred tales and anecdotes, divided into an introduc­tion, eight bábs, and a khátimah, or conclusion, and he entitled the work Mahfil-árá—‘Adorner of the Assembly.’ After a visit to his native place, he went to Herát, where he remained for some time, and thence he set out on a pilgrimage to the shrine at Mashad. But on his way he was attacked by a band of Kuzzaks in the desert, who robbed him of everything, including the precious manuscript of his Mahfil-árá. Returning to Ispahán, it may be presumed, though he does not specify “the place of security,” he re-wrote from memory his collection of tales, dividing the work into an introduction, five bábs, and a khátimah. The work is formed on the plan of the Gulistán, or Rose-Garden, of the illustrious Persian poet Sa'dí, each section being devoted to the exemplification of a special subject or theme. The introduction com­prises dissertations

(1) On the necessity of Politeness;

(2) On the behaviour of a householder, so as to obtain for himself happiness in this world and the next;

(3) On the Education of Children;

(4) On the advantages of following a Trade or Profession;

(5) On Hospitality;

(6) On gratitude for the benefits received from God.

Then follow Five Chapters:

I—On Civility, Humility, and Modesty, the virtues on which amicable intercourse with all conditions of men is based.

II—On Good Manners and abstention from injuring others by word or deed.

III—On Equanimity in Prosperity and Adversity, and Resignation to the will of God in all things.

IV—On Friendship, or Association: the choice of a suitable Companion, and the rejection of an uncongenial or base one.

V—On the Advantages of Contentment and the Mean­ness of Envy and Covetousness.

Conclusion: Story of Ra'ná and Zíbá.

The Persian text of this large collection of Tales was printed at Bombay in 1852. There are two MS. copies in the British Museum, one of which is de­scribed by Dr. Rieu as being embellished with two 'unváns, or ornamental head-pieces, gold-ruled margins, and 55 miniatures in the Persian style.

In 1870 Mr. Edward Rehatsek published, at Bombay, a translation of the two Tales contained in the third chapter of the Mahbúb ul-Kalúb under the title of Fortune and Misfortune, which are reproduced in the present volume as the History of Nassar (properly Násir) and the History of Farrukhrúz, the Tales being quite distinct from each other.

I—In the HISTORY OF NASSAR, son of the Mer­chant of Baghdád, the motif is that Fate, or Destiny, is paramount in all human affairs, and so long as Fortune frowns all the efforts of men to better their condition are utterly futile: an essentially Asiatic notion, and quite foreign to the sentiments of the more manly and self-relying Western races. It must be allowed, however, that there seems to be a mys­terious factor in human life which we call “luck,” against which it were vain to struggle;—only it is seldom to be recognised until it has worked out its purpose! How, for example, are we to account for a soldier escaping uninjured after taking an active part in many battles, while his comrade by his side is shot dead at the first fire of the enemy? There are certainly lucky and unlucky men who have done little or nothing to bring about their own good or ill for­tune. “Fate,” says Defoe, “makes footballs of men: kicks some upstairs and some down. Some are ad­vanced without honour, and others are suppressed without infamy. Some are raised without merit; some are crushed without crime. And no man knows, by the beginning of things, whether his course will end in a peerage or a pillory.” And a Persian poet chants in melancholy strain:

Strive not to grapple with the grasp of Fate; Canst thou with feebleness success combine?
All vain, 'gainst Destiny thy watchful state; Go thou, and to its force thyself resign.

But the Bard of Rydal Mount—the Christian Philo­sopher, whose grand poetry is out of vogue in these “double-distilled” days—tells us that

One adequate support
For the calamities of mortal life
Exists—one only: an assured belief
That the procession of our fate, howe'er
Sad or disturbed, is ordered by a Being
Of infinite benevolence and power;
Whose everlasting purposes embrace
All accidents, converting them to good.

And it may be safely asserted that no great things were ever done by any man whose actions were con­trolled by a belief in mere “luck.” The great American poet lustily sings:

Let us then be up and doing, With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labour and to wait.

The Sinhalese have a number of proverbs about “luck” which might very suitably serve as mottoes for the Tale of Násir and the subordinate stories of Mansúr and of Shoayb; for instance, they say: “It hails whenever an unlucky man goes abroad”; and again: “Even if the unlucky man have a gold coin in his purse, he is sure to be accused of having stolen it.” In the tale of Prince Kasharkasha, when the ruined merchant comes to the young king whom he had formerly befriended, he is dismissed with a small sum of money, the king fearing lest his old friend's ill-luck should also affect him: an idea which is constantly cropping up in Asiatic stories; though, by the way, it does not appear that the worthy mer­chant had himself any such fear when he so generously relieved the prince from his bitter distress.

It can hardly be said that the “moral” to be drawn from the career of Násir is a very elevating one. The three pieces of wholesome advice bestowed on him by his father's ancient friend, and enforced with such appropriate stories, did the young traveller little good; for we find him go on blundering out of one scrape into another, until his “lucky star” is once more in the ascendant. And in the case of poor Mansúr, though he does ultimately attain wealth and ease through his own exertions, yet he was in the first instance indebted to sheer luck in-discovering a treas­ure-crock in an old ruin. From one point of view, there is droll humour in some of the incidents in these tales, more especially in Násir's unlucky exhi­bitions of his accomplishments before the king; and in the narrative of the misfortunes of poor Shoayb, whom another king strove so persistently to benefit, disregarding the counsel of his prime minister and setting at defiance the evident decree of Fate;— though one cannot help regretting that he should have been expelled from the country after all he had suffered. Let us believe that ere long his “run of ill-luck” came to an end!

II—The HISTORY OF FARRUKHRUZ may be con­sidered as exemplifying the Sinhalese proverb which asserts that “the teeth of the dog that barks at the lucky man will fall out;” for did not all the vile schemes of the envious vazírs, to compass the death of this Favourite of Fortune, turn to his advantage and finally to their own well-merited destruction? True, he was very near losing his good fortune when he parted with the talismanic ring, and, by the art magic of Kashank the 'Ifrít, was changed to an old barber in Damascus; but here again have we not an illustration of another Sinhalese proverb which says that “you cannot even kick away good luck”? In this spirited little romance the interest is well sus­tained throughout, and the scene in Damascus will, I think, favourably compare with some of the facetious tales in the Arabian Nights. Variants and analogues of the principal incidents are given in the Appendix.

III—THE KING AND HIS FOUR MINISTERS, which is now for the first time presented in English, has been translated from the Tamil, at my suggestion, by my friend Pandit S. M. Natésa Sástrí, of Madras, who is already known in this country to students of the migrations of popular tales from his Folk-Lore in Southern India, published at Bombay, and his trans­lation ??of another Tamil romance, Madanakámarájan-kadai , under the title of Dravidian Nights Entertain­ments , published at Madras: London agents for both works, Messrs. Trübner & Co. The Tamil title is Alakésa Kathá, or Story of (King) Alakesa, and a short but not quite accurate account of it is given by Dr. H. H. Wilson in his most valuable Descrip­tive Catalogue of the Oriental MSS. etc. in the Mac-kenzie Collection, published at Calcutta, 1828, vol. i, p. 220. Dr. Wilson describes the work as “a story of the rájá of Alakapúr and his four ministers, who, being falsely accused of violating the sanctity of the inner apartments, vindicate their innocence and dis­arm the king's wrath by narrating a number of stories.” It is, however, only one of the ministers who is believed by the rájá and the rání to have thus offended, and his three colleagues successively urge the rájá to inquire into all the circumstances of the affair before proceeding to punish him, and they support their arguments with Tales showing the deplorable evils which may result from inconsiderate actions. An aged minister of the rájá's father then comes before the king and relates a story to the same purpose, and he is followed by the accused minister, who also tells a story as a warning against hasty decisions, after which he not only makes his innocence manifest, but shows how he had saved the rájá and his spouse from a terrible fatality.*

In the Appendix of the present work will be found abstracts of Bengalí and Kashmírí oral variants of this Tale, the frame of which was evidently suggested by that of the Book of Sindibád, of which the numerous European versions are commonly known under the title of the History of the Seven Wise Masters of Rome, where a young prince is falsely accused, as Joseph was by the wife of Potiphar, and his father the king orders him to be put to death; but he alternately reprieves and condemns him during seven days, in consequence of his Seven Vazírs, day after day, and the Lady, night after night, relating to the king stories of the wicked­ness of women and of the depravity of men, till at length the innocence of the prince is proved, and the wanton, treacherous lady is duly punished.—The leading tale of the Turkish History of the Forty Vazírs (which has been completely translated into English by Mr. E. J. W. Gibb; London: Mr. George Redway) is on the same plan, though the stories related by the Vazírs and the Lady are almost all different.

To the sporadic part of the great Sindibád family of romances belongs also the Persian work entitled Bakhtyár Náma, in which a stranger youth becomes the king's favourite and is raised to a position of great honour and dignity, which excites the envy of the king's Ten Vazírs, who cause him to be accused of violating the royal haram, and the young man is re­prieved from day to day through his relating eloquently stories showing the lamentable consequences of preci­pitation, and he is ultimately found to be guiltless, and, moreover, to be the king's own son, whom he and his queen had abandoned in a desert when newly born, as they were flying for their lives.—Another group of tales pertaining to the same cycle is found in the Breslau printed Arabic text of the Alf Layla wa Layla (Thousand and One Nights), under the title of “King Shah Bakht and his Vazír Er-Rahwan,” where the king is induced by the machinations of some of his courtiers to believe that his favourite minister Er-Rahwan should slay him within twenty-eight days; and the Vazír, being condemned to death, obtains a respite by relating to the king each night an interesting story until the supposed fatal period is past, when the king is convinced of his fidelity.*

Neither the name of the author nor the date of the Alakésa Kathá is known, but it is supposed to have been written in the 16th century. It is one of the very few Asiatic collections in which the tales are all unobjectionable, and while these are found in much older Indian story-books, they present some curious variations, and are moreover of considerable interest as illustrating Hindú popular beliefs and superstitions.

As European mediæval writers were in the habit of piously prefixing the sign of the cross to their com­positions, and Muhammedan authors invariably begin their books with the formula, “In the Name of God, the most Merciful, the most Compassionate,” so Hindú writers always commence by invoking the assistance of Ganesa, the god of wisdom. Accordingly the Alakésa Kathá opens thus: “Before relating in Tamil the story of the Four Ministers, which is admired by the whole world, O Mind! adore and serve him who is the elder of the trident-armed and the remover of obstacles”— that is, Ganesa, who is said to be the son of Siva and his spouse Parvati, or of the latter only. Ganesa is represented as having the head of an elephant, which was perhaps originally a symbol of his sagacity, but is accounted for in one of the later legends regarding this deity as follows: The goddess Parvati wished to take a bath one day in her mansion, Kailasa, during the absence of her lord, Siva. Her female attendants were engaged in some domestic duties, but she must have her bath, and there must be a servant to guard the door. So Parvati rubbed her body with her hands, and of the scurf created a man, whom she ordered to watch outside the door, and allow no one to enter. It so happened that Siva returned before his spouse had finished bathing, and he was opposed by the newly-formed man, whose head he immediately struck off, and then he entered the bath-room. This intrusion Par-vati regarded as a very great insult, and when she learned that her guard at the door was slain her rage knew no bounds. She demanded that her first son, as she termed him, should be restored to life, and Siva, vexed at his rashness, told his ganas (armies of dwarfs: troops of celestials) to search for him who slept with his head to the north, to kill him, and place his head on the neck of the murdered guard. The ganas, after wandering long and far, found only an elephant asleep in that position, so they brought his head and fixed it on the neck of the man whom Siva had slain, when, lo! he at once rose up alive, a man in body, with the head of an elephant. Siva then appointed him lord of his ganas (Ganesa) and adopted him as his son.—This curious legend is the cause of all Hindús never sleeping with their heads to the north. Ganesa is said to have written down the Mahábhárata from the dictation of Vyasa, the reputed author of that epic. He is represented with four hands, in one of which he holds a shell, in another a discus, in the third a trident, or club, and in the fourth a water-lily.*

IV—THE ROSE OF BAKAWALI was originally written, in the Persian language, by Shaykh Izzat Ulláh, of Bengal, in the year of the Hijra 1124, or A.D. 1712. It was translated into Urdú in the beginning of the present century, by Nihál Chand, a native of Delhi, but, from his residence in Lahore, surnamed Lahorí. He entitled his version of the romance Mazhab-i 'Ishk, which signifies the Doctrine of Love; but when the Urdú text was first printed, under the care of Dr. Gilchrist, at Calcutta, in 1804, it bore the original Persian title, Gul-i Bakáwalí; the second edition, published in 1814, by T. Roebuck, bears the Urdú title.

M. Garcin de Tassy published an abridgment (in French) of the Urdú version of the ROSE OF BAKA-WALI in the Journal Asiatique, vol. xvi, 1835, omitting the snatches of verse with which the author has libe­rally garnished his narrative.* A complete English translation, with the verses done into prose, by Lieut. R. P. Anderson, was published at Delhi in 1851, and the Urdú version was again rendered into English, with the poetry done into tolerably fair verse, by Thomas Philip Manuel, and published at Calcutta in 1859. For the version in the present work I have used both G. de Tassy's French abridgment and Manuel's English translation, following the former when the narrative seemed to be rather prolix, and the latter when I found the French savant too brief in specially interesting episodes, thus, I trust, making a readable version of this charming romance.

In the Appendix will be found copious parallels, analogues, and illustrations of the chief incidents in the ROSE OF BAKAWALI, which therefore calls for only a few general remarks in this place. It cannot be said that there is much originality in the romance, most of the incidents being common to the folk-tales of the several countries of India, but they are here woven together with considerable ingenuity, and the interest of the narrative never flags. It may in fact be re­garded as a typical Asiatic Tale, in which is embodied much of the folk-lore of the East. Like all fairy tales, it has no particular “moral,” for the hero achieves all his wonderful enterprises with the aid of super-human beings and by means of magical fruits, etc. The various and strange transformations which he under­goes in the course of his adventures are still believed to be quite possible by Muslims and Hindús alike. We very frequently read in Eastern tales of fountains the waters of which have the property of changing a man who drinks of them or bathes in them into a woman, and of transforming a monkey into a man, and vice versa. But this romance is, I think, singular in representing the hero, after having been changed into a young woman, as actually becoming a mother! In the account of his transformation to an Abyssinian, and beset by a shrewish wife and a pack of clamorous children, there is not a little humour. The magical things which he obtains through overhearing the con­versation of birds are familiar to the folk-tales of Europe as well as to those of Asia, and I have treated of them fully in the first volume of my Popular Tales and Ficions.

We must regard the first part of this romance— down to the end of the third chapter—as belonging to the wide cycle of folk-tales in which a number of brothers set out in quest of some wonderful and much desired object, and the youngest is always the suc­cessful one; but he is deprived of the prize by his envious and malicious brothers, who generally throw him into a well, and returning home claim the credit of the achievement. In the end, however, the young hero exposes the fraud, and his rascally and cowardly brethren are put to shame. Several of the incidents in the brothers' quest of the magical Rose with which to cure their father's sight are paralleled in the story of the Water of Life, in Grimm's Kinder und Haus-märchen, and in the Norse and German stories of the Golden Bird. Thus in our romance the four elder princes, through their pleasure-seeking disposi­tion, fall into the toils of an artful courtesan, while the youngest pluckily proceeds to fairyland and pro­cures the Rose of Bakáwalí, of which his brothers deprive him on his way home. In such stories as I have mentioned the elder brothers, if not deservedly enchanted in some manner on the road, waste their time at a wayside inn, and the younger is aided in his quest by some animal, troll, or dwarf, to whom he had done a friendly turn: in our romance the young prince is helped by a good-natured dív, or demon.

The prediction of the astrologers, with which the romance begins, that if the king should ever cast his eyes on his newly-born son he should instantly become blind, has many analogues in other Eastern tales. For example, in the Bakhtyár Náma we read that a king of Persia, after being long childless, one night, in a dream, is addressed by an aged man: “The Lord has complied with thy request and to-morrow thou shalt have a son, but in his seventh year a lion shall seize and carry him off to the top of a mountain, from which he shall fall, rolling in blood and clay.” The vazírs say that the decrees of Destiny cannot be with­stood, but the king declares that he will do so, and then summons his astrologers, who say that the king after twenty years shall perish by the hand of his own son. The king causes an underground dwelling to be con­structed, in which he places his child and the nurse. When the prince is seven years of age, a lion rushes into the cave, devours the nurse, carries off the boy, and drops him down a mountain. The child is found by one of the king's secretaries, who causes him to be properly educated. In course of time the youth is appointed armour-bearer to the king, who, of course, does not know that he is his own son, and in fighting with an enemy who had invaded his kingdom, in the confusion of the battle, the youth cuts off the king's hand, supposing him to be on the enemy's side, and before dying the king ascertains that his son had caused his death.

In the Bagh o Bahár (see the Appendix, page 478), a young prince, in consequence of a prediction of the astrologers that he was menaced with great danger until his fourteenth year, is confined in a vault lined with felt, in order that he should not behold the sun and the moon till the fatal period was passed. In Mr. Ralston's Tibetan Tales, the diviners declare to a king that he shall have a son who shall take his life and usurp the royal power, setting the diadem on his own head. And we have a familiar instance in the Arabian tale of the Third Calender, where the astrologers having predicted that the newly-born son of a jeweller should be killed when fifteen years old by 'Ajíb the son of King Khasib, the child is placed in an underground apartment in an island. In the Turkish story-book known as the History of the Forty Vazírs, the sooth­sayers predict that a king's son shall be much afflicted and wander in strange lands, with tribulation and pain for his companions, from his thirtieth till he has at­tained his sixtieth year. In the Norwegian story of Rich Peter the Pedlar the star-gazers foretell that his daughter should one day wed a poor man's son. And in classical legends we have the story of Danae, the daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos, by Eurydice, who was confined in a brazen tower because an oracle had said that his daughter's son should put him to death.

V—The PERSIAN STORIES have been selected from a collection translated by Mr. Edward Rehatsek, and published at Bombay in 1871, under the title of Amus­ing Stories. They occur in the Persian work, Mahbúb ul-Kalúb, of which some account has been given in connection with the first two romances in the present volume. The first of these stories, that of the Three Deceitful Women, is very diverting, and, as I have shown in the Appendix, has its counterparts in France and Spain. It belongs to the numerous stories of the Woman's Wiles cycle, and certainly represents the ladies in no very amiable character. But as a set-off to this tale of the depravity of women—the subject of many European mediæval stories and jests, as well as of Asiatic fictions—we have also stories of the wicked­ness of men, such as that of the Envious Vazír and that of the Kází of Ghazní—“blackguards both”!