The Blind Man's Story (p. 60)

differs considerably from its representative in the Romance, the story of the blind man Hamír in the cage (ante p. 464 ff.); and it is also observable that in our story Hatim does nothing to mitigate the poor man's wretchedness. Both versions agree in treasure being found in a dwelling house; but in our story it is the geomancer who is the blind man, and his eyes are blinded in mistake by a vindictive neighbour of the friend whom he thought to entrap;—while in the other story it is the man in whose house the treasure was discovered who is blinded by the geomancer, in revenge of the ill-treatment he had received at his hands; and it is by the application of surma to his eyes, by means of which he expected to behold all the hidden treasure of the world, that he is deprived of sight. The analogous tale in our common version of the Arabian Nights, of the Blind Man Baba Abdullah (it has not yet been found in any Arabic text of the collection), is wholly different in all its details until it reaches the catastrophe, when the greedy cameleer, after getting back from the darvesh all his share of the treasure, returns to request the box of salve, which, after having had applied to his left eye and thereby been enabled to see all concealed treasure, he insists—in spite of the repeated warning of the darvesh—on being also applied to his right eye, whereupon he instantly becomes stone-blind. Widely as the three stories differ one from the other, in details, however, it is very evident, I think, that they have been independently adapted from a common source.

The very climax of absurdity is surely reached by the author of our version of the story of Hatim when he represents the benevolent Lady as saying (p. 50) that she is so jealous of the wide-spread fame of Hatim for liberality that she wishes him to be killed; and when, on his return, she reproaches him for not having brought her Hatim's head, he replies that he is himself Hatim and that his head is at her disposal, whereupon the lady, struck with such magnanimity, at once consents to marry him.

According to tradition, an enemy of Hatim despatched one of his officers to slay him and bring his head. When he reached the encampments of the tribe of Ta'í, he was courteously greeted by an Arab, and invited into his tent, where he was treated most hospitably; and in the morning he told his host that he had been sent thither by his master to slay Hatim and bring back his head. The host smilingly replied: “I am Hatim; and if my head will gratify your master, smite it off without delay.” The man hastened away in confusion; and returning to his master told him of his adventure, and the enemy of Hatim ever afterwards loved and esteemed him. — This seems to be the tradition adapted so incongruously by our author.

The idea of our tale of Hatim and the Benevolent Lady may have been partly taken from the Story of the Third Darvesh in the Persian work, Kissa-i Chehár Darvesh (Romance of the Four Darveshes), an anonymous book, of uncertain date,* where the narrator, a Persian prince, tells how he tried to imitate the generosity of Hatim, by causing a great palace to be erected with four gates, at each of which he distributed gold and silver to all comers. One day a wandering darvesh receives money at each of the gates in succession, and then begins to beg again at the first gate, upon which the prince upbraids him for his greediness, and the darvesh retorts, as in our story, that there is a lady to whose liberality there is absolutely no bound. The prince learns that this generous lady is the princess of Basra, and donning the robe of a darvesh he sets out for that city, where he is sumptuously entertained for several days by the servants of the princess, after which he writes her a letter, declaring his rank and offering her marriage. He is told that the princess has resolved to marry only him who should bring her the explanation of the singular conduct of a youth in the city of Namrúz who appeared once a month riding on a bull, carry­ing a vase of gold and jewels in his hand, which he smashed in the market-place, and then smote off the head of one of his slaves, immediately afterwards riding away again, foaming at the mouth. The royal mendicant undertakes to ascertain the cause of the youth's madness (he proves to be in love with a fairy, like the Painter in our tale), and before setting out for Namrúz is admitted into the private chamber of the princess, who is con­cealed behind a curtain, where a slave-girl relates the history of her mistress: how she was one of seven daughters of a king, and was driven out of the palace because she would not acknowledge that she derived her good fortune from her father, but maintained that it was from God. In the wilderness she meets a darvesh, and discovers underground immense treasures, and so forth.— This story of the princess of Basra is one of the numerous parallels or analogous tales cited by my friend Mr. E. Sidney Hartland in a very able and interesting paper on the “Outcast Child” cycle, in the Folk-Lore Journal, 1886, vol. iv, p. 308 ff.