Swahili Tales/The Spirit Who Was Cheated by the Sultan's Son

Swahili Tales  (1870)  by Edward Steere
The Spirit Who Was Cheated by the Sultan's Son


There was a Sultan who longed for a son for many years without getting one. And he had much property and many towns. And he felt, "When I die, all these possessions will be lost, by reason of my having no son."

And a demon came and made himself like a man, and said to the Sultan, "If I give you a medicine, and you get a son, what will you give me?" And he said, "I will give you half my property." And he said, "I shall not accept it." And he said, "I will give you half my towns." And he said, "I am not satisfied." And he said, "What do you want then?" And he said, "If you get two children, give me one, and take one yourself." And he said, "I have consented."

And he brought him a medicine, and said to him, "Give it to your wife and let her eat it." And he gave it to her, and she ate it and became pregnant, and bore a first child, a boy, and a second, a boy, and yet more a third, a boy.

And his friend who gave him the medicine came and said to him, "Come, let us divide them." And he said, "Not yet, these children have not yet learnt to read." And he said, "Give them to me that I may teach them." And he said, "Take them." And he went to his home with them. And his home was a large house, and everything was in it.

And he taught them until they knew all learning, and they made letters, and then he took them to their father. And one of those lads was very clever. And he said to their father, "Come, let us divide the children to-day." And he said, "You divide them." And he divided them, and took two and put them separate, and he took one and put him separate, and said, "Choose, Sultan." And the Sultan took the two, and he took the one, and went his way.

And he went home, and gave him all the keys, and said, "Open whatever you like." And the lad remained in the house, and that, his father, going out, went travelling for a month, when he returned.

Well, the youth remained, till one day he took a key and went and unlocked a room. And he saw molten gold, and put in his finger, and it clung to it; and when he had wiped it, it did not come off, and he tied on a rag. And his father came and asked him, "What is the matter with your finger?" And he said, "I have cut myself." And he remained, till the next day his father went out, and went on his way travelling.

And the boy took all the keys, and went and opened the first room, and saw goats' bones; and he opened the second, and saw sheep's bones; and he opened a third, and saw those of oxen; and he opened the fourth, and saw those of donkeys; and he opened the fifth, and saw those of horses; and he opened the sixth, and saw skulls of men; and he opened the seventh, and saw a living horse.

And it said, "Oh, you son of Adam, where do you come from?" And he said, "As for me, this is my father." And it said, "His business is to eat people, and donkeys, and horses, and oxen, and goats, and all things; and now you and I are left."

And he said, "What are we to do?" And it said, "Come and unfasten me." And he unfastened it. And it said, "Now open the treasure chamber, and I will swallow everything; and when your father comes and goes to invite people to come and eat us, and when he comes, he will say to you, 'Let us go for firewood,' tell him, 'I don't understand such work;' and he will go by himself. And when he comes with it he will put on a great cauldron, and he will say to you, 'Make up the fire.' Tell him, 'I cannot;' he will go himself to make up the fire. He will bring much ghee and put it into the cauldron, till when it gets hot, he will tie up a swing and say to you, 'Get up and play.' Tell him, 'I do not know how to play at this; you get up yourself first, that I may look at you, and I may get to do as you do;' and when he gets up to show you, push him into the cauldron of hot ghee, and come away quickly, and I will come and wait for you under the tree there in the road."

And the horse ran away, and left the boy by himself. So when his father came, he said to him, "To-morrow let us go for firewood." And he said, "I don't understand that work." And he went himself by himself, and brought much firewood. And he had already told people, "To-morrow I have a feast, come."' And he came and took out a cauldron and put it on, and said to him, "Put on the firewood;" and he said, "I do not know how." And he said to him, "And bring the ghee." And he said, "I cannot carry it, I have no strength." And he went himself, and carried it, and put it into the cauldron, and lighted the fire, and he said to him, "Make it up;" and he said, "I do not know how to make up a fire."

And he said, "Have you seen our country game?" And he said, "Not yet." And the ghee had got very hot. And he tied up a swing, and said to him, "Get up here, that I may show you." And he said, "Get up yourself first, and play, that when I see you, father, I may get to play." And he got up, and played. And he took hold of him and pushed him into the cauldron, and he boiled with the ghee and died.

And the boy ran away and went till he saw the horse under the tree, and it came running. And the horse came and took him up and put him on its back, and said, "Now let us be off." And they went away.

Those companions there of his came, and looked for him, and did not see him. And they were getting very hungry, and they looked into the cauldron, and saw the food was done, and they said, "Let us eat this food;" and they took it off and dished it up and ate. And when they had done they looked for him and did not find him. And they went into the house and took out all the food and all the rice; and they came and cooked and ate the second day also, and they saw he was not yet come, and they went away home.

And the boy, he and his horse went, till far off there were other towns, and they stopped at the end of a town. And he said, "Here let us stay;" and they stayed and ate food. And he said, "Here let us build a house;" and they built a large house and everything within it, and they put in it horses, and asses, and oxen, and goats, and slaves, and they remained.

Till one day the Sultan heard of it, and went and sent people, and they went to look whether the news was true that there was a large house; and the people said, "It is true, Sultan, there is a large house."

And the Sultan sent his people to see who it was. And he told them, "I am a person like other people." And they said to him, "Where do you come from?" And he said, "I come from our town, and am come travelling." And they went and told the king, "He is a foreigner and has come travelling." And he said, "Let some one go to-morrow and tell him, 'The Sultan will come to see you.'" And a man went and told him. And he said, "Thanks, and let him come."

And he ordered much food to be got ready. So in the morning the king came with his people, and arrived at the house. And he invited him in, and he passed inside, and the Sultan saw that the house was large and many slaves in it. And he sat down and they conversed. And he asked him, "Why do you not come and walk in the town?" And he said, "I am a stranger, I must get people to take me and bring me into the town." And he said, "Let us go and take a walk."

And the king loved him much, and they dwelt there many days. And the king asked him, "Would you like to marry a wife?" And he said, "I should." And he said, "I will marry you to my daughter." And the Sultan made a great wedding, and married them.

And he dwelt with his wife, and they had one child; and they dwelt until the end, he and his wife, and his one child, and his horse, and he loved it like his own soul.