The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad
Three wealthy and beautiful sisters invite, over the course of an evening, a porter, three one-eyed Kalandars, and three merchants—who turn out to be the Caliph and his companions in disguise—into their home for shelter, food, and drink. Upon entering each guest must take the following oath: ‘‘Whoso speaketh of what concerneth him not shall hear what pleaseth him not!’’
The eldest lady interrupts the festivities to attend to her duty. Two black bitches (female dogs) are brought out to her; she proceeds to beat them with a whip; then, tearfully kissing them both, she sends them away.
The cateress then sings a sad song, causing the portress to penitently rend her garments, revealing to the guests the marks of a terrible beating.
The men, unable to contain their curiosity, break their oaths and demand an explanation of the women. The eldest lady grows angry at their presumption and commands her slaves to bind them. The lady demands each of their stories in exchange for their lives.
The First Kalandar’s Tale
The first Kalandar reveals that he is actually a Prince. His adventure begins with a visit to his cousin, who is also a Prince of another kingdom: sworn to an oath of secrecy, he agrees to conceal his cousin in an underground dwelling with his cousin’s lover. He then returns to his father’s kingdom, where he discovers that the King’s Wazir has slain his father and taken over the kingdom. The Wazir puts out the Prince’s left eye and condemns him to execution in the wilderness, but he manages to escape and immediately makes his way back to his uncle’s kingdom, where his uncle is grieving over the disappearance of his son. The Prince breaks his oath and shows his uncle the entrance to the secret dwelling, which they enter only to find the burnt bodies of the cousin and his lover. The uncle spits upon the face of his son and then explains that the lady is the cousin’s own sister whom he was forbidden from seeing. They return to the palace to find it taken over by the same evil Wazir. The uncle is killed and the Prince, disguised as a Kalandar, heads to Baghdad to seek the aid of the Caliph.
The Second Kalandar’s Tale
The Second Kalandar also reveals that he is a Prince. Attacked by a band of robbers while journeying to Hind, he flees to a foreign city where he is taken in by a friendly tailor, who aids him in his finding work as a woodcutter.
While in the forest, he discovers an underground dwelling, where he finds a beautiful Princess who is held prisoner by an Ifrit. After spending the night with her, he foolishly summons the Ifrit, who appears and captures him; he kills the Princess for her infidelity and punishes the Prince by transforming him into an ape.
After a time of wandering, the Prince, still in the form of an ape, comes upon another kingdom where he manages to use his intelligence to impress the King.
The King’s daughter Sitt al-Husn, who has magical abilities, realizes that the ape is really an enchanted Prince; she defeats the Ifrit in a terrible battle in order to set the Prince free, only to be killed...
(The entire section is 1316 words.)