The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Khaled, originally a genie, hears Muhammad read from the Koran, converts to Islam, and is given a superb human body. He is told that he is destined to marry Zehowah, the beautiful daughter of the Sultan of Nejed, and promised a soul if he can win her love. Divinely outfitted with a beautiful mare, rich raiment, and a marvelous sword, Khaled crosses the desert with much difficulty, reports to the wealthy sultan in Riad, asks for Zehowah’s hand in marriage, and explains that his wondrous mare is his fortune, his lightning-flashing sword his argument, and his sturdy arm his only wit.

Although she does not love him, Zehowah marries Khaled because, as she explains, he can stabilize Nejed politically through his avoidance of factionalism. Upset by her candor, Khaled repulses a sudden Shammar attack, only to hear Zehowah say that bravery in her lord and master is irrelevant. Khaled seizes the entire realm of Shammar, including a Georgian slave named Almasta, who is beautiful but evil and who falls in love with him. Khaled is outraged when Zehowah remains unmoved by the booty and even suggests that he take Almasta as his second wife. The sultan would marry her himself but dies of overeating. Khaled permits Abdul Kerim, the sheikh of his horsemen, to marry Almasta. She kills him on their wedding night by piercing his heart with a thin steel needle. Avoiding detection, Almasta becomes Zehowah’s servant. After Khaled tries but fails to make Zehowah jealous by...

(The entire section is 478 words.)