King Sindibad and his Falcon

Wady A ravine through which a brook flows; the channel of a water course, which is dry except in the rainy season.

It is said (but Allah is All knowing!) that there was a King of the Kings of Fars, who was fond of pleasuring and diversion, especially coursing and hunting. He had reared a falcon which he carried all night on his fist, and whenever he went a chasing he took with him this bird; and he bade make for her a golden cuplet hung around her neck to give her drink therefrom. One day as the King was sitting quietly in his palace, behold, the high falcaner of the household suddenly addressed him, “O King of the age, this is indeed a day fit for birding.” The King gave orders accordingly and set out taking the hawk on fist; and they fared merrily forwards till they made a Wady where they planted a circle of nets for the chase; when lo! a gazelle came within the toils and the King cried, “Whoso alloweth yon gazelle to spring over his head and loseth her, that man will I surely slay.” They narrowed the nets about the gazelle when she drew near the King's station; and, planting herself on her hind quarter, crossed her forehand over her breast, as if about to kiss the earth before the King. He bowed his brow low in acknowledgment to the beast; when she bounded high over his head and took the way of the waste. Thereupon the King turned towards his troops and seeing them winking and pointing at him, he asked, “O Wazir, what are my men saying?” and the Minister answered, “They say thou didst proclaim that whoso alloweth the gazelle to spring over his head, that man shall be put to death.” Quoth the King, “Now, by the life of my head! I will follow her up till I bring her back.” So he set off gallopping on the gazelle's trail and gave not over tracking till he reached the foot hills of a mountain chain where the quarry made for a cave. Then the King cast off at it the falcon which presently caught it up and, swooping down, drove her talons into its eyes, bewildering and blinding it; and the King drew his mace and struck a blow which rolled the game over. He then dismounted; and, after cutting the antelope's throat and flaying the body, hung it to the pommel of his saddle.

siesta A short sleep taken about the middle of the day, or after dinner; a midday nap. siesta
gauntlets A long glove, covering the wrist. Gauntlet (gloves)
pounces The claw or talon of a bird of prey.

Now the time was that of the siesta and the world was parched and dry, nor was any water to be found anywhere; and the King thirsted and his horse also; so he went about searching till he saw a tree dropping water, as it were melted butter, from its boughs. Thereupon the King who wore gauntlets of skin to guard him against poisons took the cup from the hawk's neck, and filling it with the water set it before the bird, and lo! the falcon struck it with her pounces and upset the liquid. The King filled it a second time with the dripping drops, thinking his hawk was thirsty; but the bird again struck at the cup with her talons and overturned it. Then the King waxed wroth with the hawk and filling the cup a third time offered it to his horse: but the hawk upset it with a flirt of wings. Quoth the King, “Allah confound thee, thou unluckiest of flying things! thou keepest me from drinking, and thou deprivest thyself also, and the horse.” So he struck the falcon with his sword and cut off her wing; but the bird raised her head and said by signs, “Look at that which hangeth on the tree!” The King lifted up his eyes accordingly and caught sight of a brood of vipers, whose poison drops he mistook for water; thereupon he repented him of having struck off his falcon's wing, and mounting horse, fared on with the dead gazelle, till he arrived at the camp, his starting place. He threw the quarry to the cook saying, Take and broil it,” and sat down on his chair, the falcon being still on his fist when suddenly the bird gasped and died; whereupon the King cried out in sorrow and remorse for having slain that falcon which had saved his life.

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2007-12