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The Fisherman and the Jinni

IT hath reached me, O auspicious King, that there was a fisherman well stricken in years who had a wife and three children, and withal was of poor condition. Now it was his custom to cast his net every day four times, and no more. On a day he went forth about noontide to the seashore, where he laid down his basket and, tucking up his shirt and plunging into the water, made a cast with his net and waited till it settled to the bottom. Then he gathered the cords together and haled away at it, but found it weighty. And however much he drew it landward, he could not pull it up, so he carried the ends ashore and drove a stake into the ground and made the net fast to it. Then he stripped and dived into the water all about the net, and left not off working hard until he had brought it up.
He rejoiced thereat and, donning his clothes, went to the net, when he found in it a dead jackass which had torn the meshes. Now when he saw it, he exclaimed in his grief, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah the Glorious, the Great!" Then quoth he, "This is a strange manner of daily bread," and he began reciting in extempore verse:

"O toiler through the glooms of night in peril and in pain,
Thy toiling stint for daily bread comes not by might and main!
Seest thou not the fisher seek afloat upon the sea
His bread, while glimmer stars of night as set in tangled skein?
Anon he plungeth in despite the buffet of the waves,
The while to sight the bellying net his eager glances strain,
Till joying at the night’s success, a fish he bringeth home
Whose gullet by the hook of Fate was caught and cut in twain.
When buys that fish of him a man who spent the hours of night
Reckless of cold and wet and gloom in ease and comfort fain,
Laud to the Lord who gives to this, to that denies, his wishes
And dooms one toil and catch the prey and other eat the fishes."

Then quoth he, "Up and to it. I am sure of His beneficence, Inshallah!" So he continued:

"When thou art seized of Evil Fate, assume
The noble soul’s long-suffering. ’Tis thy best.
Complain not to the creature, this be ’plaint
From one most Ruthful to the ruthlessest."

The fisherman, when he had looked at the dead ass, got it free of the toils and wrung out and spread his net. Then he plunged into the sea, saying, "In Allah’s name!" and made a cast and pulled at it, but it grew heavy and settled down more firmly than the first time. Now he thought that there were fish in it, and he made it fast and, doffing his clothes, went into the water, and dived and haled until he drew it up upon dry land. Then found he in it a large earthern pitcher which was full of sand and mud, and seeing this, he was greatly troubled. So he prayed pardon of Allah and, throwing away the jar, wrung his net and cleansed it and returned to the sea the third time to cast his net, and waited till it had sunk. Then he pulled at it and found therein potsherds and broken glass. Then, raising his eyes heavenward, he said: "O my God! Verily Thou wettest that I cast not my net each day save four times. The third is done and as yet Thou hast vouchsafed me nothing. So this time, O my God, deign give me my daily bread."
Then, having called on Allah’s name, he again threw his net and waited its sinking and settling, whereupon he haled at it but could not draw it in for that it was entangled at the bottom. He cried out in his vexation, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah!" and he began reciting:

"Fie on this wretched world, an so it be
I must be whelmed by grief and misery.
Tho’ gladsome be man’s lot when dawns the morn,
He drains the cup of woe ere eve he see.
Yet was I one of whom the world when asked
’Whose lot is happiest?’ would say, ’’Tis he!’"

Thereupon he stripped and, diving down to the net, busied himself with it till it came to land. Then he opened the meshes and found therein a cucumber-shaped jar of yellow copper, evidently full of something, whose mouth was made fast with a leaden cap stamped with the seal ring of our Lord Solomon, son of David (Allah accept the twain!). Seeing this, the fisherman rejoiced and said, "If I sell it in the brass bazaar, ’tis worth ten golden dinars." He shook it, and finding it heavy, continued: "Would to Heaven I knew what is herein. But I must and will open it and look to its contents and store it in my bag and sell it in the brass market." And taking out a knife, he worked at the lead till he had loosened it from the jar. Then he laid the cup on the ground and shook the vase to pour out whatever might be inside. He found nothing in it, whereat he marveled with an exceeding marvel. But presently there came forth from the jar a smoke which spired heavenward into ether (whereat he again marveled with mighty marvel), and which trailed along earth’s surface till presently, having reached its full height, the thick vapor condensed, and became an Ifrit huge of bulk, whose crest touched the clouds while his feet were on the ground. His head was as a dome, his hands like pitchforks, his legs long as masts, and his mough big as a cave. His teeth were like large stones, his nostrils ewers, his eyes two lamps, and his look was fierce and lowering.
Now when the fisherman saw the Ifrit, his side muscles quivered, his teeth chattered, his spittle dried up, and he became blind about what to do. Upon this the Ifrit looked at him and cried, "there is no god but the God, and Solomon is the prophet of God," presently adding: "O Apostle of Allah, slay me not. Never again will I gainsay thee in word nor sin against thee in deed." Quoth the fisherman, "O Marid, diddest thou say Solomon the Apostle of Allah? And Solomon is dead some thousand and eight hundred years ago, and we are now in the last days of the world! What is thy story, and what is thy account of thyself, and what is the cause of thy entering into this cucurbit?"
Now when the Evil Spirit heard the words of the fisherman, quoth he: "There is no god but the God. Be of good cheer, O Fisherman!" Quoth the fisherman, "Why biddest thou me to be of good cheer?" And he replied, "Because of thy having to die an ill death in this very hour." Said the fisherman, "Thou deservest for thy good tidings the withdrawal of Heaven’s protection, O thou distant one! Wherefore shouldest thou kill me, and what thing have I done to deserve death, I who freed thee from the jar, and saved thee from the depths of the sea, and brought thee up on the dry land?" Replied the Ifrit, "Ask of me only what mode of death thou wilt die, and by what manner of slaughter shall I slay thee." Rejoined the fisherman, "What is my crime, and wherefore such retribution?" Quoth the Ifrit, "Hear my story, O Fisherman!" And he answered, "Say on, and be brief in thy sayinig, for of very sooth my life breath is in my nostrils."
Thereupon quoth the Jinni: "Know that I am one among the heretical Jann, and I sinned against Solomon, David-son (on the twain be peace!), I together with the famous Sakhr al-Jinni, whereupon the Prophet sent his Minister, Asaf son of Barkhiya, to seize me. And this Wazir brought me against my will and led me in bonds to him (I being downcast despite my nose), and he placed me standing before him like a suppliant. When Solomon saw me, he took refuge with Allah and bade me embrace the True Faith and obey his behests. But I refused, so, sending for this cucurbit, he shut me up therein and stopped it over with lead, whereon he impressed the Most High Name, and gave his orders to the Jann, who carried me off and cast me into the midmost of the ocean. There I abode a hundred years, during which I said in my heart, ’Whoso shall release me, him will I enrich forever and ever.’
"But the full century went by and, when no one set me free, I entered upon the second fivescore saying, ’Whoso shall release me, for him I will open the hoards of the earth.’ Still no one set me free, and thus four hundred years passed away. Then quoth I, ’Whoso shall release me, for him will I fulfill three wishes.’ Yet no one set me free. Thereupon I waxed wroth with exceeding wrath and said to myself, ’Whoso shall release me from this time forth, him will I slay, and I will give him choice of what death he will die.’ And now, as thou hast released me, I give thee full choice of deaths."
The fisherman, hearing the words of the Ifrit, said, "O Allah! The wonder of it that I have not come to free thee save in these days!" adding, "Spare my life, so Allah spare thine, and slay me not, lest Allah set one to slay thee." Replied the Contumacious One, "There is no help for it. Die thou must, so ask by way of boon what manner of death thou wilt die." Albeit thus certified, the fisherman again addressed the Ifrit, saying, "Forgive me this my death as a generous reward for having freed thee," and the Ifrit, "Surely I would not slay thee save on account of that same release." "O Chief of the Ifrits," said the fisherman, "I do thee good and thou requitest me with evil! In very sooth the old saw lieth not when it saith:

"We wrought them weal, they met our weal with ill,
Such, by my life! is every bad man’s labor.
To him who benefits unworthy wights
Shall hap what hapt to Ummi-Amir’s neighbor."

Now when the Ifrit heard these words he answered: "No more of this talk. Needs must I kill thee." Upon this the fisherman said to himself: "This is a Jinni, and I am a man to whom Allah hath given a passably cunning wit, so I will now cast about to compass his destruction by my contrivance and by mine intelligence, even as he took counsel only of his malice and his frowardness." He began by asking the Ifrit, "Hast thou indeed resolved to kill me?" And, receiving for all answer "Even so," he cried, "Now in the Most Great Name, graven on the seal ring of Solomon the son of David (peace be with the holy twain!), an I question thee on a certain matter, wilt thou give me a true answer?" The Ifrit replied "Yea," but, hearing mention of the Most Great Name, his wits were troubled and he said with trembling, "Ask and be brief."
Quoth the fisherman: "How didst thou fit into this bottle which would not hold thy hand- no, nor even thy foot- and how came it to be large enough to contain the whole of thee?" Replied the Ifrit, "What! Dost not believe that I was all there?" And the fisherman rejoined, "Nay! I will never believe it until I see thee inside with my own eyes." The Evil Spirit on the instant shook and became a vapor, which condensed and entered the jar little and little, till all was well inside, when lo! the fisherman in hot haste took the leaden cap with the seal and stoppered therewith the mouth of the jar and called out to the Ifrit, saying: "Ask me by way of boon what death thou wilt die! By Allah, I will throw thee into the sea before us and here will I build me a lodge, and whoso cometh hither I will warn him against fishing and will say: ’In these waters abideth an Ifrit who giveth as a last favor a choice of deaths and fashion of slaughter to the man who saveth him!"’
Now when the Ifrit heard this from the fisherman and saw himself in limbo, he was minded to escape, but this was prevented by Solomon’s seal. So he knew that the fisherman had cozened and outwitted him, and he waxed lowly and submissive and began humbly to say, "I did but jest with thee." But the other answered, "Thou liest, O vilest of the Ifrits, and meanest and filthiest!" And he set off with the bottle for the seaside, the Ifrit calling out, "Nay! Nay!" and he calling out, "Aye! Aye!" Thereupon the Evil Spirit softened his voice and smoothed his speech and abased himself, saying, "What wouldest thou do with me. O Fisherman?" "I will throw thee back into the sea," he answered, "Where thou hast been housed and homed for a thousand and eight hundred years. And now I will leave thee therein till Judgment Day. Did I not say to thee, `Spare me and Allah shall spare thee, and slay me not lest Allah slay thee’? yet thou spurnedst my supplication and hadst no intention save to deal ungraciously by me, and Allah hath now thrown thee into my hands, and I am cunninger that thou." Quoth the Ifrit, "Open for me that I may bring thee weal." Quoth the fisherman: "Thou liest, thou accursed! Nothing would satisfy thee save my death, so now I will do thee die by hurling thee into this sea." Then the Marid roared aloud and cried: "Allah upon thee, O Fisherman, don’t! Spare me, and pardon my past doings, and as I have been tyrannous, so be thou generous, for it is said among sayings that go current: ’O thou who doest good to him who hath done thee evil, suffice for the ill-doer his ill deeds, and do not deal with me as did Umamah to ’Atikah.’"
Asked the fisherman, "And what was their case?" And the Ifrit answered, "This is not the time for storytelling and I in this prison, but set me free and I will tell thee the tale." Quoth the fisherman: "Leave this language. There is no help but that thou be thrown back into the sea, nor is there any way for thy getting out of it forever and ever. Vainly I placed myself under thy protection, and I humbled myself to thee with weeping, while thou soughtest only to slay me, who had done thee no injury deserving this at thy hands. Nay, so far from injuring thee by any evil act, I worked thee naught but weal in releasing thee from that jail of thine. Now I knew thee to be an evil-doer when thou diddest to me what thou didst, and know that when I have cast thee back into this sea, I will warn whosoever may fish thee up of what hath befallen me with thee, and I will advise him to toss thee back again. So shalt thou abide here under these waters till The End of Time shall make an end of thee." But the Ifrit cried aloud: "Set me free. This is a noble occasion for generosity, and I make covenant with thee and vow never to do thee hurt and harm- nay, I will help thee to what shall put thee out of want."

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