~~In Shahryar’s room
The day passes by and soon Shahryar, Scheherazade and the little sister fall asleep. Next day in the morning, the little sister wakes up Scheherazade again and asks her to continue the story. The king too agrees and says that she must continue as he too is interested in listening to the story. And so, Scheherazade continues her story.
~~Story narrated by Scheherazade
The old man bargains with the genie to reduce the punishment of the merchant by one third if he finds his story interesting. The genie then agrees to listen to the story of the old man. The old man starts by saying that the gazelle which is with him, is his own wife and with that he starts narrating his story…
~~Story narrated by old man
Once upon a time, there lived a man (the old man narrating) with his wife. He had a female servant and she had a son. The man adopted the servant’s son as his own son. Though this pleased the servant, his wife was very upset with this. However, life went on with the wife secretly having evil intentions against the adopted son.
It so happened that one day, the man had to leave for a town on business work and hence he left the servant and the adopted son in care of his wife. The wife saw this as an ideal opportunity to get rid of the servant and her son. She was a practitioner of magic and using her powers, she changed the son into a calf and the mother into a cow. After this, she took the cow and the calf to the herdsman and he in turn left them in the cow shed.
After some days, the man returned from town and when he came home, he was shocked to find that his servant and son were missing. When he asked his wife as to their whereabouts, she said that the servant had died and the son had fled the home. The man could not believe his ears and soon, he went about town, searching everywhere. After a long and tiresome search, he gave up.
One day, there was a feast planned at the home of the man and so he called for the herdsman. He told the herdsman to slaughter the healthiest cow for the feast. The herdsman went to his shed and brought the servant who was transformed into a cow. The man raised his knife to behead the cow, but stopped as he saw the cow was crying. The wife then urged him to kill the cow and not hesitate as it was just an animal. The man tried again, but he could not behead the cow on seeing that it was still crying. So, he gave the knife to the herdsman and asked him to kill the cow.
The herdsman beheaded the cow, but to his surprise, there were only bones inside. He told this to the man and so he ordered the herdsman to behead the healthiest calf for the feast. The herdsman went and fetched the son, who was transformed into a calf. The man once again went to behead the calf, but this time, the calf broke her leash and came running to the man and rubbed against him. The man put down the knife and felt terrible for having tried to kill an innocent calf who had just lost its mother. His wife once again urged him to kill the calf without any hesitation, but this time, the man stood his ground and said that the feast was cancelled. The herdsman then took the calf back to the cow shed.
Next day, the herdsman came to the man and said that he had something very important to convey. The man then asked him as to what that was and the herdsman said that yesterday when he was taking the calf back to the cow shed, his daughter remarked in surprise as to why he was taking an enchanted cow. His daughter practised magic and hence she was able to identify that the calf was actually a boy under a spell. She then said with tearful eyes that the cow which was slaughtered was his mother.
On hearing all of this, the man rushed with the herdsman to his home. He found the girl sitting with the calf and spoke to her. He offered her all his wealth, cattle and land to remove the spell on the boy. The girl disagreed by saying that she did not want them, but instead she had demands of her own. She said that she wanted to marry the boy and also wanted to punish his wife for the misery she had caused to the boy and his mother. The man readily agreed and the girl transformed the calf back into a boy. After this, she went to the man’s home and cast a spell on the wife, turning her into a gazelle. The man was happy and so he got his son and the girl married.
Decades later, the girl died and his son went to town to search for work. The man then went in search of his son when he came across the merchant who was awaiting his death at the hands of the genie.
~~Story narrated by Scheherazade
The old man completes the narration of his story and the genie too is satisfied with him and so he removes one third of the merchant’s punishment. After this, the man who came with two dogs stood up and said that he had a much more interesting story to tell and in return the genie must remove another one third of the merchant’s punishment. The genie agreed…
And so continues the story of the Arabian nights.
To know what happened next, proceed to Arabian Nights - Chapter 4!