~~Story narrated by the second old man
Once upon a time, there lived an old man who had three grown children. He was on the verge of death and so he decided to split and give his wealth to his three children who were grown now. So, he left them each a bag of 1000 gold coins. After a few days, he eventually died.
The three men decided to set up shops and earn money with that. So, each set up their own shop and started to earn. After some time, the first brother then decided to visit some foreign lands and so taking his wealth, he went on a journey with his camel. After many days, he came back, but he was in such a pathetic condition that even his other 2 brothers could not recognise him. After the third brother found out that it was him, he invited him to stay along with him.
After many months, the second brother decided that he would go on a journey to visit the foreign lands. Though the other two brothers decided to convince him against it, they failed. He went ahead with his camel and was not seen for many days. Afterwards, he too returned in the same way, just like how the first brother had returned. The third brother once again helped in terms of money as well as giving him a place to stay.
In spite of all that had happened to them, the two brothers who had lost everything in their vain travelling, now wanted to go together again in order to visit some other foreign lands. They tried to convince the third brother, but he refused. Finally, after repeated persuasions, he obliged and they set off on a ship. The third brother had to use all his savings as the other two brothers did not have any money of their own. He split the money equally and gave it to his two brothers.
After travelling for a while by sea, they reached a distant land. There, on the beach they met a poor woman who was begging for alms. The third brother offered to help her and in return, she asked him to accept her as his wife. So, she joined them and all four of them continued their journey by ship. As time went by, the two brothers got jealous of seeing the third brother being happy with his wife. So, one night, they decided to throw them both overboard the ship and escape with the wealth. The couple were sleeping, when both the brothers tied up their hands and feet tightly and quickly threw them overboard.
The brother and his wife started to drown, but lo and behold, the wife who was drowning transformed into a fairy and she freed herself with ease from the ropes with which she was bound. She then went and rescued her husband who was drowning and took him to the shore. When he regained consciousness, he was shocked to see a fairy standing in front of him and was frantically searching for his wife. The fairy then narrated the entire story which had taken place. She said that she also wanted to punish the two brothers for having tried to kill both of them, but he persuaded her to not do anything as they were dear to him.
They both then travelled back home and after a few days, he found two dogs beside his wife. When he asked her about the dogs, she said that they were his brothers. He grew sad as he had specifically told her not to do anything. She then explained that it was her sister who did that after she had explained to her about what had happened to the both of them. She also said that they would remain as dogs for a period of 10 years. The man was aghast and did not know what to say.
~~Story narrated by Scheherazade
The genie was listening keenly and liked the story very much. As a result of this, he removed another one third of the merchant’s punishment. After this, the third old man with the mule came and spoke to the genie saying that he too had a much better story to tell and in return he can remove the final one third of the punishment that remained for the merchant. The genie agreed and so the old man narrated his story. The genie was pleased and said that the man was free to go.
~~In Shahryar’s room
The little sister asked Scheherazade why she had skipped narrating the story of the third old man. To this, she replied saying that she did not know the story, but instead, she knew of another story which was far greater than any other story. The little sister then asked the king if she could listen to the story. The king thought for a moment and accepted. Scheherazade then began narrating the story of Aladdin and the magician…
To know what happened next, go to Arabian Nights - Chapter 5!