The Flying Horse Part 1

flying horse from 1001 nights

A flying horse takes a Prince of Persia off on some incredible adventures.He meets a beautiful princess in India, but the romance soon runs into problems. He is separated from his love and has to search the world to be reunited with her.

Elizabeth who reads the story for us says that her favourite character is the inventor. Let us know what you think of the inventor. Is he treated fairly? Does he use magic or science? His he good or bad?

Read by Elizabeth. Text adapted by Bertie .

Many centuries ago, in the time when science still mingled with magic, Shah Sabur was lord and master of Persia. This wise ruler delighted in every new and ingenious invention of the times. One festival day, three ingenious men, skilled and cunning in the art of invention, came to his court. Were they magicians or scientists? It is hard to say my lord, because they worked in secret. What I can tell you, is that they came from three countries, India, Greece and Persia. The king’s throne was set up in the gardens before the palace. The whole court gather around and looked on. First stepped forth the Indian. He knelt down and kissed the ground before the king’s feet. A slave unveiled his work – a golden statue of a solider blowing a trumpet.

“And what is the point of this?” asked the King.

“Its point, My Lord, is that it will keep you safe,” replied the Indian Inventor.

“Safety is indeed a great blessing,” replied the King, “but how will it achieve that?”

“My Lord, place this statue by the gate to your palace, and if an enemy approaches, the golden guard will sound his trumpet and the evil one who means you harm shall fall down dead.”

The king suppressed a yawn. “I have something like that already,” he replied. “Next!”

And then stepped forth the inventor from Greece. He prostrated himself on the ground, before presenting a diamond studded cockerel.

“And the point is…?” enquired the King.

“My Lord, you will always know the time. This golden bird shall cock-a-doodle-do on the hour every hour. Furthermore, at the end of each month, it will do a little dance. “

The king was unimpressed. “And why should I care what the time is?” he asked. “A King does exactly what he wants when he wants. It is for others to hang around and await my pleasure. Next!”

Third and last, the Persian inventor took his turn. He too kissed the ground. The king looked down from his throne “I hope for the sake of your neck that you have something novel to show me.”

The Persian held his palms to the sky, swiveled his eyes, and said. “You shall, my Lord, shortly behold the greatest marvel of our age…. If God be willing.” He snapped his fingers and six slaves shoved and heaved a large object into the royal courtyard. It was covered by a cloth, but one could see that it had the shape of something like a horse. Noticing its form, the Greek inventor slipped quietly away, for he feared that trouble would follow shortly.

“Well, what is it? Show me!” commanded the King impatiently. The inventor whisked away the cover and revealed a black statue of a horse. No gold glistened. No diamond sparkled. It was made of that dark, solid, and extremely heavy African wood known as ebony.

“And what is the point of this ugly object?” asked the king somewhat impatiently.

“Allow me to demonstrate,” replied the inventor. And with surpassing agility, for he was not in the first flush of youth, he jumped onto an upturned box and then onto the horse’s back. His finger twiddled a nob in the back of its neck, and the horse immediately took off into the air. It climbed steeply up above the heads of the gasping spectators and completed three airy circles in the sky before descending gently back to the lawn. The Persian Inventor jumped off the horse and again threw himself onto the ground before the throne. This time, King Sabur, Shah of Persia, could not help but marvel and be amazed. He clapped his hands in congratulation and exclaimed:

“By Allah the omnipotent, our Lord and benefactor, who created all living things and who feeds them with meat and drink – you spoke the truth when you said that you had a wonder worthy of our gaze. I must have that horse. Name your price oh inventor. Whatever you lust after, speak its name, and it shall be yours.”

The inventor replied : ‘Truly, or Lord, this horse shall take its rider wheresoever he commands. It shall cover the journey of a year in a single day. “

“Yes, yes yes, I believe your words, for I have seen this marvel with my own eyes” said the King. “What is your price?”

“My invention is worthy of the highest price,” went on the inventor, somewhat nervously, “I crave, Oh munificent Lord, nothing less than the hand of your daughter, the princess, in marriage.”

Those who stood near by and heard this these words were astonished – for it was brazen of this inventor – a nobody of no noble blood – getting on in years – and far from pleasant on the eyes – to make such a request. It seemed likely that his ugly head would soon be separated from his neck – but perhaps the king was under some spell – for he replied :


Now the King’s son was among those who overheard this. His young heart was furious that the king should dishonour his family by giving away the princess to such a scoundrel – better marry her to a snake charmer or a rope trickster ! he thought. He rushed off to the chamber of his sister. From her window, she looked down into the garden and saw her husband-to-be. Immediately she tore her lovely face and sobbed and cried:

“Oh fee oh fie – Am I to marry this creature? His hair is frosted, his eyebrows are mangy, his beard and mustaches are stained, his eyes are red and goggling, his nose is like an eggplant, his lower lip is drooping, his teeth are knocked out – in short he is a brute, a monster, the ugliest ogre of our age.”

Then she went back into her room, lay down on the floor, rubbed dust into her hair, tore her clothes, and kicked and wailed. Her brother was filled with pity and fury. He ran down to find the king.

“Oh father,” he pleaded, “I fear you have been greatly deceived. This trickster’s flying horse is nothing more than an illusion – the sort you can see in the market place any day. His art is not invention but hypnotism. He has made fools of our eyes.”

“What say you?” said the King turning to the inventor.

“Magnificent lord and master,” he replied. “I invite the prince to mount the horse and see for himself what power it holds, for to experience for oneself is to believe.”

The king agreed, and he commanded his slaves to bring out the horse of wonder. The prince, who was used a splendid rider, mounted it with ease and struck its ebony sides with his stirrups – but it made no move.

“Ha ! It’s useless!” he cried.

But the inventor looked up and said : “My Lord, feel under the horse’s main. There is a little screw there. Turn it to the right and behold the wonder of the horse.”

The prince wore a look of scorn on his face, but he did as the inventor bade him. Immediately the horse began to climb into the sky and head for the the sun. The king was perplexed and cried out :

“By He who rules the Universe bring him back, for he is my one and only son.”

But the inventor put on a mournful face and replied : “My Lord, the arrogence of youth has done for the prince. I told him how to make the horse climb, but he did not wait for my further instructions on how to bring it back to land. He is flown away and you shall not see him again until the end of time.”

When the King heard these words he was overcome with sore rage. He took off his crown and threw it on the ground. He called for the guards to take the inventor down to the dungeons and clap him in irons. While the trickster languished there, the king shut the doors of his palace and gave way to mourning and grief. The news soon spread around the town that the King’s son was gone for ever, and all the people wept and cried, for he was a popular prince, and besides, it was risky if you were not seen to join in the general grieving.

So much for the people who were left behind on the ground. But the prince soared on through the sky, the wind rushing through the air. At first he felt the damp cold of the clouds, but as he drew closer to the sun, he began to feel its heat.

“Surely the sage set me on a course to burn me up!” he said to himself. “He wished to destroy me because I opposed his marriage to my sister and I openly questioned his wisdom. But I am not dead yet. There is no majesty and there is no might greater than Allah the glorious. If He is willing, I shall discover how to bring this machine to land.”

And he felt under the main and found another pin. He could not be quite sure what would happen if he turned it. Perhaps the horse would turn a somersault and tip him to his death. There was trepidation in his heart as he tried it. But lo ! the flying horse ceased its ascent and began to level off. For the next hour the prince experimented with the controls, making his horse climb and descend, and turn this way and that. Soon he was master of the machine. On he flew through the sky, now able to enjoy the scenery below – the lakes and the mountains, the cities, and the dark forests, the fields and the dusty plains. He did not know where he was going, but in fact, he was over the Kingdom of Bengal. Eventually he saw a thriving town and a magnificent palace with lofty towers and battlements. He thought to himself, “That is where I shall come down to land, for it is plain for all to see that I am of royal birth, and this is the place where I shall receive a royal reception.”

After nightfall, like a weary bird, he gently landed on the flat roof of the palace. He dismounted saying, “Praise be to Allah!” He went around his horse examining it closely fin the moonlight, and saying, “whoever perfected this was a cunning craftsman, it shall yet return me home safely. But now my hunger is great. I shall explore the palace and see what can be found there.”
He dropped down through a skylight, and crept through the sleeping palace. He wondered through corridors, until he found a staircase. At the bottom of the stairs he found himself in a white marble courtyard in which a fountain played its lovely music. He bathed his hot face and hands and quenched his thirst. Now feeling stronger, he looked around at the various entrances and and picked one door at random. He and crept silently through the entrance, stepping over the leg of a sleeping guard. A sword drooped down by the side of the slave. Ever so carefully, the prince drew it from its saber before fixing it in his belt at his own side. By the light of a candle, he could see that he had chanced upon the harem. The floor was strewn with the forms of sleeping women. In the midst of them all stood a wooden and intricately carved bed, in laid with pearls, with heavy curtains all around it. The prince drew the curtain and saw a sleeping face as beautiful as the light of the moon, with a flower white forehead, shining hair, cheeks like blood-red anemones, and dainty dimples. He was amazed by her loveliness and grace. He knew that he was in imminent danger, but he no longer feared death.

All his nerves were trembling as he kissed her lovely cheek. If she awoke in fright and screamed for the guards, he would surely be cut to pieces. He did not care. She opened her eyes and seeing the prince said :

“You must be the one who came yesterday and asked for my hand in marriage. My father rejected you and told me that you were ugly and uncouth. Now I see that he deceived me, for your face is as glorious as the morning sun.”

He did not deny what she said, and they fell into talking. There was an instant sympathy between their young hearts, and they knew that they were destined to love one another.

But one of the waiting women heard their talk in her sleep. She awoke and seeing a man in the room she ran out to wake the guard. He was confused to find himself without a sword – and filled with fright when he realised that he had allowed a strange man to slip into the chamber of the princess – seeing that the prince was armed and clearly of noble birth – he ran off to wake the king and beg for mercy.

The king awoke from his slumber, took a curved sword called a scimitar, and rushed with the guard to the chamber of the princess. He meant to cut the intruder to pieces but seeing that the prince was armed and looked not only noble, but clearly warlike and in the full strength of youth as opposed to his own flabbiness of middle age – the King put down his sword and said:

“Who are you, rogue, who dares to creep into the room of the princess !” And the prince replied,

“Who are you who dares call me rogue, when I am prince of a mighty kingdom that could rush yours as easily as an ant beneath the foot of an elephant. If I was not so careful for the honour and the feelings of your daughter, I would slice you up with this sword.”

And the King replied :

“Even if you are the prince of a mighty kingdom, as you claim, all I need do is call for my guards and you will be mince meat in an instant.”

“And where would the honour be in that?” replied the prince. “If you strike me down like a common criminal, Oh Lord, your kingdom shall be crushed beneath the boots of my father’s foot-soldiers. But hear my proposal, for there is a better way. In the morning, bring forth your finest soldiers and I will face them alone, and if the Lord Almighty is willing, I shall confound them. At least we shall provide a sporting spectacle for all the members of your household, and everyone shall see what manner of a man has entered your house – no thief or rogue – but the son of Kings! Whatever the outcome, everyone’s honour shall be served.”

The king saw the wisdom in this plan. He could see that the young man was of high birth – and it would no doubt be wiser and more seemly to grant him a death with honour. He called for the slaves to show their guest to a room, and to prepare food and drink for him – no doubt his last meal on the face of this earth.

It was only a few short hours until the rays of the sun awoke the sleeping palace, and the king ordered his guards to get ready for battle against the prince. The prince arose early ready to meet his fate – but here, Scheherazade, ceased her story, for dawn’s light was also creeping into the chamber where she was telling it.

“Now my Lord,” she said, “If in your wisdom you will spare my life this, I shall relate what happened next in the evening,” and the great Sultan, who was indeed eager to learn how the story continued, agreed that his beautiful narrator could live another day.”

And that was the first part of the story of the Enchanted Horse. I do hope that you are as keen as the Sultan to learn the fate of the young prince, his princess, and the flying horse. Do drop by soon at for the rest of the tale.

For now….

The Flying Horse Part 2

Hello, this is Elizabeth, and I am back with the second and final part of the tale from the 1001 Nights called The Flying Horse.

If you have heard the first part, you will know that an inventor has presented the king of Persia with a horse that can fly. His son, the prince has indeed flown away on it to Bengal where he has found a beautiful princess. The guards discovered him in her chamber – and he was almost killed on the spot. The King of Bengal has agreed that instead, he may die a noble death fighting is massed guards in the morning. This is where the great storyteller, Scheherazade left us last time.

At first light, the King of Bengal reviewed the imperial guard as it lined up before his palace. The guard was 10,000 in number and it bristled with spikes and swords. Banners fluttered in the wind, drums beat, horses stomped the ground, officers called out commands, troops wheeled and maneuvered. It was an awesome sight even for a seasoned general. On this day the imperial guard was commanded to fight a single man – an idle young, romantic – a foppish and foolish prince who had slipped into the chamber of a princess.

The prince stood alone and faced the ranks of soldiers. The King stood on the wall of his palace and called out to him :

“Now Prince of Persia, bid farewell to the princess whom you sought to marry without the consent of her father. Had you but asked my favour, I would have granted it gladly Now you must ready yourself to receive the sharp points and swords of my army. “

And the prince replied : “But king, you do not deal with me fairly. Is it fitting for a prince to go into battle on foot? I was practically born in the saddle. Bring me my steed, and I shall meet your army on horseback.”

The king saw no harm in this request and asked him where his horse was tethered.

“Why, it waits for me on the roof of the palace.”

Now everyone who heard this thought that the young man had lost all his reason. Here was the explanation for all his strange behavior: his pleasant face and gracious manners belied the fact that he was stark, raving mad. But king indulged the condemned man’s whim, and commanded his slaves :

“Go up to the roof of the palace and bring me what you find there.”

It was a struggle for six strong men to fetch the ebony horse, for it was indeed solid and heavy. The king smiled when he saw that it was toy made of wood. Trying not to laugh, he said:

“Mount your horse oh Prince. There are those would doubt your sanity, for by Allah the Magnificent, you are one in a million. But as you are my guest, you shall not hear me say that your reason is cracked. Now go to your death like a true prince, and do not dishonour the KIng your father in the manner of your parting from this world.”

“Nor shall I,” replied the prince, and with a flourish of his hat he leapt onto his horse. Once he was settled in the saddle, he turned the screw that would take the horse upwards in the air. All watched as it began to judder and rock, and its belly filled up with some sort of gas. This all of a sudden it did what none of the onlookers expected – it took off into the air and flew above the heads of the army. When the king saw this, he had the presence of mind to call out :

“Archers, shoot him down! Do not let the sorcerer escape you shall all be sorry !” A cloud of arrows took flight but fell short of the magnificent horse which, with its rider, was already heading for the sun.

From the safety of the air, the young prince thought of the princes he had left behind and said “by Allah I shall not forget you, my dearest Sana,” for that was her name. He also realised that his own father would be stricken with worry and grief for his safety, and he pointed his flying horse in the direction of Persia, from whence he had come only the day before. His heart was filled with gladness when he recognised the palace of his father from the air, but when he landed, it was a different story. The whole court was dressed in mourning clothes, and grieving his loss. When he ran inside and found his father, mother and sisters, great was the joy as the embraced and were reunited with the prince whom they though had gone for ever. There followed a week of feasting and celebration. Everyone in the kingdom took part – the Shah even ordered that the prisoners all be released – and among the criminals who came back to the daylight was the inventor of the flying horse. Meanwhile, in the palace, the king rued the day he had bought the internal contraption, and forbade his son to ever go near it again. “For I now see,” he said, “That the air is the kingdom of the birds – it is a wrong for a groundling human to attempt to fly. Science is a sin. We should all obey the laws of nature, or else human kind will surely be the author of its own destruction.”

So happy was the prince to be re-united with his family, that for a moment he forgot his beautiful princess Sana. But not for long. A the height of the feasting, a lovely handmaiden strummed a lute and sang:

“Time dies but it does not forget,
The seconds pass, but not my love
At the end of eternity
I shall meet you yet. “

When the Prince heard these words, the fires of passion flamed in his heart. He pretended to be weary, and said that he must retire to his room, but in fact, he crept out to the courtyard where the frobidden horse awaited him. It was the journey of a single night to return to the Kingdom of Bengal, to find the Palace, and the chamber where Princess Sana still slept. At her door, he heard he weeping and reciting verses. He carefully walked over to the bed.

“Who’s there?” she asked nervously.

“Oh you of little wit,” said the prince fondly, “It is I, returned to carry you back to Persia and your wedding day.”

“You!” she said, angry all of a sudden. He was afraid her shrill voice would awake the guard. “You cruel hearted man. How could you have left me?”

“Would you rather that I was cut down by the 10,000 soldiers of your father’s army?,” he replied. “If so, all you have to do now is call for the guards and I will be dead this instant.”

“Yes,” she said confused. “I mean no. My only wish is to be with you.” And they fell into each others arms. As it would soon be daylight, he soon led her up to the roof, from where they escaped on board his wonderful flying horse. Away they flew, but with great skill, the prince made the horse travel softly so as not to alarm the princess. By midday, they had returned to his father’s palace, where he had been hardly missed.

When his father saw the young prince’s choice for a bride, more elegant than a gazelle, more gentle than the warm west wind, brighter than the moon, he rejoiced in his son’s good taste and judgement. He called for preparations to be made of yet another feast – to celebrate the wedding of his son to Princess Sana. There was a delay while, out of courtesy, messengers were sent to her father in Bengal. In the meantime, the prince was hardly absent from her side – but of course there were time when official duties or the pleasures of hunting and companionship with his cronies called him away. On one such occasion, the young princess was walking in the garden when she was approached by a man who seemed, to her eyes, very old and rather hideous in face and figure.

“Oh Princess,” he said, “Your beloved has had to leave to another city on urgent business of his father. He pines for your lovely face that shines in his heart like the sun in a serene sky. He has therefore sent me to fetch you to him.”

The story made perfect sense to the young princess, and as she had already made one successful trip on the flying horse, she was not at all alarmed when the man asked her to climb on board it with him. Little did he know that this seemingly harmless old man was the cunning inventor of the machine, and that he still held a terrible grudge for the ungrateful way he had been treated by the Prince and his father. Now he was after his revenge. He turned the screw in the neck of the horse, and up they climbed into the sky. On and on they flew. At last she asked :

“Old Man, when shall we see my prince, as you promised me? For in truth, I am starting to fear that your words hid a deceitful trick from me.”

And the inventor called back “You shall never again set eyes on your prince for royal he may be, but he is still a villainous rascal, a scoundrel and a scalawag ! He plagues the palace like a bedbug in a mattress ! His father is as fit to rule the Kingdom of Persia as a jackal is to be lord of the jungle. He is as lovely as a boil on the posterior of an elephant. He has sucked my blood like a leach. I shall burn his heart as he has burnt mine.” And so he went on, pouring curses on the heart of her beloved. The poor princess knew that she was doomed, and she wept and wailed as they flew. When he heard this, the inventor called out “Do not cry princess, for I shall marry you, and I am a far better man than he!” At this she sobbed even more and cried out : “Alack alas, for not only have I lost my prince, but I have left behind my father and mother too, and now their hearts shall be broken for the loss of me, their only daughter!”

Eventually, after they had flown for a day, they passed over a sparkling clear sea, that was speckled with lovely islands with rocky cliffs and sandy beaches. Eventually they came to the mainland, and settled down in a cool gentle field, where the grass was nibbled by goats and sheep. Here, in the land of the Greeks, they rested, for they were both hot and tiered. As they slept, a king, who was out hunting, came across them. The Greek wondered at the strange horse, and ordered his servant to wake the couple.

“Greetings,” called out the King, l, “Who are you? where have you come from? and what secret lies hidden in the belly of this strange black horse?”

The inventor replied, “Sire, I am a prince of Persia, and this is my bride.”

But the Princess, seeing her chance of salvation, called out : “No he is not. He is a wicked magician who has abducted me and stolen me away from the arms of my beloved prince.”

The Greek had no doubt whom he wanted to believe. He ordered his guard to cut off the ugly head of the inventor, and that was the end of him. Then he returned to his palace, taking with him the lovely princess, and the strange ebony horse.

Meanwhile, her prince had not ceased to grieve the loss of his bride. In penance for his carelessness at losing her, he dressed himself as a pilgrim, and travelled from place to place, asking after the ugly magician, the lovely maiden, and the wonderful horse. Where-ever he went, people thought that his rambling story, though diverting, was the outward sign of madness. Then one day, after he had travelled for over a year, he sat down under a plane tree and over heard three merchants talking. They spoke of an unusual event, the course of much gossip and discussion. The king, out hunting, had come across an evil magician of foul face and loathsome form, a princess as lovely as the day, and a mysterious horse carved from ivory. Now at long last, the heart of the traveling prince was filled with lightness. His cares flew away like a dark bird. He had hope. But he also had caution. He made careful enquiries, and heard that the King wished to marry the lovely princess. Ever since he had made his proposal, she had been stricken with a mysterious illness, and refused to leave her bed. The king had offered a huge reward for any priest, magician or doctor who could find a cure. Right away, the prince guessed at the truth – that the illness was not real – not of the body at any rate. It was grief of the heart, and a ruse by the princess to delay her marriage to the king, and hold out for delivery from her fate.

Towards supper time, the Prince came to the gates of the palace, and declared that he was a traveling medicine man. He asked for an audience with the king. Under normal circumstance, he would have been turned away with a sharp kick in the behind, but at that time there were orders that anyone who claimed to have a cure for the princess would be granted a royal audience. When the prince came before the King, the courtiers saw his ragged cloths, and heard is foreign accent. He said that he was Persian. The Greeks did not care for Persians. They laughed and poured scorn on him. But by this time the King was close to despair. He had spent a fortune on astrologers, doctors and the like, and all to no avail. He said :

“I care not if he is Persian or from the moon. One more egromancer and do no harm,” and he allowed the visitor to see the princess. She lay with her eyes closed, seemingly asleep. He knelt down and whispered in her ear;

“Oh darling of the universe, care of my life, do not fear, nor stir nor make any sound. It is I your prince. I have searched the four corners of the world and now at last I have found you.”

In the morning, he went to the king and advised, that in his judgement, the princess had been overtaken by the demons of madness. Fortunately, he had with him a cure – powerful candles and fuel for the fire that would burn with sweet smelling smoke, and drive the demons from her body. The king was ready to give anything a try. He ordered the servants to dress the princess in lovely clothes and fine jewelry. They led her into the courtyard that was already cloudy with smoke of incense. The mystical horse stood by – like the statue of a mystical god. The Persian visitor threw lumps of coloured coal on the fire. The smoke grew thick. It was hard to see anything. The smoke stung the king’s eyes, and he began to rub them. When, a few minutes later, the smoke had cleared, the Prince, the princess, and the wonderful horse had disappeared. Nobody had seen how the Persian mystic and the princess had climbed aboard the horse and flown away. Nor could they suppose, that a day later they would be back in Persia and that a week after that they would be married, and live righteously and happily together together until at last, in their old age, the destroyer of everything took them away for ever.

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