by Haji Ismail Sloan

Once there were two brothers. One brother was the King of Samarkand. The other brother was the King of Bukhara. One day, the King of Samarkand said to himself, "It has been twenty years since I have seen my brother. I long to see him now."

With that, the King of Samarkand decreed to all of his realm that he was going to visit his brother. A grand caravan was organized and, within a few days, they all started out on their journey to Bukhara.

A few miles out of Samarkand, the king suddenly remembered an important gift that he had been planning to give to his brother. Not wanting to break the pace of the long caravan, which was by now well on its way to Bukhara, the king decided to return by himself alone, after ordering the caravan to proceed onward without him. The King of Samarkand would catch up later.

The king returned by himself to his palace in Samarkand. However, when the king entered his royal bed chamber, to his great astonishment, he found his wife in his royal bed with one of his slaves. His wife and the slave were doing a bad thing. Needless to say, the king quickly drew his sword and chopped off the head of his wife. He also chopped off the head of his slave. The king then fetched the gift that he was planning to give to his brother, said nothing about this to anybody, returned to his caravan, and proceeded on his way to Bukhara, but with a heavy heart.

Upon arriving in Bukhara, the king's brother came out to greet him. He was very glad to see him. "Oh, my brother," the King of Bukhara said, "I have longed to see you for these twenty years. Had you not come to me, I would have gone to see you. Now that you are here, you must stay for some days. Come, let us dine, and tomorrow we shall go hunting in your honor in the royal hunting grounds."

The next morning, the two kings, accompanied by their guards, horses and cavalry, went out of the royal palace in Bukhara and went on a royal hunt. That evening, the two kings came back to the palace, exhausted from a happy day of hunting.

The next morning, the two kings went out hunting again, and came back that night, and then the next day, and then the next day and then the next day.

One morning, after several weeks of hunting every day, the King of Samarkand said to his brother, "Oh, my brother, I am not feeling well this morning. I see that you have gotten the cavalry together and are ready to go out for the hunt. Please, go now, and I will stay here and rest."

To this, the King of Bukhara replied, " Oh, my brother, without you, I cannot go. I will stay here with you. After all, I have organized this hunt in your honor."

The King of Samarkand said, "Please, my brother, I see that your horses are saddled and ready to go. It will create a disturbance if you do not go now. Please, go now, and I will stay here and rest. Just pretend that I have gone with you."

Finally and reluctantly, the King of Bukhara agreed to go. He proceeded out of his palace with his full cavalry. He left the King of Samarkand behind in his royal bedchamber.

Shortly, after the King of Bukhara and his cavalry had left, the King of Samarkand looked out of the window of the royal bedchamber and into the courtyard. The king was astonished to see what he saw. In the middle of the courtyard, there stood the favorite, number one, wife of the King of Bukhara. The king's favorite wife called out, "Oh, Saeed! Come to me! I long for you!"

With that, one of the king's black slaves came out into the courtyard and, with all to see, took off all of the clothing of the king's favorite wife, laid her down in the middle of the courtyard, and did the same bad thing, right in the middle of the courtyard, for all to see, which the slave in Samarkand had previously done to the wife of the King of Samarkand.

But that was not all. Next, all 40 of the King of Bukhara's other wives and concubines came out into the courtyard and called out to 40 more slaves. Each of the slaves came out and did to them the same thing that the other slave had done to the king's favorite wife.

All this time, unknown to all of them, the King of Samarkand peered out through the window of the palace, watching all of this, in wonder and amazement.

Late that evening, the King of Bukhara returned from the hunt, only to find his brother in a joyful and happy mood. The King of Bukhara said to his brother, "Why, my brother, when I left here this morning, you were very gloomy and sad but, now that I have returned, for the first time since you arrived here, you seem to be happy. What great fortune has befallen you?"

The King of Samarkand replied, "Yes, it is true. I have been unhappy ever since I arrived here, in spite of your efforts to entertain me. This is because of a great tragedy I suffered at the time of my departure from Samarkand."

With that, the King of Samarkand told the sad story of how he had surprised his wife and her slave in bed in the royal palace in Samarkand and how he had had no choice but to cut off both of their heads.

When he heard this, the King of Bukhara said, "That is such a terrible thing. I can see how that would deeply hurt an honorable man such as yourself. You must have suffered greatly. I am so fortunate that such a thing could never happen to me. But then, please tell me, why is it that today you have become so happy and joyful."

"Because", said the King of Samarkand, "I have found out that, as deep as my troubles have been, there is somebody whose troubles are 40 times greater than mine."

"Pray tell, who is that person," said the King of Bukhara, "and how can such a thing be?"

"Why, it is you!", said the King of Samarkand. "I had only one wife in Samarkand. But you have 40 wives and concubines here in Bukhara, and all of them are doing the same bad thing which my wife did."

With that, the King of Samarkand told the King of Bukhara what he had seen from the window of the royal bedchamber that day.

"No. Impossible!", said the King of Bukhara. "My wife would never, never do such a thing! My favorite wife is pure and honest and loyal. My wife is a pious woman of high intellect and great virtue. It is completely impossible for my wife to do a thing like that."

"Oh, so you don't think so?," said the King of Samarkand. "Well, I'll tell you what. Tomorrow morning, prepare your royal cavalry to go out just as before. However, send one man out disguised as you and another man out disguised as me. Meanwhile, we will stay behind and watch secretly from the royal window. We shall see what we shall see."

The next morning, the royal cavalry went out just as always before. However, there was one man disguised as the King of Samarkand and another man disguised as the King of Bukhara. Meanwhile, the two actual kings stayed behind secretly in the royal bed chamber and watched out the window.

Sure enough, almost as soon as the royal cavalry had gone out for the hunt, the king's favorite wife came out into the middle of the courtyard and called out, "Oh, Saeed. Come to me. I long for you."

With that, Saeed came out and did again what he had done the previous day. Then, the 40 other wives and concubines of the King of Bukhara all came out into the courtyard, called out to 40 slaves, lay down, and they did again just as they had done the day before.

The King of Bukhara was amazed and astonished at this. He could not believe it. So, naturally, he gave the order to his guards to cut off the heads of all of his wives and concubines, along with the heads of all of the slaves who had served them. Then, after he saw that his order had been carried out, the King of Bukhara said to his brother, "Oh! Such great tragedy has befallen both of us. What could be more terrible than the fate which you and I have suffered? Come, now, let us take a long journey alone together and think about the true meaning of life."

With that, the two kings mounted their horses and rode off on a long journey.

After many, many days, the two kings came to the shore of the Caspian Sea. The two kings were very tired, so they lay down under a tree by the sea. They fell asleep.

While the two kings were sleeping, a great, giant genie rose out of the Caspian Sea. The genie carried a beautiful golden box on top of his head. Fortunately, the two kings woke up just in time and quickly climbed up into the branches of the tree. They were able to hide themselves, so that the great genie could not see them.

The genie was very tired. He put down the beautiful golden box. He unsealed the box and opened it. When he opened the box, out stepped a beautiful young girl. The genie then lay down under the tree and went to sleep.

The beautiful young girl walked around for a while. Then, by chance, she looked up into the branches of the tree. And what did she see, but the two kings hiding in the branches of the tree.

"Come down this moment and be with me!", the young girl called up to the two kings.

"We cannot do that", the two kings replied, "because, if that genie wakes up and finds us with you, he will kill us both."

The young girl stomped her foot. "Come down from there this instant", the young girl said, "and do this thing to me, because, if you do not lay with me, I shall wake up this genie, who is my husband, and tell him that you have been bothering me. He will kill you both."

In fear and trembling, the two kings climbed down from the tree and lay with the young girl. They did to her everything that she demanded. When the young girl finally was fully satisfied, she said, "Well Done!" She then allowed the two kings to climb back up into the tree and hide themselves again.

After that, the genie awoke. He put the young girl back into the beautiful golden box, sealed the box, put the box on his head, and went back down into the Caspian Sea.

When all this happened, the two kings were amazed. "Look at this", they said. "We are both kings, and we thought that our wives were pure, loyal and virtuous. Yet, look at what our wives have done to us. And, now, this genie is far greater and more powerful than either of us. And, see, even his wife, whenever she gets the chance, does exactly the same bad thing that our wives have done. Are all women like this? Can there not be even one woman in the world who can be trusted?"

Now, the two kings finally realized that, in all the world, there is not even one woman who can be trusted. Women are all the same. No man can trust his wife out of his sight, the two kings realized.

Realizing this, the two kings sadly parted. They both went back home, each to his own kingdom.

When the King of Samarkand arrived back in his home, he now realized that no woman could be trusted out of his sight, but still he needed a wife. Finally, he thought of a solution to this vexing problem. The King of Samarkand called his grand wizard. He ordered the grand wizard to find a pure and innocent young girl to be his wife.

The grand wizard went out of the royal palace and, before long, returned with an innocent young girl. The king immediately married her. The king then spent the night with his new wife. The next morning, after the king and his new wife woke up, the king called his guards and ordered them to take his wife out and to chop off her head.

After being satisfied that this had been done, the king then called the grand wizard again. The king ordered the grand wizard to bring him another innocent young girl. Once again, the wizard brought a young girl and the king married her. Once again, the king spent just one night with the young girl. Once again, the next morning, after a satisfying night with his new wife, the king called his guards and ordered them to take her out and chop off her head.

From that day on, the King of Samarkand did the same thing every day and night. Every day, he had a new young girl brought to him. Every day, he married the girl. Every night, he spent just one night with his new wife. And every morning, he had her taken out and had her head chopped off.

This continued on for three years. After three years, the kingdom started running out of young girls.

All this time, the grand wizard himself had two beautiful young daughters. The grand wizard kept his two daughters hidden in his house. He never allowed his two daughters to go out into the yard and play with other girls. The grand wizard was afraid that the king might see his daughters and want to marry them.

The eldest daughter of the grand wizard was named Sheherazade. Sheherazade was charming, witty and beautiful. Sheherazade also liked to read. It is said that she possessed a thousand books. She knew all the great books; books about science and art and history and astronomy. However, Sheherazade was very sad because so many of her girlfriends had been taken away for marriage and then had their heads chopped off, by order of the king.

Finally, one day, Sheherazade said to her father, "Oh, my father, I want to be married to the king. I want to become the king's wife."

"No", her father replied. "You cannot become the king's wife, because, if you do that, he will sleep with you for just one night and then he will have your head chopped off the next day."

"Please, my father, I know that", said Sheherazade. "So many of my girlfriends have died that way. But, I have a plan. Please, my father, I beg of you! Allow me to be married to the king."

The grand wizard refused to allow his daughter to be married to the king. But, every day, again and again, Sheherazade asked her father to be married to the king. Finally, with heavy heart, the grand wizard agreed to his daughter's request, and brought Sheherazade to be married to the King of Samarkand.

After the marriage ceremony, Sheherazade was taken to the king's bed chamber. Sheherazade brought a flower as a present for the king. When the king arrived, Sheherazade said to her new husband, "Oh, my husband, my king! I know what you will do with me tonight, and what will be done with me tomorrow morning. But, please, I have just one last request. I have a younger sister, and she is very beautiful. After I give you my flower, I want my sister to be brought here to your royal bed chamber, so that I can see her one last time. I will tell her a story."

This seemed to the king to be a reasonable request. He could not see any harm in it. Also, he wanted to see how beautiful the sister of Sheherazade really was. Therefore, the king agreed, and later the sister of Sheherazade was brought to the king's royal bed chamber.

The name of the sister was Dunyazade. When Dunyazade arrived, she sat at the foot of the bed and said to Sheherazade, "Oh, my sister, I am so happy to see you one last time. Please tell me one of your stories. I long to hear your voice."

"Yes, I will tell you a story", said Sheherazade. And, with that, she started to tell a story. While Sheherazade was telling the story to her sister, the King of Samarkand sat and listened.

This was a truly wonderful story. However, Sheherazade only told half of the story to her sister. Then, Sheherazade suddenly stopped. "But, what happened next?", said the sister. "Please, I beg you, tell me the rest of the story."

"No", replied Sheherazade. "I will not tell you the rest of the story tonight. Go now to our father's house. Tomorrow night, if I am still here, and if my husband allows me, I will tell you the rest of the story."

The sister of Sheherazade then went home to her father's house.

All this time, the King of Samarkand had been listening to the story. It was a wonderful story, and the king was anxious and excited to learn the end. Finally, the king decided to allow Sheherazade to live just one more night, so that he could hear the end of the story.

The next night, the King of Samarkand called for the sister of Sheherazade to be brought again to his royal bedchamber. After the sister had arrived, Sheherazade finished that story but, as soon as she had finished, she said to her sister, "Now, I will tell you another story."

With that, Sheherazade started another story. This story was even more wonderful than the first.

Again, the King of Samarkand listened, while Sheherazade told the story to her sister. Once again, Sheherazade did not finish the story. Sheherazade only told half of the story and, once again, she said to her sister, "Tomorrow night, if the king allows me, I will tell you the rest of the story."

Once again, the sister left. Once again, the king decided to let Sheherazade live just one more night.

This continued for another night, and then another night and then another night. Every night, Sheherazade finished the story she had started the previous night. Then, every night, Sheherazade started a new and wonderful story. Every night, the king was so anxious to hear the end of the story that he decided to allow Sheherazade to live just one more night.

This continued on and on for nearly three years, for exactly 1001 nights. Finally, after 1001 Arabian nights had passed, the old king died.

And what were those wonderful stories which Sheherazade told to her sister? Why, we have them all today because, every night, when her sister went home to her father's house, she wrote down the story which had been told to her that night by Sheherazade. Since then, these stories have all been told and retold and copied into books and published and translated into every language of the world, so that every boy and girl can read them today.

And what were those 1001 stories which were first told by Sheherazade? Why, these are all the great stories of Arabia. There is "Aladdin and His Lamp" and "Sinbad the Sailor" and "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" and so many other great stories, which every boy and girl in the world reads today. These are the 1001 stories first told on those 1001 Arabian nights by the greatest story teller of them all: Sheherazade.


Now, kids, here are some questions to answer about the story which you have just read. See if you can get them right.

1. How many stories did Sheherazade tell to her sister and to the king? ________

2. How many stories told by Sheherazade were complete? ______________
How many stories were incomplete? __________

3. What six attributes did the King of Bukhara believe that his wife had? The king believed that his wife was _______, _______, _______, _______, _______, and _______

4. What did the young girl who came out of the genie's golden box want the two kings to do? She wanted them to ___________________

5. What attributes did the King of Samarkand want any new wife of his to have? He wanted her to be ___________ and ________

6. Before he married Sheherazade, why did the King of Samarkand do what he did with each of his new wives? He did it because __________________

7. What four subjects had Sheherazade studied so that she knew everything about them? She had studied ______, ________, _______ and ________

8. How many days did the King of Samarkand live after he had first married Sheherazade? He lived for ________________

9. After she was married to the King of Samarkand, what did Sheherazade do when the king let her out of his sight? She ____________

Now, kids, read the story again and see if you have answered these questions correctly.

Here are some more old stories, as retold by Sam Sloan:
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