Updated: Jan 25, 2021
Fairytales are the basis of cultures around the world. We aren't always exposed to some of the most beautifully diverse fairy tales around the world. This is one of my favorites from Persia.
There once was a Persian Sultan who loved oddities and inventions. There was a custom in his kingdom for people to dance and celebrate beneath the domes of his golden palace and leave their most curious devices on his palace steps. Tools for tracking time and the movement of the stars, strange pots, toys, and other devices were lined as gifts, each one hoping to catch the sultan's eye.
A man pushed his way rudely through the crowd, pulling behind him a magnificent horse. It was a beautiful creature with an ebony coat and a saddle that sparkled with jewels. However, it stepped stiffly and his head never tossed or shivered like the fine palace steeds.
The man approached the Sultan and bowed as stiffly as the horse. "You may have many wonders lining your steps, your majesty, but nothing is as wondrous as my horse."
The Sultan narrowed his eyes, realizing that the horse was made completely of wood. "A moving statue? Any sculptor could create such a toy."
The man, who was a magician scowled, but held back his angry thoughts. "This is no mere sculpture, but a magical horse that can transport you anywhere you wish. Allow me to show you."
The magician pulled himself into the saddle, then touched a hidden lever on the horse's side. The horse sprang to life and in a flash, vanished. Moments later, it re-appeared before the palace.
"This leaf comes from the foot of the mountains," the magician said, motioning to the purple peaks in the distance.
"Incredible! This horse shall be the pride of my treasury! Name your reward."
The magician smirked. "I desire to become a prince."
The Sultan's son began to laugh. "What a fool. You think you can trick my father? Let me try the horse first."
The Sultan thought this was wise and motioned for his son to mount the ebony steed. The Magician showed him the secret lever, but said deliberately said nothing about how to land.
"If he disappears, I can take his title," the greedy magician thought.
As the Prince touched the lever, the horse lept into the air, soaring higher and higher until it was lost from sight. The people anxiously awaited the prince's return, however, time passed, and it was soon dark with no sign of the prince.
The Sultan grew angry. "My son had better return safely, or your life will be forfeit!" He had his guards lock away the magician.
Meanwhile, the prince enjoyed soaring over mountain spires and foreign lands. But when he pressed the lever to return home, the horse rose higher into the air. Keeping his head, the prince examined the horse, hoping to find a way to land. He found a second lever on the far side that when he touched it, made the horse descend. The world had grown dark, so in the moonlight, he caused the horse to land on a starlit balcony in an unfamiliar palace. He peered inside the window and saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen with warm dark eyes, and long silken hair that hung down her back. She sat on a cushion, surrounded by lotus flowers and white lilies.
"I must be dreaming." the woman murmured when she saw the prince and his flying horse.
"I am no dream, lady. However, I am a stranger in your lands, and at your mercy."
The woman, a princess, called for her maids to bring him food and give him a room to sleep.
The two spent the next few days, talking and walking through the magnificent gardens surrounding her palace. On the fourth day, the prince asked the princess to marry him, and she agreed, smiling.
"I must return to my father to make preparations," the prince explained.
"I am not afraid of flying. Please, take me with you." the princess asked. Together, they soared into the sky toward the prince's palace. The sultan ran out to greet his son, crying from the fear of never seeing his son again. After hearing prince's story, he greeted the princes and gave orders for the wedding celebration to begin.
In the palace dungeon, the furious magician heard the revelry of the kingdom, and swore to get his revenge.
Stay tuned for part two...
You can find this story in Richard Burton's translation of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights.