A collection of Pashtun stories from Loy Afghanistan
Monday, December 14, 2009
One morning he seized on the notion that if ever he was to own anything at all in this hard world, it would have to simply appear before him. He wished and wished that one morning he would wake up and discover riches aplenty heaped upon his own hearth. That way he would have no doubt that the good fortune was intended for him.
He thought of this as he went about his daily tasks in the fields.
It happened one day while he was working that some brambles in the field caught and tore his clothes. So that this wouldn't happen again,James, age 8 the man dug a little around the roots and pulled the brambles out of the ground. As he did so, he uncovered the top of a large earthen jar. In great excitement, he dug a little more and then removed the lid of the jar. He found that the jar was filled to the brim with silver coins. At first he was delighted, but after a few minutes of thought he said, "Oh, I wished for riches upon my own hearth, but instead I have found this money out here in the open fields. Therefore I shall not take it. For if it were intended for me it would surely have appeared on my own hearth, as I wished."
So the man left the treasure where he had found it and went home. When he arrived, he told his wife about his discovery. The woman was angry at her husband's foolishness in leaving the riches in the field. When her husband lay down to sleep, she went out to the house of a neighbor and told him all about it, saying, "My stupid husband found a hoard of money in the fields, but the blockhead refuses to bring it home. Go and get it for yourself, and share with me."
The neighbor was very pleased with the suggestion, and he went out to find the treasure where the woman had described it. There, where the bramble bush had been uprooted, indeed was an earthen jar. He took it from the ground and opened it. But when he lifted the lid he saw not silver coins, but a jarful of poisonous snakes.
Into the neighbor's mind rushed the thought, "Ah, that woman must be my enemy! She hoped I would put my hand in the jar to be bitten and poisoned!"
So he replaced the lid and carried the jar back home with him, just as he had found it. When night came he went to the house of the poor farmer, climbed on the roof, and emptied the jar of poisonous snakes down the chimney.
When dawn came, the poor farmer who had first discovered the jar got up to start the day. As the morning rays of the sun fell upon the hearth, his eyes opened wide. For the hearth was covered with silver coins. His heart swelled with gratitude. He said, "Oh! Finally I can accept these riches, knowing that they are surely intended for me as they appeared upon my own hearth, as I wished!"
Saturday, December 12, 2009
"Sometimes I just cannot understand the ways of God" he thought. "Why on earth does he let tiny walnuts grow on such a majestic tree and enormous pumpkins on those delicate vines!"
Just then a walnut fell from the tree and smacked Nasrudin square on top of his bald head. He got up at once and lifted his hands to the heavens in supplication.
"Oh my God! Forgive me for my questioning ways! You are the one who is all-wise. Where would I be now if pumpkins grew on trees!"
They tell of one of the Afghan kings of long ago who used to spend three days on affairs of state, then could not be found for another three days, then took up his duties again for a further three days, and so on for many years.
Nobody dared to ask him the reason for his strange behavior; although there were plenty of guesses. Some said that he was a pious recluse part of the time, others that he had some illicit activity, yet others that he was given to fits of madness......
Then came the invasion, as so often before, of the barbarians from the North. The King, his commanders and the Court fled to the high mountains to carry on the struggle.
Conditions were very hard and the grandees, and even the warriors, unaccustomed to this life, often became disheartened and were only rallied by the King, who showed a remarkable resilence and flexability.
When the enemy had been expelled, and the Court resumed its usual routine, the Prime Minister praised the King for the way in which he had adjusted to privatations and thus kept up the spirits of the others.
"It was no hardship." explained the King. "Because for many years, when I was absent for almost half my time from Court, I was living the life of the ordinary people, full of poverty and problems. How, after all, can a king rule if he does not know the way of life of the majority of his subjects, through personal experience?"
A newly-married couple moved into their new house and started to quarrel almost at once.
The husband said, "Close the door, there is a draft."
The wife answered, "I am not your slave---shut it yourself."
"I tell you what", said the husband, "let's see who can keep silent the longer. The first person to speak shuts the door." She nodded her agreement, and they sat down, with the wind whistling about them.
The day wore on, and neither of them moved. Some thieves, passing by, saw the open door and walked in. They examined everything in the house, including the silent pair, whom they took for statues. Then they stripped the house, and even took the bride's jewelry.
Still neither had moved, or said a word. Darkness fell, and the Watch, finding the door open, came into the room. "Shut this door," said the Captain of the Watch. Neither partner moved.
"You must obey the orders of the Watch" shouted the Captain.
Unable to elicit any response, the men of the Watch dragged the couple to jail.
In the morning they were taken before the magistrate at the court of summary justice.
"If you don't speak, it's contempt of court," he told the husband. Getting no answer, the judge said, "I'll have you whipped if you are not careful..........."
Suddenly, the woman cried out, "Don't hit my husband!!"
"You've lost the bet", shouted her spouse. "Now you have to shut the door."
There was a rich and powerful king who had seven daughters. One day he summoned all his daughters and told them to sit with him. They sat down and started to talk among themselves.
Then the king suddenly turned to his eldest daughter. "How much do you love me?" he asked.
"Dear father, to me you are sweeter than sugar," she answered without hesitation.
The king was very pleased, and put the same question to each of his daughters in turn. The second daughter answered, "As sweet as honey". The third, "As sweet as molasses". The fourth, "As sweet as brown sugar". The fifth, "As sweet as sherbet". And the sixth, "As sweet as the sweetest halwa sweet".
The king much flattered by these replies, now turned to his youngest daughter, "And how sweet am I to you?" he asked.
The youngest daughter thought for a while, the answered, "Respected father, you are sweeter to me than salt'.
The king was furious with his youngest daughter, and all her sisters reproached her, "You should be ashamed of yourself for insulting our father" they said. "Couldn't you have compared your love to something other than salt? Ask for his forgiveness immediately and apologize for what you have said" they advised her.
"But what I said is true. To me my father is sweeter than salt" replied the innocent little princess.
Hearing this, the king grew even more annoyed. He stamped his foot and ordered his youngest daughter to leave the palace at once, vowing never to set eyes on her again.
When the princess left the palace she had nowhere to go. She wandered sadly through the city, but was unable to find a place to lie down and rest. So she continued to walk until she came to a forest. Tired and lonely, she lay down to sleep on a bed of leaves, and here in the forest she made her home, living on fruit that she picked from the trees.
Time passed, and one day, as the princess was walking through the forest, she came upon an old woman who was sitting on the bank of a river grinding corn. The princess sat down quietly beside her.
"Who are you, my child?" asked the old woman, surprised to find a stranger sitting beside her.
Hearing these kind words, the princess was reminded of her sorrow and began to weep. The old woman stopped grinding the corn and embraced the young girl. "Who are you?" she asked once again. "Where have you come from and where are you going?".
"Mother' replied the princess, "I'm a poor defenseless girl with no one in the world to help me except God. As I was wandering through the forest I saw you, so I came and sat down beside you. I have nowhere to go so if you will allow me, I shall be your servant."
"My child," answered the old woman, "I have only one son in this world. We are poor but content. He cuts wood in the forest, loads it on a donkey, and takes it to the city. There he sells it in the bazaar. With the money he receives, he buys corn, and I grind the corn to make bread for our two daily meals.You are welcome to stay with us and be my daughter".
That evening, when the old woman's son returned home, he was surprised to see a young girl sitting with his mother. "Who is she?" he asked.
"She is a stranger to these parts and has no one in the world to care for her, so I have made her my daughter" replied the mother.
The young man was delighted to have such a beautiful companion. "God willing, you will live with us in comfort" he said addressing the princess."The only difficult work is chopping wood and I do that myself. You can stay at home with my mother and help her with the housework".
"Of course I shall help in the house but I shall also go with you into the forest to chop wood" replied the princess.
"Chopping wood is not easy!" protested the young man.
"If I am to stay here, I must be given my fair share of work" she insisted.
So the princess settled down to her new life with the old woman and her son. Every morning she would accompany the young man to the forest to chop wood. The son was very happy because he could not have found a more beautiful young companion. The princess had also grown very fond of him. They would talk for hours, and the days passed quickly.
One day the princess had gone to the forest as usual and was attempting to cut one of the lower branches of an old knotted tree when she noticed on the topmost branch two black snakes. The two snakes were sitting talking to one another. She stopped cutting and hid so that she could hear their conversation.
"My friend, tell me something unusual" said one snake to another.
"What could be more unusual than this very tree on which we are sitting. Underneath this tree is buried the biggest treasure in the world. There is so much gold, and there are so many precious stones, that even the wealth of two kings would seem small by comparison" replied the other snake.
The first snake was amazed. 'Is this really true? he said, and then he added thoughtfully, "But as long as we are alive no one will ever be able to cut down the tree and dig up its roots to lay their hands on the treasure."
"You are right," whispered his friend, "but there is one way of destroying us. If someone sets fire to the tree, we shall be helpless, because we ourselves will be burnt to death as well as the tree".
When the princess heard this conversation she crept away and then ran to her companion. "Make haste. We must return home" she said.
"But we haven't cut any wood yet," objected the young man.
"Don't worry. We shan't be needing any wood. I'll explain it all to you later".
They ran home as fast as their legs would carry them and looked for some matches. Once they found some, they went back to the forest and stealthily made their way back to the old knotted tree. Then the princess asked asked the young man to put some dried twigs around the tree to kindle a fire. He did not argue, but did exactly as he was told. When the fire began to blaze and bright orange flames licked all the branches, the snakes wriggled from one side to another in an effort to escape.
The snakes begged the princess to save them. 'We promise never to harm you,"they pleaded. But the princess did not listen, for she knew that they could not be trusted, and soon the flames enveloped them.
"We deserve to die, it's our fault" said one snake to another. "If we had guarded our secret, instead of opening our mouths, we would still be alive today." With those words, the two black snakes were burnt to death, and in next to no time the tree was reduced to cinders.
When the ashes had cooled, the princess and the woodcutter started digging. They 1st pulled up the roots of the tree, and then dug deeper. After digging for a long time, they discovered twenty chests.
"What are these?" asked the young man.
"Be quiet, and load them on the donkey" replied the princess.
The chests were so heavy that they had to make several trips to transport them to the house. The princess took some of the chests, while the woodcutter stayed behind to guard the others and wait for her return. In this way they managed to take them all home.
"Daughter, what are these?" asked the old woman.
"Open them and you will see for yourself" replied the princess.
When they opened the chests, they were astonished to see gold, diamonds and all kinds of precious stones. The princess took a large diamond from one of the chests and said to the woodcutter, "Go to the bazaar in the city, sell this diamond, and buy food for us all".
The woodcutter set off happily for the city. when he reached the city, he went to the first jeweler in the bazaar and showed him the diamond. The jeweler looked at it, shook his head regretfully and gave it back. "I cannot by this," he said "it is too valuable. Go to the biggest jeweler in the city; perhaps he may be able to help you".
The woodcutter visited many jewelers' shops in the bazaar but no one could afford to buy his diamond. Finally, he entered the last shop, which was the biggest of them all. The jeweler gasped when he saw the sparkling stone. "I'm afraid I cannot afford to pay for this beautiful diamond" he said "but you can take my entire shop and all its contents in exchange for it". The woodcutter agreed. So the jeweler took the diamond and handed over the keys to his shop.
After collecting some money from the till, the woodcutter locked up the shop, bought a plentiful supply of food, and returned home.
"How much did you sell the diamond for?" asked the princess, when he arrived home laden with food. Whereupon the young man recounted what had happened and how he had acquired a jeweler's shop in exchange for the diamond.
Next morning the princess gave the woodcutter more instructions. "Go to the bazaar," she said "and buy a fine horse for yourself and fine clothes for all of us".
The young man went to the city again and bought the finest thoroughbred horse that he could find. Then he bought some expensive cloth for his mother and the princess, and also some cloth for himself. He waited at the tailor's shop until the clothes were ready and then he rode home with them.
Next day the princess sent the young man in search of forty laborers to build her a magnificent palace in the middle of the forest. The laborers arrived and work started on the palace. It was such a splendid building that it took two years to complete. In the meantime, the old woman arranged the marriage of the young princess and her son. The young man's business had prospered in the city and his name had become well known all over the kingdom. He was renowned for his wealth and honesty and for his generosity to the poor and needy.
Many years passed. One day it so happened that the king went out hunting with his vizier and his guards in that same forest. They had spent the whole day hunting but had failed to shoot any game. They had lost their way and were feeling hungry and exhausted when they came across a magnificent palace.
"Who owns this palace?" inquired the king to his companions.
"I've heard of this palace," replied one of the king's guards. "It belongs to the biggest jeweller in the city, a man renowned for his wealth and generosity."
Hearing this, the king called aside his vizier, "Go and inform them that I shall be their guest tonight. We shall see for ourselves how generous he is and how he entertains his guests."
The vizier took the message to the palace. When the princess heard that her father would be their guest that night, she sent word to her husband to return home at once and ordered her servants to prepare a huge banquet.
The jeweler hurried home to greet his new guests. The king and the vizier were ushered into the banqueting hall; the other members of the king's retinue were lavishly entertained in the hujra.
As soon as the king and the vizier were seated, the dinner was served. On one tray the servants brought pilau rice, sweet saffron rice, chicken, lamb, halwa and sherbet. On a separate tray they brought maize bread, spinach, and yogurt. The princess ordered that all the rich food dishes should be excellently cooked, but she had given instructions that they should contain no salt. Salt was only to be used in the simple dishes of spinach and maize bread.
After tasting the various dishes, the king and the vizier pushed aside the rich dishes and ate only the food containing salt.
When they finished eating the jeweler asked them politely, 'Did you enjoy your meal in our humble house?"
"The food was excellent" they both replied. "But it had one serious fault," added the king. "There was no salt in it, and without salt, food has no taste. Therefore we both preferred the simple spinach and maize bread which contained salt".
At that moment the young princess entered the room. "Respected father," she said "you are sweeter to me than salt is to food". The king was astonished to see his daughter, and both the jeweler and the vizier were puzzled by the princesses words.
"Tell me, daughter, how did you come here?" asked the king.
The princess gave the king a full account of everything that had happened to her since she had left the royal palace. Then she explained, "I gave special orders that salt should not be put in your food, because you don't like salt".
The king bent his head in shame. "My daughter, I beg you not to reproach me. What you said about your love being sweeter than salt is absolutely true and I ask for your forgiveness".
The king told his daughter to rise and embraced her. After escorting the princess and her husband back to his kingdom, the king entrusted the care of his realm to his new son-in-law and they all lived happily ever after.