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Main > Libyan folktales > Fairy tale "The Sons of Sultan Bey"

The Sons of Sultan Bey

The king and the people of his court were amazed that a beautiful young maiden should come alone, without any friends or company, and they asked her from whence she came. Ali did not know how to answer. So the king commanded that the strange maiden be put to serve his daughter in the harem.

In the harem, Ali served the princess, the daughter of the king of the Hejaz, combing her hair and bringing her food and clothes according to her commands. The princess was truly beautiful with exceeding beauty, for she outshone the moon. Ali swooned at her beauty and yet he grew to love her not. For the princess cursed and swore at her maidens and scolded them always, whipping and beating Ali and the rest of the maidens, and pinching them and tearing their hair, though the rest of the court and the world, and even her father, thought her a model of sweetness and of love. In this manner it came about that Ali grew to hate the daughter of the king of the Hejaz.

One day, as the girl Ali was drawing water at the well, she saw in her water jar a fish. The fish stuck its head out of the water and spoke to her in Arabic, saying, "You have seen the princess. Do you now know love?"

Ali replied, "No, I do not!"

Then the fish said, "Turn around three times and you shall be a man once more." So Ali turned around three times, and he was amazed, for he had become his former self again, but dressed in a cloak of silk, with a dagger and a sword of gold.

When the maiden, the drawer of water, did not return to the palace, the soldiers and attendants searched for her, thinking she had run away. When they saw Ali, they saluted him as a prince. Ali went to the market and bought a fine horse, for he meant to leave that land. In the marketplace, he saw a beggar, and he threw him the gold ring, saying, "Take this ring to the king, and he will be bound to give you his daughter in marriage!" The beggar took the ring, and, though he had no legs, he crawled to the palace.

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