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  • Writer's pictureFolkloristan

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

Once upon a time, in Persia, there were two brothers named Ali Baba and Qasim. Ali Baba had a humble life, working hard to support his wife and children by cutting wood in the nearby forest and selling it in town. On the other hand, Qasim was married to a wealthy wife and lived a life of abundance.

One day, while Ali Baba was working in the forest, he saw a group of men riding on horseback, stirring up a cloud of dust. Fearful that they might be dangerous robbers, he quickly climbed up a tall tree for safety. As the men approached, he counted forty of them. They dismounted from their horses and tied them to nearby trees. The man who seemed to be their leader, whom Ali Baba later discovered was the Captain, walked over to some bushes and said, "Open, Sesame!" The words were so clear that Ali Baba could hear them clearly.

To his astonishment, a hidden door in the rocks opened, and the entire group entered. Ali Baba, curious and a bit worried that they might catch him, had no choice but to patiently wait in the tree. After some time, the door opened again, and the Forty Thieves emerged. The Captain, who had gone in last, was the first to come out and carefully inspected each member of the group before closing the door with the words, "Shut, Sesame!"

Each thief mounted their horse, and the Captain led them away. Ali Baba climbed down from the tree and cautiously approached the hidden door, concealed among the bushes. He bravely repeated the magical words, "Open, Sesame!" and, like before, the door flew open.

To Ali Baba's amazement, he found himself in a vast and well-lit cave. It was a magnificent vault filled with riches—piles of silk, brocades, gold and silver, and even bags of money. Ignoring the silver, Ali Baba focused on the golden bags. He filled as many bags as his donkeys could carry and cleverly hid the treasure among fagots.

Using the words, "Shut, Sesame!" he closed the door behind him and made his way back home. Once he reached his house, he secured the gates, brought the donkeys into the yard, and presented the bags of gold to his wife. Excited yet cautious, he asked her to keep their newfound secret while he went to bury the gold.

But his wife, unable to contain her curiosity, insisted on measuring the gold first. She borrowed a measuring container from Qasim's wife, who couldn't help but notice the strange request and slyly placed a piece of gold at the bottom of the container. Oblivious to the hidden gold, Ali Baba's wife happily filled and emptied the measuring container multiple times. She returned it to her sister-in-law without noticing the golden piece stuck to it, which Qasim's wife quickly discovered.

Filled with envy, Qasim confronted Ali Baba the next morning, showing him the gold piece and accusing him of hiding his wealth. Realizing that Qasim and his wife now knew their secret, Ali Baba confessed and offered to share the treasure.

Qasim, driven by greed, demanded to know the exact location of the treasure, threatening to expose Ali Baba and leave him with nothing. Reluctantly, Ali Baba shared the secret of the cave, providing Qasim with the precise words to open the door. Qasim left Ali Baba, intending to reach the treasure first and claim it all for himself.

The following morning, Qasim set out early with ten loaded mules and quickly found the cave entrance with its door in the rock. Recalling the words, he eagerly shouted, "Open, Sesame!" But his greed caused him to forget the exact phrase, and instead, he said, "Open, Barley!" The door remained firmly shut. He tried various other words, but none of them worked. Panic overcame him, and he realized he had forgotten the magical phrase.

Around noon, the Forty Thieves returned to the cave and noticed Qasim's mules wandering with heavy chests on their backs. Alarmed, they drew their swords and approached the door. The Captain commanded, "Open, Sesame!" and the door obediently opened. Qasim, hearing the sound of horses, resolved to fight for his life. As the door opened, he attacked the Captain, but his efforts were in vain. The robbers swiftly overpowered and killed him. Inside the cave, they discovered the prepared bags of gold and wondered how someone had gained access to their secret hiding place. To frighten any potential intruders, they cut Qasim's body into quarters and hung them inside the cave before departing to search for more treasure.

As night fell, Qasim's wife grew increasingly worried and ran to Ali Baba, revealing her husband's foolish expedition. Determined to save his brother's remains, Ali Baba set off to the forest in search of Qasim. When he entered the cave, he discovered his brother's lifeless body. Filled with horror, Ali Baba carefully placed the body on one of his donkeys and loaded the other two with bags of gold. To conceal his precious cargo, he covered it with fagots and made his way back home.

In Ali Baba's yard, the loyal slave Abdullah opened the door and was shocked to find Qasim's body. Ali Baba explained the situation and asked Abdullah to inform his wife while he made preparations. Abdullah immediately went to Qasim's wife and delivered the tragic news. Overwhelmed with grief, she wailed and cried, while Ali Baba kindly offered her a new home with him and his wife, promising to protect her. Grateful, she agreed and dried her tears.

Meanwhile, Morgiana, Ali Baba's clever and brave slave, sought help from an apothecary, asking for special lozenges and an essence that was usually given to those on the verge of death. She brought the items home and continued her act, weeping and mourning the loss of Qasim.

The next day, Morgiana visited an old cobbler near the town gates, bribing him with a piece of gold. She blindfolded him and led him to Qasim's room, where she uncovered his eyes. Instructing him to sew the body's quarters together, she covered his eyes again and guided him back to his stall. Qasim was buried, and Morgiana, pretending to grieve, followed him to the grave, tearing her hair in sorrow.

As time passed, Qasim's wife moved in with Ali Baba and his wife, while Morgiana took charge of the household. Ali Baba entrusted her with important tasks and valued her bravery. One day, Morgiana noticed a mark left by the robbers near their house, realizing that danger was approaching. Swiftly, she marked several other doors in the neighbourhood with chalk, without informing her master and mistress.

Back in the thieves' hideout, the Captain realized that their secret had been exposed, and he devised a plan to find the person who knew their hiding place. One of his men volunteered to disguise himself as a traveller and gather information in the city. If he failed, he would lose his life to protect their secret.

The thief disguised himself and arrived in town early in the morning, near a cobbler's stall stall. He greeted the old cobbler and commented on his impressive sewing skills despite his advanced age.

"How can you see well enough to stitch at your age?" the thief in disguise asked with curiosity.

The cobbler, Baba Mustafa, replied, "Though I may be old, my eyesight is still sharp. Would you believe me if I told you I once sewed together a body in a place even darker than this?"

The thief's eyes widened with excitement. Sensing an opportunity, he handed Baba Mustafa a piece of gold and requested to be shown the house where the stitching took place. Initially hesitant, Baba Mustafa eventually agreed after receiving another piece of gold. He thought that even blindfolded, he might recall the way if the same route were taken. And so, the two set off towards Ali Baba's house.

Morgiana, sharp and observant as always, saw the exchange between Baba Mustafa and the stranger. She quickly deduced that trouble was brewing and decided to take matters into her own hands. With confidence and determination, she adorned herself with a dancer's headdress and a girdle carrying a gleaming dagger with a silver hilt. Morgiana turned to Abdullah, her fellow slave, and instructed him to bring his tabor drum. They then headed towards Ali Baba's house, where the stranger had been invited to dine.

As they reached the door, Abdullah began playing his tabor, and Morgiana gracefully danced her way into the house. The enchanting rhythm filled the air, captivating Ali Baba and his son. Intrigued, they urged the disguised thief, who called himself Cogia Hassan, to witness Morgiana's performance. Little did they know that Morgiana's true intention was to protect her master and his family.

Dancing skillfully, Morgiana seized the opportunity to perform daring moves with her dagger, appearing to include it as part of her routine. She playfully pointed it towards her own heart and then towards Ali Baba, all while maintaining a captivating display. Finally, pretending to be out of breath, she swiftly snatched the tabor from Abdullah, holding the dagger firmly in her right hand. With a gracious gesture, she extended the tabor towards Ali Baba.

In appreciation, Ali Baba and his son placed a piece of gold in the tabor, ready to reward Morgiana's artistry. At that moment, Cogia Hassan, thinking he should also offer a gift, reached for his purse. But as he fumbled to retrieve something, Morgiana seized the opportunity. In one swift motion, she plunged the dagger into his heart.

Shocked and horrified, Ali Baba and his son cried out, "Oh, unfortunate girl! What have you done? You have brought ruin upon us!"

"No, master," Morgiana calmly replied, "I have saved you from disaster. Behold!" With great courage, she opened the false merchant's garment, revealing the hidden dagger. "This man you have welcomed is not a merchant but the Captain of the Forty Thieves."

Ali Baba, overwhelmed with gratitude for Morgiana's bravery and loyalty, offered her freedom and proposed that his son marry her. Delighted, his son gladly agreed, and soon after, they celebrated a joyful wedding.

Years passed, and Ali Baba heard no news of the remaining two thieves, assuming they were no longer a threat. With a sense of caution, he decided to return to the cave and see if any treasure remained. Uttering the words, "Open Sesame!" the door obediently opened, revealing an untouched cave. Ali Baba filled his pockets with as much gold as he could carry and returned home.

Having kept the secret alive, Ali Baba shared it with his son, who, in turn, passed it down through generations. Thanks to their newfound wealth, the descendants of Ali Baba lived a life of prosperity and happiness.

And so, the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves teaches us the importance of loyalty, bravery, and quick thinking. It reminds us that even in the face of danger, a clever and courageous heart can triumph over evil. So, be like Morgiana—sharp-witted and courageous—and always stand up for what is right. Who knows, you might uncover treasures beyond your wildest dreams!

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