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  • Writer's pictureFolkloristan

The Enchanted Horse

 



Once, during the Nauroz celebrations in Shiraz, the King of Persia was about to retire when an Indian arrived, leading a horse that seemed ordinary. But the Indian claimed it held a remarkable power: to transport him to any place he desired. The king doubted, calling it mere imitation. Yet the Indian persisted, offering to demonstrate. And so, the King asked him to do so. Instantly, the Indian mounted the horse and asked where the king wished him to go.


Pointing to a distant mountain, the king requested a palm leaf from its base. With a twist of a screw near the saddle, the horse shot into the sky, disappearing from sight.

In a mere quarter-hour, the Indian returned, palm leaf in hand, presenting it to the astonished king. Impressed by the horse's incredible speed, the king desired to own it himself, assuming the Indian would be willing to sell. He expressed gratitude to the Indian for revealing the horse's true worth and offered to buy it at any price.


The Indian expressed his confidence in the king's wisdom and foresight, anticipating that the king would recognize the horse's true value and desire to possess it. He explained that the horse was not his creation but a gift from its inventor, received in exchange for his daughter. He had sworn never to part with it unless offered something of equal worth.


The king eagerly offered his kingdom or anything else the Indian desired. However, the Indian, though appreciative of the offer, humbly requested the hand of the princess in marriage as the only suitable exchange for the horse.


Laughter erupted among the courtiers upon hearing the Indian's request, angering Prince Firouz Shah at the perceived audacity. The king, however, pondered the offer, considering the worth of the horse against the potential loss of his daughter. Before he could respond, the prince interjected, urging the king not to entertain such an insolent proposal, reminding him of his royal lineage.


The king acknowledged his son's words but highlighted the unique value of the horse and the risk of another monarch obtaining it if he declined. He expressed a desire for the prince to examine the horse and test its abilities with the owner's permission, suggesting that the Indian might be persuaded to reconsider his demands.


The Indian, who had overheard the king’s speech, thought that he saw in it signs of yielding to his proposal, so he joyfully agreed to the monarch’s wishes, and came forward to help the prince to mount the horse, and show him how to guide it: but, before he had finished, the young man turned the screw, and was soon out of sight.

The Indian, sensing the king's inclination towards his proposal, eagerly agreed to let the prince test the horse's abilities. He began instructing the prince but was interrupted as the young man impatiently activated the horse and vanished from sight. Despite waiting in anticipation, the prince did not return, leaving the Indian fearful of the consequences.


Prostrating himself before the throne, the Indian pleaded with the king not to blame him, explaining that he couldn't stop the prince in time. The king, filled with fear and anger, questioned why the Indian hadn't called the prince back.


The Indian, taken aback by the horse's speed, assured the king of the horse's ability to navigate over seas and obstacles. However, the king remained apprehensive, holding the Indian accountable for the prince's safety. He gave the Indian three months to ensure the prince's return or at least receive news of his well-being, or else, the Indian would pay for it with his head. So saying, he ordered his guards to seize the Indian and throw him into prison.


Prince Firouz Shah soared into the sky, ascending higher and higher for an hour until even the mountains blurred with the plains below. Realizing it was time to descend, he struggled to reverse the screw but found it ineffective. Panic set in as he recalled he hadn't learned how to return to the ground.


With a calm mind, the prince examined the horse's neck until he discovered a small peg near its right ear. Turning it, he slowly descended to the earth, landing exhausted and hungry in the darkness of night.


Upon landing on the terraced roof of a grand palace, Prince Firouz Shah, unable to see in the darkness, decided to explore further. He reasoned that being unarmed, he posed no threat and would likely remain unharmed. Cautiously descending a staircase from the terrace, he entered a dimly lit hall through an open door.


Before entering, the prince paused, listening to the faint sound of men snoring. By the lantern light, he noticed a row of black guards sleeping with naked swords beside them, indicating the hall led to a queen or princess's chamber.


Quietly observing his surroundings, Prince Firouz Shah spotted a bright light behind a curtain. Softly approaching, he entered a magnificent chamber filled with sleeping women, one of whom he recognized as the princess.


With caution, he knelt beside her, gently touching her arm. Startled, the princess opened her eyes, astonished to find a handsome stranger before her. He spoke to the princess, revealing his plight and seeking her protection. The princess, eldest daughter of the King of Bengal, assured him of hospitality and safety in her realm, offering him her word.


Expressing gratitude, the prince was about to thank her when she quickly directed her attendants to take him to a chamber for supper and rest. With the attendants now awake, they hastily prepared his room and fetched a variety of dishes from the kitchen. Showing him cupboards stocked with clothes and linen, they left him to rest.


Despite her attempts, the Princess of Bengal couldn't fall back asleep, preoccupied by thoughts of the prince. When her attendants returned, she eagerly inquired about the prince's well-being and their impressions of him.


They praised the prince's amiability, suggesting that marrying someone like him would be fortunate. Though flattered, the princess brushed off their comments, urging them to return to bed.


The next morning, the princess was unusually meticulous in her grooming, adorned herself with the finest jewels and garments. Confident in her appearance, she sent word to the prince, eager to present herself before him.

 

As the princess's messenger arrived, Prince Firouz Shah was about to seek permission to pay his respects to her. However, upon hearing the princess's wish, he acquiesced, declaring her command his only concern.


Shortly after, the princess herself arrived and, after exchanging pleasantries, explained why she chose to meet him in a neutral location rather than her own apartments. Eager to hear his story, she settled on a sofa, urging him to begin without delay.


The prince recounted the festivities of the Nedrouz festival in Persia, detailing the remarkable spectacles. When he reached the part about the enchanted horse, the princess expressed her astonishment. The prince then explained his father's desire to possess the horse and his subsequent encounter with the Indian.

 

The Indian's proposal was outrageous—he demanded the hand of my sister, the princess. Despite the mockery and laughter from onlookers, my father hesitated to dismiss it outright. Frustrated, I argued in vain, but my father insisted I examine the horse to understand its value.

 

To please him, I mounted the horse and, without instructions, activated it. I soared upwards faster than an arrow, losing sense of direction until I found another screw, lowering the horse towards the earth. Trusting fate, I landed on this palace roof past midnight. Ignoring the risks, I slipped past the sleeping guards to reach your doorway.

"You are familiar with the rest, Princess. I simply wish to express my gratitude for your kindness. By the laws of our nations, I am already bound to you, and all I have left to offer is my heart. In truth, it has been yours since the moment I first laid eyes on you."

 

The princess couldn't mistake the sincerity in the prince's words, evident by the blush that graced her cheeks.

 

Expressing her delight and gratitude for his presence and adventures, she reassured him of the warmth of her welcome. She dismissed the notion of him being a slave and affirmed his freedom in her house. Regarding his heart, she believed it belonged to another princess worthy of it.

 

Before the prince could respond, they were interrupted by a servant announcing dinner, a welcomed interruption for both of them.

 

Dinner was served in a grand room adorned with fruits, accompanied by soft music from elegantly dressed girls. After the meal, they moved to a smaller room overlooking a beautiful garden, distinct from any in Persia.

 

The prince expressed admiration for the palace and gardens, acknowledging the splendor of kings and their surroundings. The princess, while praising her own palace, invited the prince to visit her father's kingdom, hoping he would impress the king and be offered her hand in marriage.

 

However, the prince hesitated, feeling he couldn't meet the king without suitable attendants. The princess offered to provide him with Persian merchants and access to her treasury to ensure he had everything he needed.


Prince Firouz Shah appreciated the kindness of the princess but remained steadfast in his duty to his father. He expressed gratitude for her offer but explained that he couldn't prolong his stay, knowing his father's anguish at his absence. He promised to return to the princess with his father's approval to seek her hand in marriage.

 

Understanding his reasoning, the princess still hoped to keep him with her a little longer. She persuaded him to stay for a few more days, during which she organized various entertainments to delight him.

 

However, after two months, the prince insisted it was time for him to leave. Despite enjoying her company, he couldn't delay any longer. He promised to return soon with all the splendor befitting them both.


"Princess," Prince Firouz Shah expressed, "if you doubt my devotion, I urge you not to. My happiness lies in your presence, and I assure you, your reception in Persia and with the King of Bengal will be favorable."

 

The princess, unable to articulate her response, silently agreed to accompany him on his journey. Concerned about managing the enchanted horse, she worried about facing the same dilemma as before. However, the prince reassured her, easing her fears.

 

Early the next morning, they stealthily made their way to the roof, where the prince awaited with the horse. Together, they embarked on their journey towards Persia, the princess securely holding onto the prince's belt as they soared through the air.

 

With the prince's skillful guidance, they reached the capital of Persia swiftly. Choosing to land at a country house instead of the palace, the prince arranged for the princess to rest while he informed his father of their arrival and prepared for a grand reception. Then, he set out once more to fulfill his duties.

 

As Prince Firouz Shah journeyed through the streets, the people greeted him with shouts of joy, having long given up hope of his return. Upon arriving at the palace, he found the Sultan and his ministers in mourning. His father was overwhelmed with delight upon hearing his son's voice and eagerly requested to hear about his adventures.

 

The prince seized the opportunity to recount his experiences, including his encounter with the Princess of Bengal, admitting her love for him. He assured the Sultan of her waiting in one of his country houses, hopeful of their consent for marriage.

 

The Sultan, overjoyed, not only consented to the marriage but also expressed his desire to meet the princess personally and arrange for the wedding immediately. He ordered the end of mourning and festivities to celebrate the prince's return.

The Indian, who had been captive, was brought before the Sultan. “I had kept you imprisoned,” said the King, “so that in case my son was lost, you shall be sentenced to death. He has now returned; so take your horse, and begone for ever.”

 

Once outside the Sultan's presence, the Indian learned about the prince's whereabouts and his plans with the Princess of Bengal. Fueled by revenge for his imprisonment, he devised a deceitful plan. Presenting himself as an envoy sent by the Sultan and the prince, he convinced the doorkeeper to allow him access to the princess.

 

Taking advantage of the situation, the Indian mounted the enchanted horse with the princess and activated it just as the prince was departing the palace. Deliberately flying over the city, he sought swift retribution for his unjust imprisonment.

 

When the Sultan witnessed the Indian and the princess swiftly flying away on the enchanted horse, he was struck with shock and rage, while the prince was consumed by grief and regret for not protecting her. Despite his anguish, he chose not to succumb to despair but headed towards the palace.

 

Realizing his mistake, the doorkeeper pleaded for forgiveness from the prince. Understanding his own role in the misfortune, the prince instructed the doorkeeper to procure a dervish's attire for him discreetly.


With the help of the doorkeeper's friend at a nearby convent of dervishes, the prince obtained the necessary disguise. Concealing precious jewels intended as a gift for the princess, he left the house under the cover of darkness, determined to find her and bring her back, no matter the cost.

 

As the Indian steered the horse towards the kingdom of Kashmir, they eventually reached a wooded area near the capital. Feeling hunger gnawing at him, the Indian landed the horse near a clear stream and left the princess in a shaded spot.

 

Initially contemplating escape, the princess realized her weakness due to hunger and abandoned the idea. When the Indian returned with food, she ate hungrily, regaining her strength and courage to stand up to his insults. Provoked by his threats, she called out for help, and fortunately, her cries reached a troop of horsemen passing by, led by the Sultan of Kashmir.

 

The Sultan demanded an explanation from the Indian, who rudely claimed the princess as his wife, dismissing any interference from others. The princess, unaware of the Sultan's rank, vehemently denied the Indian's claims, labeling him as a deceitful magician who had abducted her from her betrothed, the Prince of Persia. Convinced by her words and demeanor, the Sultan ordered the immediate execution of the Indian.

 

Yet, her rescue didn't lead to immediate safety. The Sultan, impressed by her story, escorted her to his palace, assigning her a lavish chamber with attendants and guards. Without allowing her a chance to express her gratitude, he advised her to rest, promising to hear her full account the next day.

 

Believing that her tale would move the Sultan's heart and prompt him to reunite her with the prince, the princess drifted into sleep. However, her hopes were shattered the next morning when the Sultan, determined to make her his wife, announced his intentions publicly through festive proclamations. Shocked and terrified, the princess fainted at the realization of her impending fate.


The slaves rushed to assist the princess, while the Sultan himself tried to revive her, but it took a long time before she regained consciousness. Rather than agreeing to the marriage and betraying her promise to the Prince of Persia, she decided to feign madness. She began uttering nonsensical words and making strange gestures, leaving the Sultan bewildered and saddened.

 

As her condition worsened over the following days, the Sultan called upon all the doctors of his court to convene and discuss her case. However, they concluded that without examining her, they couldn't offer a proper diagnosis. Following the Sultan's orders, the physicians visited her one by one, but she reacted violently to each of them, preventing them from touching her. Some attempted to prescribe potions based solely on observation, which she willingly took, convinced they were harmless.

 

Despite the efforts of court physicians and those from the city, her condition remained unchanged. The Sultan then sought help from renowned physicians from neighboring states, offering generous rewards for a cure. Despite their expertise, none could heal her, as the princess's pretended madness was beyond their control.


Prince Firouz Shah, upon hearing of the Princess of Bengal's plight, immediately set out for Kashmir. Arriving in the capital, he disguised himself as a doctor by donning a doctor’s robe and allowing his beard to grow. He went to the palace and convinced the chief usher to grant him an audience with the Sultan, claiming to possess remedies that could cure the princess.

 

The Sultan, eager for a solution, welcomed the disguised prince and brought him to a room where he could observe the princess without being seen.

 

Observing the princess from his hiding spot, the prince noticed her singing sadly with tears in her eyes, confirming his suspicion that her madness was a pretense born out of love for him. He discreetly left his hiding place and informed the Sultan that he needed to speak with the princess alone.

 

Granted permission, the prince entered the princess’s chamber, where she immediately erupted into anger upon seeing his physician’s attire. Ignoring her outburst, he approached her quietly.


“Look at me, princess, and you will see that I am no doctor, but the Prince of Persia, who has come to set you free.” Upon hearing the prince's voice, the princess became calm, her face lighting up with joy at his unexpected presence. Overwhelmed with enchantment, she remained speechless for a while, allowing Prince Firouz Shah to recount his journey and his determination to find her.


After he finished, the princess revealed her own plight, describing how she feigned madness to avoid marrying the Sultan against her will. She expressed that she wished to die rather than betray her love for the prince.


The prince then asked about the enchanted horse, but the princess had no information. They agreed that the horse couldn't have been forgotten by the Sultan, given its value.

Together, they devised a plan for her escape, starting with her dressing elegantly and receiving the Sultan politely the next morning.


The Sultan is overjoyed with the doctor's successful interview with the princess, and he's even more impressed by her improved behavior towards the doctor the next day. He advises the princess to trust the doctor completely for her recovery and leaves without waiting for a response from her.

 

The Prince of Persia, also intrigued by the princess's presence in Cashmere, politely inquires about her journey and circumstances. The Sultan shares the princess's account and mentions his curiosity about the enchanted horse's powers.


The physician discerns from the Sultan's account that the princess might have been affected by the enchantment of the horse during her voyage. He proposes a spectacle to dissipate this enchantment publicly, using certain perfumes he possesses, promising to restore her to full health and impress the gathered crowds. He suggests adorning her lavishly to add to the spectacle.


The Sultan agrees to the prince's proposal and arranges for the enchanted horse to be brought into the palace square the next morning, sparking curiosity and drawing a large crowd. The Sultan, accompanied by his nobles and officers, takes his place on a platform as the Princess of Bengal, escorted by her ladies, approaches the horse.

 

The physician begins a ritual with burning braziers and perfumes around the horse, creating thick smoke. As the moment arrives, he springs onto the horse behind the princess, turning a peg to activate its enchantment, and declares a message to the Sultan regarding consent in marriage. The Prince of Persia thus rescues the Princess of Bengal and returns with her to Persia, where they marry with grand festivities.

 

Following the wedding, an ambassador is dispatched to inform the King of Bengal of the alliance between their countries, which the king approves of warmly, cementing the union between Persia and Bengal.

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