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The Faquih’s Bouquet of Stars


Artwork: Sarah

The man standing before me is pale and emaciated. His eyes are lowered but I know if he looks up I will see too much white. I can smell the sour scent of his fear and desperation. It wafts from him in soft billowing waves. He is right to be afraid. What he has asked me to do for him is forbidden. Not to me, of course. I am, after all, Chemharouch, King of the Djinn. There is little I can’t do. I told him no, of course, but I watch him carefully, eager to see his reaction.

Humans are interesting creatures. They flock to my shrine or seek out other djinn in droves, each with a request they are convinced is of the utmost importance. Most of them are: a sick child, an unfaithful spouse, a failing business, lack of purpose and motivation, a worried mind due to disturbances from one of my minions or the other. The man before me has asked for his beloved wife to be returned to life. I could return his love to him, but he would be back before me in not too long. The woman doesn’t want to live.

Many others come with requests that are selfish or just puzzling. We grant them audience anyway. Take for example the faquih who went to the underworld some years back. The young man was passionately in love with a princess and determined to win her hand even though she demanded a bouquet of stars as a dowry. El-Mehdi, that was his name, prided himself in his knowledge. He certainly was learned, if not wise. He could make my minions do his bidding and cause the earth to tremble by uttering magic words. It was easy enough for him to acquire a pair of wings from one of the underworld djinns and fly up into the sky.

I remember that evening. The sun was a fiery burnished orange, dipping behind the black hills. We all saw a flash of white streak across the sky then. It seemed the whole earth waited with bated breath as the stars came out for their evening assembly, unfurling their bright shiny light like diamond petals, and El-Mehdi walked among them, gathering the best and brightest, choosing carefully like a gardener selecting flowers for his beloved. Satisfied with his selection, and savoring the princess’s pleasure in advance, he spread his borrowed wings and dove down towards earth, following the shimmering white path made by the angels in the early days of earth’s existence.

But El-Mehdi made a fatal error, one which I find surprising, given he was a scholar of the Koran. He’d neither addressed a prayer to Allah before embarking on his journey, nor asked the stars their permission before gathering them. As he approached Tangier, a strong wind arose and blew sparks from his bouquet of star flowers unto his clothes and borrowed wings. They caught fire and the young faquih fell to earth. His body is now a mass of rocks on Tangier’s beach, the stones an infernal blackness.

“My Lord Sidi,” the man before me finally speaks, interrupting my meandering thoughts. He sounds like he looks. “You are my last hope. If you will not grant me my request, no one else can.”

Pity wells within me for the man but I know I must honor his wife’s desires.

“I am your last hope, my son,” I tell him. “But I it seems to me that you have other hopes whose fulfillment you might need more than you need your wife back.”

“I do not understand, my Lord…” the man murmurs.

“You have a child. A daughter.”

“Yes, I do, my Lord,” he replies, “it is mostly for her sake that I beg for her mother’s life.”

“I see,” I nod my understanding. “Well, I will not give you back her mother. But I will make sure my blessing goes with you. When you leave from here, you will never again lack for food to eat, water to drink, or a place to call your home. You will always find work to occupy your hands and peace in your heart. Your will live to see your daughter’s children’s children. This I swear to you.”

The man’s eyes are lifted to me by the time I finish talking. They are mostly white just as I guess but they gleam with his tears.

“Th-thank you, my Lord,” he stammers.

I nod my blessing and gesture for one of my djinn to escort the man from my presence.


 

Source: Tales and Legends of Morocco by  Élisa Chimenti

This is a folktale from Morocco, retold and contributed by Mythological Africans.

It is a part of our series, Folklore Worldwide. We are currently open to submissions from around the world, and you are welcome to send us your stories!

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