Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Tale of the Enchanted Handkerchief

A folk tale from Yemen
Translated by: Fateh kassab

 Once upon a time in Yemen, a farmer lived in his farm with his wife and five children. One season the rain did not fall and that made him very sad because he sowed his field, as he did every year. One day he headed to his thirsty field, looked at the clouds and began singing the following rhymes:
Oh come rain Come
             To grow seeds
             And we can pick the fruits
             Come and make fields happy
             To sing our verses
         The clouds kept on moving paying no attention to the farmer's calls. His sadness became greater, and he sat in his house talking to nobody.
His wife approached trying to ease his sadness and said:
      - Praise Prophet Mohammed, man. Why are you burdening yourself        like this?
              - Leave me alone, mother of my children. Do not increase my frustration.
              - Ok... How long will you remain like this, as if you are seated to support the walls? Go; try to find a job to feed your children.
-   Find a job? Can not you see that the ground has cracked because of the drought, and the birds ate all the seeds I sowed? Leave me for God sake; I can no longer bear the situation.
-    But if you remained without a job we will starve.  We have not got even a handful of flour left. Have faith in God and try.
        The words of his wife convinced him. He carried some bread, left his house and family and travelled.
This trip was his first, so he endured hardships and horrors. Sometimes a monster appeared in his way; he attacked it with his stick and hit it hard. Other times he had to climb high mountains, and so on. He arrived at a beautiful palace surrounded by trees and roses dangle on the walls.
Once the farmer approached the gate of the palace, the guard e shouted:
                 - Hey... You, where to?
                 - I want to meet the owner of the palace.
                 - What ..?! You want to meet the Sultan?
        The Sultan, who was sitting on the terrace, heard their dialogue. He pointed to the guard to let the man in. as soon as he stood before the sultan he said:
  - May Peace be on you reverend Sultan.
         - And on you. What do you want?
         - I want to work.
         - What is your profession?
         - Farmer. I understand in agriculture. Then he told his story.
  - Ok, listen to what I say. I need no farmers, I have many farmers, but if you want to break rocks, that's ok. The land is full of rocks, and I think I can benefit from their places.
                - OK.
                   - If we agree on the first term, the second term remains.
                   - What is it?
                   - Payment. I pay workers a golden dinar each week, would you agree to that amount?

                   - The farmer scrubbed his head and said:
                  - I have a suggestion. You can weigh this handkerchief at the end of the week, and give me gold for its weight.
           The farmer took out a small handkerchief from his pocket embroidered with green thread.
         As soon as the Sultan saw the handkerchief, he laughed until he almost turned over his chair. Then he said:
      -A handkerchief! O you goofy man, how much will this cloth weight? Actually, the weight will not exceed the weight of a silver penny. Ha... Ha... Ha ... Stupid... Sure you're  fool.
        The farmer swallowed his saliva, and said:
                 - Sir, as long as the profit will be in your favor do not mind. I will take even if it weighs half a penny.
The Sultan saw that the farmer was serious; so he said:
-         OK the rocks are there you can start work, and after a week we will see.
The farmer grabbed the heavy hammer with steel like hands and walked toward the rocks confidently. He looked at them defiantly. Then he started hitting them strongly turning them into small stones. And when sweat seeped from his forehead as a result of effort and fatigue, he took the small handkerchief out of his pocket and dried it.
The farmer worked hard, and by the end of the week he smashed the last rock. It is true that the sweat seeped like the rain from his forehead, but that did not stop him from work and perseverance.
The work week elapsed, and it was time for payment.
-   God bless you farmer, you worked hard and faithfully. Give me your handkerchief to weigh it for you.
The farmer gave him the wet handkerchief. He placed it in one container of the scale, and put a silver coin in the other side. The handkerchief outweighed it. The Sultan grabbed several piasters and added them to the scale container. But the handkerchief outweighed them.
The Sultan resented, he removed the silver piasters, and put a golden dinar instead. But result stayed the same. Bewildered, he ordered the servant to bring a handkerchief and dip it in water and then placed it in the scale container where the farmer's handkerchief was. The dinar outweighed it.
The Sultan exhaled, looked at the farmer angrily, and said: 
-   What is the secret in your handkerchief?  Is it enchanted? I thought that the scale is out of order. But the weight of the other handkerchief was right.
The farmer smiled.
The Sultan proceeded to weigh handkerchief again. He put two Gold dinars. Then three dinars, four dinars till they became ten. The two containers balanced.
Sultan almost got insane. What is happening? Could that be? Ten... Ten dinars? He got overheated, grabbed the farmer's collar and said:
Speak, idiot... Admit it. Who enchanted this handkerchief?
And very quietly, the farmer replied:
-         God bless my lord Sultan. The story is not magic, I do not believe in it. It is briefly that when a man works an honest job and the sweat seeps from his forehead it is much heavier than water.
The Sultan shook his head and smiled. Then he said:
-         God bless you and bless your effort and your money. Take your ten dinars and return to your family in peace.
The farmer was very pleased. When he returned home, he told his wife what happened.  They rejoiced and were happy for the family reunion.


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