The Enchanted Horse
The people were rejoicing in Shiraz, Persia. They were happily celebrating the feast of the New Year. That day the Sultan had arranged for great fairs and festivals in the main square of the city. The Sultan sat on his throne and watched his subjects celebrating.
Just then the crowd stopped amidst their actions and looked surprised. They saw a man riding a wooden horse that was decorated with silk and jewels as a real horse. The horse looked elegant and so did the young man riding it. The Sultan, too, was surprised to see him. The young man dismounted the horse, bowed to the Sultan and said, “Greetings, Your Majesty, I am an Indian, the owner of this horse that has magic powers. All I have to do is sit on it and tell where I want to be and in the blink of an eye, I am there.”
The crowd gasped to hear the power of the special horse. The Sultan recovered after hearing this and then said, “Welcome, Indian. Now you’ll have to prove that your words are true.”
“I’ll go through any test you want me to prove it.”
“Alright,” the Sultan ordered. “Go to the mountain to the east of my kingdom. Bring to me a leaf from the palm tree that stands there.”
The Indian bowed low and mounted the horse. Then he turned a tiny screw that was located in the horse’s neck. And then the Indian was not to be seen as the horse had flown off. Just a few seconds later, the Indian appeared on the horseback at the city square. He dismounted the horse and placed the palm leaf in the Sultan’s hand.
The Sultan was convinced of the magical horse’s power. He was now determined to possess it. So he said, “Dear Indian, what price do you ask for this enchanted horse of yours?”
The Indian said, “Your Majesty, I got this magical animal in exchange for my one and only beautiful daughter. I gave my daughter to the man who created this horse. Then, my daughter told me that I would never give up this horse for anything but for something that equals its true value.”
The Sultan offered, “Go on, Indian. Tell me what you want in exchange. I have mansions full of jewels and gold. I have prosperous cities of which you can become the ruler.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty, but none of these do I desire. I think I can let you have the horse in exchange of your daughter’s hand in marriage.”
The Sultan smiled while the crowd murmured in discussion. But this reply by the Indian angered Prince Firoz Shah. He was the Sultan’s son, Prince of Shiraz. The Sultan was in deep thought for he thought this to be a worthy bargain.
The Sultan addressed Prince Firoz. “Prince Firoz, why don’t you ride the horse and see if it works well even with other riders on its back?”
The Prince mounted the horse. Then the Indian instructed him how to operate the enchanted wooden horse. The Prince heard only that he had to turn a screw to start his ride. He did so and off he flew. The eager Prince had not heard how he was to stop the horse when required.
As the Prince flew off on the enchanted horse’s back, the Sultan and his subjects grew worried about if he would be able to come back safely. The Sultan waited for hours yet there was no sign of the Prince. Now the worried Sultan grew angry, too. Seeing his anger, the Indian explained, “Your Majesty, do not be angry. The young Prince was impatient and did not hear all the instructions. It is not my fault at all.”
“Do you think that he’ll keep flying all the time? Will he never land back on earth?” the Sultan enquired angrily.
“No, Your Majesty,” the Indian said. “The Prince will come down to land if he would locate and turn the second screw on the horse’s neck.”
“But he may land in the deep sea or a high mountain!” exclaimed the Sultan.
“No, Your Majesty, it won’t happen. The magical horse can sense danger and will never land in such places. He’ll only go where he is instructed to go.”
The Sultan was not convinced by the Indian’s reply. He called his guards and said, “Take him and put him into prison for ninety days. If the Prince returns safe and sound, he’ll be freed or he would be killed as a punishment.”
Meanwhile Prince of Shiraz was flying riding on the enchanted horse. He felt very scared that he had not learnt the way to land the horse. By chance his eyes fell on the screw below the horse’s ear. He turned the screw in the opposite direction and the horse started descending. Soon the horse landed on the roof of a large palace.
The Prince of Shiraz dismounted the horse. He saw a doorway. He opened it stealthily and descended the steps that he saw. He soon reached a large hall. Many guards were sleeping there. They had kept their weapons by their side.
The Prince then saw a light at one end of the hall. As he reached the spot, he saw some curtains. Moving the curtains aside, he peeped in. His eyes met the most breathtaking scene of his life. A beautiful ivory skinned maiden with long lustrous hair and rosy red lips lay on a bed in deep sleep. Many of her maids were by her side. But all of them were dozing.
“Oh! She is so beautiful!” the Prince exclaimed. “Surely she must be the princess of this land,” the Prince approached the bed. The sound of his steps woke up the maiden. She was very surprised to see young handsome man in her bedchamber in the middle of the night.
“Do not fear,” the Prince said. “1 am the Prince of Shiraz, Due to a chain of unbelievable events, 1 have been brought in your presence. I hereby seek your help and protection.”
The maiden spoke, “I am the Princess of Bengal. You are now in my kingdom and you’ll be treated as an honoured guest.”
Then the Princess summoned her chambermaids. They took the prince to the guest-room to refresh and rest himself.
The Princess was very impressed by Prince Feroz and had fallen in love with him.
The next morning the Princess of Bengal dressed in her most beautiful silk garments and the choicest of her precious jewels. Then she went to meet the Prince of Shiraz. They both sat down for breakfast. There the Prince of Shiraz told his strange story to the Princess of Bengal. In the most beautiful words, he declared his love for the Princess. The Princess was overwhelmed and she, too, confessed her love for the Prince. The Prince stayed as a royal guest there for sixty days and spent beautiful moments with his beloved.
After sixty days, he remembered that his father, the king of Persia would be waiting for him. So he went to the Princess of Bengal and said, “Dear, I must leave for Shiraz now. Let us go to your father, the King of Bengal. I will ask his permission to take you as my wife. Then we will reach Shiraz, take my father’s permission and we will soon get married.”
So the Prince of Shiraz and the Princess of Bengal took the King of Bengal’s permission. Then they mounted the enchanted horse and flew off to Shiraz.
The Prince landed near a rest house at the outskirts of Shiraz. He made the Princess comfortable there.
Then he went to his palace to meet the King of Persia. The Sultan, the courtiers and all the subject were delighted to see the Prince safe and healthy. After seeking the Sultan’s permission, the Prince was happy. The Sultan ordered wedding preparations to be made. He declared that he himself would go to fetch the Princess of Bengal from the rest house to the palace next morning.
The Sultan ordered the Indian to be released from prison. Then as the Indian left the prison, he had a plain mind. He wanted to take revenge. The Indian went to the rest house. There he addressed the guard, “Guards, the Sultan has sent me to fetch the Princess of Bengal.”
The Indian had the enchanted horse and he mounted the horse with the Princess and flew off. As he was flying, the Sultan who was strolling on the roof of his palace saw both of them. He called after them but to no avail. The Prince was informed about this and he felt sad and angry indeed. That night he dressed up as a wandering sage and left the city. He went in search of his beloved, the Princess of Bengal.
The Indian soon flew and landed in a valley in Kashmir. When they stopped, the Princes of Bengal started calling for help. Hearing her calls, the Sultan of Kashmir came to her rescue. He had seen hunting in a nearby forest. On enquiry, the Princess of Bengal told all what had occurred and the Sultan of Kashmir heard attentively. Soon the Sultan of Kashmir ordered his guards to put the Indian’s life to an end. Thus the cruel Indian died.
The Princess of Bengal then left with the Sultan of Kashmir to live in his palace. Next morning many maids came to the Princess. They said, “We’ve been sent to dress you up as a bride. Our Sultan wishes to marry you.”
The Princess of Bengal heard this and soon fainted. When she recovered, the Sultan informed her that the ceremony would take place before sunset. Now the Princess had a whole day to make her plan of escape. She decided that she would act mad so that the Sultan would refuse to marry her. The Princess started talking nonsensically. Then she laughed and cried one after the other. The Sultan of Kashmir thought he would marry her a few days later when she would be better. But the Princess grew violent day by day. She now started throwing vases and cushions at anyone who entered her chamber. None of the doctors in Kashmir could cure her.
Now the Prince of Shiraz had reached Kashmir. He heard all about the Princess of Bengal and was happy beyond words to have found his lost beloved. He dressed as a doctor. Then he presented himself in the Sultan of Kashmir’s court. He said, “Your Majesty, I am a learned doctor. I request your permission to offer my services. I will surely cure the Princess of Bengal’s madness and then you can take her as your wife.”
The Sultan of Kashmir said, “Respected sir, if you’ll cure her, I’ll give you all the wealth you’ll ask for.”
Then the doctor, who is the Prince, requested to be left alone with the Princess of Bengal in her chamber. Once alone, the Prince of Shiraz revealed his true identity to the Princess of Bengal. Then they both devised a plan to escape the clutches of the Sultan of Kashmir.
After a few hours the Prince of Shiraz went to the Sultan and said, “Your Majesty, I’ve found out the cause of the Princess of Bengal’s madness. When she rode the enchanted horse, some of its magical power entered her body. Tomorrow morning the enchanted horse must be placed in the city square. The princess shall sit on it. I will put some magical perfume on both of them and she’ll be cured.”
Next morning, the Sultan of Kashmir, his courtiers and the people came to see the curing of the Princess. Soon the Princess of Bengal’s arrival will be decked in precious jewels and silk robes. Then the Princess mounted the enchanted horse. The Prince, dressed as doctor, lit a coal fire. Then he put some perfumed powder in the coal. A cloud of smoke rose up. The doctor crossed his hand over his heart. He circled the horse thrice and uttered a magical chant.
As the smoke grew thicker, the horse, the Princess and the doctor were not visible to the spectators at all. Then the Prince mounted the horse, turned the screw and instructed it to leave for Shiraz. In a second, they had taken flight.
As the enchanted horse took flight, he called the Sultan of Kashmir and said, “Remember, dear Sultan, to marry a Princess, you first need her consent.”
Thus, the loving couple escaped the clutches of the Sultan of Kashmir. They soon reached Shiraz and were joined in marriage among great pomp and show that befits a royal marriage.