STORY OF CALIPH STORK
CALIPH CHARID, of Bagdad, was reclining on his divan one
pleasant afternoon, smoking his long pipe and sipping coffee from a handsome dish which a
Just as the peddler was putting the things back into his
box, the Caliph noticed a small drawer and asked what it contained.
"Only something of no value, which I picked up in a
street of Mecca," the peddler replied. He thereupon opened the drawer and showed the
Caliph a small box, containing a black powder and a scroll written in characters which
neither the Caliph nor his Grand Vizier could make out. The Caliph immediately decided
that he wanted this strange scroll, and the peddler was persuaded to part with it for a
trifle. Then the Vizier was asked to find some one to decipher its meaning.
Near the mosque lived a man called Selim, who was so learned that he knew every language in the world. When the Vizier brought him to interpret the scroll, the Caliph said to him:
"They tell me that you are a scholar and can read
all languages. If you can decipher what is written here, I shall know that it is true, and
will give you a robe of honor; but if you fail, I shall have you punished with many
strokes, because you are falsely named."
Selim prostrated himself at the feet of the Caliph, and
then took the scroll. He had not looked at it long when he exclaimed:
"My lord and master, I hope to die if this is not
"Well, if so, let us hear what it says," the
Caliph impatiently answered. Selim at once began:
"Let him who finds this box praise Allah. If he
snuffs the powder it contains, at the same time pronouncing the word 'Matabor,' he will be
transformed into any creature that he desires, and will understand the language of all
animals. When he wishes to return to his own form, let him bow to the east three times,
repeating the word 'Matabor.' But remember if, while he is bird or beast, he should laugh,
the magic word would be forgotten, and the enchantment would be on him forever."
The Caliph was delighted with the knowledge of Selim. He
made him a splendid
"Come to-morrow morning early," said he,
"and we will go together to the country and learn what the animals are talking
The Vizier came as he was ordered, and they left the
palace without attendants.
"Most gracious lord," said the Vizier,
"what think you of these dignified long legs, and how would you like to know their
The Caliph replied that the stork had always interested
him, and he would very much like a more intimate acquaintance. Taking the box from his
girdle, he helped himself to a pinch of snuff and offered it to the Vizier, who followed
Together they cried "Matabor," and instantly
their beards disappeared, and
"By the beard of the Prophet, since I have not one
of my own to swear by, but we are a pretty pair of birds, Mansor!"
"If I may say so, your Highness, you are equally
handsome as a stork as when you were a Caliph," replied the Vizier. "I see our
two relations are conversing over there; shall we join them ?"
When they came near to where the storks were smoothing
their feathers and touching bills in the most friendly manner, this was the conversation
they overheard, "Will you have some of my frog's legs for breakfast, Dame
Yellowlegs?" "No, thank you; I am obliged to practise a dance for my father's
guests, and cannot eat." Thereupon Dame Yellowlegs stepped out, and began to pose
most gracefully. The Caliph and the Vizier watched her, until she stood on one foot and
spread her wings; then they both, at the same time, burst into such peals of laughter that
the two storks flew away.
Suddenly, however, the Vizier ceased his mirth, and
commenced bowing to the east. The Caliph recovered himself and did the same, but neither
could think of the magic word.
"Mansor, just recall that unholy word, and I will
become Caliph once more, and you my Grand Vizier. I have had enough of being a bird for
"Most gracious lord, that dancing stork has undone
us, for, since laughing at her antics, I cannot remember the word that will restore us to
So at last, in despair, the two unhappy birds wandered
through the meadows. They appeased their hunger with fruits, for they could not bring
themselves to eat frogs and lizards. As they dared not return to Bagdad and tell the
people their chagrin, they flew over the city, and had the satisfaction of seeing signs of
mourning and confusion. In a few days, however, while sitting on the roof of a house, they
saw a splendid procession coming up the street, and the people welcoming the new ruler.
"Hail! Hail Mirza, ruler of Bagdad!" they shouted.
The procession came nearer. At the head of it the Caliph
saw a man dressed in scarlet and gold, riding a handsome horse. He at once recognized the
new ruler as the son of his worst enemy.
"Behold," said. he, "the explanation of
our enchantment! This is the son of Kaschnur, the magician, who is my great enemy, who
seeks revenge. Let us not lose hope, but fly to the sacred grave of the Prophet and pray
to be released from the spell."
They at once spread their wings and soared away toward
Medina, but not being
The moon shone through a barred window and showed him a
screech owl sitting on the floor of the ruined chamber, lamenting in a hoarse voice. The
Vizier had cautiously stolen up beside the Caliph; and at sight of the two storks, the
screech owl uttered a cry of pleasure. To their astonishment it addressed them in Arabic,
in the following words:
"I have abandoned myself to despair, but I believe
my deliverance is near, for it was prophesied in my youth that a stork would bring me good
The Caliph, thus appealed to, arched his neck most
gracefully and replied:
"Alas! Screech Owl, I fear we are unable to aid you,
as you will understand when you have heard our miserable story."
He then related how the magician, Kaschnur, had changed
them into storks and made his own son ruler of Bagdad. The screech owl became very much
excited and exclaimed:
"How strange that misfortune should have come to us
through the same man. I am Tusa, the daughter of the King of the Indies. The magician,
Kaschnur, came one day to my father, to ask my hand in marriage for his son Mirza. My
father ordered him thrown down stairs, and in revenge he managed to have me given a powder
which changed me into this hideous shape. He then conveyed me to this lonely castle, and
swore I should remain here until some one asked me to be his wife, and so freed me from
At the conclusion of her story, the screech owl wept anew
and would not be consoled. Suddenly, however, she wiped her eyes on her wing and said:
"I have an idea that may lead to our deliverance.
Once every month the magician,
The Caliph and the Vizier withdrew and consulted over the
situation. "It is unfortunate," said the Caliph, "but if we are to meet
again, I think you will have to ask the screech owl to marry you."
"Not so, your Highness, I already have a wife, and
would rather remain a stork
"That is it," said the Caliph. "How do I
know that she will not prove to be some old fright?" As the Vizier was firm, the
Caliph at last said he would take the chances and do as the screech owl required.
That very night it so happened that the magicians met at
the ruined castle. The screech owl led the two storks through difficult passages till they
came to a hole in the wall, through which they could plalnly see all that transpired in
the lighted hall. Handsomely carved pillars adorned the room, and a table was spread with
many dishes. About the table sat eight men, among whom was their enemy, the magician. He
entertained the company with many stories, and at last came to his latest--that of turning
the Caliph and Vizier into storks--in relating which he pronounced the magic word. The
storks did not wait to hear more, but ran to the door of the castle. The screech owl
followed as fast as she could, and when the Caliph saw her he exclaimed:
"To prove my gratitude, O our deliverer! I beg you
to take me for your husband."
Then the two storks faced the rising sun, and bowed their
long necks three times. "Matabor!' they solemnly cried, together; and in an instant
they were no longer storks, but stood before each other in their natural forms. In their
joy they fell on each other's necks and forgot all about the screech owl, until they heard
a sweet voice beside them, and turning beheld a beautiful Princess. When the Caliph
recovered from his astonishment he said that he was now, indeed, enchanted and hoped to
remain so always.
They then started at once for the gate of Bagdad; and
when they arrived, the people were overjoyed, for they had believed their ruler dead. The
magician was taken to the ruined castle and hanged, and his son was given the choice of
the black powder or death. Choosing the powder, he was changed into a stork, and was kept
in the palace gardens.
Caliph Charid and the Princess were married; and when
their children grew old