What the Rose did to the Cypress

What the Rose did to the Cypress

What the Rose did to the Cypress is a Persian fairy tale. Andrew Lang included it in "The Brown Fairy Book", with the note "Translated from two Persian MSS. in the possession of the British Museum and the India Office, and adapted, with some reservations, by Annette S. Beveridge."


A king had three sons. The oldest went hunting and chased a deer, giving orders that it should be captured rather than killed. It led him to a sandy waste where his horse died. He found a tree with a spring beneath it and drank. A faqir asked him what he did there. He told him his story and asked the faqir's, repeating when the faqir put him off, until the faqir told him he had been a king, and his seven sons had all tried to win a princess whose hand could only be won by answering the riddle, "What did the rose do to the cypress?" and died for their failure. His grief sent him into the desert.

This inspired the son with a love for the same princess. His attendants found him and brought him back, but he grew ill for love, and his confidants found this out and revealed it to the king. The king made arrangements for him to go. At the city, the princess's father tried to dissuade him. He was asked, failed, and was executed. His second brother followed and likewise died.

Finally the third went, but having reached the city, he saw his brothers' head and went to a nearby village, where he took shelter with an ancient, childless couple. Disguising himself, he searched the city for the secret, and found he could get into the princess's garden by a stream. There he hid, but when the princess sent her maids for water, they saw his reflection and were terrified. The princess had her nurse bring him to her. He answered her questions at random, convincing her that he was mad, but his beauty made her protect him as her own. Dil-aram, who had seen him first, grew fond of him and begged him to tell her what he was about; finally, he was convinced she was in love with him, told her his story, and promised to marry her and keep her among his favorites. She could not answer the riddle, but knew that a certain negro from Waq of the Caucasus had told the princess it.

The prince set out to Waq of the Caucasus. An old man advised him on how to arrive there, despite the jinns, demons, and peris. He should take this road until it split, then take the middle road for a day and a night, where he would find a pillar. He should do what was written on the pillar. He found a warning where the roads split, against the middle road, but took it and came to a garden. He had to pass a giant negro to reach it, and a woman there tried to persuade him from his way. When she failed, she enchanted him into a deer.

As a deer, he came to lead a band of deer. He tried to jump from the enchanted garden but found that it would bring him back where he had jumped from. The ninth time, however, the other deer vanished. A beautiful woman there took him as a pet. He wept, and the woman realized he had been enchanted by her sister. She turned him back, gave him a bow and arrows, a sword, and a dagger, that had all belonged to heroes, and told him that he must seek out the home of the Simurgh, but she could not direct him to it.

He obeyed her directions about the Place of Gifts, where wild animals lived, and a lion-king gave him some hairs, saying he must burn them for aid. He disobeyed her directions to avoid the castle of clashing swords, because whatever was fated to happen to him would happen, and fought the negroes there. With the lion's aid, he defeated them, rescuing a princess, and gave it all into the lion's care until he was done with his quest.

He found the Simurgh's nest, where only the young ones were, and killed a dragon there; then he fed the hungry young birds on it, and they slept, being full. When their parents returned, the lack of noise convinced them that the prince had killed and eaten their young, but the mother bird insisted on checking to discover the truth, and the young ones woke. The Simurgh carried him to Waq, and gave him three feathers, any of which would summon him.

At Waq, he learned that only the king knew the riddle and went to court. He gave the king a diamond and said it was his last treasure. The king wished to please him, but the prince wanted only the answer to the riddle. When he asked, the king said he would have killed anyone else, but when the king went on asking what the prince wanted, the prince refused to ask for anything. Finally, the king told him that he could have what he wanted, if he consented to die afterward. He was the cypress, and his wife, whom he had brought before them in chains and rags, was the rose. He had once rescued peris and restored their sight, and in return, they had arranged for his marriage to a peri princess. She had betrayed him, riding off every night to a negro who beat her. The king had killed him and his fellows, except the one who escaped to tell the princess with the riddle. He then told the prince to prepare for execution. The prince asked only for a final washing, but when washing, he summoned the Simurgh, and it carried him off.

He returned. On the way, he married the princess from the castle of clashing swords, and the woman who had disenchanted him. At the city, he demanded the negro whom the princess hid beneath her throne to confirm the truth of his words. He told the story, and the king having found the negro, he confirmed it. Instead of marrying the princess, he took her captive, had the head decently buried, and sent for Dil-aram.

At home, the prince had the negro torn apart between four horses. The princess begged for mercy; those who had died had been fated to die, and it was her fate to be his. He forgave her, married her and Dil-aram, and lived happily with his four wives.

External links

* [http://www.mythfolklore.net/andrewlang/288.htm "What the Rose did to the Cypress"]

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