Home > Arab Stories > Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves: Part 1

Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves: Part 1

September 4th, 2009

Once upon a time, there lived in a village of Persia two brothers, one called Kassim and the other Ali Baba. Their father divided a small inheritance equally between them. Kassim married a very wealthy wife, and became a rich merchant. Ali Baba married a girl as poor as himself, and lived by chopping wood, and transporting it on three donkeys into the village for selling.

One day, when Ali Baba was in the forest and had just cut wood enough to load his asses, he saw at a distance a great cloud of dust, which seemed to approach him. He observed it with attention, and distinguished soon after a body of horsemen, whom he suspected might be robbers. He determined to leave his donkeys to save himself. He climbed up a large tree, planted on a high rock, whose branches were thick enough to conceal him, and yet enabled him to see all that passed without being discovered.

The troop, who were to the number of forty, all well mounted and armed, came to the foot of the rock on which the tree stood, and there dismounted. Every man unbridled his horse, tied him to some shrub, and hung about his neck a bag of corn which they had brought behind them. Then each of them took off his saddle-bag, which seemed to Ali Baba from its weight to be full of gold and silver. One, whom he took to be their captain, came under the tree in which Ali Baba was concealed; and making his way through some shrubs, pronounced these words: “Open, Sesame!”. As soon as the captain of the robbers had thus spoken, a door opened in the rock; and after he had made all his troop enter before him, he followed them, when the door shut again of itself.

The robbers stayed some time within the rock, during which Ali Baba, fearful of being caught, remained in the tree.

At last the door opened again, and as the captain went in last, so he came out first, and stood to see them all pass by him; when Ali Baba heard him make the door close by pronouncing these words, “Shut, Sesame!” Every man at once went and bridled his horse, fastened his wallet, and mounted again. When the captain saw them all ready, he put himself at their head, and they returned the way they had come.

Ali Baba followed them with his eyes as far as he could see them; and afterward stayed a considerable time before he descended. Remembering the words the captain of the robbers used to cause the door to open and shut, he had the curiosity to try if his pronouncing them would have the same effect. Accordingly, he went among the shrubs, and perceiving the door concealed behind them, stood before it, and said, “Open, Sesame!” The door instantly flew wide open.

Ali Baba, who expected a dark, dismal cavern, was surprised to see a well-lighted and spacious chamber, which received the light from an opening at the top of the rock, and in which were all sorts of provisions, rich bales of silk, stuff, brocade, and valuable carpeting, piled upon one another, gold and silver ingots in great  heaps, and money in bags. The sight of all these riches made him suppose that this cave must have been occupied for ages by robbers, who had succeeded one another.

Ali Baba went boldly into the cave, and collected as much of the gold coin, which was in bags, as he thought his threedonkeyes could carry. When he had loaded them with the bags, he laid wood over them in such a manner that they could not be seen. When he had passed in and out as often as he wished, he stood before the door, and pronouncing the words, “Shut, Sesame!” the door closed of itself. He then made the best of his way to village.

When Ali Baba got home he drove his  donkeys into a little yard, shut the gates very carefully, threw off the wood that covered the panniers, carried the bags into his house, and ranged them in order before his wife. He then emptied the bags, which raised such a great heap of gold as dazzled his wife’s eyes, and then he told her the whole adventure from beginning to end, and, above all, recommended her to keep it secret.

The wife rejoiced greatly at their good fortune, and would count all the gold piece by piece.

“Wife,” replied Ali Baba, “you do not know what you undertake, when you pretend to count the money; you will never have done. I will dig a hole, and bury it. There is no time to be lost.”

“You are in the right, husband,” replied she, “but let us know, as nigh as possible, how much we have. I will borrow a small measure, and measure it, while you dig the hole.”

Away the wife ran to her brother-in-law Kassim, who lived just by, and addressing herself to his wife, desired  that she lend her a measure for a little while. Her sister-in-law asked her whether she would have a great or a small one. The other asked for a small one. She bade her stay a little, and she would readily fetch one.

The sister-in-law did so, but as she knew Ali Baba’s poverty, she was curious to know what sort of grain his wife wanted to measure, and artfully putting some suet at the bottom of the measure, brought it to her, with an excuse that she was sorry that she had made her stay so long, but that she could not find it sooner.

Ali Baba’s wife went home, set the measure upon the heap of gold, filled it, and emptied it often upon the sofa, till she had done, when she was very well satisfied to find the number of measures amounted to so many as they did, and went to tell her husband, who had almost finished digging the hole. When Ali Baba was burying the gold, his wife, to show her exactness and diligence to her sister-in-law, carried the measure back again, but without taking notice that a piece of gold had stuck to the bottom.

“Sister,” said she, giving it to her again, “you see that I have not kept your measure long. I am obliged to you for it, and return it with thanks.”

As soon as Ali Baba’s wife was gone, Kassim’s looked at the bottom of the measure, and was in inexpressible surprise to find a piece of gold sticking to it. Envy immediately possessed her breast.

“What!” said she, “has Ali Baba gold so plentiful as to measure it? Whence has he all this wealth?”

Kassim, her husband, was at his counting house. When he came home his wife said to him, “Kassim, I know you think yourself rich, but Ali Baba is infinitely  richer than you. He does not count his money, but measures it.”

Kassim desired her to explain the riddle, which she did, by telling him the stratagem she had used to make the discovery, and showed him the piece of money, which was so old that they could not tell in what prince’s reign it was coined.

Kassim, after he had married the rich widow, had never treated Ali Baba as a brother, but neglected him; and now, instead of being pleased, he conceived a base envy at his brother’s prosperity. He could not sleep all that night, and went to him in the morning before sunrise.

“Ali Baba,” said he, “I am surprised at you. You pretend to be miserably poor, and yet you measure gold. My wife found this at the bottom of the measure you borrowed yesterday.”

By this discourse, Ali Baba perceived that Kassim and his wife, through his own wife’s folly, knew what they had so much reason to conceal; but what was done could not be undone. Therefore, without showing the least surprise or trouble, he confessed all, and offered his brother part of his treasure to keep the secret.

“I expect as much,” replied Kassim haughtily; “but I must know exactly where this treasure is, and how I may visit it myself when I choose. Otherwise I will go and inform against you, and then you will not only get no more, but will lose all you have, and I shall have a share for my information.”

Ali Baba told him all he desired, even to the very words he was to use to gain admission into the cave.

Kassim rose the next morning long before the sun  and set out for the forest with ten mules bearing great chests, which he designed to fill, and followed the road which Ali Baba had pointed out to him. He was not long before he reached the rock, and found out the place, by the tree and other marks which his brother had given him. When he reached the entrance of the cavern, he pronounced the words, “Open, Sesame!” The door immediately opened, and, when he was in, closed upon him. In examining the cave, he was in great admiration to find much more riches than he had expected from Ali Baba’s relation. He quickly laid as many bags of gold as he could carry at the door of the cavern; but his thoughts were so full of the great riches he should possess that he could not think of the necessary word to make it open, but instead of “Sesame,” said, “Open, Barley!” and was much amazed to find that the door remained fast shut. He named several sorts of grain, but still the door would not open.

Kassim had never expected such an incident, and was so alarmed at the danger he was in, that the more he endeavored to remember the word “Sesame,” the more his memory was confounded, and he had as much forgotten it as if he had never heard it mentioned. He threw down the bags he had loaded himself with, and walked distractedly up and down the cave, without having the least regard to the riches that were around him.

About noon the robbers visited their cave. At some distance they saw Kassim’s mules straggling about the rock, with great chests on their backs. Alarmed at this, they galloped full speed to the cave. They drove away the mules, who strayed through the forest so far that they were soon out of sight, and went directly,  with their naked sabers in their hands, to the door, which, on their captain pronouncing the proper words, immediately opened.

Kassim, who heard the noise of the horses’ feet, at once guessed the arrival of the robbers, and resolved to make one effort for his life. He rushed to the door, and no sooner saw the door open, than he ran out and threw the leader down, but could not escape the other robbers, who with their scimitars soon deprived him of life.

The first care of the robbers after this was to examine the cave. They found all the bags which Kassim had brought to the door, to be ready to load his mules, and carried them again to their places, but they did not miss what Ali Baba had taken away before. Then holding a council, and deliberating upon this occurrence, they guessed that Kassim, when he was in, could not get out again, but could not imagine how he had learned the secret words by which alone he could enter. They could not deny the fact of his being there; and to terrify any person or accomplice who should attempt the same thing, they agreed to cut Kassim’s body into four quarters—to hang two on one side, and two on the other, within the door of the cave. They had no sooner taken this resolution than they put it in execution; and when they had nothing more to detain them, left the place of their hoards well closed. They mounted their horses, went to beat the roads again, and to attack the caravans they might meet.

In the meantime, Kassim’s wife was very uneasy when night came, and her husband was not returned. She ran to Ali Baba in great alarm, and said, “I believe, brother-in-law, that you know Kassim is gone to the  forest, and upon what account. It is now night, and he has not returned. I am afraid some misfortune has happened to him.”

Ali Baba told her that she need not frighten herself, for that certainly Kassim would not think it proper to come into the village till the night should be pretty far advanced.

Kassim’s wife, considering how much it concerned her husband to keep the business secret, was the more easily persuaded to believe her brother-in-law. She went home again, and waited patiently till midnight. Then her fear redoubled, and her grief was the more sensible because she was forced to keep it to herself. She repented of her foolish curiosity, and cursed her desire of prying into the affairs of her brother and sister-in-law. She spent all the night in weeping; and as soon as it was day went to them, telling them, by her tears, the cause of her coming.

Ali Baba did not wait for his sister-in-law to desire him to go to see what was become of Kassim, but departed immediately with his three asses, begging of her first to moderate her grief. He went to the forest, and when he came near the rock, having seen neither his brother nor his mules on his way, was seriously alarmed at finding some blood spilt near the door, which he took for an ill omen; but when he had pronounced the word, and the door had opened, he was struck with horror at the dismal sight of his brother’s body. He was not long in determining how he should pay the last dues to his brother; but without adverting to the little fraternal affection he had shown for him, went into the cave, to find something to enshroud his remains. Having loaded one of his donkeys with them, he covered them over with wood. The other two donkeys he loaded with bags of gold, covering them with wood also as before; and then, bidding the door shut, he came away; but was so cautious as to stop some time at the end of the forest, that he might not go into the village before night. When he came home he drove the two donkeys loaded with gold into his little yard, and left the care of unloading them to his wife, while he led the other to his sister-in-law’s house.

Ali Baba knocked at the door, which was opened by Morgiana, a clever, intelligent slave, who was fruitful in inventions to meet the most difficult circumstances. When he came into the court he unloaded the ass, and taking Morgiana aside, said to her, “You must observe an inviolable secrecy. Your master’s body is contained in these two panniers. We must bury him as if he had died a natural death. Go now and tell your mistress. I leave the matter to your wit and skillful devices.”

Ali Baba helped to place the body in Kassim’s house, again recommended to Morgiana to act her part well, and then returned with his ass.

Morgiana went out early the next morning to a druggist and asked for a sort of lozenge which was considered efficacious in the most dangerous disorders. The apothecary inquired who was ill. She replied, with a sigh, her good master Kassim himself; and that he could neither eat nor speak.

In the evening Morgiana went to the same druggist again, and with tears in her eyes, asked for an essence which they used to give to sick people only when in the last extremity.

“Alas!” said she, taking it from the apothecary, “I am afraid that this remedy will have no better effect than the lozenges; and that I shall lose my good master.”

On the other hand, as Ali Baba and his wife were often seen to go between Kassim’s and their own house all that day, and to seem melancholy, nobody was surprised in the evening to hear the lamentable shrieks and cries of Kassim’s wife and Morgiana, who gave out everywhere that her master was dead. The next morning at daybreak, Morgiana went to an old cobbler whom she knew to be always ready at his stall, and bidding him good morrow, put a piece of gold into his hand, saying, “Baba Mustapha, you must bring with you your sewing tackle, and come with me; but I must tell you, I shall blindfold you when you come to such a place.”

Baba Mustapha seemed to hesitate a little at these words. “Oh! oh!” replied he, “you would have me do something against my conscience, or against my honor?”

“God forbid,” said Morgiana, putting another piece of gold into his hand, “that I should ask anything that is contrary to your honor! Only come along with me, and fear nothing.”

Baba Mustapha went with Morgiana, who, after she had bound his eyes with a handkerchief at the place she had mentioned, conveyed him to her deceased master’s house, and never unloosed his eyes till he had entered the room where she had put the corpse together. “Baba Mustapha,” said she, “you must make haste and sew the parts of this body together; and when you have done, I will give you another piece of gold.”

After Baba Mustapha had finished his task, she blindfolded him again, gave him the third piece of gold as she had promised, and recommending secrecy to him, carried him back to the place where she first bound his eyes, pulled off the bandage, and let him go home, but watched him that he returned toward his stall, till he was quite out of sight, for fear he should have the curiosity to return and dodge her; she then went home.

  1. gabrielle
    September 5th, 2009 at 07:51 | #1

    as I was told “if u don’t want to be cheated, you have to learn how to cheat”.
    c’est fini l’histoire?

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