Arabian Child Book Story

Developing early reading habits is a crucial element in a child's development. We had selected for you several stories that are taken from different child story books. Those stories were selected from Arabian story books to keep your children in contact with their culture or to introduce your children to other people's cultures.

child story
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PRINCE CAMARALZAMAN AND THE PRINCESS OF CHINA (Part One)

About twenty days' sail from the coast of Persia, in the Islands of the Children of Khaledan, there lived a king who had an only son, Prince Camaralzaman. He was brought up with all imaginable care; and when he came to a proper age, his father appointed him an experienced governor and able tutors. As he grew up he learned all the knowledge which a prince ought to possess, and acquitted himself so well that he charmed all that saw him, and particularly the sultan his father.

When the prince had attained the age of fifteen years, the sultan, who loved him tenderly, and gave him every day new marks of his affection, had thoughts of giving him a still greater one, by resigning to him his throne, and he acquainted his grand vizier with his intentions. 'I fear,' said he, 'lest my son should lose in the inactivity of youth those advantages which nature and education have given him; therefore, since I am advanced in age, and ought to think of retirement, I have thoughts of resigning the government to him, and passing the remainder of my days in the satisfaction of seeing him reign. I have undergone the fatigue of a crown a long while, and think it is now proper for me to retire.'

The grand vizier did not wholly dissuade the sultan from such a proceeding, but sought to modify his intentions. 'Sir,' replied he, 'the prince is yet but young, and it would not be, in my humble opinion, advisable to burden him with the weight of a crown so soon. Your majesty fears, with great reason, his youth may be corrupted in indolence, but to remedy that do not you think it would be proper to marry him? Your majesty might then admit him to your council, where he would learn by degrees the art of reigning, and so be prepared to receive your authority whenever in your discernment you shall think him qualified.'

The sultan found this advice of his prime minister highly reasonable, therefore he summoned the prince to appear before him at the same time that he dismissed the grand vizier.

The prince, who had been accustomed to see his father only at certain times, without being sent for, was a little startled at this summons; when, therefore, he came before him, he saluted him with great respect, and stood with his eyes fixed on the ground.

The sultan perceiving his constraint, said to him in a mild way, 'Do you know, son, for what reason I have sent for you?'

The prince modestly replied, 'God alone knows the heart; I shall hear it from your majesty with pleasure.'

'I sent for you,' said the sultan, 'to inform you that I have an intention of providing a proper marriage for you; what do you think of it?'

Prince Camaralzaman heard this with great uneasiness: it so surprised him, that he paused and knew not what answer to make. After a few moments' silence, he replied, 'Sir, I beseech you to pardon me if I seem surprised at the declaration you have made to me. I did not expect such proposals to one so young as I am. It requires time to determine on what your majesty requires of me.'

Prince Camaralzaman's answer extremely afflicted his father. He was not a little grieved to see what an aversion he had to marriage, yet would not charge him with disobedience, nor exert his paternal authority. He contented himself with telling him he would not force his inclinations, but give him time to consider the proposal.

The sultan said no more to the prince: he admitted him into his council, and gave him every reason to be satisfied. At the end of the year he took him aside, and said to him, 'My son, have you thoroughly considered what I proposed to you last year about marrying? Will you still refuse me that pleasure I expect from your obedience, and suffer me to die without it?'

The prince seemed less disconcerted than before, and was not long answering his father to this effect: 'Sir, I have not neglected to consider your proposal, but after the maturest reflection find myself more confirmed in my resolution to continue as I am, so that I hope your majesty will pardon me if I presume to tell you it will be in vain to speak to me any further about marriage.' He stopped here, and went out without staying to hear what the sultan would answer.

Any other monarch would have been very angry at such freedom in a son, and would have made him repent it, but the sultan loved him, and preferred gentle methods before he proceeded to compulsion. He communicated this new cause of discontent to his prime minister. 'I have followed your advice,' said he, 'but Camaralzaman is further than ever from complying with my desires. He delivered his resolution in such free terms that it required all my reason and moderation to keep my temper. Tell me, I beseech you, how I shall reclaim a disposition so rebellious to my will?'

'Sir,' answered the grand vizier, 'patience brings many things about that before seemed impracticable, but it may be this affair is of a nature not likely to succeed in that way. Your majesty would have no cause to reproach yourself if you gave the prince another year to consider the matter. If, in this interval he returns to his duty, you will have the greater satisfaction, and if he still continues averse to your proposal when this is expired, your majesty may propose to him in full council that it is highly necessary for the good of the state that he should marry, and it is not likely he will refuse to comply before so grave an assembly, which you honour with your presence.'

The year expired, and, to the great regret of the sultan, Prince Camaralzaman gave not the least proof of having changed his mind. One day, therefore, when there was a great council held, the prime vizier, the other viziers, the principal officers of the crown, and the generals of the army being present, the sultan began to speak thus to the prince: 'My son, it is now a long while since I have expressed to you my earnest desire to see you married; and I imagined you would have had more consideration for a father, who required nothing unreasonable of you, than to oppose him so long. But after so long a resistance on your part, which has almost worn out my patience, I have thought fit to propose the same thing once more to you in the presence of my council. I would have you consider that you ought not to have refused this, not merely to oblige a parent; the well-being of my dominions requires it; and the assembly here present joins with me to require it of you. Declare yourself, then; that, according to your answer, I may take the proper measures.'

The prince answered with so little reserve, or rather with so much warmth, that the sultan, enraged to see himself thwarted in full council, cried out, 'Unnatural son! have you the insolence to talk thus to your father and sultan?' He ordered the guards to take him away, and carry him to an old tower that had been unoccupied for a long while, where he was shut up, with only a bed, a little furniture, some books, and one slave to attend him.

Camaralzaman, thus deprived of liberty, was nevertheless pleased that he had the freedom to converse with his books, and that made him look on his imprisonment with indifference. In the evening he bathed and said his prayers; and after having read some chapters in the Koran, with the same tranquility of mind as if he had been in the sultan's palace, he undressed himself and went to bed, leaving his lamp burning by him all the while he slept.

In this tower was a well, which served in the daytime for a retreat to a certain fairy, named Maimoune, daughter of Damriat, king or head of a legion of genies. It was about midnight when Maimoune sprang lightly to the mouth of the well, to wander about the world after her wonted custom, where her curiosity led her. She was surprised to see a light in Prince Camaralzaman's chamber, and entered, without stopping, over the slave who lay at the door.

Prince Camaralzaman had but half-covered his face with the bedclothes, and Maimoune perceived the finest young man she had seen in all her rambles through the world. 'What crime can he have committed,' said she to herself, 'that a man of his high rank can deserve to be treated thus severely?' for she had already heard his story, and could hardly believe it.

She could not forbear admiring the prince, till at length, having kissed him gently on both cheeks and in the middle of the forehead without waking him, she took her flight into the air. As she mounted high to the middle region, she heard a great flapping of wings, which made her fly that way; and when she approached, she knew it was a genie who made the noise, but it was one of those that are rebellious. As for Maimoune, she belonged to that class whom the great Solomon compelled to acknowledge him.

This genie, whose name was Danhasch, knew Maimoune, and was seized with fear, being sensible how much power she had over him by her submission to the Almighty. He would fain have avoided her, but she was so near him that he must either fight or yield. He therefore broke silence first.

'Brave Maimoune,' said he, in the tone of a suppliant, 'swear to me that you will not hurt me; and I swear also on my part not to do you any harm.'

'Cursed genie,' replied Maimoune, 'what hurt canst thou do me? I fear thee not; but I will grant thee this favour; I will swear not to do thee any harm. Tell me then, wandering spirit, whence thou comest, what thou hast seen, and what thou hast done this night.'

'Fair lady,' answered Danhasch, 'you meet me at a good time to hear something very wonderful. I come from the utmost limits of China, which look on the last islands of this hemisphere. But, charming Maimoune,' said Danhasch, who so trembled with fear at the sight of this fairy that he could hardly speak, 'promise me at least that you will forgive me, and let me go on after I have satisfied your demands.'

'Go on, go on, cursed spirit,' replied Maimoune; 'go on and fear nothing. Dost thou think I am as perfidious an elf as thyself, and capable of breaking the solemn oath I have made? Be sure you tell nothing but what is true, or I shall clip thy wings, and treat thee as thou deservest.'

Danhasch, a little heartened at the words of Maimoune, said, 'My dear lady, I will tell you nothing but what is strictly true, if you will but have the goodness to hear me. The country of China, from whence I come, is one of the largest and most powerful kingdoms of the earth. The king of this country is at present Gaiour, who has an only daughter, the finest maiden that ever was seen in the world since it was a world. Neither you nor I, nor your class nor mine, nor all our respective genies, have expressions strong enough, nor eloquence sufficient to describe this brilliant lady. Any one that did not know the king, father of this incomparable princess would scarcely be able to imagine the great respect and kindness he shows her. No one has ever dreamed of such care as his to keep her from every one but the man who is to marry her: and, that the retreat which he has resolved to place her in may not seem irksome to her, he has built for her seven palaces, the most extraordinary and magnificent that ever were known.

'The first palace is of rock crystal, the second of copper, the third of fine steel, the fourth of brass, the fifth of touchstone, the sixth of silver, and the seventh of massy gold. He has furnished these palaces most sumptuously, each in a manner suited to the materials that they are built of. He has filled the gardens with grass and flowers, intermixed with pieces of water, water- works, fountains, canals, cascades, and several great groves of trees, where the eye is lost in the prospect, and where the sun never enters, and all differently arranged. King Gaiour, in a word, has shown that he has spared no expense.

'Upon the fame of this incomparable princess's beauty, the most powerful neighbouring kings sent ambassadors to request her in marriage. The King of China received them all in the same obliging manner; but as he resolved not to compel his daughter to marry without her consent, and as she did not like any of the suitors, the ambassadors were forced to return as they came: they were perfectly satisfied with the great honours and civilities they had received.'

'"Sir," said the princess to the king her father, "you have an inclination to see me married, and think to oblige me by it; but where shall I find such stately palaces and delicious gardens as I have with your majesty? Through your good pleasure I am under no constraint, and have the same honours shown to me as are paid to yourself. These are advantages I cannot expect to find anywhere else, to whatsoever husband I should give my hand; men love ever to be masters, and I do not care to be commanded."

'At last there came an embassy from the most rich and potent king of all. This prince the King of China recommended to his daughter as her husband, urging many powerful arguments to show how much it would be to her advantage to accept him, but she intreated her father to dispense with her accepting him for the same reasons as before, and at last lost all the respect due to the king her father: "Sir," said she, in anger, "talk to me no more of this or any other match, unless you would have me plunge this poniard in my bosom, to deliver myself from your importunities."

'The king, greatly enraged, said "Daughter, you are mad, and I must treat you as such." In a word, he had her shut up in a single apartment of one of his palaces, and allowed her only ten old women to wait upon her and keep her company, the chief of whom had been her nurse. And in order that the kings his neighbours, who had sent embassies to him on this account, might not think any more of her, he despatched envoys to them severally, to let them know how averse his daughter was to marriage; and as he did not doubt that she was really mad, he charged them to make known in every court that if there were any physician that would undertake to come and cure her, he should, if he succeeded, marry her for his pains.

'Fair Maimoune,' continued Danhasch, 'all that I have told you is true; and I have not failed to go every day regularly to contemplate this incomparable beauty, to whom I would be very sorry to do the least harm, notwithstanding my natural inclination to mischief. Come and see her, I conjure you; it would be well worth your while; I am ready to wait on you as a guide, and you have only to command me. I doubt not that you would think yourself obliged to me for the sight of a princess unequalled for beauty.'

Instead of answering Danhasch, Maimoune burst out into violent laughter, which lasted for some time; and Danhasch, not knowing what might be the occasion of it, was astonished beyond measure. When she had laughed till she could laugh no more, she cried, 'Good, good, very good! you would have me believe all you have told me: I thought you intended to tell me something surprising and extraordinary, and you have been talking all this while of a mad woman. What would you say, cursed genie, if you had seen the beautiful prince that I have just come from seeing? I am confident you would soon give up the contest, and not pretend to compare your choice with mine.'

'Agreeable Maimoune,' replied Danhasch, 'may I presume to ask you who is this prince you speak of?'

'Know,' answered Maimoune, 'the same thing has happened to him as to your princess. The king his father would have married him against his will; but, after much importunity, he frankly told him he would have nothing to do with a wife. For this reason he is at this moment imprisoned in an old tower which I make my residence, and whence I came but just now from admiring him.'

'I will not absolutely contradict you,' replied Danhasch; 'but, my pretty lady, you must give me leave to be of opinion, till I have seen your prince, that no mortal upon earth can come up to the beauty of my princess.'

'Hold thy tongue, cursed sprite,' replied Maimoune. 'I tell thee once more that that can never be.'

'I will not contend with you,' said Danhasch; 'but the way to be convinced whether what I say is true or false is to accept the proposal I made you to go and see my princess, and after that I will go with you to your prince.'

'There is no need I should take so much pains' replied Maimoune; 'there is another way to satisfy us both; and that is for you to bring your princess, and place her in my prince's room; by this means it will be easy for us to compare them together and determine the dispute.'

Danhasch consented to what Maimoune had proposed, and determined to set out immediately for China upon that errand. But Maimoune told him she must first show him the tower whither he was to bring the princess. They flew together to the tower, and when Maimoune had shown it to Danhasch, she cried, 'Go, fetch your princess, and do it quickly, for you shall find me here: but listen, you shall pay the wager if my prince is more beautiful than your princess, and I will pay it if your princess is more beautiful than my prince.'

Danhasch left Maimoune, and flew towards China, whence he soon returned with incredible speed, bringing the fair princess along with him, asleep. Maimoune received him, and introduced him into the tower of Prince Camaralzaman, where they placed the princess still asleep.

At once there arose a great contest between the genie and the fairy about their respective beauty. They were some time admiring and comparing them without speaking: at length Danhasch broke silence, and said to Maimoune, 'You see, as I have already told you, my princess is handsomer than your prince; now, I hope, you are convinced of it.'

'Convinced of it!' replied Maimoune; 'I am not convinced of it, and you must be blind if you cannot see that my prince is far handsomer. The princess is fair, I do not deny; but if you compare them together without prejudice, you will quickly see the difference.'

'Though I should compare them ever so often,' said Danhasch, 'I could never change my opinion. I saw at first sight what I see now, and time will not make me see differently: however, this shall not hinder my yielding to you, charming Maimoune, if you desire it.'

'Yield to me as a favour? I scorn it,' said Maimoune: 'I would not receive a favour at the hand of such a wicked genie; I refer the matter to an umpire, and if you will not consent I shall win by your refusal.'

Danhasch no sooner gave his consent than Maimoune stamped with her foot; the earth opened, and out came a hideous, humpbacked, squinting, and lame genie, with six horns on his head, and claws on his hands and feet. As soon as he had come forth, and the earth had closed up, he, perceiving Maimoune, cast himself at her feet, and then rising up on one knee asked her what she would please to do with him.

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