The Sultan’s joke

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In the category: poorly known stories, there are all those of the Arabian Nights that are not too adaptable to children.

The one about the Sultan’s joke is one of them.
It’s a horrible joke – there’s no morality at the end, but two questions to ask – this is more than enough.

Here’s the story:
It takes place in ancient times, when the Sultans frightened the whole Western world and a consequent part of their direct enemies.
That evening, the Sultan had wanted to meet his people – it was a habit with him.
So he had taken all the gear of a merchant from abroad and asked for hospitality.
A man welcomed him into his home.
They had a meal – apparently very good.
After the meals, they talk. The citizen explains his sultanate to the passing stranger.

He admits that the Sultan runs the country rather well – he can, he adds, with all the beautiful women he has married.
The fake merchant senses a little jealousy in his citizen.
He then offers him to taste a drink from his house, a drink that gives you all your dreams.
The citizen accepts – he drinks.

He wakes up the next morning in a huge bed, placed in the centre of a huge room, with even bigger decorations – he has no time to be surprised: a door even bigger than everything opens, a venerable old man enters, bends down to the floor and tells his Sultan that everything is ready.

And here is our citizen who feels himself going crazy – he pinches himself – forces the old man to pinch him – but no, he is awake. All the entourage of the Sultan follows one another, he is fed, washed, dressed, prepared, sent to the throne room, he spends his day judging conflicts and judging conflicts and judging conflicts again, while trying to get interested in the requests of all the ministers and learning that he has to decide whether to go to war or not and it is urgent and thank you
and at the end of the day, he can’t walk anymore because his head has exploded.
Back to the Sultan’s room.
He collapses on the bed.
And suddenly …. the songs, the laughter, the happy voices of young women.
He stands up.
He had almost forgotten the best of the Sultan’s life!
He calls – a eunuch enters.
It is time to see his wives.
The eunuch accepts.

The citizen-sultan enters the first court of women – they are all hidden under long veils, but he knows that they are all beautiful.
One of them offers him her drink.
He drinks.

He wakes up at home, in his bed, with no woman in sight, not even one, nothing at all.

Now he feels he is really going crazy.
He becomes mean, he runs to his mother, he hits her for making him a simple fool instead of a great sultan

The Sultan, who had “his” citizen followed from afar, tries to fix his joke – return of the process – drinking – falling asleep – waking up in the Sultan’s bed.

The Sultan, hidden in the recesses of his palace, did not lose a crumb of the pathetic spectacle given by “his” citizen transformed into Sultan.

I’ll spare you the details of the citizen’s madness and the Sultan’s increasing joy – but he had a fearsome imagination to offer his citizen the worst of his days.
It seems that he was laughing so hard that his buttocks fell to the ground.

But he had to finish his joke – he wasn’t there to drive him crazy.
However, touching his own women was out of the question.
So he went to offer the citizen a drink in the women’s area.

The other one understood everything then.
He drank, I think – and went back to his life as a citizen.

The story ends without a moral.

The two questions are the following – they are very simple but you have to answer them both :
What would you have done in the citizen’s place?
What would you have done in the place of the Sultan?

It’s silly, but answering these questions allows to avoid quick judgments on people, on the powerful, on the citizens…
And stories that avoid quick judgments about others are, in my opinion, good stories that can easily be brought out of their old closet.

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6 Thoughts

    1. Hello

      This is one of the stories from the complete version of the Thousand and One Nights / Arabian Nights – I guess there is a complete English translation. Thank you for your interest.


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