Ali The Clever One treats the Sultan - Soqotri folk tale from Muri


One day Ali the Clever One was wondering. And he was wondering if he is not as good as other people? Other people who came to the Sultan, gave him good presents. But he, Ali, surely he was also good so he decided to treat the Sultan.

The problem was that he had neither goats nor sheep, so he took some old donkey meat, roasted it and went to the Sultan. "My Lord, do you want some meat?" Ali said when he came to the Sultan. "Sure, I want some meat!" the Sultan said as he never refused presents. And the Sultan ate the donkey meat and was very satisfied.

But Ali the Clever One could not keep himself quiet for very long. He climbed up to the top of the roof and cried out: "My Lord ate donkey meat! My Lord ate donkey meat!"

The Sultan heard this and felt sick, but after he had recovered he ordered his servants to catch this Clever One and sentence him to a terrible death.

"Catch him, put him into a box and burn him in it in the morning in front of all people!" The servants carried out the order.

They caught Ali the Clever One, put him into the box and brought it to the Sultan's storeroom.  Now Ali the Clever One was sitting in the box and wondering how he could get out. While Ali was sitting and wondering he heard someone coming and saw through a chink in the box that it was the Sultan's daughter. Ali began to chew and to munch very loudly, so that the Sultan's daughter could not resist her desire...

"Hey Ali! What do you eat there?" she asked.

"Dates" Ali said. "They are very, very sweet! I'd like to give you some but you must open the box" The Sultan's daughter opened the box.

Ali the Clever One got out and put her into the box, shut her in and ran away. In the morning the Sultan's servants made a big bonfire in the palace yard, brought the box from the storeroom and burned it in front of all people.

For half a day Ali the Clever One tried to keep quiet but he couldn't. He climbed up to the top of the roof and cried out:

"My Lord burned his daughter! My Lord burned his daughter!"

The servants of the Sultan caught Ali the Clever One but the Sultan couldn't bring himself to see him.

"Drown him in the sea!" he cried out.

The servants took Ali the Clever One to the coast and put him into a sack. They put Ali into the sack, tied him there and laid a big stone over him from one side - so that he was under stone pressure from this side - in order to drown him the next morning in front of all people. After that they left him on the coast and went away.

Now Ali the Clever One was sitting in the sack and wondering how to get out. Suddenly, through a little hole in the sack he saw there came a hunchback with his goats up to the sack. Ali began to cry and groan and sigh.

"What's the matter with you?" the hunchback said.

"I am a hunchback" Ali said. "Yesterday I went to the best sorcerer of the island who takes a lot but heals well. He brought me to this place, put me into the sack, tied me and laid  the big stone over me from one side in order to heal away my hunch. I feel now that he has cured it. But why must I sit here in the sack and suffer until the morning?"

 "Ah!" the hunchback cried out. "I also have a hunch on my back so let us change. You must not suffer until the morning and I will take your place in the sack and you shall look after my goats"

Ali the Clever One put the hunchback into the sack, tied him in it, laid over him the big stone from one side and rushed away with his goats to the mountains.

In the morning all the people gathered at the sea coast to see how Ali the Clever One would be executed to death. The Sultan's servants put the sack into a boat, sailed far out to sea and threw it with the big stone into the very depths. So they had done as their Sultan wished.

Ali the Clever One hid himself in the mountains for half a day. Suddenly he saw the goats with him are not usual but of a special rare kind. The hunchback must have brought them from overseas. Not even the Sultan has such good goats on Soqotra!

After that he couldn't be quiet. He went down to the city along the main road with his goats. The people around were surprised as the Clever One had got out of the sea dry.

The Sultan heared a roar, went out of his palace and saw Ali the Clever One with such unusual goats and became sick.

"Hey Ali!" he cried out. "Where did you get such goats?"

"How can you say where?" Ali asked. "Surely from the sea. Didn't you order me to dive this morning into the very depths with a big stone? I did it and got out with the best goats from overseas!"

"I also want such goats from the overseas!" the Sultan said.

"But if it is another trick of yours? I cannot trust you."

"You can trust me or not, but you see me alive with the goats, don't you?" Ali said. "Where is the trick? I"ll not tell you all what happened, but you can see me with my goats and you know there are more such goats from overseas in the very depths. But you must dive for them by yourself. If you are not afraid."

"I am not!" the Sultan cried out. "Servants! Prepare a big boat!" The Sultan and his servants got into the big boat and sailed far out to sea to the very depths. When they arrived there the Sultan took a big stone and dived down. They saw him dive down - but they didn't see him come back.

(с)  Literary retoled by Vladimir Agafonov.

My special thanks to John Farrar who has helped me with editing my English retelling of this unique Soqotri tale to be in  perfect English indeed.




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    During World War II Socotra was used as a basis for the Dutch squadron.