Translated by Laleh Khalili
August 10, 1999
An unworthy gift for Soheila for all the love she has for children.
Once upon time, there was a King and he had a daughter of about six
or seven years old. This daughter had many chambermaids and servants. She
also had a lackey who was a little older than her and was named Quch-Ali.
If her handkerchief dropped during dinner, Quch-Ali would give it to her.
If her ball fell a little further away during play, Quch-Ali would fetch
it for her. And sometimes, the King's daughter would get sick of her millions
of toys and she wanted to play with her alak-dolak. Her alak-dolak was
made out of gold and silver.
The first time that she craved playing alak-dolak, the King gathered
all the gold- and silversmiths in the city and ordered for her alak-dolak
to be ready in an hour. The alak-dolak ended up costing one hundred thousand
tomans. A goldsmith was killed over it too, because he had said that he
was busy doing something important and couldn't attend. The goldsmith was
making earrings for his newborn daughter.
Whenever the girl wanted to play alak-dolak, Quch-Ali would stand near
her and wait. The King's daughter would pick the shorter silver stick and
would hit it with the longer gold stick and throw it in the air. It was
Quch-Ali's job to run after the stick, pick it up, and throw it to the
girl. The girl would then hit it in the air and throw it further away.
Quch-Ali would go and pick it up again and throw it to the girl.
When the girl got tired of playing, Quch-Ali would go and inform the
chambermaids and the servants. They would come and carry her on a dais
to the palace. Quch-Ali would also go and tell the special treasurer for
toys to come and collect the alak-dolak and put it in its place next to
the millions of other toys. Then Quch-Ali would go to the special treasurer
for clothes and pick a special outfit for dining so that the girl could
change out of her special outfit for alak-dolak and put it up.
Then Quch-Ali would go to the special kitchen for the princess and tell
them to take the special after-alak-dolak food to the girl. The King's
daughter would have a special meal after any game she played.
Quch-Ali was always doing these types of odd jobs. When the girl slept,
he would sleep behind her door so that the servants and chambermaids and
domestics would know that Madam was sleeping and wouldn't ask or say anything.
Whatever commands the King's daughter had, Quch-Ali would willingly
obey and would do such a good job that the girl had never raised a hand
on him. Quch-Ali was in love with the King's daughter. Loved her pure and
simple. In his opinion there was nothing wrong with that. For this reason,
one day he told his heart's secret to the girl.
That day, the girl was catching butterflies in the orchard. Quch-Ali
was standing under a tree watching her, and occasionally, when a butterfly
would fly away and sit on a tree, it was Quch-Ali's job to climb the tree
and pick the butterfly. Once, the girl saw a huge butterfly. She called
Quch-Ali and said, "Quch-Ali, you come get this one. I'm afraid."
Quch-Ali ran quickly, captured the butterfly and threw it in the gauze
basket. When he lifted his head, he saw that the girl was standing right
in front of him. Pure and simple, he said, "Princess, I am in love
with you. When we both grow up, please, let's marry."
He hadn't finished his sentence when the girl slapped him on the cheek
with all her strength and yelled, "You good-for-nothing lackey! How
dare you fall in love with me? Have you forgotten that I am a princess
and you're my lackey? You don't even deserve to be my dog's doorman. You
ass. Get lost! Don't let me see you ever again! Go tell my chambermaids
to come get me and throw you out. I don't want to ever see your filthy
Quch-Ali left to get the chambermaids. When they returned with the dais,
they saw that the King's daughter was lying on the ground unconscious.
They all surrounded Quch-Ali wanting to know what he had done to her. Quch-Ali
said, "I haven't done anything. She got angry, slapped me, and passed
out. I swear!"
But who would believe him? They brought the girl rose water and sherbet,
put her on the dais and took her to the palace. The King's daughter demanded,
"Tell my father to arrest this ungrateful lackey, and throw him out
like a dog. I don't ever want to see his filthy face again."
When the King heard this, he ordered for Quch-Ali to be thrown out like
a dog that very minute. After that, the King's daughter became ill for
a few days. Everyday, several hakims would stand watch over her. Then after
a few days, she herself said that she was feeling better and dismissed
Years went by and the King's daughter became even more self-absorbed.
It got so bad that when she was around seventeen or eighteen, no one was
allowed to look at her and make her beautiful pure body dirty with their
gaze. If any of the chambermaids and servants would accidentally glance
at her, they would be whipped really hard, and if they uttered a word to
her, they would be thrown in front of hungry wolves, which the girl kept
in the orchard for her own amusement. The King loved his daughter because
of these kinds of behaviors and would always say to her, "Daughter,
you are so good at imitating me; I like it very much!"
The King's daughter had become such a conceited girl that she would
wander around the orchard and wouldn't say a word to a soul. She said that
no one deserved to speak with her. They had built two large pools in the
middle of the orchard for her, and one was always full of fresh milk, and
the other full of rosewater and the essence of jasmine and tearose. Everyday,
two young chambermaids were supposed to come to the pools at a certain
time and stand by the side of the pool so that the girl would climb out
of the pool of milk and climb into the pool of rose-water and then come
out and wrap herself in a towel. The chambermaids were not allowed to touch
her body. If even the tip of their fingers touched her hair or skin, that
very day they would be handed to the executioner so that their finger or
hand would be cut off.
The King's daughter had driven everyone so far from herself that she
was completely alone and had no idea how to spend her time. She was tired
of catching butterflies and picking flowers and bathing in milk and rosewater,
and of playing with her toys and of eating and drinking and watching the
wolves. She would always dream of Quch-Ali. He would come to play with
the girl. She would at first be overjoyed. Then she would remember that
she was the King's daughter and that she was different than everyone else
and she would push Quch-Ali away. But Quch-Ali wouldn't leave her alone.
He wanted to hold her hand. The girl would struggle to pull her hand away.
But at the end, she would let up and Quch-Ali would hold her hand and they
would start playing and running around and catching butterflies. In the
middle of playing, Quch-Ali would say, "Princess, I am in love with
you. When we grow up, please be my wife."
Here also, the King's daughter would remember that she was the King's
daughter and would slap Quch-Ali and yell and scream. Then she would hand
Quch-Ali to the executioners and she would bolt awake from the sound of
her own yelling and screaming.
She would always dream the same dream. She couldn't dream another playmate.
She even dreamt Quch-Ali being the same age as he had been all those years
The Kings' daughter had a lot of suitors too. Several princes from faraway
lands had come to court her, but she had refused them sight unseen saying
that she didn't love anybody but herself.
One day, the King's daughter was bathing in one of the pools when a
dove came and sat on the pomegranate tree by the side of the pool and said,
"Beautiful girl, what a lovely body you have! I have fallen in love
with you. Please come out of the pool of milk so I can look at you better."
The King's daughter said, "You filthy bird! I order you to get
away from here. I am a princess. No one is allowed to look at me and no
one deserves to speak with me."
The dove laughed and said, "Beautiful girl, I know you haven't
had anyone to talk to in a long time!"
The King's daughter forgot that she was the King's daughter, she softened
and said, "Honey-tongued dove, please don't look at me. It's not nice."
The dove said, "Beautiful girl, I can't help it. I love you."
The girl said, "Honey-tongued dove, I can't accept a dove's love.
If you're really in love with me, come out of your disguise so that I can
see you too."
The dove said, "Beautiful girl, I am not so sure you would accept
my love. Give me a guarantee so that I can be sure and then I will come
out of my disguise."
The girl said, "Honey-tongued dove, whatever you want, I will give."
The dove said, "Beautiful girl, I want your sleep."
The girl said, "Honey-tongued dove, what do you need my sleep for?"
The dove said, "Beautiful girl, you will see in a little while
what I need your sleep for."
The girl said, "Honey-tongued dove, my sleep is all yours."
At this moment, they heard the footsteps of the chambermaids who towel-in-hand
and head-bent-down were coming towards the pool. The dove said, "Beautiful
girl, your sleep is mine. I am leaving. I will come back again. I will
name you Qeez Khanum. It's not nice for a beautiful girl like you not to
have a name."
The King's daughter suddenly remembered that she was the King's daughter
and screamed, "You filthy bird! How dare you speak to me? Give me
back my sleep, or else I will pull your guts out of your throat. How dare
you name me with that filthy mouth of yours?"
But the dove had long left the pomegranate tree, and the King's daughter
was getting angry and calling for executioners. But nothing could be done.
Weeks passed and the King's daughter hadn't been able to sleep for even
a minute. Slumber wouldn't even get near her eyes. At first, insomnia had
made her insane. Like a rabid dog, she would pace her room, claw at the
walls and curse everyone; she wouldn't let anyone near her, not even her
father or the hakims. All night and all day she was lonelier than lonely.
Finally, she became ill from exhaustion and collapsed. Not even then did
she sleep. She couldn't say a word or move a muscle. She would let the
hakims come to her sickbed one by one. None of the hakims could cure her.
The King had ordered that no one be allowed to touch her body. That's why
the hakims couldn't find what ailed the girl. One day a strange old hakim
came and said, "I can remedy her ailment and cure her without touching
her. If not, cut off my head."
The King commanded that he be taken to the girl. The old hakim sat by
the girl's bedside for a long time gazing at her and then said, "The
remedy to her ailment is the Tale of Love. Someone has to tell her the
Tale of Love, so that she can be cured from insomnia."
The King commanded that the town-criers call on people in all four corners
of the city for anyone who can tell the Tale of Love to come and tell it
to the King's daughter and in return the King would make give him any worldly
good he desired.
Many came with the greed for riches in their heart, announcing that
they knew the Tale of Love. But when they were stood behind the curtain
of the girl's room, they would be forced to weave a web of lies, which
of course would not affect the King's daughter and subsequently, the King
would hand them to the executioners. No one dared to step forward anymore.
A few days passed. The strange old hakim appeared once again, and said
to the King, "What kind of a city is this that no one knows the Tale
of Love? On such-and-such mountain, a young shepherd lives who knows the
Tale of Love. Go and bring him back to the city. But Majesty, beware that
if you don't go after him personally, he will never come down from the
mountaintop." Then the hakim left. The King and some of his men got
on their horses and hit the trail. They rode and rode until they reached
the foot of the mountain. He called up to the young Shepherd. The Shepherd
yelled down from the mountaintop, "Who are you? What do you want from
The King said, "I am the King. Haven't you heard that my daughter
is ill? I want you to come and..."
The King forgot what the hakim had told him. The Shepherd reminded him,
"You want the Tale of Love?"
The King said, "Yes, whatever you said just now. An old and strange
hakim said that you know it."
The Shepherd said, "Yes, I know it."
The King said, "If you cure my daughter, whatever gold and silver..."
The Shepherd who was climbing down said, "King, if you speak of
worldly goods, I will not come. The Tale of Love is only told for love."
The King said nothing else. He wanted to hand this impertinent Shepherd
to the executioners but said nothing. The Shepherd climbed the King's horse
behind him and they headed back. When they arrived at the palace, they
seated the Shepherd behind a curtain and said to him, "Unfamiliar
eyes should not fall on the King's daughter." The young Shepherd said,
"The Tale of Love is not something everyone can hear. If anyone but
the girl and me are here, the tale will not work. Everyone should leave."
The Shah had no choice. He ordered that they empty out the palace. Only
the Shepherd and the girl remained. Then, the Shepherd pushed the curtain
aside and entered the room. The girl was lying down quietly and was paying
no attention to anything. The Shepherd sat next to the door and said loudly,
"Beautiful girl, Qeez Khanum, I am going to tell you the Tale of Love.
Do you want to hear it?"
As if she had heard a familiar voice, the girl turned her head and stared
at the young shepherd and said, "Yes, I am listening, tell it."
The Shepherd began telling the Tale of Love ...
Once upon a time, there was a King and he had a daughter of about six
or seven years old. This daughter had a lot of chambermaids and servants.
She also had a lackey who was a little older than her and was called Quch-Ali.
When during dinner her handkerchief would drop, Quch-Ali would give it
to her. When during play, her ball would fall a little further away, Quch-Ali
fetched it for her. And sometimes, the King's daughter would get sick of
her millions of toys and she wanted to play with alak-dolak. Her alak-dolak
was made out of gold and silver. When the girl slept, he would sleep behind
her door so that the servants and chambermaids and other domestics would
know that Madam was sleeping and wouldn't ask or say anything. Whatever
commands the King's daughter had, Quch-Ali would willingly obey and would
do such a good job that the girl had never raised a hand on him. Quch-Ali
was in love with the King's daughter. Loved her pure and simple. In his
opinion there was nothing wrong with that. How could there be a problem?
how could there be anything wrong with love? When they were in the orchard
together and the King's daughter would catch butterflies or play alak-dolak,
Quch-Ali would see himself so light and happy that you wouldn't believe.
He couldn't tire of watching her. He wished she would let him take her
hand so that they could walk together and catch butterflies. But the King's
daughter didn't like anyone else, and she called the servants and chambermaids
dogs and wouldn't let anybody near her. Quch-Ali was happy and light until
he saw that he had to tell the girl the secret of his heart. So, one day,
while catching butterflies, he said to the girl, "Princess, I am in
love with you. When we grow up, please marry me."
The King's daughter disliked this so much that she slapped Quch-Ali
and drove him away like a dog. She threw him out and never wondered about
what came of him."
The Shepherd became quiet. The girl said, "Shepherd, tell me what
The Shepherd said, "Beautiful girl, what do you think happened
The girl said, "I never thought of what happened to Quch-Ali. Do
you know what came of him? Come Closer. Come closer and tell me."
The Shepherd got up and went near the girl's bed and held her hand in
his and continued the Tale of Love ...
Quch-Ali's father was a shepherd. Quch-Ali went to the pastures on foot
and found his father on the mountaintop. His father was very sick and was
sleeping in the sheep's cave. Quch-Ali's sister who was about his age had
taken the sheep to graze. The father became joyous at seeing his son and
said, "Quch-Ali, what good timing you have. I am dying. Don't leave
your sister alone. Loneliness is a fatal sorrow."
The father died. The son buried him right there on the mountaintop.
In the evening, when the sister returned, instead of her father, she found
her brother in the cave. They wept together for their father and planted
flowers and trees on his grave.
Days and weeks and months and years passed. Quch-Ali and his sister
grew to be seventeen or eighteen. The two of them together would wander
the meadows and mountains and find the best pastures. They spent the nights
in the cave with their dogs. Only infrequently would they come to the city
in the winters, when the sheep were in the winter cave and the shepherds
Quch-Ali's sister was tender like spring air, luminous like summer sun,
fragrant and fetching like autumn fruit and was pure and appealing like
the moon on winter nights, and like meadow tulips, she was wild and rosy-cheeked.
For this reason, Quch-Ali called her Laleh, which meant tulip.
One day, when they were taking the herd back, Quch-Ali noticed that
a goat was missing. He took one of the dogs and went in search of the goat.
He climbed a few mountains. Finally they came to a brook where the goat
had sat down and was weeping by the water and shaking like a willow. As
soon as the dog saw the goat, he barked, "Ruf, ruf, we are coming!"
The goat was overjoyed and said, "I was afraid you wouldn't come
find me and I would fall prey to the wolves. I thank you."
The air was getting dark. Quch-Ali looked and saw seven white horses
were racing up from the other side of the mountain. He left the goat in
the dog's care and sent them back on their way. He sat behind a boulder
waiting. The horses got to the brook. Each had a waterskin on his back.
They filled the skins and as they were about to return, one of the horses
said, "I can't live all alone in that castle anymore. I am going to
kill myself right here and now or I will go back to our own city. But you
should return to our cousins."
The other horses consoled him and finally they all returned together.
Quch-Ali got up and followed the horses. They galloped and galloped passing
a few mountains. Until they arrived at a desolate forest where there were
no birds, no reptiles nor insects, no animals at all. Seven beautiful castles
could be seen. Each of the horses went into their own castle. Quch-Ali
saw six white doves flying down from the sky and each went into one of
the castles. Quch-Ali kept waiting.
He heard the sound of weeping. One by one he peered into the castles.
He saw that in each castle, there was a girl as pretty as moonlight and
a boy as radiant as the sun sitting and talking and laughing. But in the
seventh castle, a boy, radiant as the sun was sitting alone with a chalk,
drawing the picture of a tulip and weeping from the bottom of his heart.
His tears could melt a rock's cold heart. Quch-Ali entered and said, "Young
man, don't weep. You break my heart with all your tears."
The young man lifted his head and asked, "Who are you? Where did
you come from?"
Quch-Ali said, "I am the mountain-shepherd. The sound of your weeping
brought me here."
The young man said, "This morning I saw you on the mountaintop.
Such a good thing that you came. Come sit with me. I am dying for a companion."
Quch-Ali sat down and asked, "Why were you crying like that?"
The young man said, "It's a long story. If you feel like hearing
it, I will tell it."
Then he began telling his story ...
We are seven brothers. It has only been two days since we have arrived
in these forests. In our own city, we were blacksmiths. We had an old father
who was the best sword-smith in the city. During the day, we pounded iron
and at night, we secretly crafted swords. The King had forbidden the manufacture
of arms. But because people needed swords, we were forced to work at night.
In the shop we had an anvil twenty times the size of an ordinary anvil.
All eight of us would gather around it and pound away. One day, our father
said to us, "My Sons, I am dying. But you will live many long years
and you each need a companion and a wife. It is time that you married.
You need a wife that would roll up her sleeves and hammer iron and make
swords like you. Your cousins would make worthy wives. But to prove your
worth, your late uncle and I have arranged a test for you. We have put
the instructions on how to find your cousins in the heart of this anvil.
You must make a sword so sharp that could split the anvil in half so that
you can find the directions to find your cousins."
Our father died a few days later. We seven brothers got to work. We
spent most of our time working underground with steel and iron and mallets
and the like. But whatever sword we crafted would not even make a dent
on the anvil. Instead it would break into halves itself. Finally, on a
dark and cold winter night, a sword was born to our hands that cleaved
the stone anvil in half. There in the heart of the anvil was a small box.
In the box there was a piece of paper on which it was written, "Sword-crafting
cousins, may your sword-making hands not be tired. Come after us soon.
We miss you. We have planted trees in the wasteland. Ask for directions
from spring's first red tulip. Your cousins." The note made us so
restless you wouldn't believe. We wanted to go and find our cousins that
very night. But we neither knew the way nor could we just abandon our work
and leave. The warriors of the city had ordered a thousand steel swords
that day, which were due to be completed by the end of the winter. It just
so happened that the winter that year was long and the spring arrived late
and we became more impatient every day. The snow season had just ended
when on top of a hill we saw a large red tulip with a big dark beauty-spot
on her chest. I asked the tulip, "Beautiful Laleh, where are our cousins.
Give us guidance."
The tulip straightened up and said to me, "Kiss me, cousin, kiss
me and I will tell you."
I bent over and kissed the tulip. She then said, "The winter was
arduous this year and the spring arrived late. Your cousins are worried
and unquiet. They are so impatient that if you don't find them they may
kill themselves. I will teach you how to turn yourselves into doves and
sometimes horses so that you can find them more quickly."
Then the tulip showed us how to transform ourselves into doves and sometimes
horses and gave us directions on how to find our cousins. Finally, she
said to me, "Cousin, I really wish that you could pick me and take
me with you. But what can I do with the long winter having dried all the
tulip bulbs and if I am not here, no one can dress these hills in red anymore.
I want you not to pick me so that I can spread everywhere and make things
We left her. Gave the swords to the warriors, changed ourelves into
doves and got on the way. When we would tire of flying we would change
into horses. We passed the sea and the mountains. Finally, yesterday afternoon
we arrived to this quiet and desolate forest. We saw the castles where
they had laid out the beds. We sat and waited. That night, six white doves
flew in from the six corners of the forest. When they saw us, they rejoiced.
They came down and came out of their dove disguise and became six girls
as beautiful as the moonlight. They said, "Welcome, cousins!"
Then, they looked at me and said, "Youngest cousin, we are happy
to see you too. Our little sister Laleh said for you to be patient. This
year, the winter was long and hard and it dried all the tulips. If Laleh
hadn't done this, we would have never found you all. Since there were no
tulip bulbs left to give you directions to find us, if Laleh hadn't spilled
her own blood upon the earth, the world would forever forget tulips and
people would never see tulips again."
Hearing what they had to say nearly drove me mad. I screamed, "You
mean to tell me that the red tulip upon the hill was my Laleh?"
The sisters said, "Yes. That red tulip upon the hill was our little
sister who didn't want the people to believe that the meadows and pastures
were left without tulips. She wanted to dress the hills in red, cover them
in glory. Her love was the greatest of all. She sacrificed herself for
us and for the earth."
For a few minutes, I thought of going back and picking Laleh. But her
sacrifice was so huge that I remained silent. The cousins took me to Laleh's
castle, which was quiet and desolate. That night, we all spent the night
at Laleh's castle. There, my cousins told me that Laleh loved me immensely.
That she worked so hard, bringing water for the forest trees from the stream
on the mountaintop. My cousins told me that for a while now they have been
trying to convince the animals at the King's hunting grounds to migrate
to this forest. On the wedding day, all the animals would come. But my
brothers and cousins are postponing the wedding day because of me and will
not let me return to our city either. Tonight I was so upset that I started
weeping. I wanted to feel a little lighter. Thank you for listening to
When the Young Man finished his story, Quch-Ali said, "You have
every right to weep. I was once in love with the King's daughter. But she
threw me out of her castle and I never pursued her anymore."
The Young Man asked, "Why? Did you stop loving her?"
Quch-Ali said, "No. If I were to see her again, I would fall in
love all over. She is so beautiful that there are none like her. But her
manners are unkind and selfish. I wouldn't exchange one hair of your Laleh
for a thousand of the likes of the Kings' daughter."
The Young Man said, "Quch-Ali, do you live alone?"
Quch-Ali said, "No, I live with my sister, Laleh."
The Young Man said, "Laleh? Is she the same girl that was shepherding
the sheep along with you?"
Quch-Ali said, "Yes, the same wild girl with rosy cheeks. She is
The Young Man stood and said, "Quch-Ali, I want to say something
to you, but I am afraid it may offend you."
Quch-Ali said, "I know you want my sister. Come. Let's go. If she
liked you and agreed, bring her back here with you. I can shepherd the
Then the Young Man showed Quch-Ali how to change into the skin of a
dove or a horse.
In the cave, Laleh was brushing the billy-goats' beards one by one.
When she was alone and couldn't sleep, this is what she did. The goats
were sitting in a row and were listening to Laleh's stories. The sheep
were also listening, but some were sleeping and others were masticating
quietly. The dogs were also napping at the entrance to the cave. The midnight
moon was bending over the cave from above, lighting its interior, and watching
the inhabitants. After a while, the moon told Laleh, "Get up, dear,
and light the fire. I can't stay much longer, I have to leave."
Laleh got up and lit a fire at the entrance to the cave. The moon slowly
slid from above the cave and left. Laleh had just finished telling her
story when two doves flew into the cave. One was whiter than white and
the other one was white with a large spot on his chest. Laleh said, "You
poor things.. Have you lost your way? Come be with me."
The white dove looked at the spotted dove as if encouraging him, "Go
on! Go to her. Don't be afraid." The spotted dove came and sat on
Laleh's hand. Laleh looked at him and kissed him. The other dove also came
and sat in Laleh's lap. Then Laleh gently laid them down and said, "Wait
and I will bring you some seeds."
Then she went to the back of the cave. She moved a boulder that covered
an entryway to a smaller cave. When she went into that other cave, the
doves came out of their dove-skins. The dogs upon seeing Quch-Ali came
and sat in front of him. Laleh came back with fistfuls of seed when she
saw her brother with a winsome and tall Young Man sitting in the cave,
and no sign of the doves! She said, "Quch-Ali, where were you? You
are so late!"
Quch-Ali said, "Come meet my new friend and then I will tell you.
This friend has come to see you."
Laleh was quiet at first and then asked, "Did you see where my
Quch-Ali said, "When we arrived, they flew away. I will go find
them. You two sit and talk together."
Quch-Ali then left and sat on a boulder overlooking the meadows. After
a bit, Laleh and the Young Man came out of the cave hand-in-hand. He said
to them, "Congratulations!"
The Young Man said, "Friend, if you have no objections, I would
like to take Laleh to the forest right now so that my brothers and cousins
don't get worried."
Quch-Ali smiled at Laleh and said, "Laleh, don't you want me to
find your doves before you leave?"
Laleh said smiling, "Quch-Ali, stop it! You guys got me! Tonight
you are in great form mocking me!"
The three laughed along. The Young Man said to Quch-Ali, "Tomorrow
afternoon, we await you. Come to the forest for our wedding."
Then he became a white horse, and Laleh climbed on his back and they
went. Quch-Ali sat alert and awake on that same boulder until the first
song of the roosters.
Then he got up and went to sleep next to the herd.
The next night, the forest was clamorous and noisy. Innumerable birds
and mammals and reptiles had arrived from the four corners of the sky and
the earth and began making nests in the trees and below the trees and within
the soil and the earth.
The seven blacksmith brothers with their beautiful young wives were
all sitting around a large table feasting on the wedding meal. Quch-Ali
was there too. At midnight, the newlyweds were to leave the forest to the
animals and return to the city. They wanted to take Quch-Ali with them,
but couldn't convince him as he said, "I have to look after my sheep
At midnight, the newlyweds held each other's hands, climbed into dove-skins
and flew away. Quch-Ali sat in the forest for a little while, but could
not diminish the sorrow of his loneliness. Finally, he sat under a tree
and wept for a while. When he felt a bit lighter, he went back to the cave,
and to his herd.
The Young Shepherd quieted down. He gazed into the girl's eyes, as if
he wanted to see the effect of his story in there. The girl asked with
a quivering voice, "Tell me more. Tell me what came of Quch-Ali."
The young Shepherd said...
The day after the wedding feast, Quch-Ali remembered the King's daughter
once again and saw that he still loved her. He told himself, "I am
not worthy of being a shepherd of the mountains if I can't bring her to
her senses and change her. I know what to do to change her bad manners.
I have to get her away from that lifestyle of hers."
Then he climbed into the skin of a dove and went to the orchard of the
King's daughter. He waited until the girl climbed into the pool of milk.
Quch-Ali came and sat on a pomegranate tree next to the pool and said,
"Beautiful girl, what a gorgeous body you have! I am in love with
you. Climb out of the pool so that I can look at you." The girl first
made noise like a rabid dog. She cursed. She commanded. Then, she forgot
that she was the King's daughter and became kind and good and said, "Please
don't look at me. It's not nice."
Quch-Ali said, "I can't help it. I love you."
The King's daughter said, "Honey-tongued dove, I can't accept the
love of a dove. If you really truly love me, come out of your dove skin
so that I can see you."
Quch-Ali didn't shed his disguise. Instead he convinced the King's daughter
to surrender her sleep. He took her sleep and flew away. From that day
on, the girl could not sleep a wink. Sleeplessness made her ill and bed-ridden.
All the hakims in the city could not cure her ailment, since the King had
commanded that no hakim could touch her body with his filthy hands. One
day, Quch-Ali disguised himself as an old and strange hakim, came to the
King and said that he could cure the girl without touching her. He gazed
at the girl for a while, pretending that he was studying her condition,
and said that she would only be cured if she heard the Tale of Love. But
no one in the city knew the Tale of Love. Quch-Ali became the strange old
hakim again and told the King that there was a shepherd on such-and-such
mountaintop who knew the Tale of Love well and if the King were to go after
him personally, he could bring him to the girl's bedside.
The Young Shepherd became silent again and gazed into the girl's eyes.
He smiled and said, "Yes, beautiful girl, Qeez Khanum, it was such
that your father who once threw me out of his house like a dog, came after
me personally and brought me to you. What do you say?"
Qeez Khanum couldn't keep from crying. She said, "Quch-Ali, I have
forever forgotten than I am the King's daughter. I want you. Now I know
how much I needed your love. Take me with you. I want to live like others."
Quch-Ali said, "That will not be easy for you. You have been raised
with abundance and prosperity. But if you will it, of course you will become
accustomed to your new life."
Qeez Khanum said, "If I am with you and others, it will be simple
and easy. Quch-Ali, take me with you. Don't leave your Qeez Khanum alone."
Quch-Ali wiped away her tears and brought out an apple from his pocket
and said, "You are tired now. Here, take this apple and then I will
come after you. You will love me forever. I know."
The beautiful girl ate the apple, lay on her back, her eyes slowly closed
and she fell into a deep sweet slumber.
Quch-Ali got up, kissed her cheek and left. He told the King, "I
have returned your daughter's sleep to her. For three days, no one is allowed
to get near the castle and spoil her sleep. On the fourth day, go and awaken
On the second day, before sunrise, Quch-Ali became a dove and flew to
Qeez Khanum, climbed out of his skin and held a rose under her nose. The
girl opened her eyes and laughed soundlessly and softly. Quch-Ali asked,
"Did you sleep well?"
Qeez Khanum said, "I slept sweetly, like honey and sugar. Will
you now take me with you?"
Quch-Ali said, "Yes. Go bathe in the orchard and we shall leave."
The sun had just come up when two white doves flew off the pomegranate
tree next to the pool and rose towards the sun.