We get into stories-within-a-story-within-a-story land. Shahrazad (a much better spelling; it's like saying "Scheherazade" fast) is telling a story about a merchant who learns a lesson about using the proper receptacle for your date pits:
...an ‘Efrit [a kind of Jinni, I guess] , of enormous height, who, holding a drawn sword in his hand, approached him, and said, Rise, that I may kill thee, as thou hast killed my son. the merchant asked him, How have I killed thy son? He answered, When thou atest the date, and threwest aside the stone, it struck my son upon the chest, and, as fate had decreed against him, he instantly died."Well, it's fate's fault, then," the merchant could have said, if he'd a been a lawyer; but instead, he declaims some verses, which I won't go into, especially because the verse ends with, "the Jinni said to him, Spare thy words, for thy death is unavoidable." (In sitcoms we'd call the whole verse thing an "up and back.")
He is allowed to arrange his affairs and then comes back to the prearranged spot. He's early, though -- let this be a lesson to you, young people! -- and three merchants with various animals come, sympathize, and hang out. They then buy back his life by each telling the Jinni a story (Shahrazad-style; that the King doesn't notice the similarities shows that he was not trained in close reading, or close listening, as the case may be). Basically they're all of the form of, "See this animal I have? That was a loved one." There are twists. I won't go into them. My favorite thing, actually, is that, by the third one, we're all so wise to the form that what used to take pages now takes a paragraph:
THE MULE that thou seest was my wife: she became enamoured of a black slave; and when I discovered her with him, she took a mug of water, and, having uttered a spell over it, sprinkled me, and transformed me into a dog. In this state, I ran to the shop of a butcher, whose daughter saw me, and being skilled in enchantment, restored me to my original form, and instructed me to enchant my wife in the manner thou beholdest.Yeah, yeah. If she's so skilled in enchantment, what's she doing in a butcher's shop? Probably helping with the displays.
Kind of a nice diversion for a reading, anyway, and even more so because the Mrs. and I just came back from Sweeney Todd, a story where the transformations only go one way.