Translation Copyright: Ross Naheedy 2019
Story by Samad Behrangi
The Story of Ah
Once upon a time, there lived a merchant who had three daughters. One day he had to travel to another city to purchase goods to trade and asked his daughters if they wanted anything from the other city.
His first daughter said, “I’d like a blouse.”
His second daughter said, “I’d like a pair of socks.”
His youngest daughter, Robab, said, “I’d like a flower to put in my hair.”
The merchant traveled to the other city and conducted his business. He purchased the blouse and the socks, but forgot about the flower. He came home from the trip and sat down to relax, when he remembered that he had not gotten a flower for his youngest. “Ah,” he sighed, and suddenly there was a knock on the door. He rose and went to the door. Upon opening the door, he saw a figure with a box in his hand.
“Who are you?”
“I am Ah. I have brought you a flower for your youngest daughter’s hair.”
The merchant became very happy and took the flower. He ran to Robab and gave the flower to her, who promptly stuck it in her hair.
Three days later there was another knock on the house door. The merchant opened the door and found Ah standing beyond the gate.
“I have come to take away your youngest daughter, Robab.”
“It is so. When I gave you the flower, you didn’t ask the price of the flower. The price is your daughter.”
The merchant sank in thoughts, trying to figure a way out of the unfortunate contract. Not finding a loophole, he said, “Ah, please, for the love of your mother and father, do not take my daughter.”
“I am sorry, but I must take her.”
The merchant couldn’t think of a way out and reluctantly brought Robab up to Ah.
“Take care of my daughter,” he said to Ah.
Ah put blindfolds over Robab’ eyes and lifted her on his horse. They rode for a long time. When they stopped, Ah removed the blindfold and Robab saw a grand garden with lots of trees, flowers, and pools. Soothing voices were emanating from every flower.
“This is your home now,” said Ah.
For the next few days, Robab didn’t see anyone else but Ah and herself. She ate, she slept, and she roamed the garden, but it was always only the two of them.
After a few days, she started to miss her father and mother, and she sighed.
Ah appeared. “Why did you sigh?”
“I miss my father and mother.”
“I’ll take you for a visit tomorrow.”
The next day, Ah put blindfolds on Robab’ eyes and took her back to the merchant’s house. When he let her off the horse, he opened the blindfolds and said, “I’ll be back here tomorrow to pick you up.”
Robab went inside. Everyone was jubilant and sat down to catch up with Robab. Robab explained that she was alone in a walled garden, and that she had servants that did whatever she needed.
Robab’ aunt happened to be there as well. She pulled Robab aside and said, “things seem strange in your new home. There’s something fishy going on. You certainly have a husband and have to figure out what is going on. Tell me. Before you go to sleep at night, do they give you anything to eat or drink?”
“Yes. A cup of tea.”
“The next night you are there, do not drink the tea. Make a small cut in your finger and salt the wound so that you don’t fall asleep. Then let’s see what happens.”
The next day Ah showed up and took Robab back to the garden. That night, Ah brought Robab the tea before bed. Robab, heeding her aunt’s advice, emptied the tea into a vase. She then made a small cut on her finger and threw salt on it.
In the middle of the night, Robab heard some footsteps. Pretending to be asleep, she opened her eyelids a little. She saw Ah holding a lantern, leading the way for a very handsome, young man with a face that resembled the moon.
“Is the miss feeling okay?” asked the young man.
“Yes, sir,” responded Ah.
“Has she drank her tea?”
“Yes, sir,” Ah said and then he left.
The young man took off his clothes and tried to slip under the covers with Robab, but Robab got up.
“Who are you?” asked Robab.
“Do not be afraid. My name is Munir. I am your husband,” answered the young man.
“Then why haven’t you shown up your face up until now?”
“Humans are liars. I thought it better that you do not see me. Now that you’ve seen me, there’s no need for me to hide any longer.”
When Ah came in the morning to wake up Munir, he saw that the couple were both up.
“Tell the servants to ready the red garden. We’ll be having breakfast there,” said Munir.
Ah left. Robab and Munir dressed and walked over to the red garden. Robab couldn’t believe how beautiful the red garden was. It was unlike any garden she had ever seen. Flowers and buds were abundant all throughout the garden. She recognized the flowers since they were the same as the one Ah had brought for her. She reached to pick a flower, but she wasn’t tall enough. When Munir raised his arm to pick the flower for her, she noticed a feather stuck to Munir’s armpit. She grabbed the feather and pulled it out. Suddenly clouds covered the sky and Robab passed out. When she came about, she didn’t see anyone but Munir. He appeared dead. She sighed and Ah came.
“Bring me a black dress,” she told Ah.
Robab wore the black dress and sat upon Munir’s body, reading verses from the Quran and crying. Finally, she saw that there was no use in praying and sighed. Ah came.
“Take me to the bazaar and sell me as a slave.”
Ah took her to the bazaar and sold her.
Robab lived and worked in her new home for a couple of weeks, but during that time she noticed that everyone was sad and wore black. Finally, she asked one of the other slaves, “Why is everyone wearing black in this house?”
The slave responded, “The housemaster had only a young son. When he disappeared, the housemaster made us all wear black.”
Robab couldn’t fall asleep easily at nights. She always thought of her husband, looking to see how she could bring him back to the world of the living.
One night when she was contemplating her life and trying to fall asleep, she saw the young son’s caretaker walking in the garden with a lantern. Curiosity got the best of Robab and she got up to follow the caretaker.
After passing through several garden, the caretaker arrived at a pool. She removed the drain from the pool and waited until the pool drained. On the floor of the pool there were some stones. The caretaker removed the stones to expose a door. She opened the door and took a ladder down underground.
Robab followed the caretaker underground. Once underground, Robab saw a young man tied and strung from a wall by his arms, frail and weak.
The caretaker approached the man and asked, “Have you thought things through? Have you considered my proposition?”
“No,” the young man responded.
The caretaker asked again, and the young man responded negatively again. After the third time, the caretaker became mad and started to whip the young man to the point that the young man started to bleed from his face and body.
The caretaker force-fed some food to the young man and turned to head back. Robab ran away and up the ladder, running all the way back to her bed.
In the morning, the caretaker woke up and went to the baths. Robab told another slave, “Last night I had an odd dream, but I’m afraid our master will faint if I tell her my story.”
Robab’s word traveled through the household like gossip until the housemaster heard about the dream. She summoned Robab and said, “Tell me about your dream.”
“Follow me if you want me to tell you my dream,” Robab said.
The housemaster followed Robab as she went through several gardens. “There are just like the gardens I saw in my dream, and this is the same pool. Ask your servants to drain the pool to see if the rest of my dreams are true.”
The housemaster ordered the pool drained, and the servants lifted the stones from the bottom of the pool. Once the housemaster went down the ladder to underground, she saw her son and became jubilant.
“This is the same boy I dreamt about,” said Robab.
The housemaster had her son taken up and given a bath to clean him up. She then summoned a doctor to treat her son’s wounds.
The son told the mother what had happened and how his caretaker had imprisoned him for the past few months.
Suddenly there was a knock on the house door. The housemaster ordered the servants to open the door. The servants opened the door and the caretaker came in, swearing at the servant as to how long she had to wait at the door. She came to the inner court and saw the young boy sitting in a chair. Her face became pale. The housemaster ordered the servants to cut the caretaker into pieces and to throw her remains in front of the dogs.
The housemaster then summoned Robab. “I would like you to marry my son.”
“My husband has recently died and I cannot marry your son for a year.”
When Robab realized that the solution to reviving her husband wasn’t in this household, she sighed. Ah came.
“Take me to him.”
Ah took Robab to Munir. Robab prayed, reading the Quran and crying. Finally she signed. Ah appeared.
“Take me and sell me again.”
Ah took her to the bazaar and sold her again.
As luck would have it, this time again everyone in the household was wearing black.
“What has happened in this house?” asked Robab.
“Several years ago, the lady of the house gave birth to a dragon. They have thrown the dragon in the dungeon and it is getting larger by the day, but our lady doesn’t have the heart to have the dragon killed, or to come clear to the townsmen that she gave birth to a dragon.”
Days passed and one day when Robab was taking care of the housemaster and asked, “I wish you would throw me in the dungeon with your dragon.”
“Have you gone mad, girl?”
Robab insisted, over and over, until the housemaster agreed and ordered, “Put her in a leather bag and throw her in the dungeon.”
The servants followed the order and threw Robab in the dungeon.
The dragon inspected the leather bag for a while, and the said, “Girl, come out of your skin.”
“I will come out of my skin after you come out of your skin.”
The dragon tried to intimidate and reason with Robab that she should come out of the leather bag, but Robab kept insisting that the dragon come out of its skin first.
Finally the dragon gave up and came out of its skin and out came a handsome boy. Robab came out of the leather bag and the two sat down to talk for a while.
When the housemaster noticed that it had taken some time since the girl had gone down and the housemaster hadn’t heard the roar of the dragon, she sent her servants to check on the two in the dungeon.
The servants looked through the peephole into the dungeon and noticed that the dragon was gone. Instead, there was a handsome boy sitting and talking with Robab. They ran to their master to give her the good news. The master went down to the dungeon and saw the two talking.
“I think it would be a good idea if the two of you married each other,” said the master.
Robab responded, “I cannot. My husband has recently died and I cannot marry your son for a year.”
When Robab realized that the solution to her problems didn’t exist in this house, she sighed. Ah came.
“Is he still sleeping?”
“Yes. Same as your saw before.”
Robab went to Munir and sat by him again. Finally she sighed.
“Take me to the bazaar and sell me again.”
Ah did so. This time a man bought her and took her home. When Robab arrived at the house, the servants told her that it was tradition that the new servant sleep on the ground at the foot of the owners.
In the middle of the night, Robab woke up to a small noise and noticed the man’s wife had taken up a sword in her hand. Robab saw that the wife chopped her husband’s head off, dried off the blood, and put it on a shelf. She then proceeded to put lots of makeup on and put a fancy dress on. A servant had readied two horses for her. The two got on the horses and rode on. Robab followed them on another horse. She saw that they approached a building and knocked on its door. Forty one thieves were sitting in the hall inside the building. The thief master yelled, “Why are you late?”
“What could I do? My bastard husband wouldn’t fall asleep. Kill him once and for all and make me happy.”
After that, they sang and danced until the wee hours of the morning. When Robab noticed that the party was about to be over, she ran back to the house and laid in bed, pretending to be asleep.
The wife came to the bedroom, grabbed an ointment bottle from her dresser and used a feather to smear the oil all over the head and neck of her husband. She then took the head and attached it back to her husband’s body. The man sneezed and woke up. He touched his wife and asked, “Where have you been? Your body is cold.”
“I have been sick in the bathroom. You don’t even know what I go through every night.”
The next night, Robab insisted on sleeping in the masters’ bedroom again. As with the night before, she noticed that the wife chopped the husband’s head off and put it on a shelf and left.
After the wife left, Robab got up and used the ointment from the dresser to reattach the husband’s head to his body. The husband sneezed and woke up, but didn’t see his wife.
“I know where your wife is,” said Robab. “Let’s go.”
The man followed Robab to the same building as the night before. When he saw that his wife was dancing in the middle of forty one thieves, he was about to storm in, but realized that he’d easily be overpowered. He went to the stables and stirred up the horses. He killed the thieves one-by-one as they came out to check on the horses. He had killed them all, except his wife and the thief leader. He went inside the building and killed them both as well.
He then took Robab’ hand and returned to his house. Once back at the house, he asked Robab, “Please, come and be my wife. Everything that I have can be yours.”
Robab responded, “No, I cannot. But please give me the ointment bottle.”
The man gave Robab the ointment. Robab sighed. Ah came.
“Is he still sleeping?”
“Same as before, like a rock.”
“Take me to him.”
Ah took her to Munir. Once by Munir, Robab took out the ointment bottle and rubbed some on his armpit and some on the feather. She then reattached the feather to his armpit. Munir sneezed and came about.
The flowers started to bloom again and birds started to sing again.
Munir hugged Robab and kissed her.