This section is from the book "Stories From The Thousand And One Nights", by Edward William Lane and Stanley Lanepoole. Also available from Amazon: Stories From Thousand And One Nights: The Arabian Nights' Entertainments.
THERE was a certain fisherman, advanced in age, who had a wife and three children; and though he was in indigent circumstances, it was his custom to cast his net, every day, no more than four times. One day he went forth at the hour of noon to the shore of the sea, and put down his basket, and cast his net, and waited until it was motionless in the water, when he ckew together its strings, and found it to be heavy: he pulled, but could not draw it up: so he took the end of the cord, and knocked a stake into the shore, and tied the cord to it. He then stripped himself, and dived round the net, and continued to pull until he drew it out: whereupon he rejoiced, and put on his clothes; but when he came to examine the net, he found in it the carcass of an ass. At the sight of this he mourned, and exclaimed, There is no strength nor power but in God, the High, the Great! This is a strange piece of fortune!- And he repeated the following verse:
O thou who occupiest thyself in the darkness of night, and in peril! Spare thy trouble; for the support of Providence is not obtained by toil!
He then disencumbered his net of the dead ass, and wrung it out; after which he spread it, and descended into the sea, and-exclaiming, In the name of God!-cast it again, and waited till it had sunk and was still, when he pulled it, and found it more heavy and more difficult to raise than on the former occasion. He therefore concluded that it was full of fish: so he tied it, and stripped, and plunged and dived, and pulled until he raised it, and drew it upon the shore; when he found in it only a large jar, full of sand and mud; on seeing which, he was troubled in his heart, and repeated the following words of the poet:
O angry fate, forbear! or, if thou wilt not forbear, relent! Neither favour from fortune do I gain, nor profit from the work of my hands.
I came forth to seek my sustenance, but have found it to be exhausted.
How many of the ignorant are in splendor! and how many of the wise, in obscurity!
So saying, he threw aside the jar, and wrung out and cleansed his net; and, begging the forgiveness of God for his impatience, returned to the sea the third time, and threw the net, and waited till it had sunk and was motionless: he then drew it out, and found in it a quantity of broken jars and pots.
Upon this, he raised his head towards heaven, and said, O God, Thou knowest that I cast not my net more than four times; and I have now cast it three times! Then-exclaiming, In the name of God!-he cast the net again into the sea, and waited till it was still; when he attempted to draw it up, but could not, for it clung to the bottom. And he exclaimed, There is no strength nor power but in God!-and he stripped himself again, and dived round the net, and pulled until he raised it upon the shore; when he opened it, and found in it a bottle of brass, filled with something, and having its mouth closed with a stopper of lead, bearing the impression of the seal of our lord Suleyman.1 At the sight of this, the fisherman was rejoiced, and said, This I will sell in the copper-market; for it is worth ten pieces of gold.
He then shook it, and found it to be heavy, and said, I
* No man ever obtained such absolute power over the Jinn as Suleyman others of this class, who remained obstinate in infidelity, he confined in prisons.
Ibn-Da'ud (Solomon, the Son of David;. This he did by virtue of a most wonderful talisman, which is said to have come down to him from heaven. It was a seal-ring, upon which was engraved ** the most great name of God; and partly composed of brass, and partly of iron. With the brass he stamped his written commands to the good Jinn; with the iron [which they greatly dread L those to the evil Jinn, or Devils. Over both orders he had unlimited power; as well as over the birds and the winds, and, as is generally said, the wild beasts. His Wear, Asaf the son of Barkhiya, is also said to have been acquainted with " the most great name." by uttering which the greatest miracles may be performed; even that of raising the dead. By virtue of this name, engraved on his ring, Suleyman compelled the Jinn to assist in building the Temple of Jerusalem, and in various other works. Many of the evil Jinn he converted to the true faith; and many must open it, and see what is in it, and store it in my bag; and then I will sell the bottle in the copper-market. So he took out a knife, and picked at the lead until he extracted it from the bottle. He then laid the bottle on the ground, and shook it, that its contents might pour out; but there came forth from it nothing but smoke, which ascended towards 1 the sky, and spread over the face of the earth; at which he wondered excessively. And after a little while, the smoke collected together, and was condensed, and then became agitated, and was converted into an 'Efrit, whose head was in the clouds, while his feet rested upon the ground: his head was like a dome: his hands were like winnowing forks; and his legs, like masts: his mouth resembled a cavern: his teeth were like stones; his nostrils, like trumpets; and his eyes, like lamps; and he had dishevelled and dust-coloured hair.
When the fisherman beheld this 'Efrit, the muscles of his sides quivered, his teeth were locked together, his spittle dried up, and he saw not his way. The 'Efrit, as soon as he perceived him, exclaimed, There is no deity but God; Suleyman is the Prophet of God. O Prophet of God, slay me not; for I will never again oppose thee in word, or rebel against thee in deed!-O Marid, said the fisherman, dost thou say, Suleyman is the Prophet of God ? Suleyman hath been dead a thousand and eight hundred years; and we are now in the end of time. What is thy history, and what is thy tale, and what was the cause of thy entering this bottle? When the Marid heard these words of the fisherman, he said, There is no deity but God! Receive news, O fisherman!-Of what, said the fisherman, dost thou give me news? He answered, Of thy being instantly put to a most cruel death. The fisherman exclaimed, Thou deservest, for this news, O master of the 'Efrits, the withdrawal of protection from thee, O thou remote!1 Wherefore wouldst thou kill me? and what requires thy killing me, when I have liberated thee from the bottle, and rescued thee from the bottom of the sea, and brought thee up upon the dry land?-The 'Efrit answered, Choose what kind of death thou wilt die, and in what manner thou shalt be killed.-What is my offence, said the fisherman, that this should be my recompense from thee? The 'Efrit replied, Hear my story, O fisherman.-Tell it then, said the fisherman, and be short in thy words; for my soul hath sunk down to my feet. Know then, said he, that I am one of the heretical Jinn:
9 [Implying a malediction, but excepting bystanders).