Cor Hendriks – The Riddle What Women Desire: King Arthur and the Quest for the Red Pill

Carl Benjamin, the outspoken commentator of the YouTube channel Akkad Daily, made recently a video, called “King Arthur and the Quest for the Red Pill’, about an old tale from the King Arthur cycle, that has been researched by me some time ago. Look first at the video (18:16).

Akkad Daily – King Arthur and the Quest for the Red Pill

Published on 14 jan. 2020

I can’t believe the Disney adaptation would leave out these insights about women.

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Caitlín Matthews, in her study Arthur and the Sovereignty of  Britain, gives a summary of the ‘long neglected’ story of Gawain’s wedding with Ragnell, remarking that it is seldom noted that though Gawain weds Ragnell, it is Arthur who first encounters her. Arthur encounters a fearsome knight called Gromer Somer Joure, who puts a geason Arthur to find what it is that women most desire, within a twelvemonth. It is perhaps not insignificant that Arthur is hunting for a wild stag when he meets his adversary [CH: meaning that the stag who lures him away is this adversary]. Confiding his task to Gawain, the two of them try to amass suitable answers to this riddle (it is Gawain, his nephew and tanaiste, to whom Arthur turns and whom, eventually, he implicates in the events that will fall out, just like the kings of Celtic tradition). Arthur meets a hideous hag while on his quest. She knows his thoughts and offers him the answer in return for Gawain as her husband. Arthur promises to do his best and Gawain obliges him by agreeing to marry the woman. The answer is given by Ragnell and supplied by Arthur to Gromer as the riddle’s solution: ‘Our desire is to have sovereignty over the most manly of men.’ And so Arthur overcomes Gromer (who appears to be the Provoker of Strife archetype in this story). Amid great lamentation, Gawain is married to Ragnell, though the king’s life is no longer at risk. Alone in their chamber, Ragnell demands a kiss, at least. ‘I will do more than kiss you,’ Gawain says, ‘and before God.’ She turns into a beautiful woman, but there is a catch. Gawain may have her fair by day, for his honour at court, and foul by night; or foul by day, to his dishonour, and fair at night for his delight. He bids her choose and by so doing answers the riddle again, for she exclaims: ‘I would have been transformed until the best man in England married me and gave me sovereignty over his body and his goods’ [Matthews 1989, p. 273f, after L.B. Hall, Knightly Tales of Sir Gawaine, Chicago 1976].

The question ‘what women desire‘, is brought up in an article of Clouston about the ‘Frog Prince’. The question occurs in several works, one of them, Gower’s ‘Tale of Florent’ is summarized by him as follows: Florent, nephew of the Emperor, a worthy and brave knight, in quest of adventures, came to a castle, the heir of which, Branchus, he had slain. They would be avenged, but feared the anger of the emperor. The grandmother of Branchus, a sly woman, devised a plan for causing his death without blame to them. She sends for Florent, and says he will be quit if he can answer a question, but, failing, he shall be killed. He will be allowed to depart, and time for inquiry. The agreement is sealed. She asks: What do women most desire?’ Florent returns to his uncle’s court, and tells him of his pact. The wisest men are sent for, but can’t agree, each having a different opinion of women’s chief desire. So Florent must needs go forth to inquire, for he would rather die than break his word. Alone he goes, wondering what to do. Under a forest tree he sees a loathly woman, so foul as never was seen before. She calls him to her, and he comes up, marvelling. She says: ‘Florent, I only can save thee from death’ [so she knows who he is and what is on his mind] .Florent begs her counsel. ‘What will you give me if I save you?Anything.’ Good; but, first, you must promise to marry me.’That I can’t do.Away, then, to thy fate.’ He promises much goods and lands, but she refuses them. He ponders the matter, and resolves to wed her, thinking she could not live long, and he would hide out of men’s sight. So he says: ‘If only the answer to the question can save me, I will wed thee.’ Agreed; for there is no other way. Listen, return and make this answer without fear: “Woman would be sovereign of man’s love, and have her own will.” Then come back to me without fail. Florent rides back, sad at heart, to think of such an ugly bride, and comes to the castle, to live or die. The lord comes with his council, sends for the old dame (i.e. the grandmother of the slain Branchus), and the covenant is read in presence of all three. Florent tries other answers first [cf. AT 500: The Name of the Helper: Rumpelstiltskin, the heroine first gives two wrong answers, only then the right one], but in the end he says as the loathly lady had taught him. ‘Ha!’ cries the old dame, ‘thou hast told truly; would thou wert burnt!’ But Florent is safe; and now he grieves anew, for he must keep his word to the loathly lady. He finds the old witch in the same place. Never saw man such a monster. She seizes his bridle and demands his part of the bargain, and he would fain flee if he could. As a sick man takes bitter drugs with spice and sugar, Florent drinks his draught. But, as a true knight, he must keep his troth, for the honour of womanhood; and so he speaks to her as gently as he can, and sets her before him on his horse, sighing as he rides along. Like an owl, he hides during the day and journeys at night, till he comes to his own castle, and smuggles in the loathly lady. Then he consults his confidants how to wed her. The tire women take off her rags, bathe and clothe her, but she wouldn’t let them comb her hair. She looked more foul in her fine clothes. They were wedded that night. She begins to fondle him, calls him her husband, invites him to bed, and offers him a kiss. He was in torment, but he must bed with her. He lies awake, turning his face from the foul sight. She clips him, and prays him to turn towards her, but he still lies still. At last he takes her hand, and, looking on her, sees a damsel of eighteen, the fairest in the world. She bids him choose whether he would have her so by night or by day. He is at loss to decide, and leaves it with herself: ‘My love, I will be ruled by thee, for I cannot choose.’ Quoth she: ‘Since you give me sovereignty, I shall, night and day, be as you now see me. I am the King of Sicily’s daughter, and was changed into a foul shape by my stepmother, until a good knight should give me his love and the mastery.’ Now all was joy, and they lived long and happy [Clouston, ‘The Story of the “Frog Prince”’, in: Folk-Lore 1, p. 500f, from his side-notes to the reprint, the tale is from the first book of the Confessio Amantis, Harl. MS. 3869 leaf 34ff].

Another version is Chaucer’s ‘Wife of Bath’s Tale’ from The Canterbury Tales. It differs in several of the details from Gower’s Florent, and according to Clouston there is no reason to suppose that Chaucer has borrowed his tale from ‘moral Gower’. In Chaucer’s tale the hero is a bachelor of the royal household of King Arthur, who is condemned for committing rape. The queen intercedes for him, and the king leaves his life at her disposal. She tells the knight that he will be pardoned if he can answer the question: ‘What does woman most desire? He is given a year to find the answer. He has of course the same problems as Florent: some say this, others say that, and after a year he is none the wiser, but returns home as agreed. On his way passing by the borders of a wood, he suddenly sees 24 ladies in a dance, goes there, but lo and behold! Before he quite gets there, the dancers vanish, who knows where, and there is no one to be seen, except an ugly old woman sitting on the green. She asks him to tell her what he is looking for, and he does. Then he must promise to do the first thing she will require of him, and tells him the answer. He goes to court, and tells there that what woman foremost desire is to have dominion over their husbands. Everyone agrees, and then the loathly lady steps forward and demands her right: she wants the knight to marry her. The knight offers her all his goods if she will let his body go, but she won’t have it any other way, so finally
He was compelled to see he needs must wed,
And, taking his aged wife, goes off to bed.’
Then we have a comical scene of the reluctant husband, saying: ‘You are so hideous, so old and plain.’ She answers that he doesn’t have to be afraid of being made a cuckold. Then finally follows her question: to have her old and ugly till she dies, but faithful, or to have her beautiful and young, and take his chances with men flocking to the house. He gives the diplomatic answer: ‘Choose for yourself whichever is the most pleasant, most honourable to you.’ She is content with this answer and tells him to lift the curtain, and he sees that he is in bed with a lovely and young girl. [Chaucer 1986, 240250; Clouston, a.c., p. 501f.]

The story is set by Chaucer in the time of King Arthur, in the old days, when
all of this land was full of magic’,
with her joyous company the elf queen
Danced many a time on many a green mead.’
Chaucer adds that that was the old belief, he speaks of many hundred years ago, because now, in his days, elves can be seen by men no more. This must explain why the knight saw the 24 fairies dancing. The loathly lady is a benevolent fairy who had assumed a hideous form to test the knight’s fidelity, and save his life. The loathly lady of Gower is the daughter of the King of Sicily metamorphosed by a spiteful stepmother. In most of the versions the loathly lady is a king’s daughter. The solution of the question is peculiar to Chaucer, Gower, and the two ballads of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnall [Clouston, a.c., p. 502].

A parallel can be found in the Arthurian tradition, in one of the few Latin romances, called ‘Arthur and Gorlagon’. A summary of the story is made by Siân Echard. Arthur is holding a Pentecost feast in the City of Legions. Arthur kisses Guenevere in public; she, annoyed, tells him he knows nothing about the nature of women. Arthur vows to abjure food until he has found out; he rides off with Cei and Gawain to the court of Gorgol, a king renowned for his wisdom. Gorgol persuades Arthur to dismount and eat with the promise to answer his question on the next day, but instead sends Arthur on the next day to his brother Torleil, where the scene is repeated. Arthur rides on, to the court of Gorlagon; here he refuses to dismount and refuses to be put off, and Gorlagon tells him a story. There was once a good king who had in his garden a sapling with this quality, that whoever should cut it and strike the king with it would be able to turn him into a wolf. The king guarded the tree, and his secret, well, until his wife persuaded him to tell her about it. She, desiring to remove him and take a pagan lover, cut the sapling and struck the king with it, forgetting, however, that part of the spell which would bereave him of his human reason. The wolf fled to the forest, where for a time he expressed his rage through attacks on his wife’s family, killing her brothers and her children by her new husband. Forced to flee his own country, he came to the country of another king, and hearing of that king’s wisdom and kindness, threw himself at that king’s feet. This king, recognizing something almost human in the wolf, decided to keep the wolf as a pet. The good king had a wicked wife, who took the king’s absence on business as an opportunity to commit adultery with the royal steward. The wolf, enraged on his master’s behalf, mauled the steward. The queen told the king that the steward had been injured in an attempt to stop the wolf from killing her son; she had concealed the infant in the basement of the castle to lend credence to her story. The wolf, however, conducted his master to the place of the infant’s concealment, and the king realized that the steward and the wife must be lying. The steward confessed, and was flayed alive for his crime, while the queen was torn limb from limb by horses and burned. The king, suspecting that his wolf was in fact a man, decided to follow where the wolf would lead, and attempt to help him regain his human form. The wolf led the king back to his own country. The king fought successfully to win back the kingdom, and tortured the wicked queen until she returned the sapling to him; he then used the sapling to restore the wolf to his human form. The wolf king executed his wife’s lover but spared his wife, merely divorcing her. The good king returned to his own kingdom. Here Gorlagon’s story ends, but Arthur asks for a further clarification: there is a woman sitting with Gorlagon, holding a blood-stained head and kissing it. Gorlagon reveals that he was the wolf king of the story, and that this woman is his first wife, and the head belongs to her lover. Arthur finally dismounts and eats, and sets out the next day for his homeward journey [Echard, Siân, Arthurian Narrative in the Latin Tradition, Cambridge 1998, p. 205f: Gerritsen (1963, p. 222) gives the following summary: During Whitsuntide at Karlion (apud Urbem Legionem) Arthur suddenly embraces his wife, and cunctis intuentibus strictissime osculates est. Chocked the queen asks an explanation of his behaviour. Arthur points to his love, and is convinced the queen has the same feelings towards him as he has towards her. She claims that not only is he not able to phantom her thoughts, but that in general he is not able to understand vel engemium mentemve femine. Arthur swears not to rest before he has solved that riddle. He rides out, accompanied by Walwainus and Caius. Two kings whom he poses this question, the brothers Gorgol and Toreil (or Corbeil?) don’t have an answer magnum est quod queries, et perpauci sunt qui illud noverunt but the third brother, Gorlagon, promises him to inform during diner. Gorlagon tells him the story of a king who was turned into a wolf by his promiscuous wife. By a service to another king the wolf was able to regain his human appearance. The king, hears Arthur then, was Gorlagon himself, and the woman he has seen sitting at the table is Gorlagon’s first wife, whom he forces to kiss the head of her lover placed in front of her on the table each time he, Gorlagon, kisses his second wife. The next day Arthur goes back to his court].

Another version of the story about the quest to find out what women think can be found in a Dutch Arthur-romance, called Die wrake van Raguisel, which contains an episode (xxiv) entitled ‘Hoe Walewein wilde weten vrouwen gepens’ or ‘How Gawain wanted to know what women think’, and a summary is provided by the editor W.P. Gerritsen. Walewein is the Dutch name for Gawain and he asks the queen if she knows the thoughts of women. She answers that the thoughts of women are so complicated, that he who tries to unriddle them must be a fool. Walewein decides to use the 40 days before the fight with Druidein to find the answer. He leaves Ydeine behind at the court. In the woods he captures with the intent of giving it to the queen one of the two little dogs that he sees purchasing a stag. A knight appears, not bigger than a five year old child, and demands his dog back. Walewein gives it to him, whereupon the little knight says that he is a great king [meaning the king of Fairy, Oberon (from the novel of Huon of Bordeaux), see Gerritsen, 1963, p. 226 n. 131: The similarities between the little king from c. XXIV and the Oberon figure from the Huon de Bordeaux deserve a closer investigation], and to prove his power he blows him in the face, changing Walewein in a dwarf and himself in a giant. After this he gives the ashamed Walewein his original shape back. After the capture of the White Stag the little man invites Walewein to his castle. When asked Walewein tells about the purpose of his journey. The king finds it a nonsensical quest. Then, during the meal in the castle, a table is drawn from a hole in the wall, from which a part remains in another room. There the same dishes are served. The king explains that in this way he punishes his wife, of low birth, for her adultery with a valet. This, so he says, can give Walewein an insight in the thoughts of women. But Walewein wants to know more. The little king offers to show him the truth about Ydeine. When Walewein accepts his proposition, they go together in the shape of dwarfs to the court. They are not recognized. After diner Walewein wins from Yveine at the game (chess or something) and demands as price to spend the night with her. Yveine lets herself be seduced. The next morning at departure he asks from her the seal ring Walewein had once given her, and receives it. Walewein reports to the little king and returns on his advice in his own shape to the court. He asks from Ydeine the ring back that he says he needs for the duel with Druidein. She says that it has fallen in the moat when she wrung her hands, looking out for him, and that the jewel had been swallowed up by a fish. Walewein shows her the ring and says that he has killed in the woods two little knights, one of whom bragged to have received it after having spent a love night with Ydeine. He goes back to take leave of the little king (having learned his lesson), and forgives thereafter Ydeine her infidelity (that was not a real infidelity as it was he himself). [Gerritsen, W.P., Die wrake van Raguisel, (twee delen) Assen 1963, p. 403 415; vs. p. 1275 1894 (part of the Lancelot-compilation, vs. p. 12635 13054); summary p. 199f; not part of the Old French Vengeance].

According to Gerritsen both texts give the answer to a question about ‘the thoughts of women 1) in the form of a story about ‘the revenge of the deceived husband,2) In Arthur and Gorlagon is the deceit for which the wife of Gorlagon is punished a werewolf history (a fairytale of which numerous variants are known [AT 449: Sidi Numan]). This combination of 1) and 2) is quite rare; it is found elsewhere only in an Irish fairytale recorded in the 19th century, called The Sword of Light and the Truth about the One History about the Women (An cloidheambh soluis agus fios fáth an aon sgeil ar na mnáibh), and in the Persian story of Gul and Sanaubar (Rose and Cypress), where the question has a less general character. Félix Lecoy has devoted an extensive study to le conte du mari trompé, and concluded that the insertion of the ‘revenge of the deceived husband’ in a histoire-cadre (the question about the thoughts of women) must be original, and that this frame story, in its oldest form was a version of the story about the evil (promiscuous) queen who wants to get rid (temporarely or permanent) of her legal husband by sending him on a quest to solve a very difficult or unsolvable riddle [Gerritsen 1963, p. 222f; Cf. O’Foharta, ‘An cloidheambh soluis agus fios fáth an aon sgeil ar na mnáibh’, in: Zeitschrift fúr Celtische Philologie I, 1897, 477 492; Cf. Kemp Malone, ‘Rose and Cypress’, in: PMLA, volume 43, 1928, p. 397 446; F. Leroy, ‘Un épisode du Protheselaus et le conte du mari trompé’, in: Rom. 84, 1955, p. 477518]. A remarkable difference between c. XXIV and the other versions of the ‘revenge of the deceived husband’ is the relatively mild punishment that follows the deceit in the Middle Dutch tale. In the 16 versions investigated by Lecoy the promiscuous wife is most often forced to drink out of the skull of the lover, sometimes his bleeding head is placed during the meal in front of her and she has to kiss it (as in Arthur and Gorlagon), and in some versions she is locked up with the corpse. The little king though never wants to have his wife come into his bed, he has sentenced her to room arrest, but he declares with force to Walewein (v. 1656 1659):
Maer gi siet wel al oppenbaer
Dat si te mire taflen nu set
Ende alles dies drinct ende et,
Dies ic ete ende drinke nu
(But you see quite openly
That she is now sitting at my table
And everything that she drinks and eats,
That I eat and drink now [also]).’
The detail of the table that is shoved into the royal dining room through a slot in the wall, and on which the queen uses her meal, points to a more extensive treatment in the source of the compiler. [Gerritsen, 1963, 227].

The story is also known in India, called Qissa Gul-o-Sanaubar, ‘The Story of the Rose and the Pine’, published in Dehli, 1883, by Prem Chand, and is an Urdú prose translation of a Persian work with the same title. In the land of the East (mulk-í-Sharq) lived a mighty king, named Shamshád Lálposh, who had seven sons. One day out hunting in the mountains, the oldest son comes upon a coal-black deer, with a brocade cover and a gold chain trimmed with jewels and bells around its neck. He follows it and comes to a madman in the woods, who tells him that he is King Jahángir of Bábal, and has become mad as a result of the death of his seven sons, who tried to solve the riddle given to them by Mihar Angez, the daughter of Shah Qaimús of Turkestán, as a condition of obtaining her hand. This kindled by the prince the desire to answer the riddle, but he succeeded only in a meeting with his death, and so also his five brothers. The seventh and last, Almás Rúh Bakhsh, a clever youth, also went to try his luck. During his wanderings about the city he meets Dílárám, the servant girl of Mihar Angez, who, on condition that he raises her to the dignity of a wife, tells him what she knows concerning the riddle. Under the throne of the princess abides a Zangi (Sídí of Zanzibar), who has fled from his native city of Wáqáf and told the princess the riddle, whereon she had fixed it as the condition to marry her [because she doesn’t want to marry]. So the prince sets out for Wáqáf to solve the riddle (Gul bá sanaubar che kard? What did the rose to the pine tree?). On the way a magician, Princess Latifa Báno, changes him into a deer, but he is released by her sister, Jamíla Báno, who changes him back, gives him arrow and bow of the Prophet Sálih, a scimitar called ‘Aqrab Soleimani (Solomon’s Scorpion), and a dagger called Laimúsi, and tells him how to act at Wáqáf, and how to get there. He has to cross seven impassable rivers on the way with the help of Símurgh, whom he will meet on the road, and a condition of success is a marriage with his helper, Jamíla Báno. On his way he conquers and slays Turmtáq, a leader of Zangís, who opposes him at a fort named Khumásá, together with his chief Chulmáq; and next he reaches with the help of the Simurgh Wáqáf, where he befriends a nobleman, named Farrukh Fál, who tells him that the king’s name Sanaubar is and the queen’s Gul, and introduces him to the king. The king agrees to tell him his story on condition that he is to be killed when the story is finished. Then the king shows him his queen Gul, with chains on her legs and an iron collar around her neck; a dog is sitting on a golden chair next to her and nearby her lies the head of a Zangi on a plate. He then tells how he had found his queen Gul in the arms of the Zangi, and had grabbed them, whereupon the Zangi attacked him together with the queen, and would have overpowered him were it not for the help of his dog. The punishment of the queen is what he sees. One of the accomplishes had fled to Mihar Angez, and had told her the story, and hence the riddle. When it is time for his execution the prince is allowed to tell his story, and the king is so moved that he lets him depart safely. With the help of the Simurgh he comes back to Jamíla Báno and marries her; then he goes on to Turkestán and marries Dílárám, the slave girl; and finally he gives answer to the riddle and marries Mihar Angez and goes home with all his brides. [R. Morris, in: FLJ 4, p. 276f nº5.]

Another version of this story can be found in the Arabian Nights collection of Mardrus under the title ‘The gorgeous story of Prince Diamond’. Diamond, the son of king Shams-Shah, goes hunting with a large escort, and sees at the foot of a very high mountain a drinking deer, that lures him away from his company far into the desert to a beautiful garden, where a king sits upon a throne under a very old tree, who tells Diamond about his seven sons, who heard about princess Mohra (daughter of King Tammuz, son of Qamus, in the faraway country of Chinmachin), who as a condition of marrying her wants to know the answer to the question: How is the relation between Pine apple and Cypress? But who gives the wrong answer is beheaded and this has happened to his seven sons. The story has a gripping effect on Diamond, who leaves the oasis pale faced, returns to his company and with them to his father, who immediately wants to send an embassy to Chinmachin to obtain Mohra for his son. But the prince wants to conquer her himself, and sets out to the faraway land of Qamus, where in the capital he strikes without hesitation the great drum, that announces the candidates for princess Mohra. The king comes and proposes, struck by the beauty of Diamond, a waiting period of three days, during which he wanders through the city and arrives at the palace garden that he enters through the draining canal. But he is discovered by the playmates of Mohra (because of his reflection in the water) and pretends to be a madman, after which he is allowed to stay from the princess who fell in love with the first look of him, and is treated like a saint till one day Coral branch, the favourite of Mohra, confesses her love to him and manages to have him reveal his motives to her. After the promise of Diamond to marry her, she reveals that under the ivory bed of princess Mohra a Negro is hidden, who gave her the insolvable riddle; he is escaped from the city of Wakak, and there Diamond will have to go to find the solution of the riddle. Diamond leaves the garden [the same way as he came?], goes back to the inn, where his things are, and rides off, but where to? He sees a green-dressed mendicant with the face of Khizr the Guard [this is El-Khidr or El-Khadir, the famous vizier of Dhoulkarnain (Alexander the Great), who is fabled to have drunk from the Fountain of Life, making him live till the Day of Judgement; he always appears in green clothing to Muslims in need], who tries to talk him out of it, because Wakak lies in the middle of the Mount Kaf, where the spirits and magicians live. He has to take at the crossroad the right road and after 24 hours he will come to a tower with an inscription that will point him further. Diamond does this and has at the tower again the choice out of three roads, all to Wakak, the left one full of grievances, the right one full of regret, and the middle one terrible [= without return] so he takes the middle road and arrives after 24 hours at a garden, guarded by a sleeping Negro (giant), past whom Diamond, leaving his horse behind, sneaks inside (over the granite door that closes off the garden). In the very pleasantly smelling garden deer come to him, who seem to give him warning signs no to enter, but Diamond doesn’t understand this, crosses the garden and comes to a gorgeous palace, where a very beautiful maiden invites him in. She is Latifah, whose beauty stirs the world, and she tries to seduce Diamond to stay with her, but when Diamond wants to go on as soon as possible and insists on leaving, she grabs her snake-wand and turns Diamond into a deer, and in that shape he wanders a while between the other enchanted deer, looking for a way to escape. First he discovers a spot in a corner of the garden, where the wall is much lower and he jumps over it, but he is still at the same spot. seven times he jumps, without success, and he continues his search along the wall and discovers a hole, where he worms himself through and arrives at Gamila, the sister of Latifah, who gives him some ointment to eat, while removing the magic cord from his neck (a piece of cloth Latifah had put around his neck after the enchantment), restoring him to his own shape. He promises to marry her (in three days) after his assignment in the city Wakak, and she gives him a bow with arrows (of the prophet Saleh), a sword (called the Scorpion of Solomon, with which you can pierce a mountain), and a dagger (from the wise Tammuz, protecting against any attack), and advises him to ask her uncle Al-Simurgh for aid, because Wakak is seven oceans removed. He can find him via king Tak-Tak, who is less polite as Gamila painted him and whose Ethiopian giant Mak-Mak is felled by the Dagger of Tammuz (as a lightning-flash), after which Diamond vanquishes the whole army [with the Sword]. One of his arrows even has king Tak-Tak himself crash down, after which princess Aziza, whom was robbed of her throne by Tak-Tak and is now liberated (and immediately wants to become Muslim), brings him to Al-Simurgh, nicknamed the Flying One, which surprises Diamond when he sees the heavy-set giant. But he sucks himself full of air, swelling to enormous size, and flies with Diamond (water and meat) loaded on his shoulders over the seven oceans (with every time a landing to eat and to regain strength). After seven days they arrive at the white city of Wakak, where Al-Simurgh puts him down on the highest terrace and gives him some beard hairs (‘You are now like my son’) to call him in time of need or when he wants to go back. The terrace turns out to be from a beautiful youth, Farak, a favourite of the sultan, who makes friends with Diamond, who poses him the question and hears that there is a death penalty on speaking those names, because Cypress is the name of the king, and Pine-tree of his queen, but more he doesn’t know. He brings Diamond to King Cypress, who brought in a benevolent mood by the gift of a very valuable red pearl allows him a wish, whereupon Diamond poses the question. Cypress almost explodes of wrath, but Diamond offers up his head to know the truth, whereupon the court room is cleared of all persons and a beautiful greyhound is brought in, followed by an extremely beautiful maiden with her hands tied behind her back, and 12 Ethiopians, while slave girls bring a saucer with the decapitated head of a Negro. Then the cook puts down the most delicious dishes for the dog on a carpet, and what is left over by the dog is put in a bowl before the Beauty, who cries pearls and smiles roses, that are brought by the Ethiopians to the king. He wants to have Diamond killed, but first, pressed by Diamond, he gives an explanation. The Beauty is Pine-tree, his wife, the daughter of the king of the spirits of the first layer, who he had obtained with much difficulty and brought to his kingdom, where he pretty soon caught her committing adultery with seven Negroes, of whom he killed five and captures one (with the help of the greyhound), whom he decapitates in his palace and had the head salted. The seventh  escaped to Princess Mohra, and because Cypress can’t give an answer on the question why Mohra, he sends Diamond there to find out for himself. He takes leave from Farak, calls Al-Simurgh (by burning a hair) and the Flying One comes immediately and brings him back over seven oceans to Aziza and with her to Gamila, where Diamond also takes Latifah as wife, whereupon she restores all the deer to their original shape. Next Al-Simurgh takes Diamond and his three wives to the city of King Tammuz ben Qamus, where Diamond joins with Coral Branch, and then goes to the palace of Mohra with thousands of heads of princes on the pinnacles, and bangs on the great drum. For the second time he appears before King Tammuz, who recognizes and bewails him, and calls for Princess Mohra, who also recognizes Diamond as the fool that suddenly had disappeared from the garden, and angry hurls the question at him. Diamond answers that their relation is not good, because Pine tree, the wife of Cypress, the king of the city Wakak, has put on her a just punishment. When Mohra shows dissatisfaction with the answer, Diamond takes King Tammuz to Mohra’s apartment and pulls aside the ivory bed, revealing the hidden frizzy head, whom the king immediately has impaled, while he hands over Mohra to Diamond, who brings her in bonds to his tent, from where he lets himself and his wives put down by Al-Simurgh the Flying One before the gates of the town of his father, Shams-Shah, after which he says farewell to the Flying One. Diamond has his father decide over Mohra and as she is untouched by the Negro or by any other man, and Diamond has done so much to get her, he has to preserve this ‘pearl of great value’ with care, so that, with permission of his four wives, the youth, radiant as the sun, unites (in an auspicious moment) with that treacherous moon, looking like a snake, that guards the treasure [Mardrus, 2006, p. 8, p. 569 (1975, p. 15, p. 5 53). In the beginning of the story there is confusion over the name of the father of Mohra, called Qamus, son of Tammuz, but further on he is called Tammuz ben Qamus. The land is called ‘Sînn and Masînn’, which is in other stories (by Burton) called Chinmachin].

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