Stories from the Arabian Nights - Amy Steedman

The Fifth Voyage

"Listen, O my brothers," began Sindbad, when they were all seated round the table, "and I will now relate to you the adventures of my Fifth Voyage.

"I was not yet cured of my love of adventure, and I had not been long at home when I again became restless and filled with a desire to be upon the sea.

"This time I did not trust to a strange ship, but had one built for myself, that I could sail where I would, and trade wherever I cared to land. But as the ship was a large one, I invited several other merchants to try their fortune with mine, and so together we set sail.

"We had landed at several places and done good business, when one day we came to a desert island with a curious white dome upon it. This I knew at once to be a roc's egg, but as no one else had ever seen one, my companions begged to be allowed to land, so that they might go near and behold this wonder.

"Now the young roc inside the egg was so nearly hatched that its bill had already broken through the shell, and before I could prevent it, my companions had dragged it out and begun to cut it up in pieces. I warned them that trouble would be in store for us, but they were determined to have a feast. Even as I spoke the sun was darkened, and great black wings cast their shadow over us as the parent rocs came flying home.

"'Lose not a moment!' I cried. 'Let us all embark at once and try to escape from the fury of the rocs.'

"We returned to the ship with all speed and the captain set sail at once, hoping soon to be out of reach of the angry birds. But ere long the terrible black shadow again crept between us and the sun, and in the dim light we could see the parent rocs hovering over bead, holding in their talons great stones, or rather rocks, of tremendous size.

"When the rocs were exactly over the ship, one of them dropped his stone, which, however, missed the ship as it came whistling through the air, and clove the waters with such awful force that for a moment we saw a wall of water on each side of it and the sandy bottom of the sea.

"But almost before we could again look up the other bird dropped her stone with a surer aim, and our ship was dashed to pieces. Those of us who were not killed were hurled far and near into the sea and disappeared in the waters.

"By the goodness of Allah I, however, managed to cling to a floating plank, and so, paddling with my feet, I reached a distant island.

"'Surely,' said I, as I wandered about this island, 'surely this is the most beautiful spot in all the world.'

"Never had I seen such luscious fruit, such exquisite flowers and such clear running streams. My fears and weariness were forgotten, and I rested and refreshed myself in the cool shade of the green trees.

"Next morning as I strolled along, gathering fruit as I went, I came upon a poor old man sitting by the bank of a stream. He looked so very old, and feeble and weary, that my heart was filled with pity for him.

"'What dost thou here?' I asked. 'Art thou one of the shipwrecked sailors?'

"But the old man only shook his head mournfully, and asked me by signs to help him across the stream. This I willingly prepared to do, and I leaned down and helped him to mount upon my shoulders. He was much heavier than I expected, but I stepped across the stream and then stopped to allow the old man to get down. But instead of doing that, the old wretch wound his sinewy legs tighter and tighter round my neck until I could not breathe, and with a choking cry I fell forward and fainted for want of breath.

"When I came to myself the wicked old monster was still sitting tight upon my shoulders, and he began to prod me with his sharp knees in so painful a manner that I was forced to rise and go whichever way he chose to drive me.

Sindbad and the wrench


"There are no words to describe the misery I endured day after day. Not for one moment did the old man loosen his hold, even when we slept, and so sharp and painful were his methods of driving me, that I could do nothing but obey his wishes. He gathered fruit as he went and allowed me also to gather it, or I should have died of hunger.

"One day we came to a place where gourds were growing in great abundance, and there I found one that was sun-dried and empty. I took it and squeezed into it the juice of several bunches of grapes, and then left it in the sun to ferment. When we returned to the same place some days after, I found the gourd filled with the most delicious wine. I drank the wine eagerly, and felt at once so much stronger and happier that I began to dance and sing. This seemed to astonish the old monster who sat on my back, and he made signs that he, too, would like to taste the wine. I dared not refuse him, and so was obliged to hand him the gourd.

"It was a very large gourd and held a great deal of wine, and the old man never stopped until he had drunk every drop. By that time he had begun to shout and make strange noises, and gradually his legs unloosened. With one great effort I was able to hurl him from my shoulders to the ground, and there he lay, never to rise again.

"Great indeed was my delight to be rid of my burden, and I walked on rejoicing and free until I came to the seashore. There I met a company of sailors who had just landed to fill their casks with fresh water.

"'Who art thou?' they cried in surprise, when they saw me, 'and how camest thou upon this desert island?'

"Then I told all my adventures since I had been shipwrecked, and their surprise became greater.

"'Know, O fortunate man,' they cried, 'that thou hast escaped a terrible danger. The old man who sat upon your back was none other than the Old Man of the Sea, and never before has any one escaped who once fell into his clutches.'

"Then they took me with them to their ship, and we sailed away until we came to a great city whose houses were built of stone. Here one of the merchants, who had shown me great kindness, advised me to join a company of people who were going out to gather cocoanuts.

"'Take this bag,' said he, handing me a large sack, 'and do not wander away from your companions, but do exactly as they do.'

"Now, when we had gone a great distance we came to the forest of cocoanut trees. They were so tall and straight and smooth that I saw at once that it was impossible to climb them, and I waited, wondering to know how my companions meant to secure the cocoanuts.

"As we came nearer I noticed a great many monkeys playing among the trees, which, as soon as they saw us, began to climb swiftly to the topmost boughs. Then my companions took stones and began to throw them at the monkeys, which I thought most cruel.

"'They have done us no harm,' I said, 'why should we seek to harm them?'

"But in a few moments I saw the reason of what was done, for the monkeys began to pelt us in return with cocoanuts, and these we gathered up and put into our sacks. And the more stones we threw at them the more cocoanuts they flung at us.

"When we had filled our sacks we returned to the city and sold our cocoanuts to the merchants; and so I made enough money for all my wants, and before long I set sail once more for home. On the way we stopped at various islands, where I traded for pepper and aloe-wood and pearls, so that when I reached home I was able to sell my goods for more money than I knew what to do with."

Here Sindbad made a sign that the feasting should continue, and ordered that Hindbad should be given another hundred pieces of gold before leaving. All this was done as he commanded. And the next night when the guests and the porter were seated in their usual places, Sindbad told them the story of his Sixth Voyage.