Have you ever heard of Sinbad the Sailor? How about Aladdin? Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves?. They all come from an ancient collection of short stories called Arabian Nights , also known as The Thousand and One Nights.
The stories are told by Scheherazde, who tries to prevent her husband from killing her by entertaining him with a different tale every night.
On the festival of the Nooroze, which is the first day of the year and of spring, the Sultan of Shiraz was just concluding his public audience, when a Hindu appeared at the foot of the throne with an artificial horse, so spiritedly modeled that at first sight he was taken for a living animal.
The Hindu prostrated himself before the throne, and pointing to the horse, said to the Sultan, “This horse is a great wonder; if I wish to be transported to the most distant parts of the Earth, I have only to mount him. I offer to show your Majesty this wonder if you command me.”
The Sultan, who was very fond of everything that was curious, and who had never beheld or heard anything quite so strange as this, told the Hindu that he would like to see him perform what he had promised.
The Hindu at once put his foot into the stirrup, swung himself into the saddle, and asked the Sultan whither he wished him to go.
“Do you see yonder mountain?” said the Sultan, pointing to it. “Ride your horse there, and bring me a branch from the palm tree that grows at the foot of the hill.”
No sooner had the Sultan spoken than the Hindu turned a peg, which was in the hollow of the horse’s neck, just by the pommel of the saddle. Instantly the horse rose from the ground, and bore his rider into the air with the speed of lightning, to the amazement of the Sultan and all the spectators. Within less than a quarter of an hour they saw him returning with the palm branch in his hand. Alighting amidst the acclamations of the people, he dismounted and, approaching the throne, laid the palm branch at the Sultan’s feet.
The Sultan, still marveling at this unheard-of sight, was filled with a great desire to possess the horse, and said to the Hindu, “I will buy him of you, if he is for sale.”
“Sire,” replied the Hindu, “there is only one condition on which I will part with my horse, namely, the hand of the Princess, your daughter, as my wife.”
The courtiers surrounding the Sultan’s throne could not restrain their laughter at the Hindu’s extravagant proposal. But Prince Feroze Shah, the Sultan’s eldest son, was very indignant. “Sire,” said he, “I hope that you will at once refuse this impudent demand, and not allow this miserable juggler to flatter himself for a moment with the hope of marriage with one of the most powerful houses in the world. Think what you owe to yourself and to your noble blood!”
“My son,” replied the Sultan, “I will not grant him what he asks. But putting my daughter the Princess out of the question, I may make a different bargain with him. First, however, I wish you to examine the horse; try him yourself, and tell me what you think of him.
On hearing this, the Hindu eagerly ran forward to help the Prince mount, and show him how to guide and manage the horse. But without waiting for the Hindu’s assistance, the Prince mounted and turned the peg as he had seen the other do. Instantly the horse darted into the air, swift as an arrow shot from a bow; and in a few moments neither horse nor Prince could be seen…
…The Sultan was much alarmed at his son’s evident danger, and said to the Hindu, “Your head shall answer for my son’s life, unless he returns safe in three months’ time, or unless I hear that he is alive.