Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Your Weekly Fairy

Perie Banou

This beauty is perhaps not so well known in Western culture as some of our other fairies, but she is a famous fairy in her own right. She steps from the pages of the Arabian Nights with grace and magic and a certain amount of ethereal cunning.

To tell her story, however, we must first learn some of the history of the man who will be her husband: Prince Ahmed.

Ahmed is the youngest of three brothers (of course). To the inconvenience of everyone, all three fall in love with the same woman, their cousin, the stunningly beautiful Princess Nouronnihar. Each brother, individually, went to his father, the sultan, and requested leave to marry the princess, leaving the sultan with no small dilemma.

To solve this problem, the sultan sent his three sons on a mission: Each must journey to a different far country and bring back the most rare and singular object they may find. Whoever retrieves the most extraordinary rarity will have the hand of the princess!

So the three brothers set off, each with good wishes to the other, for they were a loving family. Prince Houssain, the eldest, traveled to a fabulous kingdom where he discovered a magic carpet, six feet square, that could fly! What more rare object could possibly be found than this? But Prince Ali, the second brother, journeyed to Persia, and there he discovered an amazing ivory "tube," or spy glass, that could allow the viewer to see whatever object he might wish to behold.

And Prince Ahmed, the youngest, took the road of Samarcand and discovered an artificial apple, a humble object, but with magical properties. Even the smell of this apple cures all sick persons of the most mortal diseases! There could not be a more magical rarity in all the kingdoms.

So the three brothers reconnoitered and showed each other their wonderful finds. And all congratulated all, and none could guess which would please the sultan most. Prince Ali, to demonstrate the power of his prize, allowed the brothers to look through his spy glass and see Princess Nouronnihar.

But they discovered her dying!

Losing no time, the three brothers boarded the magic carpet and flew to her side, hoping at least to say good bye to their love. But all was not lost . . . for Prince Ahmed had the magic apple!

The princess was restored! But who to marry her? For without any one of these marvelous objects, how could she have survived?

So the sultan set upon a new test. He had each brother shoot an arrow. Whoever shot their arrow the farthest would be the winner of the fair princess. Prince Houssain shot far, but Prince  Ali shot farther still. Prince Ahmed shot last of all, and his went so far that none could see where the arrow fell . . . but since they also could not prove beyond doubt that he had won the contest, the sultan declared the second brother, Ali, the winner.

Heartbroken, neither Houssain nor Ahmed could bear to remain in the land to watch their brother marry Nouronnihar. Ahmed decided to take up the search of his missing arrow. And what did he discover?

His arrow had been caught by the beautiful fairy, Perie Banou, and carried far beyond all of the others!

In his pursuit of that arrow, Ahmed came to the fairy's hidden palace, a magnificent place. And the fairy herself approached him.

"As soon as Ahmed perceived the lady, he hastened to pay his respects; and the lady, seeing him, said, 'Come near, Prince Ahmed; you are welcome.'"

She even knew his name! It turns out, she had been helping him all along, him and his brothers. It was she who provided them with all three of their marvelous gifts and saw to it that they arrived in time to save the princess. She tells Ahmed: "You seemed to me worthy of a happier fate than that of possessing the Princess Nouronnihar. . . Will you pledge your faith to me, as I do mine to you?"

So Prince Ahmed married the beautiful fairy, and they enjoyed a sumptuous marriage feast.

"While they ate there was music; and after dessert a large number of fairies and genies appeared and danced before them."

And Prince Ahmed fell more and more in love with his fairy bride.

But in the meanwhile, his father the sultan became worried for his son, and he summoned wizards and sorceresses to use their magical powers to find him. And Prince Ahmed himself began to miss his father and asked leave to visit him. Perie Banou agreed, so long as his absence would be short.

So the prince returned to his father and brother and told of the amazing things that had happened to him. Sadly, however, his father became jealous. He determined to make Ahmed prove his words and began demanding magical signs. First, he wanted water from the "Fountain of Lions." This, Perie Banou provided, through grave danger and cleverness. But it did not satisfy the sultan.

Next he demanded that his son bring to him: "A man not above a foot and half high, whose beard is thirty feet long, who carries upon his shoulders a bar of iron of five hundredweight, which he uses as a quarterstaff, and who can speak."

Perie Banou laughed when Ahmed told her of this request. "That man is my brother!" she told him. "But he is very dangerous!"

The sultan insisted, however, so Perie Banou summoned her brother, Schaibar, who looked exactly as the sultan had described.

This being a tale of the Arabian Nights and, therefore, not a little violent, things ended rather badly for the sultan during his encounter with this sharp-tempered little man! But we'll leave it there and end on a happy note, in which all three brothers are happily married to beautiful women, Prince Ahmed happiest of all with his fairy bride!

My first encounter with this story was from a collection of Greg Hildebrandt's favorite fairy tales, which he illustrated beautifully. Here is Perie Banou:

The story was called The Magic Carpet, the Tube, and the Apple, and I do highly recommend it!

Back in 1926, this story was made into a German animated film called The Adventures of Prince Achmed (link), done in an amazing silhouette animation style.

You can see a clip from it here, the scene where Prince Achmed first spies Perie Banou . . . though you can see already that the story is rather different!

I hope you have enjoyed learning about this little-known but amazing fairy, and that you will find an opportunity to read her story for yourself!


Clara said...

I love this story! I'm so glad you wrote about it. There were some parts of the story that I didn't know...but it's always been a tale I have loved to read about and hear!

Eszter said...

Her family must be interesting at family reunions. It makes me laugh just at the thought of it!

Celtic Traveler said...

I've laways loved this story. I've read many different versions of the Arabian Nights, but my favorite version undoubtedly goes to Andrew Lang. Do you have a particular version?

Molly said...

Thank you for telling me about this! I am currently reading The Arabian Nights, but so far as I have seen, it doesn't say anything about Peri Banu, so now I can go check this out at the library! :)

Galadriel said...


Anonymous said...

Me and my friend (Christie) were wondering if it would be ok to write our own stories separate, and then write one together. Would that be alright?

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

Absolutely! Co-written pieces are always fun. :)

Taisia said...

I've always liked the Arabian Nights! That's a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it!

Rachel6 said...

Peri Banou! It's been years since I read that! I'd forgotten a lot, but when you mentioned the little man with the iron bar, I started wondering if you would detail his meeting with the king. :)

I always liked that story, because the three brothers were so reasonable. But in retrospect, I do have to wonder: who did Nouronnihar want to marry?

Unknown said...

Thank You for sharing the story, but I have to say something. Most of the People around the World think that it is an Arabic story which is not. The original book name is "The Thousand Stories" which has written in 2500 years ago in Achaemenid dynasty in Persian language which is now "Iran".
In 10th century, the book came to Baghdad and they translated the book to Arabic language and they changed some names and stories and they destroyed the original one.
Pery in Persian means: fairy and Banu means: Lady
Even Arabian people don't have "P" letter in their language.
All the World are enjoying the stories and no one knows that it comes from Iranian mythology.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

Wow, I did not know that at all! Thank you for sharing, Parsi P. I am glad to learn more interesting history about one of my favorite tales! :)