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.
tell her story, however, we must first learn some of the history of the man who
will be her husband: Prince 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.
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!
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
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.
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.
they discovered her dying!
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!
princess was restored! But who to marry her? For without any one of these marvelous
objects, how could she have survived?
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.
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?
arrow had been caught by the beautiful fairy, Perie Banou, and carried far
beyond all of the others!
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.'"
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?"
Prince Ahmed married the beautiful fairy, and they enjoyed a sumptuous marriage
"While they ate
there was music; and after dessert a large number of fairies and genies
appeared and danced before them."
Prince Ahmed fell more and more in love with his fairy bride.
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.
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
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."
Banou laughed when Ahmed told her of this request. "That man is my
brother!" she told him. "But he is very dangerous!"
sultan insisted, however, so Perie Banou summoned her brother, Schaibar, who
looked exactly as the sultan had described.
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!
first encounter with this story was from a collection of Greg Hildebrandt's
favorite fairy tales, which he illustrated beautifully. Here is Perie Banou:
story was called The Magic Carpet, the
Tube, and the Apple, and I do highly recommend it!
in 1926, this story was made into a German animated film called The Adventures of Prince Achmed (link), done in an amazing silhouette animation
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!
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!