Once upon a time there was a time when there was no one but God.
There was a King who had a son, and the boy was sent to school. He was such a clever lad and did his work so well that the mulla grew very fond of him, and used to bless him and say: "Run off now; God grant that the Daughter of the Orange and the Golden Citron may fall to your lot!" Time passed, and one day the young Prince said to his teacher: "Mulla, what kind of a maiden is this Daughter of the Orange and the Citron that you always pray that God will grant her to me? Where is her home and her dwelling-place?" "Go and ask that of your mother," replied the mulla, "she knows her country and her dwelling." As soon as the boy got home he asked his mother, but she answered: "My dear child, whoever told you to ask that question is an enemy who seeks your life. God forbid that the name of that maiden should ever again cross your lips!" So, without ever having seen her, the Prince fell violently in love with the Daughter of the Orange and the Golden Citron.
He went back and told his teacher: "However much I implore my mother, she won't tell me anything; she only scolds me." "The reason your mother won't tell you," said the mulla, "is because you would have to be separated from her. If you want to compel her to help you, you must act thus: when you get home, say: 'Please, mother, come and fry me some eggs.' If she says: 'I'll tell such and such a maid-servant or such and such a slave-girl to come and fry them for you,' don't agree to that, but say: 'No, please, you must do them yourself.' Then when she has put the pan on the fire and made it nice and hot, catch her firmly by the wrists and say: 'Either you shall tell me where the Daughter of the Orange and the Golden Citron lives, or I'll cut off your hands and fry them on the pan instead of the eggs!' "
The boy did exactly as he was told, and in spite of his mother's prayers and tears and entreaties he would not let her go. In vain she cried: "My son, this will bring only evil on you! You will assuredly forfeit your life!" The more she urged, the more firmly he replied: "There is no help for it; you must tell me."
When she saw that he would not let go, she said: "All right, I'll tell you if you insist. If you want to find the Orange and Citron Princess, you must buy seven pairs of iron shoes and travel for seven years before you arrive where she is. After one year's travel you will reach a well. Go down it, and there you will find a huge Div. You will salam to her and kiss her hand. She will ask: 'Where have you come from?' You will answer: 'I am in love with the Daughter of the Orange and the Golden Citron.' Then you must do exactly as she tells you."
He went off and got seven pairs of iron shoes made for himself and set out. At the end of one year's travel he found himself at the mouth of the well his mother had spoken of. He went down and saw an enormous Div sitting there, and her horns were twisted once round her head. He made his salam and kissed her hand. She said: " Hail, human boy, Black-hair, White-tooth, what foolhardiness and daring brought you here? Do you want me to make one mouthful of you?"
Then he begged and implored, and broke out into praises of the Div, and said: "I am in love with the Daughter of the Orange and the Golden Citron." "All right," replied the Div, "as you are a good lad, I'll show you the way on one condition: after you have married the Orange Princess you must marry me too, and make her my slave-woman." And to this he said: "Very well, I agree."
She then continued: "I have seven sons who may come back at any moment. If they find you here they will tear you into little bits and eat you." With that she said a prayer and turned him into a needle, and pinned it in the corner flap of the kerchief on her head. She had only just finished doing this when her seven sons came flying in one by one. "Mother," they cried, "we smell a human being here. You must have caught one, and no doubt you're hiding him to eat him by yourself." "Nay, my sons," said she, "where could I hide a human being here? And how could one come here when it's a year's journey to the places where men dwell?"
They said no more, but cooked what they had brought in, dog's flesh and donkey's flesh, and ate it and lay down and slept. When they awoke in the morning they went off again. Then the Div said another prayer and restored the King's Son to his own shape, and wrote a letter which she gave him, saying: "You will take this with you, and you will journey for another year along a certain road till you come to another well. My elder sister is there, give her my letter, and do whatever she tells you. There are seven of us sisters and we live in seven wells, with a year's journey between each, and each of us has seven sons. You can tell our ages from our horns, each thousand years we live our horns wind themselves another time round our heads. My eldest sister is seven thousand years old and has seven circles of horns round her head."
He took the letter and travelled on till he came to the second well, and on and on, till after seven years he reached the seventh. In each case the Div sister saved him from being devoured by her sons by transforming him in the second well into a flower, in the third into a broom, in the fourth into a fan, in the fifth into a water-jug, in the sixth into a knife. And each of the six sisters gave him a letter to the next one, and made him promise, in return for her help, to take her to wife after he had married the Orange and Citron Princess, and give her his bride as a slave-woman.
When he went down into the seventh well he saw a Div sitting there, so big that in the whole world there is nothing huger, and her horns were wound seven times round her head. When he came opposite to her he salamed and bowed himself to the earth, and kissed her hands and feet and knees. "Ho, what a headstrong man you are!" said she. "Do you not know that this is the headquarters of the Divs? What foolhardiness and daring brought you here? It is seven years' journey hither from the places where men dwell." Then he told her all his adventures and gave her her sister's letter.