It is related that there was once a chief hunter whose name was Adagar. One day he said: "I want to go hunting," and he cooked bread and food to take with him. When he was ready he shouted to his brothers: "Come, let's go hunting!" So they got up and went off together, Gopila Kapau, Mashidi Kulapau, and Qa Amruz with Adagar,1 in order to carry for him any game he might shoot.
They proceeded to a certain mountain and wandered about on it till evening. Darkness overtook them, and they went into a cave in the rocks to spend the night there. When day came they went out again on the mountain, and each of them took up his position so as to command a separate track, and sat down to watch for any ibex,2 male or female, that might come along.
All of a sudden the Chief Hunter, Adagar, looked and saw a black snake and a white snake fighting together. The Black Snake prevailed and gave chase to the White one. Adagar's heart was grieved for it, and he placed an arrow on the string of his bow and shot at the Black Snake. As ill-luck would have it, the arrow hit the tail of the White Snake and knocked it off.
1 These do not appear to be real names. "Kulapa" means "sheep's trotters" and "Qa Amruz" means "Headman To-day."
2 The ibex is a kind of mountain wild-goat. The males have long curved horns, something like the shape of the letter C, with a few knobs dotted along the front of them. The females have only little horns.
The Hunter was so deeply grieved at this that he got up sorrowfully and went to the top of the cliff and shouted to his brothers: "Come on and let us go home." They came up and said: "Brother, we've had no sport yet, why should we go away?' "I'm never going to come shooting again," said he, and he went off to his home.
His wife came out to meet him and said: "What's the matter with you, my dear, that you're so out of spirits?" "Wife," said he, "don't tear open the wound in my heart again." Seeing how troubled he was, the wife got up and went to the water-side. She filled a skin with water, put it on her shoulder, and came back. Then she made dough and baked bread and brought it to her husband, but he said nothing, nor did he eat the bread.
Now listen to a couple of words about the White Snake. She was the daughter of the King of the Perls, and she went and said to her father: "O King, a human being has shot off my tail." "Very good," said the King, "do you know what you must do?" - "No, I don't." "Well," said he, "go to where the man is sitting, then if he is cheerful and in good spirits, creep into his giwa, and as soon as ever he puts his foot in it bite his ankle. If, however, he is sad and distressed, you should do nothing to him, but come back here quickly."
"Good," said she, and she went and crept into the man's shoe. There she saw that he was so distressed and out of spirits that he wasn't even eating his dinner, but was sitting with one hand on the other and his head on his knees. She came back and presented herself before the King. "How was he?" asked the King. - "O King, he was sitting in great distress." "Ah, now I know," said the King.
Morning came, and the Hunter set out to go somewhere or other. Now the Peri King sent a messenger in the likeness of a man to watch for him on the road and say: "I have a piece of business with you." This the messenger did, and they went together to the presence of the King. "Why did you shoot off the White Snake's tail?" asked the King. Thereupon the Hunter began to weep, and said: "O King, I shot at the Black Snake, but by chance the arrow hit the White one, and so grieved am I for the White Snake that now my heart is become like roasted meat." 1
The King began to laugh, and said: "O man-born, tell me, now, whatever it may be that you would like to have as a gift." "I want no gift," replied Adagar, "except that I may understand the speech of every created thing when it raises its voice." Now, since these people were not really snakes, but perls who had turned into the form of snakes, whatever they willed came to pass with them.
The King then said: "Now if you saw the Black Snake, would you recognise it?' "Yes," said the Hunter. So the King gave orders and all the snakes came up. Adagar recognised the White Snake, but the Black Snake hid itself under the others. "The Black Snake has hidden 'itself under the others," said the Hunter. The King then gave orders, and they brought it out and gave it over to the other snakes, who ripped open its body.
And to the Hunter he granted the power to understand the language of all created things. "Now go," said he, "but tell your secret to no one, otherwise you will die." The Hunter then took his leave and departed.
1 Persians always speak as if their hearts got hot when they are sorry for any one or are in love, so they say, "My heart burned" or "My heart became cabobs." Kabab (cabob) is roasted meat.
When he came to a certain place darkness overtook him, and he stopped for the night in a camp there. That night the flocks broke down the wall of their pen, made their way out, and went off to graze. There was a dog with them. The sheep fed until they were satisfied and then lay down on the hillside to sleep, while the dog returned to the camp. As he came in Adagar heard him say to another dog: "I took the flock out and grazed them until they had had their fill, then I came back to see whether the master was asleep or not, for a black ewe has borne a pair of ewe lambs." "You silly fool," replied his friend, "why are you contented to suffer discomfort and take all this trouble merely for a little bit of bread?" "You shameless beast!" said the first dog, "mustn't even this little piece of bread we get be earned?" They began to fight over this and flew at each other.
Roused by the noise of the dogs, the master of the house got up from his sleep and found that the flock was missing. He went out to the hills and searched about as far as he could in the darkness of the night, but he could not find them, and so came back again and sat down. "Uncle," said the Hunter, "no harm has happened to them; your flock is in such and such a place. A black ewe among them has borne a pair of ewe lambs. The black dog went with them too, and grazed them till they had eaten as much as they wanted."
The master was greatly relieved, and when morning came he went out and brought them in. Then he said to Adagar: "I'll give you whatever you want." "I want nothing," said he, "except one of the new-born lambs."
His host gave him one, and he branded its ear and handed it over to the people there to keep for him, and he returned to his home.
Seven or eight years later Adagar went back to claim his ewe lamb with her offspring, and came to the camp. The sheep-owner said: "All right, take your ewe." "Very good," said the Hunter, "but how shall I know her offspring? Give the shepherd some salt in his hand, and let him go on one side and I will lead my ewe on the other side. Then all the sheep that follow me will be mine and all that follow the shepherd will be yours." 1 The owner agreed, and he gave the salt to the shepherd and the ewe to the Hunter, and half the flock followed Adagar.
Then he carried off his sheep, and went his way and arrived home. One of his ewes had lambed, and he was holding its head while his wife was milking it. Just then a lamb came up and said: "Give me a little milk, Mamma." "You are perfectly shameless," replied the ewe. "Can't you see that my master is holding my head and my master's wife is milking me? Leave me alone till I'm free. When I am at liberty I'll give you all you want." Adagar laughed. His wife adjured him, saying: "You must tell me what you are laughing at." "What affair is it of yours?" said he. "No, no," said the woman, "you absolutely must tell me.".
"If I tell you," said he, "I shall die." However, he went on: "Do you know what you must do?" - "No." - "Well, first have four sheep killed, and cook freshly a lot of rice, and collect a great deal of ghee and cook my funeral alms. After that, assemble all my relations and all your relations, and then I will tell you what I was laughing at."
1 The idea seems to be that the sheep would naturally follow the shepherd, especially when he had salt for them, which they like. Only those that were really the children of the ewe would follow her. The stranger Adagar, however, was able to draw away half the sheep, probably because he knew their language. Half the flock must have been more than he was entitled to.
The wife agreed, and collected all their relations and set the ash to cook on the fire.
Now Adagar the Hunter had a dog and a cock and a cat. The Dog put its head down on its paws and sat in dejection, 'but the Cock pecked at the dough and had a go on his own account at the ash, but he was really only pretending not to care. The Dog looked up and said: "You are perfectly shameless; this is the funeral alms l of your master that is standing on the fireplace." "You're a great fool," said the Cock. "Our master is a miserable, henpecked creature, you stupid!" - "How?" - "I'll tell you." - "Good, say on, and let me see what you've got to say." "Well," said the Cock, "our mistress is a mischievous woman and has no sense. She asks her husband his secret, and he loves her very much and will tell her. But when he tells her he will die. As soon as ever he is dead, this wife of his will collect all the property and take it away and marry some blackguard or other, and will kick her first husband's grave. Why should any one give himself a headache over what a couple of words in black and white could set right?"
"The Cock speaks truly," said Adagar to himself; "that is just how the matter stands," and he got up and went into the assembly. "Brothers of my wife, and my own brothers," said he, "my wife has been nagging at me in this way to tell her my secret, and if I do tell her I shall die that very instant. That being so, I have decided not to tell her, but to give her a divorce." They all said: "Very well. We certainly will not make ourselves responsible for driving you to your death. Divorce her."
1 When a person has died, food is distributed as alms by his family to his relations and others. In Scotland it used to be the custom at funerals to entertain the guests to a big meal, presumably to cheer them up.
Then he quickly gave instructions to a mulla and had her divorce-paper written out, and gave it to her, and she took her departure. Some time later the woman stole a hundred tumans from her brothers and brought them as a bribe to her husband, and in the end he married her again, and they occupied themselves with their own affairs and lived at their ease.
Now just as this man attained his desire, so may you, my friends, and I attain ours!