There was once a man who was very rich and had much property, but he had no children except one very fine young boy. Now the daughter of a merchant came along and passed by that way. Her veil chanced to fly up and the young man's eye lighted on her. Not with one heart but with a hundred hearts he at once fell in love with the maiden, and she fell even more in love with him. The young man had hardly strength left to get home.
However, he made his way there somehow or other and said to his father: "I want to marry the daughter of Merchant So-and-so." They sent a respectable elderly man to the merchant in question to arrange for the alliance. The maiden's father gave his consent, "But," said he, "there is one condition: you must first go to Isfahan and find the merchant who has put his wife in chains and gives her the food a dog leaves over to eat, and ascertain what the reason of this is. When you have done this I will give you your wife."
The young man set out, turning his back to the city and his face to the desert. Some days passed, and he came to a certain place. There he lost his way, but went on and descried a wood. He entered the wood and lay down to sleep at the foot of a chenar tree. After a time he noticed that a sound, "shif, shif," came from above his head, and he looked up and saw that a dragon had climbed into the tree and was making its way upwards. He saw too that there was a bird's nest in the tree, and that there were young birds in the nest.
As the dragon drew near, the young birds began to squawk, and the traveller saw that the dragon meant to eat them up. He put out his hand and his fingers met a stone; he threw the stone at the dragon and hit it fair on the head, and it came tumbling down to the ground and died that very instant. Now every year the dragon had done this same thing: when the Simurgh built its nest, and as soon as the young ones were just able to fly, it came and ate them all up. This year too it had come as usual, but the man had prevented its fulfilling its intentions.
Having slain the dragon, the young man lay down and went to sleep. Now the Simurgh flew up from the mountain bringing something for her young ones to eat, and she saw a human being asleep under the chenar. She went back to the mountain again and took up a big stone on her wing to throw down on the man's head, "For," said she, "this is the creature that comes every year and carries off my young ones; doubtless he has come again this year for the same purpose. He has come at the right moment, though, for I shall dash his brains into his mouth this very minute."
She had now arrived above the nest, and was on the point of getting above the man, for she wanted to drop the rock so that it would pass clear of her young ones and fall on the traveller's head. Suddenly the young birds understood that their mother was intending to kill the man, so they started squawking and spread out their wings over his head, crying: "O mother, stay your hand! If it hadn't been for this man the dragon would have eaten us up." On this the Simurgh flew away and threw down the stone a long way off.
When she came back she first gave her young ones food, and then she spread her wings over the traveller until he had had a good sleep. Early in the afternoon he woke up, and the Simurgh said to him: "O man, say whatever you want and I will give it to you, and tell me where you want to go." "I want to go to Isfahan," he said. - "Very good, but it's a long way. Why are you going?" - "I want to inquire into the matter of a merchant who keeps his wife in chains and feeds her on what a dog leaves over."
"Inquiry about that," said the Simurgh, "is a very difficult business. Whenever the Merchant tells any one about it he at once cuts off his head and so the inquirer never returns. I will give you instructions, however, how to proceed, and you must follow them out exactly. When you have asked your question and received your answer, the Merchant will come to cut your head off, then you must say: 'Permit me to go up on to the roof to pray; when I have done that you may kill me.'
"Now in the castle is a steel gateway through which there is no road, for the door is always closed; he will therefore give you leave to go up to pray. When you have got on to the roof, set fire to one of my feathers, and I will appear and take you on my wing and bear you home to your own town. Now climb up on to my wings."
With that the Simurgh took him up, and no sooner had she risen into the air than they arrived in front of the Merchant's castle. It was evening, and the young man knocked at the door. Some one came to the back of the door and called out: "ho are you?"" - "I am a guest." "Welcome, come in," said the Merchant, for it was he, and they went together to the men's room and sat down and conversed.
"I shall dash his brains into his mouth."
Supper-time came, and the Merchant led his guest into a room whose walls were ornamented with a mosaic of little pieces of mirror, and there were carpets on the floor and cushions and bed-coverings were laid out. A dog tied with a golden chain and clothed in silken garments came in, and the Merchant groomed it and kissed its face, and brought it to where dinner was laid ready. When the dog had eaten till it could eat no more, he wiped its mouth with a silk handkerchief, and led it away and tied it up in its own place.
Then he went to another place, which was very evil and dark, and there there was a beautiful lady, fair as the moon, which says: "Sun, rise not, for I have risen." He flung an iron chain round her neck and beat her with a switch until she came up to the food left by the dog. Then he said: "Now eat!" and having no choice, she began to eat. Then he beat her so severely that she fainted, and when she came to her senses again he took her away and tied her up in her own place.