There was once upon a time a poor wood-cutter who had an only son. One day this poor man fell sick and said to his son: "If I should die follow thou my handicraft, and go every day into the wood. Thou mayest cut down whatever trees thou dost find there, but at the edge of the wood is a cypress-tree, that thou must leave standing." Two days afterwards the man died and was buried.
But the son went into the wood and cut down the trees, only the cypress-tree he left alone. One day the youth stood close to this tree and thought to himself: "What can be the matter with this tree, seeing that I am not allowed to lay a hand upon it?"
So he looked at it, and considered it curiously, till at last he took his axe and went with evil intent towards the tree. But he had scarcely lifted his foot when the cypress-tree drew away from him. The wood-cutter mounted his ass and pursued the tree but could not overtake it, and in the meantime eventide came upon them. Then he dismounted from his ass and tied it to a tree, but he himself climbed to the top of the tree to await the dawn.
Next morning, when the sky grew red, he descended from the tree, and there at the foot of it lay only the bones of his ass. "Never mind, I'll go on foot," said the wood-cutter, and he continued his pursuit of the cypress, the tree going on before and he following after. All that day he pursued but could not come up with it. The third day also he shouldered his axe and pursued the tree, when he suddenly came upon an elephant and a serpent fighting with each other. Believe the truth or not as you will, but the truth is this, that the serpent was swallowing the elephant; but the elephant's great tusk stuck in the serpent's throat, and both beasts, seeing the youth staring at them, begged him to help them.
What didn't the elephant promise him if only he would slay the serpent! "Nay, but all I would have thee do," said the serpent, "is to break his tusk off; the work is lighter, and the reward will be greater." At these words the youth seized his axe and chopped the elephant's tusk right off. The serpent then swallowed the elephant, thanked the youth, and promised to keep his word and give him his reward.
While they were on the road the serpent stopped at a spring and said to the youth: "Wait while I bathe in this water, and whatever may happen, fear not!" With that the serpent plunged into the water, and immediately there arose such a terrible storm, such a tempest, such a hurricane, with lightning-flash upon lightning-flash, and thunder-bolt upon thunder-bolt, that the Day of Judgment could not well be worse. Presently the serpent came out of the bath, and then all was quiet again.
They went a long way, and they went a little way, they took coffee, they smoked their chibooks, they gathered violets on the road, till at last they drew near to a house, and then the serpent said: "In a short time we shall arrive at my mother's house. When she opens the door, say thou art my kinsman, and she will invite thee into the house. She will offer thee coffee but do not drink it, she will offer thee meat but do not eat it; but there's a little bit of a mirror hanging up in the corner of the door, ask my mother for that!"
So they came to the house, and no sooner had the Peri knocked at the door than his mother came and opened it. "Come, my brother!" said the serpent to the youth behind him. - "Who is thy brother?" asked his mother. - "He who hath saved my life," replied her son, and with that he told her the whole story. So they went into the house, and the woman brought the youth coffee and a chibook, but he would not take them. "My journey is a hasty one," said he, "I cannot remain very long."
"Rest awhile at least," said the woman," we cannot let our guests depart without anything."
"Nothing do I want, but if thou wilt give me that bit of mirror in the corner of the door I will take it," said the youth. The woman did not want to give it, but the youth insisted that perhaps his life might depend upon that very piece of mirror, so at last she gave it to him, though very unwillingly.
So the youth went on his way with the bit of mirror, and as he looked into it he turned over in his mind what use he should make of it. As he was still turning it over and looking at it, suddenly there stood before him a negro efrit, one of whose lips touched the heavens, and the other lip the earth. The poor youth was so frightened, that if the negro had not said: "What are thy commands, my Sultan?" he would have run away for ever and ever. As it was, it was as much as he could do to ask for something to eat, and immediately there stood before him a rich and rare banquet, the like of which he had never seen at his father's, the wood-cutter's.
Then the youth felt very curious about the mirror, and looked into it again, and immediately the black efrit stood before Mm again and said: "What dost thou command, my Sultan? "Nothing would occur to his mind at first, but at last his lips murmured the word "Palace," and immediately there stood before him a palace so beautiful that the Padishah himself could not have a finer one. "Open!" cried the youth, and immediately the gates of the palace flew open before him.
The youth rejoiced greatly in his bit of mirror, and his one thought was what he should ask it to get him next. The beautiful Sultana-damsel, the Padishah's daughter, occurred to his mind, and the next moment his eye sought his mirror and he desired from the big-lipped negro efrit a palace in which the world-renowned daughter of the Padishah should be sitting beside him, and he had scarce time to look around him when he found himself sitting in the palace with the Sultan's daughter by his side. Then they kissed and embraced each other, and lived a whole world of joy.
Meanwhile the Sultan learnt that his daughter had disappeared from her own palace. He searched for her the whole realm through, he sent heralds in every direction, but in vain were all his labours, the girl could not be discovered. At last an old woman came to the Padishah and told him to make a large casket, line it well with zinc, put her inside it, and cast it into the sea. She would find the daughter of the Sultan, she said, for if she was not here, she must be beyond the sea. So they made ready the great casket, put the old woman inside it, put food for nine days beside her, and cast it into the sea. The casket was tossed from wave to wave, till at last it came to that city where the Sultan's daughter dwelt with the youth.