Prince Bairâm and the Fairy Bride
Once upon a time the king of the giants from the mountains of Kôh Kâf came to visit
the kingdoms of men. His name was Safeyd. As he was wandering over the earth he entered a
forest, and there he saw a merry company of huntsmen chasing the deer. Their leader was a
young prince named Bairâm, and the beauty of this youth was so striking and so unusual
that the giant Safeyd felt that he loved him, and that he would never again know happiness
or contentment unless he became possessed of him. So he turned himself into a fine horse,
with a skin like snow and a neigh like thunder, and in that form repeatedly crossed the
path of the prince to attract his attention.
The prince was enchanted when he saw so noble a steed, and gave orders that he should
be caught. Safeyd was only too glad to permit himself to be saddled and bridled, and to
suffer the prince of whom he was enamoured to vault onto his back. No sooner did he feel
him safely seated, however, than he galloped away, and never stopped until he had arrived
at his own palace in the mountains which girdle the earth. There he heaped on him every
favor, loaded him with gold and precious stones, gave him splendid steeds and hundreds of
attendants, clothed him in the richest apparel, and lodged him in a magnificent palace.
After eight days the giant Safeyd came to Bairâm and said, "I shall now leave you
for eight days. I must go to my brother's wedding. You, however, will remain here. But
take this key, which will admit you into an inner garden, which hitherto no one has
entered but myself. When you go, go alone, and remember to lock the door again when you
So the giant gave the prince the key, and at once set off for the kingdom of his
That very evening Bairâm went to the garden, which surpassed all he had ever imagined.
There stood within it a wonderful pavilion of jasper, set with precious stones. Fountains
played on all sides, and the trees, instead of fruit, were laden with rubies, emeralds,
and sapphires. Sitting down, he watched the fountains throwing up golden spray and the
reflections mirrored in the beautiful pools.
Just then four milk-white doves flew onto a tree, and then settled in the shape of four
fairies by the edge of a tank of clear crystal water. Their beauty seemed to dazzle his
Having unrobed, they entered the water and began to bathe. And as they were bathing,
one of the said to the others, "I have had a dream, and by my dream I can tell that
one of us shall be parted from the rest."
They then stepped one by one out of the water and began to dress. But the most
beautiful fairy of all could not find her clothes. Meanwhile, the others, having finished
dressing, turned once more into milk-white doves and flew away, the fourth fairy, whose
name was Ghulâb Bâno, exclaiming as she bade them farewell, "It is my kismet. Some
different destiny awaits me here, and we shall never meet again."
She then looked towards the steps and saw the prince. At once her heart escaped from
her body, and she fell in love with him.
Now, it was the prince himself who had stolen the fairy's clothes and hidden them, and,
as he knew that if she recovered them she would change into a milk-white dove again, he
now brought out another suit, and she clothed herself, and the two lovers remained in the
When eight days had passed, the giant Safeyd returned once more to his house. And when
Bairâm saw the huge chains which encircled his waist he began to tremble with fear, but
the giant reassured him saying, "Fear not. Are you not master of all I possess?"
And he ordered music to play and dancing girls to assemble in numbers to beguile and cheer
his spirits, but they were all invisible.
"To you see them?" asked the giant.
"No," answered the prince. "I see nothing, but I hear the music and the
tinkling of anklets."
"I will give you some of King Solomon's antimony," said the giant.
"Touch your eyes with it."
And when Prince Bairâm had touch his eyes with King Solomon's antimony he saw the
whole place filled with troops of exquisite damsels, dancing to the music of viol and
Now, the beautiful fairy whom the prince had captured in the garden was one of the
wives of the giant, and the giant knew all that had passed. But his love for Bairâm was
so great that he said to him, "Take not only Ghulâb Bâno, but all I possess you can
take as well."
One day the fairy grew sad and said, "Give me leave to visit my father and mother
and to return."
So the prince brought out her fairy clothes, and she changed into a milk-white dove,
and away she flew. But her parents, when they heard the news, were angry that she had
married a mortal, and they imprisoned her in a gloomy subterranean city. Therefore she did
not return. And as time went on, and still she came not, Prince Bairâm began to pine and
droop from sorrow, and for his sake, too, the giant grew sad and melancholy.
At last the prince cried, "I must follow her, and never come back till I find
"Are you quite resolved to go?" asked the giant.
"I can no longer live," said he, "without her."
Then the giant gave him three things: his invisible cap, some of King Solomon's
antimony, and one of his own hairs. So the prince set out, and after many days he came to
the subterranean city. But because it was all in darkness, and he could not see his way,
he rubbed his eyes with the antimony, which made everything plain and clear before him.
Then he inquired, and found that the fairy Ghulâb Bâno was imprisoned in a lofty
tower of one hundred iron doors. And when he found himself before the tower he put on his
magic cap, which rendered him invisible, and which also compelled all the doors to fly
wide open. He then entered, and when he saw the fairy princess he took off his cap and
rushed into her arms, and with her he remained for many days.
A woman can never keep a secret. It was not long before Ghulâb Bâno began to whisper
to some of her favorite maids, and to tell her intimate friends the good fortune which had
smiled on her in the midst of her banishment. Then the news spread until it reached the
ears of her father. He collected his giants together, and, going to the tower, they found
the prince with the princess.
They were horrified, and cried, "Come, let us kill him!"
Immediately the prince awoke, and, seeing his peril, he put on his magic cap, which
made him invisible. Then he took the giant Safeyd's hair, and held it in the flame of the
lamp. And as the smoke rose a thousand squadrons of giants at once assembled. There was a
great battle. The enemy were routed, and the enraged father compelled to surrender his
daughter to Prince Bairâm. After this Safeyd and the prince and the fairy returned in
triumph to their beautiful home.
By and by, when some years had now elapsed, the prince began to long for his own
kingdom; and his longing grew so great that at last he determined to go. The giant became
very sad, but on account of his love for him he allowed him leave.
Then Ghulâb Bâno changed herself into an enormous bird, and the prince mounted
between her wings, and in a moment they alighted close to the capital. There the prince
disguised himself as a poor fakir, while his wife became a milk-white dove. Then he
entered the city and called on his old nurse, who at once recognized him, and told him
that his vizier had seized the kingdom and was reigning in his stead.
"And where are my wives?" asked Bairâm.
"Three of your wives," answered she, "he took to be his wives; but the
fourth defied him, and because of her fidelity he imprisoned her in a pit. There a son was
born, and there the mother and the babe still remain, and he feeds them with the leavings
of his hounds."
For a time the prince lodged with his nurse, the fairy having resumed her own shape,
but one day when he was out, news was taken to the false king that a woman surpassing in
beauty all the women of the earth had been seen at the house of the old woman.
So the false king rushed to the spot, seized Ghulâb Bâno by the arm, and cried,
"Come along with me!"
"O king," answered she, "let me first go in and change my clothes."
So she left him waiting at the door, but having entered her chamber, she put on her
fairy suit, and, at once changing into a milk-white dove, flew out of the window, and sped
far away, but the false king went back to the palace vexed and defeated.
When Bairâm returned, the first thing he said was, "Where is my wife?"
"She has gone to the vizier's," said the old woman. "He came and carried
So the prince took out the giant's hair and held it again in the flame, when instantly
there rushed to his help thousands of giants with clubs and swords, and the city was
taken, the vizier and the three false wives were slaughtered, while the faithful wife was
delivered from the pit and restored to the palace as queen once more.
With her Prince Bairâm lived for some time, being always kind and good to her; but he
sighed for the fairy princess, who had flown back to her father's house and had never
returned. By degrees his melancholy increased more and more, until, becoming mad he
wandered about the city and the palace and the forest, seeking in vain for his lost love.
Meanwhile the giant Safeyd grew melancholy also, and at last he could bear his grief no
longer. So he set out for the kingdom of his friend Bairâm, and, having found him, he
carried him away and restored him again to his fairy queen.
With her he recovered his health, and his whole after-life was spent in happiness and
delight, sometimes with Ghulâb Bâno among the mountains of Kôh Kâf, and sometimes with
his faithful wife in the capital of his own kingdom. But at last he left his wife for good
and never returned again.
Charles Swynnerton: Indian Nights' Entertainment. Folk-Tales from the Upper
Indus. London 1892, Nr. 82. (AT 400, Indien)