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Transcript

The ambitious Tailor

Egyptian Fairytale: The Stroy of the Sham Prince

Source: Andrew Lang´s Fairy Books

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nce upon a time, there lived a respectable young tailor called Labakan.

, who worked for a clever master in Alexandria. No one could call Labakan either stupid or lazy, for he could work extremely well and quickly—when he chose; but there was something not altogether right about him.

Sometimes he would stitch away as fast as if he had a red-hot needle and a burning thread, and at other times he would sit lost in thought, and with such a queer look about him that his fellow-workmen used to say, ‘Labakan has got on his aristocratic face today.’

On Fridays he would put on his fine robe which he had bought with the money he had managed to save up, and go to the mosque.

As he came back, after prayers, if he met any friend who said ‘Good-day,’ or ‘How are you, friend Labakan?’ he would wave his hand graciously or nod in a condescending way

if his master happened to say to him, as he sometimes did, ‘Really, Labakan, you look like a prince,’ he was delighted, and would answer, ‘Have you noticed it too?’ or ‘Well, so I have long thought.’

Things went on like this for some time, and the master put up with Labakan’s absurdities because he was, on the whole, a good fellow and a clever workman.

One day, the sultan’s brother happened to be passing through Alexandria, and wanted to have one of his state robes altered, so he sent for the master tailor, who handed the robe over to Labakan as his best workman.

In the evening, when every one had left the workshop and gone home, a great longing drove Labakan back to the place where the royal robe hung. He stood a long time gazing at it, admiring the rich material and the splendid embroidery in it. At last he could hold out no longer. He felt he must try it on, and lo! and behold, it fitted as though it had been made for him.

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The new prince excited a good deal of curiosity where ever he went, for his splendid robe and majestic manner did not seem quite suitable to a person travelling on foot.

If anyone asked questions, he only replied with an important air of mystery that he had his own reasons for not riding.

However, he soon found out that walking made him ridiculous, so at last he bought a quiet, steady old horse, which he managed to get cheap.

If anyone asked questions, he only replied with an important air of mystery that he had his own reasons for not riding.

‘Am not I as good a prince as any other?’ he asked himself, as he proudly paced up and down the room. ‘Has not the master often said that I seemed born to be a prince?’

It seemed to him that he must be the son of some unknown monarch, and at last he determined to set out at once and travel in search of his proper rank.

He felt as if the splendid robe had been sent him by some kind fairy, and he took care not to neglect such a precious gift. He collected all his savings, and, concealed by the darkness of the night, he passed through the gates of Alexandria.

One day, as he was ambling along upon Murva (that was the horse’s name), a horseman overtook him and asked leave to join him, so that they might both beguile the journey with pleasant talk.

The newcomer was a bright, cheerful, good-looking young man, who soon plunged into conversation and asked many questions.

He told Labakan that his own name was Omar, that he was a nephew of Elfi Bey, and was travelling in order to carry out a command given him by his uncle on his death bed. Labakan was not quite so open in his confidences, but hinted that he too was of noble birth and was travelling for pleasure.

The two young men took a fancy to each other and rode on together. On the second day of their journey Labakan questioned Omar as to the orders he had to carry out, and to his surprise heard this tale.

Labakan was greatly surprised and interested by this story, but after hearing it he could not help looking on Prince Omar with envious eyes, angry that his friend should have the position he himself longed so much for.

He began to make comparisons between the prince and himself, and was obliged to confess that he was a fine-looking young man with very good manners and a pleasant expression.

At the same time, he felt sure that had he been in the prince’s place any royal father might have been glad to own him.

These thoughts haunted him all day, and he dreamt them all night. He woke very early, and as he saw Omar sleeping quietly, with a happy smile on his face, a wish arose in his mind to take by force or by cunning the things which an unkind fate had denied him.

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lfi Bey, Pacha of Cairo, had brought up Omar from his earliest childhood, and the boy had never known his parents. On his deathbed Elfi Bey called Omar to him, and then told him that he was not his nephew, but the son of a great king, who, having been warned of coming dangers by his astrologers, had sent the young prince away and made a vow not to see him till his twenty-second birthday.

Elfi Bey did not tell Omar his father’s name, but expressly desired him to be at a great pillar four days’ journey east of Alexandria on the fourth day of the coming month, on which day he would be twenty-two years old. Here he would meet some men, to whom he was to hand a dagger which Elfi Bey gave him, and to say ‘Here am I for whom you seek.’

If they answered: ‘Praised be the Prophet who has preserved you,’ he was to follow them, and they would take him to his father.

The dagger which was to act as a passport was sticking in Omar’s girdle. Labakan drew it gently out, and hesitated for a moment whether or not to plunge it into the heart of the sleeping prince.

However, he shrank from the idea of murder, so he contented himself with placing the dagger in his own belt, and, saddling Omar’s swift horse for himself, was many miles away before the prince woke up to realise his losses.

the thought that he must certainly have been born to be a king supported him, and he bravely rode on.

For two days Labakan rode on steadily, fearing lest, after all, Omar might reach the meeting place before him. At the end of the second day he saw the great pillar at a distance. It stood on a little hill in the middle of a plain, and could be seen a very long way off. Labakan’s heart beat fast at the sight. Though he had had some time in which to think over the part he meant to play his conscience made him rather uneasy. However, ...


The neighbourhood was quite bare and desert, and it was a good thing that the new prince had brought food for some time with him, as two days were still wanting till the appointed time.

Towards the middle of the next day he saw a long procession of horses and camels coming towards him.

Everything looked like the escort of some great man.

...but he checked his impatience, knowing that only on the fourth day could his wishes be fulfilled.

The first rays of the rising sun woke the happy tailor. As he began to saddle his horse and prepare to ride to the pillar

he could not help having some remorseful thoughts of the trick he had played and the blighted hopes of the real prince. But the die was cast, and his vanity whispered that he was as fine looking a young man as the proudest king might wish his son to be, and that, moreover, what had happened had happened.

At the foot of the pillar stood six men round a tall and stately person. His superb robe of cloth of gold was girt round him by a white cashmere shawl, and his white, richly jewelled turban showed that he was a man of wealth and high rank.

Labakan went straight up to him, and, bending low, handed him the dagger, saying: “Here am I whom you seek.”

“Praised be the Prophet who has preserved you! replied the old man with tears of joy. “Embrace me, my dear son Omar!”
The proud tailor was deeply moved by these solemn words, and with mingled shame and joy sank into the old king”s arms.

But his happiness was not long unclouded. As he raised his head he saw a horseman who seemed trying to urge a tired or unwilling horse across the plain.