Saturday, November 28, 2009

Scheherezade of Pain

When I was little, and had to get tested for allergies with ten needles stuck in each arm, my dad would distract me from the pain by telling me stories. I would be staring down at needles in my arms while he would hold my hand and tell me about Patans (stupid, but kind), King Pasha and his Vizier Jafar (one was wise, the other foolish), he would tell me about animals living lives like us, palaces made of bird feathers, worlds away from pain.
Today, my arabic teacher told me a story, while I was wailing and crying, thinking what could I have done to deserve this? If you are in pain, perhaps it will help you to read it:

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Lela. Lela had fallen in love with the shepherd, Sam, from the village, and told her father, the King. Held down by dogma and years of rigid rule, the King grew furious at the illicit affair and forbade Lela to ever see Sam again. Knowing the recklessness of young love, he had guards posted all around his daughters room to make sure she could not sneak off to see him. Lela despaired and wailed, cried out to God to help her find her love, and eventually grew quiet and calm.
One day, while one of her handmaidens was bringing her food and expressed sympathy over her sad love story, Lela looked into her eyes and knew she had found a friend. She told the handmaiden of Sam, his kindness, his large rough hands, how animals loved him. Eventually, Lela convinced the maid to bring some of the palace food to Sam, so he would know that she still thought of him always. The maid agreed, and brought the rich palace food with silk scarves for Lela to package the meal. Lela packed the food and imagined Sam's face as he opened the scarves she covered in kisses and it made her face hot with happiness. She gave the maid careful instruction where to find him, at the hill on the edge of the kingdom, where the shepherds usually lived. His would be the house on the very edge of the kingdom.
The maid set off to find Sam, and when she got to the edge of the kingdom, all was in confusion. Flocks had gotten lost since the King was trying to find the shepherd who had stolen his daughters heart. People were scattered in different homes, and fires raged on the edge of the kingdom.
The maid went from door to door, asking for Sam the shepherd, saying she had a gift from his love from the palace. Most people stared suspiciously and sent her off, at one home a florid man with large rough hands laughed joyously and said he was Sam. He took the package from the maids hands and closed the door soundly in her face.
The maid went back to the palace and told Lela she had delivered her package successfully. Overjoyed, Lela asked her to do her this discreet favor weekly. Her maid, unable to turn that smile away, agreed, and went out again a week later with rich food wrapped in rich cloth.
After many months of feeding Sam, Lela asked the maid if Sam ever had a message for her. The maid explained that Sam always took the package and closed the door, not even letting her step into his cottage. This was proper for the time, but it troubled Lela, and she sent a message with her next offering. She asked Sam if he would mind just letting a few drops of his blood stain the silk she was sending the food in and to send it back to her. So she would have a part of him.
The maid came back to see Lela, her eyes downcast. Lela ran to her, hands outstretched for bloodstained silk, but the maids hands were empty. She looked up at Lela and said, "That man wasn't the shepherd who loved you, he was just a shepherd who wanted your food and cloth for himself."
"How do you know?" Lela demanded, grabbing her maid by the shoulders.
"Because he refused, he refused to give you anything back for what you gave him."



Anonymous said...

I like this a lot. So evocative.

Anonymous said...

she wanted blood for food? stage five clinger this one, i would of said no too.

Anonymous said...

This sounds familiar, maybe an arabian night story? Love it. A good story is the best escape. That's why I don't like book snobs, I like the quick reads with snappy plots (like Twilight, DEAL WITH IT) it's the perfect escape from everything.

Kastoory said...

Hahaha, stage 5 clinger, wedding crashers reference? and it may be an arabian nights tale, the original names are Layla and Majnun (which means crazy in love!) There are so many versions, apparently the tale inspired Romeo and Juliet.