THE THIRD VOYAGE OF SINBAD THE SAILOR – Tales from the Arabian Nights

The pleasures of the life which I then led soon made me forget the risks I had run in my two former voyages; but, being then in the flower of my age I grew weary of living without business; and hardening myself against the thought of any danger I might incur, I went from Bagdad, with the richest commodities of the country, to Balsora: there I embarked again with the merchants. We made a long voyage, and touched at several ports, where we drove a considerable trade. One day, being out in the main ocean, we were attacked by a horrible tempest, which made us lose our course. The tempest continued several days, and brought us before the port of an island, where the captain was very unwilling to enter; but we were obliged to cast anchor there. When we had furled our sails the captain told us that this and some other neighbouring islands were inhabited by hairy savages, who would speedily attack us; and though they were but dwarfs, yet our misfortune was that we must make no resistance, for they were more in number than the locusts; and if we happened to kill one of them they would all fall upon us and destroy us.

This discourse of the captain put the whole company into a great consternation; and we found very soon, to our cost, that what he had told us was but too true; an innumerable multitude of frightful savages, covered all over with red hair, and about two feet high, came swimming towards us, and in a little time encompassed our ship. They spoke to us as they came near, but we understood not their language; they climbed up the sides of the ship with an agility that surprised us. We beheld all this with mortal fear, without daring to offer to defend ourselves, or to speak one word to divert them from their mischievous design. In short, they took down our sails, cut the cable, and, hauling to the shore, made us all get out, and afterwards carried the ship into another island, from whence they had come. All travellers carefully avoided that island where they left us, it being very dangerous to stay there, for a reason you shall hear anon; but we were forced to bear our affliction with patience.

We went forward into the island, where we found some fruits and herbs to prolong our lives as long as we could; but we expected nothing but death. As we went on we perceived at a distance a great pile of building, and made towards it. We found it to be a palace, well built, and very lofty, with a gate of ebony with double doors, which we thrust open. We entered the court, where we saw before us a vast apartment with a porch, having on one side a heap of men’s bones, and on the other a vast number of roasting spits. We trembled at this spectacle, and, being weary with travelling, our legs failed under us: we fell to the ground, seized with deadly fear, and lay a long time motionless.

The sun had set, and whilst we were in the lamentable condition just mentioned, the gate of the apartment opened with a great noise, and there came out the horrible figure of a black man, as high as a tall palm tree. He had but one eye, and that in the middle of his forehead, where it looked as red as a burning coal. His fore-teeth were very long and sharp, and stood out of his mouth, which was as deep as that of a horse; his upper lip hung down upon his breast; his ears resembled those of an elephant, and covered his shoulders; and his nails were as long and crooked as the talons of the greatest birds. At the sight of so frightful a giant we lost all our senses, and lay like men dead.

At last we came to ourselves, and saw him sitting in the porch, looking at us. When he had considered us well, he advanced towards us, and laying his hand upon me, he took me up by the nape of my neck, and turned me round as a butcher would do a sheep’s head. After having viewed me well, and perceiving me to be so lean that I had nothing but skin and bone, he let me go. He took up all the rest, one by one, and viewed them in the same manner; and the captain being the fattest, he held him with one hand, as I might a sparrow, and thrusting a spit through him, kindled a great fire, roasted, and ate him in his apartment for his supper. This being done, he returned to his porch, where he lay and fell asleep, snoring louder than thunder. He slept thus till morning. For our parts, it was not possible for us to enjoy any rest; so that we passed the night in the most cruel fear that can be imagined. Day being come, the giant awoke, got up, went out, and left us in the palace.

When we thought him at a distance, we broke the melancholy silence we had kept all night, and every one grieving more than another, we made the palace resound with our complaints and groans. Though there were a great many of us, and we had but one enemy, we had not at first the presence of mind to think of delivering ourselves from him by his death.

We thought of several other things, but determined nothing; so that, submitting to what it should please God to order concerning us, we spent the day in running about the island for fruit and herbs to sustain our lives. When evening came, we sought for a place to lie down in, but found none; so that we were forced, whether we would or not, to return to the palace.

The giant failed not to come back, and supped once more upon one of our companions; after which he slept, and snored till day, and then went out and left us as formerly. Our condition was so very terrible that several of my comrades designed to throw themselves into the sea, rather than die so strange a death. Those who were of this mind argued with the rest to follow their example; upon which one of the company answered that we were forbidden to destroy ourselves; but even if it were lawful, it was more reasonable to think of a way to rid ourselves of the barbarous tyrant who designed so cruel a death for us.

Having thought of a project for that end, I communicated the same to my comrades, who approved it. ‘Brethren,’ said I, ‘you know there is a great deal of timber floating upon the coast; if you will be advised by me, let us make several rafts that may carry us, and when they are done, leave them there till we think fit to make use of them. In the meantime we will execute the design to deliver ourselves from the giant, and if it succeed, we may stay here with patience till some ship pass by to carry us out of this fatal island; but if it happen to miscarry, we will speedily get to our rafts, and put to sea. I confess, that by exposing ourselves to the fury of the waves, we run a risk of losing our lives; but if we do, is it not better to be buried in the sea than in the entrails of this monster, who has already devoured two of us?’ My advice was relished, and we made rafts capable of carrying three persons each.

We returned to the palace towards evening, and the giant arrived a little while after. We were forced to see another of our comrades roasted. But at last we revenged ourselves on the brutish giant thus. After he had made an end of his cursed supper, he lay down on his back, and fell asleep. As soon as we heard him snore, according to his custom, nine of the boldest among us, and myself, took each of us a spit, and putting the points of them into the fire till they were burning hot, we thrust them into his eye all at once, and blinded him. The pain occasioned him to make a frightful cry, and to get up and stretch out his hands in order to sacrifice some of us to his rage, but we ran to places where he could not find us; and after having sought for us in vain, he groped for the gate, and went out, howling dreadfully.

We went out of the palace after the giant, and came to the shore, where we had left our rafts, and put them immediately into the sea. We waited till day in order to get upon them, in case the giant came towards us with any guide of his own species; but we hoped that if he did not appear by sunrise, and gave over his howling, which we still heard, he would die; and if that happened to be the case, we resolved to stay in the island, and not to risk our lives upon the rafts. But day had scarcely appeared when we perceived our cruel enemy, accompanied by two others almost of the same size leading him, and a great number more coming before him with a very quick pace.

When we saw this, we made no delay, but got immediately upon our rafts, and rowed off from the shore. The giants, who perceived this, took up great stones, and running to the shore entered the water up to their waists, and threw so exactly that they sank all the rafts but that I was upon, and all my companions, except the two with me, were drowned. We rowed with all our might, and got out of the reach of the giants; but when we got out to sea, we were exposed to the mercy of the waves and winds, and tossed about, sometimes on one side, and sometimes on another, and spent that night and the following day under a cruel uncertainty as to our fate; but next morning we had the good luck to be thrown upon an island, where we landed with much joy. We found excellent fruit there, that gave us great relief, so that we pretty well recovered our strength.

In the evening we fell asleep on the bank of the sea, but were awaked by the noise of a serpent as long as a palm tree, whose scales made a rustling as he crept along. He swallowed up one of my comrades, notwithstanding his loud cries and the efforts he made to rid himself from the serpent, which shook him several times against the ground, and crushed him; and we could hear him gnaw and tear the poor wretch’s bones, when we had fled a great distance from him. Next day we saw the serpent again, to our great terror, and I cried out, ‘O heaven, to what dangers are we exposed! We rejoiced yesterday at having escaped from the cruelty of a giant and the rage of the waves, and now are we fallen into another danger altogether as terrible.’

As we walked about we saw a large tall tree, upon which we designed to pass the following night, for our security; and having satisfied our hunger with fruit, we mounted it accordingly. A little while after, the serpent came hissing to the root of the tree, raised itself up against the trunk of it, and meeting with my comrade, who sat lower than I, swallowed him at once, and went off.

I staid upon the tree till it was day, and then came down, more like a dead man than one alive, expecting the same fate as my two companions. This filled me with horror, so that I was going to throw myself into the sea; but nature prompting us to a desire to live as long as we can, I withstood this temptation to despair, and submitted myself to the will of God, who disposes of our lives at His pleasure.

In the meantime I gathered together a great quantity of small wood, brambles, and dry thorns, and making them up into faggots made a great circle with them round the tree, and also tied some of them to the branches over my head. Having done thus, when the evening came I shut myself up within this circle, with this melancholy piece of satisfaction, that I had neglected nothing which could preserve me from the cruel destiny with which I was threatened. The serpent failed not to come at the usual hour, and went round the tree, seeking for an opportunity to devour me, but was prevented by the rampart I had made, so that he lay till day, like a cat watching in vain for a mouse that has retreated to a place of safety. When day appeared he retired, but I dared not to leave my fort until the sun arose.

I was fatigued with the toil he had put me to, and suffered so much from his poisonous breath that, death seeming preferable to me than the horror of such a condition. I came down from the tree, and not thinking on the resignation I had made to the will of God the preceding day, I ran towards the sea, with a design to throw myself into it headlong.

God took compassion on my desperate state, for just as I was going to throw myself into the sea, I perceived a ship at a considerable distance. I called as loud as I could, and taking the linen from my turban, displayed it that they might observe me. This had the desired effect; all the crew perceived me, and the captain sent his boat for me. As soon as I came aboard, the merchants and seamen flocked about me to know how I came to that desert island; and after I had told them of all that befell me, the oldest among them said they had several times heard of the giants that dwelt in that island, that they were cannibals and ate men raw as well as roasted; and as to the serpents, he added, there were abundance in the isle that hid themselves by day and came abroad by night. After having testified their joy at my escaping so many dangers, they brought me the best of what they had to eat; and the captain, seeing that I was all in rags, was so generous as to give me one of his own suits.

We were at sea for some time, touched at several islands, and at last landed at that of Salabat, where there grows sanders, a wood of great use in physic. We entered the port, and came to anchor. The merchants began to unload their goods, in order to sell or exchange them. In the meantime the captain came to me, and said, ‘Brother, I have here a parcel of goods that belonged to a merchant who sailed some time on board this ship; and he being dead, I intend to dispose of them for the benefit of his heirs, when I know them.’ The bales he spoke of lay on the deck, and showing them to me, he said, ‘There are the goods; I hope you will take care to sell them, and you shall have a commission.’ I thanked him that he gave me an opportunity to employ myself, because I hated to be idle.

The clerk of the ship took an account of all the bales, with the names of the merchants to whom they belonged; and when he asked the captain in whose name he should enter those he gave me the charge of, ‘Enter them,’ said the captain, ‘in the name of Sinbad the sailor.’ I could not hear myself named without some emotion, and looking steadfastly on the captain, I knew him to be the person who, in my second voyage, had left me in the island where I fell asleep by a brook, and set sail without me, and without sending to look for me. But I could not remember him at first, he was so much altered since I saw him.

And as for him, who believed me to be dead, I could not wonder at his not knowing me. ‘But, captain,’ said I, ‘was the merchant’s name to whom those goods belonged Sinbad?’

‘Yes,’ replied he, ‘that was his name; he came from Bagdad, and embarked on board my ship at Balsora. One day, when we landed at an island to take in water and other refreshments, I know not by what mistake I set sail without observing that he did not re-embark with us; neither I nor the merchants perceived it till four hours after. We had the wind in our stern and so fresh a gale that it was not then possible for us to tack about for him.’

‘You believe him then to be dead?’ said I.

‘Certainly,’ answered he.

‘No, captain,’ said I; ‘look upon me, and you may know that I am Sinbad, whom you left in that desert island. I fell asleep by a brook, and when I awoke I found all the company gone.’

The captain, having considered me attentively, knew me at last embraced me, and said, ‘God be praised that fortune has supplied my defect. There are your goods, which I always took care to preserve and to make the best of at every port where I touched. I restore them to you, with the profit I have made on them.’ I took them from him, and at the same time acknowledged how much I owed to him.

From the Isle of Salabat we went to another, where I furnished myself with cloves, cinnamon, and other spices. As we sailed from that island we saw a tortoise that was twenty cubits in length and breadth. We observed also a fish which looked like a cow, and gave milk, and its skin is so hard that they usually make bucklers of it. I saw another which had the shape and colour of a camel. In short, after a long voyage, I arrived at Balsora, and from thence returned to this city of Bagdad, with so much riches that I knew not what I had. I gave a great deal to the poor, and bought another great estate in addition to what I had already.

Fairy Tales from the Arabian Nights.
First Series.
Edited by E. Dixon
The text of the present selection from the Arabian Nights is that of Galland, 1821, slightly abridged and edited. The edition is designed virginibus puerisque.
Xmas, 1893.