The Wonderful Healing Leaves: A Tale from Kurdistan Part II

In the morning the lad arose early, and the giant said to him: “When you leave here, you must ride on the road for seven days, until you come to a crossroads. On one of the roads it is written ‘A happy journey,’ and on the other, ‘He who follows this path shall not return.’ You must not ponder there, but take the road from which there is no return. Continue to follow this road until it comes to a dead end. This is the first danger. When you come there you must say: ‘What a beautiful path! Had I all the horses of the king I would come and dance here!’ Then the path will continue, so you can pass.

“The next danger,” continued the giant, “is a valley filled with poisonous snakes, through which no man can pass. When you come to it you must say: ‘What a beautiful valley filled with honey! If only someone brought some of this honey to the palace of the king, he would gladly eat it!” Then the snakes will disappear, and you will be able to pass.

“The third danger is a valley filled with blood and all kinds of beasts, through which no man can pass. When you come to it you must say: ‘What tasty butter! Had I the bread of the king, I would spread this tasty butter on it!’ Then the valley will dry up, and you will be able to pass.

“After this,” the giant went on, “you will come to a palace, guarded by a dragon and a viper. If their eyes are open, it means they are sleeping; if their eyes are closed, they are fully awake. Wait until their eyes are open, and then you will be able to pass. From there you must enter the palace, and walk down the corridor until you come to the queen’s door, which is guarded by four lions. If their eyes are open it means they are sleeping; if their eyes are closed, they are awake. Now, the door to the queen’s cham­ber, which they guard, is made entirely of bells, and when it is opened the sound of the bells wakes the lions. I will give you two packages of cotton with which to muffle the bells. When the eyes of the lions are open, muffle the bells and open the door. There you will find the queen sleeping, for when she sleeps all the beasts sleep with their eyes open, and beside her bed grows the tree with the healing leaves. Fill one bag with the leaves, and also fill your pockets, for they are very precious. Then go to the queen and exchange rings with her. After that, when you return, you must do every­thing you did before, but in reverse order.”

The lad listened closely to what he had to do, and when the giant had fin­ished telling him, he gratefully thanked him and set off down the road. He acted according to the giant’s instructions, so he was able to continue on the path that ended, and to cross the valley filled with snakes and the one filled with blood and beasts. And when he reached the palace he waited until the eyes of the dragon and the viper were open, which meant that they were asleep, and he entered the palace. So too did he wait for the four lions to open their eyes, meaning that they too were asleep, and he entered the chamber of the queen, who was sleeping on her bed. And beside her bed he found the tree with the wonderful healing leaves, its branches reaching to the ceiling, its roots growing beneath the floor. Then the lad filled a big sack with those leaves and his pockets as well, and exchanged his ring with that of the queen. And on the way back he did everything he had done to get there, but in reverse. So it was that two weeks later he returned with the bag full of leaves and the queen’s ring on his finger, and came to the inn run by the two princes.

Now when the princes saw the sack, they asked the lad what was inside it, and he told them the whole story, although he forgot to mention that he had exchanged rings with the queen. Then the two princes pretended to be very friendly, and invited him to spend the night, and he agreed.

But while the lad slept, the two princes threw a drug into his eyes to blind him, and put him in a sack and left him in a closet in the inn. They themselves took the bag of the healing leaves and set out to return to the palace of the king. And when they arrived the king’s blindness was cured by the healing leaves, and he appointed the two princes to be his ministers, and rewarded each of them with one third of his kingdom.

Meanwhile, when the lad awoke and found himself in a sack, he did not give up hope, but struggled until he had managed to free himself. But when he did, he discovered he was blind, and he was deeply grieved. Then he re­membered the healing leaves he had kept in his pockets, and took some of them and rubbed them against his eyes, and his sight was restored. After that he returned to his wife, the king’s youngest daughter, and said to her: “I have brought the healing leaves.” But to his surprise she laughed at him and said: “The two princes brought them back long before you, and the king has regained his sight.” And the lad understood that his long quest had all been in vain.

Now it happened that when the queen of the Land of No Return awoke from her sleep, she saw that her ring had disappeared, replaced by another, and that many leaves were missing from the tree. She immediately un­rolled her flying carpet, and searched high and low for whoever had taken her ring and the leaves. After searching in many places, she heard of the king who had been cured of his blindness, and when she arrived at the pal­ace she threatened to send the dragon to destroy the city if she was not told how the cure had come to pass. Then the princes came forward and showed the leaves to her in the presence of the king. She said: “Tell me where you got them from.” And they replied: “We found a forest and picked the leaves off a tree.” “They are lying!” hissed the queen. “Beat them!”

Just then the lad arrived at the palace and told the queen how he had obtained the leaves, and showed her the ones he still had left, which he had carried in his pockets. Then the lad showed the queen her ring, and she knew that he was telling the truth. But she wanted to know how the princes had returned with the leaves before him, and so the lad told her all that had happened, and all the trouble that they had caused him. After that the lad gave back the ring to the queen, and she got on her flying carpet and returned to her kingdom. And the king, who had heard all that the lad had said, now understood what had really taken place. He banished the two princes and invited his youngest daughter and her husband to live in the palace, where the young man soon became his most trusted minister, and they all lived happily ever after.

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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