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Iranian Folktale

Retold by Yuko Saito
English text by Sean Nelson

"O King, somewhere in the kingdom a child has been born.
This child has a mole on each shoulder.
Some day he will become king, and you will be deposed."
So said the astrologer.

The king was shocked to hear this
and quickly sent word throughout the kingdom:
"There will be a reward for the person
who brings forth a baby with a mole on both shoulders."

Presently a wretched-looking man appeared carrying a baby.
"O King, as you can see,
my son has a mole on both shoulders."
Smiling, the king gave a reward to the man and said,
"What a fine boy!
I'll take him into the castle and give him a fine upbringing."
The man had no choice but to obey his king's order.
He returned, leaving his baby behind.

That evening the king secretly put the baby into a box
and set it out into the river,
then returned to the castle, relieved.

But the box didn't sink!
It bobbed along, carried downstream by the current,
and eventually became caught in some reeds by the shore.

The next morning, an old miller discovered the box.
"Oh my! God must have sent my poor wife and me
the son we have always wanted."
The miller and his wife named the child "Behzad"
and raised him in their watermill as if he were their own.

With the passage of time Behzad became a fine young man.
One day while hunting,
the king and his servants chanced to pass by the watermill.
"I'm thirsty. Let's rest here a little," said the king,
and he went into the watermill.

Behzad served his royal guest attentively and without hesitation.
The king took a liking to him and asked him many questions.
Then suddenly, the king recognized who he was talking to.
(Ah! This is the child I put into the river!)

Acting as if all was well, the king wrote onto a piece of paper:
"The person who brings this note to you is to be killed immediately."
Then he sealed the note and handed it to Behzad, saying:
"I'm sorry, but could you please deliver this to the queen for me?"
Suspecting nothing,
Behzad quickly mounted his horse and departed for the castle.

Before long the sun had set and a terrible rain had started.
In the darkness, drenched Behzad came across a house
and knocked on the door.
"Good evening. I'm sorry to intrude,
but do you think I could spend the evening here?"
An old woman came to the door.
"You can stay, but thieves live here
and I don't know what they'll do to you when they return."
Behzad chuckled and replied,
"That's fine. I'm not afraid of thieves.
Besides, I have nothing worth stealing."

The old woman showed Behzad in
and set up a bed for him beside the fireplace.
Behzad lay down and was quickly asleep.

The thieves returned in the middle of the night.
"Hey, woman, who's this sleeping here?"
"It's a young traveler taking refuge from the rain."
The thieves went through Behzad's things and discovered the king's note.
"What's this?
The person who delivers this note is to be killed?
How terrible!
This poor fellow has no idea what's going to happen to him.
Well, let's make a few changes…"

The thieves threw the note away and wrote a new one,
imitating the king's writing exactly:
"The princess is to immediately marry the person who brings you this note
so that he may become my son."

The next morning Behzad left the thieves' house and arrived at the castle.
When he gave the note to the queen she was surprised,
but she had no choice but to obey the king's order.
She arranged for the wedding
and the princess was married to Behzad without delay.

The king soon returned and was shocked to find
that Behzad was not only alive, but also married to his daughter.
It seemed as if the astrologer's prediction was coming true
and Behzad would soon replace the king.

―― 以下略 ――

【表紙の画像】 ☆☆☆☆☆☆ 絵: Nayyereh Taghavi ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆