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The Tale of the Youth and his Tutor

It is said that the vizier Badr al-Din, governor of Yemen, had a younger brother whose beauty was so incomparable that both men and women would stop and turn when he passed them and stand bathing their eyes in the charm of his appearance. The vizier, who feared that some untimely adventure might come to so lovely a being, kept him far from the eyes of men, and prevented him from having friends his own age. Not wishing to send him to Quran school with other boys, where he could not be closely watched, he invited a venerable and pious old man, who was known for his chaste ways, come and tutor him at home, and gave him apartments next door to his own mansion.

This old man came every day, and spent many hours with his student. It was not long before the beauty and seduction of the young man had their usual effect; after a few weeks the old man was so violently in love with his young pupil that he heard all the birds of his youth singing again in his soul, and at their singing something woke in him which had long slept. Knowing no other way to master his feelings he opened his heart to the youth, and told him that he could no longer live without him.

"Alas," said the youth, who was deeply touched by the emotion of his teacher, "my hands are tied, and every minute of my time is watched over by my brother." The old man sighed and said, "How I long to pass an evening alone with you!" "You may well speak," retorted the other, "If my days are so well guarded, how do you think it is at night?" "I know, I know," said the old man, "but my terrace is next to yours; it should be easy when your brother is asleep to climb silently from your window out onto the terrace. I can meet you there and help you over the wall onto my own terrace. No one can spy on us there."

The youth liked the idea. He pretended to go to sleep that night, but as soon as his brother the vizier had retired he climbed out on the terrace where the old man was waiting for him. The sage led him by the hand over the boundary wall onto his own terrace, where plates of fruit and brimming wine cups were arranged for their pleasure. They sat down on a white mat in the moonlight, and began to drink and sing together, the clear night inspiring them and the stars’ soft rays lighting them on to ecstasy. As the time was thus passing blissfully, the vizier Badr al-Din woke up suddenly and took into his head to check up on his younger brother, and was mightily astonished to not find him in his room. After searching the whole house he went up onto the terrace and, approaching the boundary wall saw his brother and the old man sitting side by side with wine cups in their hands.

Old Man Soliciting a Youth in the Wilderness; Bizhad, Iran 1523-1524; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
Old Man Soliciting a Youth

As luck would have it, the old man had noticed the approach of the vizier and, being possessed of a ready wit he broke off the song he was singing and improvised a stanza so cleverly that he never skipped a beat. From singing:

“His mouth graced the cup with his spittle
before it met mine,
And the blush of his cheek dimmed a little
the red of the wine...”

...he continued seamlessly:
“Your excellent brother, Full Moon of Duty,

can hardly object,
If I call you sweet other, Full Moon of Beauty, serene and unflecked.”

When the vizier Badr al-Din heard heard this delicate allusion, being a discreet and very gallant man, and also seeing nothing improper between the two, he retired saying to himself: As Allah lives, I will not trouble their festivity. So the couple continued their partying in perfect happiness.

Retold after the translation of Richard F. Burton, Heritage Press, New York, 1934, who based his work on a collection of tales that are at least a thousand years old.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following form of citation:
Editorial Board, World History of Male Love, "Arabian Folktales", The Tale of the Youth and His T
utor, 2000 <>


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