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Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
In a town in Persia there dwelt two brothers, one named Cassim,
the other Ali Baba. Cassim was married to a rich wife and lived
in plenty, while Ali Baba had to maintain his wife and children
by cutting wood in a neighboring forest and selling it in the
One day, when Ali Baba was in the forest, he
saw a troop of men on horseback, coming toward him in a cloud of
dust. He was afraid they were robbers, and climbed into a tree
for safety. When they came up to him and dismounted, he counted
forty of them. They unbridled their horses and tied them to
The finest man among them, whom Ali Baba took to
be their captain, went a little way among some bushes, and said,
"Open, Sesame!" so plainly that Ali Baba heard him.
A door opened in the rocks, and having made the
troop go in, he followed them, and the door shut again of itself.
They stayed some time inside, and Ali Baba, fearing they might
come out and catch him, was forced to sit patiently in the tree.
At last the door opened again, and the Forty Thieves came out.
As the Captain went in last he came out first, and made them all
pass by him; he then closed the door, saying, "Shut, Sesame!"
Every man bridled his horse and mounted, the
Captain put himself at their head, and they returned as they
Then Ali Baba climbed down and went to the door
concealed among the bushes, and said, "Open, Sesame!" and it
Ali Baba, who expected a dull, dismal place, was
greatly surprised to find it large and well lighted, hollowed by
the hand of man in the form of a vault, which received the light
from an opening in the ceiling. He saw rich bales of merchandise
-- silk, stuff-brocades, all piled together, and gold and silver
in heaps, and money in leather purses. He went in and the door
shut behind him. He did not look at the silver, but brought out
as many bags of gold as he thought his asses, which were
browsing outside, could carry, loaded them with the bags, and
hid it all with fagots.
Using the words, "Shut, Sesame!" he closed the
door and went home.
Then he drove his asses into the yard, shut the
gates, carried the money-bags to his wife, and emptied them out
before her. He bade her keep the secret, and he would go and
bury the gold.
"Let me first measure it," said his wife. "I will
go borrow a measure of someone, while you dig the hole."
So she ran to the wife of Cassim and borrowed a
measure. Knowing Ali Baba's poverty, the sister was curious to
find out what sort of grain his wife wished to measure, and
artfully put some suet at the bottom of the measure. Ali Baba's
wife went home and set the measure on the heap of gold, and
filled it and emptied it often, to her great content. She then
carried it back to her sister, without noticing that a piece of
gold was sticking to it, which Cassim's wife perceived directly
her back was turned.
She grew very curious, and said to Cassim when he
came home, "Cassim, your brother is richer than you. He does not
count his money, he measures it."
He begged her to explain this riddle, which she
did by showing him the piece of money and telling him where she
found it. Then Cassim grew so envious that he could not sleep,
and went to his brother in the morning before sunrise. "Ali
Baba," he said, showing him the gold piece, "you pretend to be
poor and yet you measure gold."
By this Ali Baba perceived that through his
wife's folly Cassim and his wife knew their secret, so he
confessed all and offered Cassim a share.
"That I expect," said Cassim; "but I must know
where to find the treasure, otherwise I will discover all, and
you will lose all."
Ali Baba, more out of kindness than fear, told
him of the cave, and the very words to use. Cassim left Ali
Baba, meaning to be beforehand with him and get the treasure for
himself. He rose early next morning, and set out with ten mules
loaded with great chests. He soon found the place, and the door
in the rock.
He said, "Open, Sesame!" and the door opened and
shut behind him. He could have feasted his eyes all day on the
treasures, but he now hastened to gather together as much of it
as possible; but when he was ready to go he could not remember
what to say for thinking of his great riches. Instead of
"Sesame," he said, "Open, Barley!" and the door remained fast.
He named several different sorts of grain, all but the right
one, and the door still stuck fast. He was so frightened at the
danger he was in that he had as much forgotten the word as if he
had never heard it.
About noon the robbers returned to their cave,
and saw Cassim's mules roving about with great chests on their
backs. This gave them the alarm; they drew their sabers, and
went to the door, which opened on their Captain's saying, "Open,
Cassim, who had heard the trampling of their
horses' feet, resolved to sell his life dearly, so when the door
opened he leaped out and threw the Captain down. In vain,
however, for the robbers with their sabers soon killed him. On
entering the cave they saw all the bags laid ready, and could
not imagine how anyone had got in without knowing their secret.
They cut Cassim's body into four quarters, and nailed them up
inside the cave, in order to frighten anyone who should venture
in, and went away in search of more treasure.
As night drew on Cassim's wife grew very uneasy,
and ran to her brother-in-law, and told him where her husband
had gone. Ali Baba did his best to comfort her, and set out to
the forest in search of Cassim. The first thing he saw on
entering the cave was his dead brother. Full of horror, he put
the body on one of his asses, and bags of gold on the other two,
and, covering all with some fagots, returned home. He drove the
two asses laden with gold into his own yard, and led the other
to Cassim's house.
The door was opened by the slave Morgiana, whom
he knew to be both brave and cunning. Unloading the ass, he said
to her, "This is the body of your master, who has been murdered,
but whom we must bury as though he had died in his bed. I will
speak with you again, but now tell your mistress I am come."
The wife of Cassim, on learning the fate of her
husband, broke out into cries and tears, but Ali Baba offered to
take her to live with him and his wife if she would promise to
keep his counsel and leave everything to Morgiana; whereupon she
agreed, and dried her eyes.
Morgiana, meanwhile, sought an apothecary and
asked him for some lozenges. "My poor master," she said, "can
neither eat nor speak, and no one knows what his distemper is."
She carried home the lozenges and returned next day weeping, and
asked for an essence only given to those just about to die.
Thus, in the evening, no one was surprised to
hear the wretched shrieks and cries of Cassim's wife and
Morgiana, telling everyone that Cassim was dead.
The day after Morgiana went to an old cobbler
near the gates of the town who opened his stall early, put a
piece of gold in his hand, and bade him follow her with his
needle and thread. Having bound his eyes with a handkerchief,
she took him to the room where the body lay, pulled off the
bandage, and bade him sew the quarters together, after which she
covered his eyes again and led him home. Then they buried
Cassim, and Morgiana his slave followed him to the grave,
weeping and tearing her hair, while Cassim's wife stayed at home
uttering lamentable cries. Next day she went to live with Ali
Baba, who gave Cassim's shop to his eldest son.
The Forty Thieves, on their return to the cave,
were much astonished to find Cassim's body gone and some of
"We are certainly discovered," said the Captain,
"and shall be undone if we cannot find out who it is that knows
our secret. Two men must have known it; we have killed one, we
must now find the other. To this end one of you who is bold and
artful must go into the city dressed as a traveler, and discover
whom we have killed, and whether men talk of the strange manner
of his death. If the messenger fails he must lose his life, lest
we be betrayed."
One of the thieves started up and offered to do
this, and after the rest had highly commended him for his
bravery he disguised himself, and happened to enter the town at
daybreak, just by Baba Mustapha's stall. The thief bade him
good-day, saying, "Honest man, how can you possibly see to
stitch at your age?"
"Old as I am," replied the cobbler, "I have very
good eyes, and will you believe me when I tell you that I sewed
a dead body together in a place where I had less light than I
The robber was overjoyed at his good fortune,
and, giving him a piece of gold, desired to be shown the house
where he stitched up the dead body. At first Mustapha refused,
saying that he had been blindfolded; but when the robber gave
him another piece of gold he began to think he might remember
the turnings if blindfolded as before. This means succeeded; the
robber partly led him, and was partly guided by him, right in
front of Cassim's house, the door of which the robber marked
with a piece of chalk. Then, well pleased, he bade farewell to
Baba Mustapha and returned to the forest. By and by Morgiana,
going out, saw the mark the robber had made, quickly guessed
that some mischief was brewing, and fetching a piece of chalk
marked two or three doors on each side, without saying anything
to her master or mistress.
The thief, meantime, told his comrades of his
discovery. The Captain thanked him, and bade him show him the
house he had marked. But when they came to it they saw that five
or six of the houses were chalked in the same manner. The guide
was so confounded that he knew not what answer to make, and when
they returned he was at once beheaded for having failed.
Another robber was dispatched, and, having won
over Baba Mustapha, marked the house in red chalk; but Morgiana
being again too clever for them, the second messenger was put to
The Captain now resolved to go himself, but,
wiser than the others, he did not mark the house, but looked at
it so closely that he could not fail to remember it. He
returned, and ordered his men to go into the neighboring
villages and buy nineteen mules, and thirty-eight leather jars,
all empty except one, which was full of oil. The Captain put one
of his men, fully armed, into each, rubbing the outside of the
jars with oil from the full vessel. Then the nineteen mules were
loaded with thirty-seven robbers in jars, and the jar of oil,
and reached the town by dusk.
The Captain stopped his mules in front of Ali
Baba's house, and said to Ali Baba, who was sitting outside for
coolness, "I have brought some oil from a distance to sell at
tomorrow's market, but it is now so late that I know not where
to pass the night, unless you will do me the favor to take me
Though Ali Baba had seen the Captain of the
robbers in the forest, he did not recognize him in the disguise
of an oil merchant. He bade him welcome, opened his gates for
the mules to enter, and went to Morgiana to bid her prepare a
bed and supper for his guest. He brought the stranger into his
hall, and after they had supped went again to speak to Morgiana
in the kitchen, while the Captain went into the yard under
pretense of seeing after his mules, but really to tell his men
what to do.
Beginning at the first jar and ending at the
last, he said to each man, "As soon as I throw some stones from
the window of the chamber where I lie, cut the jars open with
your knives and come out, and I will be with you in a trice."
He returned to the house, and Morgiana led him to
his chamber. She then told Abdallah, her fellow slave, to set on
the pot to make some broth for her master, who had gone to bed.
Meanwhile her lamp went out, and she had no more oil in the
"Do not be uneasy," said Abdallah; "go into the
yard and take some out of one of those jars."
Morgiana thanked him for his advice, took the oil
pot, and went into the yard. When she came to the first jar the
robber inside said softly, "Is it time?"
Any other slave but Morgiana, on finding a man in
the jar instead of the oil she wanted, would have screamed and
made a noise; but she, knowing the danger her master was in,
bethought herself of a plan, and answered quietly, "Not yet, but
She went to all the jars, giving the same answer,
till she came to the jar of oil. She now saw that her master,
thinking to entertain an oil merchant, had let thirty-eight
robbers into his house. She filled her oil pot, went back to the
kitchen, and, having lit her lamp, went again to the oil jar and
filled a large kettle full of oil. When it boiled she went and
poured enough oil into every jar to stifle and kill the robber
inside. When this brave deed was done she went back to the
kitchen, put out the fire and the lamp, and waited to see what
In a quarter of an hour the Captain of the
robbers awoke, got up, and opened the window. As all seemed
quiet, he threw down some little pebbles which hit the jars. He
listened, and as none of his men seemed to stir he grew uneasy,
and went down into the yard. On going to the first jar and
saying, "Are you asleep?" he smelt the hot boiled oil, and knew
at once that his plot to murder Ali Baba and his household had
been discovered. He found all the gang was dead, and, missing
the oil out of the last jar, became aware of the manner of their
death. He then forced the lock of a door leading into a garden,
and climbing over several walls made his escape. Morgiana heard
and saw all this, and, rejoicing at her success, went to bed and
At daybreak Ali Baba arose, and, seeing the oil
jars still there, asked why the merchant had not gone with his
mules. Morgiana bade him look in the first jar and see if there
was any oil. Seeing a man, he started back in terror. "Have no
fear," said Morgiana; "the man cannot harm you; he is dead."
Ali Baba, when he had recovered somewhat from his
astonishment, asked what had become of the merchant.
"Merchant!" said she, "he is no more a merchant
than I am!" and she told him the whole story, assuring him that
it was a plot of the robbers of the forest, of whom only three
were left, and that the white and red chalk marks had something
to do with it. Ali Baba at once gave Morgiana her freedom,
saying that he owed her his life. They then buried the bodies in
Ali Baba's garden, while the mules were sold in the market by
The Captain returned to his lonely cave, which
seemed frightful to him without his lost companions, and firmly
resolved to avenge them by killing Ali Baba. He dressed himself
carefully, and went into the town, where he took lodgings in an
inn. In the course of a great many journeys to the forest he
carried away many rich stuffs and much fine linen, and set up a
shop opposite that of Ali Baba's son. He called himself Cogia
Hassan, and as he was both civil and well dressed he soon made
friends with Ali Baba's son, and through him with Ali Baba, whom
he was continually asking to sup with him.
Ali Baba, wishing to return his kindness, invited
him into his house and received him smiling, thanking him for
his kindness to his son.
When the merchant was about to take his leave Ali
Baba stopped him, saying, "Where are you going, sir, in such
haste? Will you not stay and sup with me?"
The merchant refused, saying that he had a
reason; and, on Ali Baba's asking him what that was, he replied,
"It is, sir, that I can eat no victuals that have any salt in
"If that is all," said Ali Baba, "let me tell you
that there shall be no salt in either the meat or the bread that
we eat to-night."
He went to give this order to Morgiana, who was
"Who is this man," she said, "who eats no salt
with his meat?"
"He is an honest man, Morgiana," returned her
master; "therefore do as I bid you."
But she could not withstand a desire to see this
strange man, so she helped Abdallah to carry up the dishes, and
saw in a moment that Cogia Hassan was the robber Captain, and
carried a dagger under his garment.
"I am not surprised," she said to herself, "that
this wicked man, who intends to kill my master, will eat no salt
with him; but I will hinder his plans."
She sent up the supper by Abdallah, while she
made ready for one of the boldest acts that could be thought on.
When the dessert had been served, Cogia Hassan was left alone
with Ali Baba and his son, whom he thought to make drunk and
then to murder them. Morgiana, meanwhile, put on a headdress
like a dancing-girl's, and clasped a girdle round her waist,
from which hung a dagger with a silver hilt, and said to
Abdallah, "Take your tabor, and let us go and divert our master
and his guest."
Abdallah took his tabor and played before
Morgiana until they came to the door, where Abdallah stopped
playing and Morgiana made a low courtesy.
"Come in, Morgiana," said Ali Baba, "and let
Cogia Hassan see what you can do"; and, turning to Cogia Hassan,
he said, "She's my slave and my housekeeper."
Cogia Hassan was by no means pleased, for he
feared that his chance of killing Ali Baba was gone for the
present; but he pretended great eagerness to see Morgiana, and
Abdallah began to play and Morgiana to dance. After she had
performed several dances she drew her dagger and made passes
with it, sometimes pointing it at her own breast, sometimes at
her master's, as if it were part of the dance. Suddenly, out of
breath, she snatched the tabor from Abdallah with her left hand,
and, holding the dagger in her right hand, held out the tabor to
her master. Ali Baba and his son put a piece of gold into it,
and Cogia Hassan, seeing that she was coming to him, pulled out
his purse to make her a present, but while he was putting his
hand into it Morgiana plunged the dagger into his heart.
"Unhappy girl!" cried Ali Baba and his son, "what
have you done to ruin us?"
"It was to preserve you, master, not to ruin
you," answered Morgiana. "See here," opening the false
merchant's garment and showing the dagger; "see what an enemy
you have entertained! Remember, he would eat no salt with you,
and what more would you have? Look at him! he is both the false
oil merchant and the Captain of the Forty Thieves."
Ali Baba was so grateful to Morgiana for thus
saving his life that he offered her to his son in marriage, who
readily consented, and a few days after the wedding was
celebrated with greatest splendor.
At the end of a year Ali Baba, hearing nothing of
the two remaining robbers, judged they were dead, and set out to
the cave. The door opened on his saying, "Open Sesame!" He went
in, and saw that nobody had been there since the Captain left
it. He brought away as much gold as he could carry, and returned
to town. He told his son the secret of the cave, which his son
handed down in his turn, so the children and grandchildren of
Ali Baba were rich to the end of their lives.