Tuesday, August 29, 2023

A Murder Mystery, Part 2

This illustration and the post that follows will make more sense if you read Part 1.

So Caliph Harun al-Rashid has given his vizier, Ja'far ibn Yahya, three days to find the slave who took the apple or face execution. Once again Ja'far, the most reluctant of detectives, cowers in his home rather than confront an obviously impossible task.

On the third day, he bids his family goodbye, knowing he will never return. When he hugs his youngest daughter, he feels a round lump in her pocket. It is the apple! The girl says she got it from their slave, Rayhan. Ja'far realizes the culprit who caused a terrible calamity was his own household slave!

Ja'far takes Rayhan to Caliph al-Rashid and pleads for the slave to be forgiven, telling the caliph the "Tale of Núr al-Dín Alí and His Son Badr al-Dín Hasan." The caliph is amazed by the tale and pardons the slave.

Harun al-Rashid has one more magnanimous deed: he forgives the young man who murdered his own wife, gives him one of his own slaves to replace her, and showers him with gifts.

The Tale of the Three Apples, also known as the Tale of the Murdered Woman, is a quintessential murder mystery in that suspense is drawn out by a series of events that take unraveling over time. What makes it unusual, however, is that the character designated to solve the crime does little or nothing to do so, and actively avoids even trying to help. It is also interesting that, given that the fragments and manuscripts of the 1001 Nights have various collections of tales, this one is found in every version.

What, however, is "Tale of Núr al-Dín Alí and His Son Badr al-Dín Hasan" (besides a tale even more complex than the one we just finished?) and how did it help change the caliph's mind about punishing the slave? Well, that is a story for tomorrow.

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