The Red Lantern (3)

Photo courtesy Jonathan Miranda, Unsplash!


This wonderful story is adapted for English Language Learners from a very old Moroccan tale.

A LONG time ago in a city in Morocco, there lived a poor candy seller whose name was Shakor.  Most of the people in the city were poor and so the candy seller did not sell many sweets. The time came when Shakor could not even buy the honey to make his candies and so he decided that he must leave home and try to find work in a new place.

     Shakor packed a few clothes in a sack along with the only other thing he owned in this world: a small red lantern made out of tin and glass. One morning he began the long journey across the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. He walked for many, many days over the mountains staying in the homes of kind, poor people who fed him what they could. After three weeks, he crossed over the mountains and came to a very big desert. He spent two more days crossing in the desert afraid that he would die if he could not find food and water.  But then he saw an island of green with trees and water and houses. It was a great city that he had never heard of and did not know existed. 

     Shakor came to the gates of the city and suddenly felt afraid. Would the people of this city be kind? Could he find work here? There were many people in the market. They were all hurrying here and there, but then he saw two men talking quietly together and decided to go up to them and ask them about the city. They were very surprised to hear his strange accent and understood that he was a stranger.  “Strangers never come here!” they said.  “Where are you from? How did you get here?”

     When the men heard about his long journey and his difficult life, they took him to the Pasha, the governor, of the city.  As is the custom in Muslim cities, the governor welcomed Shakor into his home as his guest. It was the richest house Shakor had ever seen!  For three days, according to the law of the Koran, the governor fed and cared for Shakor as if he was a family member. But then it was time for Shakor to leave the Pasha’s house.  Shakor wanted to give the governor a gift to show his gratitude for the Pasha’s kindness, but all that Shakor had to give was his simple red lantern.

     “How can I give such a poor gift to such an important man?” thought Shakor sadly.  “He will think that I am not grateful! I must tell him the truth, that this is all I have to give and hope that he will understand and accept my gift.”

     So Shakor carefully cleaned the lantern and when the Pasha came to say goodbye, Shakor bowed, gave him the lantern and begged him not to be angry with such a simple gift.  But to Shakor’s surprise, the Pasha was thrilled with the gift!  He held it up and looked at it as if it was the most wonderful thing he had ever seen, for in this rich city no one had ever seen glass before. To see a candle shining through the glass lantern was like a miracle!

    The Pasha said to himself, “How can I accept such a valuable gift from this poor man? I must give him something in return! But what do I have that is as special as his gift to me?"  The Pasha looked at all his gold, diamonds, silks and strong camels and thought, “I don’t have anything worth as much as this red lantern!  What should I do?”

     Finally, the Pasha thought, “I can only be honest and tell my guest that I do not have a gift as special as his.  So he said to Shakor, “Please accept 1oo camels loaded with gold, jewels, silk and spices. Forgive me that I do not have something more valuable to give you, but I have given you almost all I own. Please accept it and do not be angry with me.”

     Shakor bowed deeply, thanked the Pasha, and hurried back across the mountains with his new treasures.  When he returned home, he built a beautiful house with the most wonderful gardens you have ever seen.  They were filled with sweet smelling orange and lemon trees, and birds that sang from morning until evening. Shakor married, started a family, and did much to help the poor people in his city.  There was only one problem now in Shakor’s life.

     Shakor had an older brother. Shakor s older brother was named Sayeed. He was a very rich and successful merchant. But even though he was very rich, he never helped Shakor or even remembered that he had a brother until his brother become rich. Now Sayeed was jealous of his younger brother and came to his house and demanded to know how he became so rich.

     Shakor was a simple, honest man and told his brother the whole story from beginning to end.  He did not hide anything.  When Sayeed heard the story he said to himself, “I, too, will go to this city beyond the mountains! If the Pasha gave my brother all these riches for a poor, red lantern, what will he give me if I bring him some great gift?” 

     So Sayeed sold his house and his shop, bought many rich gifts for the Pasha, and began his journey across the mountains.  He had only traveled a few days when bandits attacked him and robbed him, and left him for dead. Soon a poor traveler found Sayeed, set him on his own donkey and took him to the Pasha in the great city in the desert. The Pasha, feeling very sorry for the stranger, took care of him, feeding him and caring for his wounds. But, after 3 days, it was time for Sayeed to leave.  Sayeed, like his brother, was very grateful for all the kindness that was given to him. But he thought, “All my riches were stolen! What can I give the Pasha to show him my thanks?”  The only thing that Sayeed had left, that the robbers had not seen, was an old watch that he kept in his pocket.  

     Sayeed bowed very low and said, “Forgive me, but I was robbed of all the beautiful things I wanted to give you. The only thing I have left in this world is this old watch. Please accept it with my gratitude.”

     To Sayeed’s surprise, the Pasha very happily accepted his gift because no one had ever seen a watch in the city. The Pasha thought it was a miracle when Sayeed explained how it worked.  Again, the Pasha did not know how he could repay such a great gift. “What,” thought the Pasha, “can I give this man in exchange for such a valuable gift? I gave all my riches to that other stranger and I have nothing left to give this man!”  But then the Pasha said to himself, “I must give him my one last treasure! That is my duty.”

     And so, the Pasha ordered his servants to bring the red lantern to him.  The Pasha bowed low, gave the lantern to Sayeed and sent him on his way home across the mountains.       

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