Upon a time… there lived a very powerful Sultan whose kingdom stretched to the edges of desert. One of his subjects was called Ali, a man who enjoyed making fun of his ruler. He invented all sorts of tales about the Sultan and his Court, and folk would roar with laughter at his jokes. Indeed, Ali became so well known, that people pointed him out in the street and chuckled.
Ali’s fun at the Sultan’s expense reached the point where the Sultan himself heard about it. Angry and insulted, he ordered the guards to bring the joker before him.
‘I shall punish him for his cheek’, said the Sultan eagerly, as he rubbed his hands, thinking of the good whipping he was about to administer.
But when Ali was brought before him, he bowed so low that his forehead scraped the floor. Giving the Sultan no time to open his mouth, Ali said,
‘Sire! Please let me thank you for granting my dearest wish: to look upon you in person and tell you how greatly I admire your wisdom and handsome figure. I’ve written a poem about you. May I recite it to you?’
Overhelmed by this stream of words and delighted at Ali’s unexpected praise, the Sultan told him to recite his poem. In actual fact, Ali hadn’t written a single word, so he had to invent it as he went along, and this he did, loudly comparing the Sultan’s splendour to that of the sun, his strength to that of the tempest and his voice to the sound of the wind. Everyone applauded and cheered. Now quite charmed, the Sultan forgot, why he had called Ali before him, and clapped at the end of the poem in his honour.
‘Well done!’, he cried. ‘You’re a fine poet and deserve a reward. Choose one of these saddles as payment for your ability’. Ali picked up a donkey’s saddle and, thanking the Sultan, he hurried out of the palace with the saddle on his back.
When people saw him rush along, they all asked him:
‘Ali, where are you going with that donkey’s saddle on your back?’
‘I’ve just recited a poem in honour of the Sultan, and he’s given me one of his own robes as reward!’
And winking, Ali pointed to the saddle!