The Cap of Invisibility

In the land which is unseen to us, but in reality more real than the real, there lived a boy, and his name was Kasjan. His elder brother, Jankas, was hard-working and intelligent. But he, Kasjan was neither hard-working nor idle. He was neither intelligent nor stupid, but he used to apply himself to any problem he could, as well as he could.

The two brothers, neither of whom seemed to be making great progress in the Unseen Land, decided to seek their fortunes together. They walked away from their home one afternoon, and it was not long before darkness separated them, and – as for Jankas we shall hear presently. Kasjan came suddenly upon a quarrel. Three men were arguing, it seemed, about three items lying on the ground. They explained to him the trouble. Their father had died and left them a conical hat, the Kulah of Invisibility, a flying carpet, and a staff which made the carpet fly when it was beaten with it. Each one wanted all the items or at least first choice of them. Their reasons were that they were the eldest, the middle and the youngest sons, and each on this account claimed priority.

‘They are all unworthy,’ thought Kasjan, but he offered to adjudicate between them. He told them all to withdraw forty paces and then turn around. Before they could finish his instructions he had placed the Kulah on his head, got on to the carpet and struck it with the stick. ‘Carpet,’ he commanded, ‘take me to wherever my brother Jankas may be.’

Now not long before, his brother Jankas had been snatched up by a mighty Anqa bird, which had deposited him on the minaret of a mosque in Khorasan. Because Kasjan was thinking at the time, however, that Jankas must have made himself a prince at least, the carpet heard this thought and – flying with immense speed – came lightly to rest on the battlements of the king’s palace of the city of Balkh in Khorasan.

The king, who has seen the him alight, came out at once, saying: ‘Perhaps this is the youth who it is foretold will help my daughter and yet not desire her.’

Kasjan saluted the king and told him that he was seeking his brother Jankas. ‘Before you do that,’ said the king, ‘I want you to help me with your special equipment and keen mind.’ The princess, it transpired, used to disappear every night and return in the morning, nobody knew how. This had been foretold and came to pass. Kasjan agreed to help, and suggested that he should watch by her bedside.

That night, through half closed eyes, he saw the princess look to see whether he was asleep. Then she took up a needle and stuck it in his foot, but he did not move, because he was expecting some such thing. ‘I am ready,’ said the princess, and all at once a terrible spirit appeared and took her on his shoulders, and they soared together through the ceiling, without making any impression on it.

Rubbing his eyes, Kasjan immediately place the Kulah of Invisibility on his head, sat on the magic carpet and beating it with the stick, cried: ‘Take me where the princess has gone.’

There was a rushing and a roaring, and Kasjan found himself in the Unseen Land beyond the Unseen Land. There was the princess accompanied by the spirit. They walked through forests of precious stones. Kasjan broke off a piece of jade tree with diamond fruits. Then they walked through a garden of unknown plants of unexcelled beauty. Kasjan put a few of the seeds in his pocket. Finally they stood by a lake whose reeds were shimmering swords. ‘These are the swords which can kill spirits such as me,’ said the spirit to the princess; ‘but only a man called Kasjan can do it, so it has been foretold.’

As soon as he heard these words, Kasjan stepped forward, seized one of the swords from the reed bed and cut off the head of the awful spirit. He seized the princess and dragged her onto the carpet. Soon they were speeding back to the palace of the king of Balkh in Khorasan.

Kasjan took the princess at once before the king, waking him unceremoniously from his slumber. ‘Your Majesty,’ he said, ‘here is your daughter, and I have released her from the grasp of a demon in such-and-such a manner.’ And he related all that had befallen them, producing the pieces of jewel and seeds as proof. Released at last, the princess offered to marry Kasjan. But Kasjan, asking for a few moments leave, flew on his magic carpet to find his brother Jankas.

Jankas was sleeping in a caravanserai, because he had only been able to obtain employment as a teacher in a seminary, and the pay was very low. When they returned to the court, the princess was immediately smitten by the manly features of Jankas, and she decided that she wanted to marry him instead of Kasjan.

‘That is exactly what I was about to suggest,’ said Kasjan and the king together. They lived happily ever after; for the kingdom was handed over to Jankas and his bride, while the king of Balkh and Kasjan together transferred themselves on the magic carpet to the Unseen Land beyond the Unseen Land, which now became their joint kingdom

 

This sufi ‘teaching-story’ is recorded by Idries Shah in ‘The Way of the Sufi’ 1968.

 

 

 


 

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